The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Carolyn Henderson
the Times 

Talk About Art


Courtesy photo

A display of local artist Tom Schirm's realistic fish carvings are currently on display at Dayton's Wenaha Gallery.

If you think 101 Dalmatians is impressive, you should see 103 carved fish.

That's how many wooden fish sculptures Tom Schirm, a habitat biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, has carved over the last 25 years. Considering that each sculpture takes between 80 and 200-plus hours, that's a lot of time with both hand and power carving tools, airbrushes, and paint to turn several pieces of exotic hardwood into not only a fish, but the habitat in which it lives.

Because, you see, even the rocks around which the fish is swimming have to be carved from wood.

"In each composition, I strive to recreate a snapshot in time of the fish within its natural environment to show the beauty of nature and the complexity of creation," the Dayton artist says.

"My goal is to create the finest examples of fish sculptures I can."

Apparently, a number of people throughout the country agree that Schirm is successfully reaching his goal. In addition to clients who commission Schirm's skills, judges at prestigious national and international competitions give high marks to the artist's work.

In the five years that Schirm has been entering his sculptures into competitions, he has garnered first, second, third, People's choice, and Best in Show awards. Most recently, his Westslope Cutthroat Trout took Third in the World in the Open Level (Top Level) Decorative Life-size Division at the World Fish Carving Championships.

To assemble his Art Event at Wenaha Gallery (219 E. Main Street, Dayton), Schirm called upon assorted collectors of his fish sculptures, borrowing the works back for the month-long show. The result is an impressive array of highly realistic trout, steelhead, catfish, and sturgeon swimming gracefully through their element.

Schirm is taking commission requests for his work, and a gallery associate will help interested buyers work with the artist.


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