So back when I first moved to Arizona, my folks got me a housewarming gift–this very cool piece of leather wall art, made of various types of–get this–fish leather. The main piece is tuna leather. And damn, it’s cool, and the leather is this wonderful pebbly stuff with a really neat texture–not scaly, per se, but sort’ve bumpy.

So I was at a swap meet with them Sunday, picking up some obligatory Arizona schlock–one cannot leave Arizona without a string of chile peppers! It’s unnatural!–and saw a place offering scrap leather and was poking through it–deer, cow, rabbit, rabbit dyed unnatural colors, etc. And I’ve been thinking of picking up some leather for mask making, but none of it was really jumping out at me, and anyway I’m not laying out a hundred bucks for an indigo calfskin hide just so it can lay in the closet for the next decade. And my father and I were talking about leather and masks, and the tuna leather came up, and he said, philosophically, “Well, you just can’t find that kinda stuff.”

Later on, on a whim, I checked on line, and yep–he’s right. You just can’t find that stuff. There are leather belts with embroidered tuna on them–god knows why–and leather keychains in the SHAPE of a tuna, but only one place in all the web that claimed to offer tuna leather, and they didn’t have a website, just a note saying “yeah, exotics, eelskin, marlin, tuna leather, call to place a wholesale order.”

Even Ebay, that bastion of weird commerce, turned up nothin’ on the tuna leather.

And this got me thinking. Not, mind you, that I really want tuna leather–it’s gotta be expensive, and I’d only destroy it with my half-assed attempts at sculpture–maybe in a few years. But what I want to know is–How the hell do you tan a FISH? I mean, I’ve seen a raw cowhide, and there’s stuff to work with there. I have not seen a tuna skin, but other than sharks, which tend to be pretty thick skinned little buggers, my impression of fish is that they’re pretty thin-skinned. There’s some scales, and then you’ve pretty much hit meat. Not a lot to work with. So how do they do it? Or are tuna thicker-skinned than the average goldfish?

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