It’s not often that Mike Klein of ISO Finishing gets a call from an artist but as soon as Roger Fowler mentioned that he sculpts fish out of metal, Mike was hooked. As Roger went on to explain, he’s a lifelong fly fisherman and art enthusiast. Several decades ago, he combined his love of fishing and art and began creating sculptures of sailfish, bonefish, tarpon, snook, trout and other species.
“When you pull many saltwater fish out of the ocean, it looks like God made them out of
stainless steel, so that’s what I use,” Roger says. He and his wife Cathy have a studio in La Veta, Colorado where they craft the sculptures out of wax and send them to an industrial foundry to be cast. When the dull, gray pieces arrive at the studio, Roger embarks on a painstaking process of hand-polishing each fish. “Each piece has thousands of scales so they don’t have a uniform surface, making them incredibly difficult to polish by hand,” he says.
A problem-solver by nature, Roger is always on a quest to improve the quality of his sculptures. “I’m driven to make each piece better than my last, so I started searching for ways to improve the finish,” he says. “I tried electropolishing, a process that involves dipping the pieces into a vat of acid and then running an electrical current through the acid. But, it’s a nasty process that eats away at the surface and the acid can come back out later, so I kept looking. I reached out to a company that manufactures metal polishing machines and they referred me to Mike Klein at ISO Finishing, so I called him and sent some photos.”
“I’m always game for a new challenge and Roger’s sculptures are so incredible, I knew I wanted to help him,” Mike says. “We work with clients in medical, aviation, marine and other industries, so we have proven techniques for stainless steel finishing and polishing. Using a proprietary mix of tumbling media with vibratory deburring and centrifugal polishing, we preserve the most technical geometries and deliver a spectacular polished surface, so I was sure we’d be able to help Roger enhance the finish of his sculptures.”
Mike offered to do a sample so Roger sent Mike a pair of fish to polish. Within a week, a package arrived at Roger’s studio. “Pulling the fish out of the box and seeing the finish was a wonderful surprise. It far exceeded my expectations,” Roger says. “Since then, we’ve worked together on a number of other sculptures and established a great level of trust. Mike’s process is part science and part magic. What he does is literally a miracle!”
To view Roger’s sculptures, visit fowlersculpture.com