CNCHnet . . . The Textile Arts Webzine of the Conference of Northern California Handweavers

Fishbone Vessels

Gerri Johnson-McMillin creates incredibly unique and delicate vessels and forms primarily from albacore pectoral fins & fishing line.  Her art pieces, which look like exotic jellyfish or tiny sculpted baskets, are her “jewels of the sea…vessels of remembrance.” Combining fiber arts skills honed over a lifetime, with her love of the sea, Gerri turns the albacore tuna that she catches with her husband off the San Diego coast into food- and art!

albacore bones

Her fishbone vessels now grace the permanent collections of the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Museum of Ventura County, and the Municipal Art Collection of Ventura City.  She is an Artist in Residence and former president of the Studio Channel Islands Art Center in Camarillo, and recipient of numerous juried awards.
Gerri begins the process of creating her fishbone vessels by soaking the albacore fins in hot water to help separate the bones from the black cartilage that connects them. As each bone dries, it tends to separate at one end, splitting into a silky plume. She sorts and arranges the dry bones according to length, curvature and pliability. She explains, “ I cannot manipulate the bones. Some become more fibrous and extremely curly while others remain straight. It is these characteristics that dictate each bone’s individuality.”
After arranging the bones to make the skeleton for a piece, Gerri weaves monofilament, like the fishing line that she used to catch the fish, between the bones. “Various sizes and colors of the fishing line are used, which adds translucence to the vessels, creating a spiritual preciousness about them…”

San Martin



Gerri adds beads, shells, and other natural materials to the woven pieces, which come to resemble sea anemones & other sea creatures.  Jellyfish vessels are formed using sausage casings over the albacore bones, with multicolored monofilament for the tentacles.  Gerri marvels at the fact that the powerful fins, which once propelled each fish through the deep ocean, can be used to create such delicate art pieces.
“In working with the bones, I feel I am weaving life back into the fish, experiencing their migratory path throughout the world, only to have me send them on another journey as another form.”


To learn more about Gerri Johnson-McMillin’s work, and see more of her fabulous creations, check out her website at:

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