Pufferfish Mosaic

“The Care Takers” mosaic features a channeled whelk and a pufferfish.

“The Care Takers” is a natural stone mosaic installed at Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk, Virginia. It is part of my public art commission to create mosaics for the elementary schools there. This mosaic features a strong message on environmental stewardship, inspired by the school’s strong hands-on science programs, including aquaculture and water quality issues.

The Northern Pufferfish (Sphoeroides maculatus) is an unusual species that can puff up when threatened, expanding its body which is covered with tiny spines. According to wikipedia, in the Chesapeake Bay area they are known as sugar toads and are eaten as a delicacy. Despite my numerous visits to the area for this mosaic project, this has never turned up on any menus…

Also pictured is a Channeled Whelk (Busycotypus canaliculatus), a common mollusk up and down the East Coast. I was an avid beachcomber when I was a kid and I would find their shells and egg cases washed up on the shore all the time. Under ideal circumstances, the egg cases would be dried out and I would cut them open to find dozens of tiny whelk shells not much larger than grains of sand. Full grown, a whelk can be eight inches long.

Most of the ‘ocean’ material is bluestone from Pennsylvania. I mixed in a few pieces of Blue Macaubas, a ridiculously expensive and gorgeous stone from Brazil. It’s gray with threads of bright blue in it. It’s the rare stone that seems to glow from some kind of internal light. I think of it as a marble, but it is often identified as a quartzite.