Big Fish

Fairhope resident Kevin Olmstead combines creativity and raw talent to create one-of-a-kind art pieces made from driftwood, tin and oyster shells.

Fairhope resident Kevin Olmstead didn’t plan on being an artist, nor did he receive any training to become one. In fact, the auditor and part-time fishing guide claims he doesn’t have an artistic bone in his body.

Last summer, however, a bright idea brought his hidden talents to life.

Inspired by Aimee Pulliam’s wooden fish sculpture displayed at Fiddlefish Seafood Cafe (now located in SanRoc Cay in Orange Beach), Olmstead got the idea to create his own version of the piece—a fish skeleton made from salvaged driftwood. From there, the ideas flowed. What would the head be made of? The tail? Would it need an eye? He decided old, rusty tin was the perfect solution for the head and tail, and oyster shells could be used to make the eye.

After gathering oyster shells to build a mirror for his mother, Olmstead’s wife suggested he repurpose the shells as eyes for his fish sculptures.

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With a plan in mind, finding materials was the next hurdle. Though driftwood is somewhat hard to come by on the Eastern Shore, Olmstead stumbled upon a great resource along the bank near the original site of Nan-Seas Restaurant, and began collecting pieces in a variety of shapes and colors. Next, he gathered some scrap tin and rummaged for oyster shells in the parking lots of local seafood restaurants.

Finally, he got to work creating what would be the first of many unique marine creations. “When I started, my wife saw what I was doing and said, ‘You better get a Tetanus shot!'” he laughs.

A year later, Olmstead’s art is now available for purchase in three shops in Baldwin County.

“I’ve been quite surprised with their popularity, ” he says. “I set up a display during the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival this spring and had so many people stop to take pictures and give compliments.”

The pieces range in size from 16 inches to 8 feet, some designed as wall hangings and others attached
to stands for easy display on a tabletop. The cost of
each fish ranges from $85 – $500, depending on size and complexity.

“The pieces have changed a lot since I first started making them, ” says Olmstead. “It’s fun. Each one is kind of different.”

To purchase a piece of Kevin Olmstead’s driftwood art, visit one of the local vendors below or contact him directly at 401-3474.

Fairhope Artists Gallery • 18 S. Section St., Fairhope. 990-8763
Green Gates Market • 801 N. Section St., Fairhope. 928-2525.
Merrill Miller’s Interiors • 24280 Canal Rd., Orange Beach. 989-9033.

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