In October of 2020, we were approached by a client to create an iconic mailbox for their home on Sugarloaf Key, one of the Florida Keys just east of Key West. The owners wanted something that would serve as a “milestone” that their guests would recognize along the rural road so that they could easily find the house.
We began toying with ideas of sea life. It’s not uncommon to see decorative mailboxes in the Keys, from manatees and dolphins to pink flamingos and pelicans. Our first thought was to incorporate some starfish, as that seemed to be a decor theme in the house. But that shifted quickly to our interest in cephalopods. Given that the husband is an avid scuba diver, we thought why not explore an octopus as the star of the mailbox?
The octopus is such a fascinating creature that has been the subject and source of so many campy science fiction thrillers of yesteryear. But there is so much more to them than we even comprehend, and folks are starting to see just how intelligent and sentient they truly are.
Case in point: we turned to the 2020 Netflix film “My Octopus Teacher,” which so beautifully documented South African filmmaker Craig Foster’s friendship and ultimate kinship with an octopus he tracks in a kelp forest. The film shows all the majesty and wonder that is the life of a cephalopod, and it helps the documentarian connect the dots between his own life and how we can all form bonds with the wildest of animals on this planet.
Our first sketch was to have the octopus serve as “guardian” or “presenter” of the mailbox, with the thought that we would fashion the mailbox to be a “treasure chest.” We found an ideal box in the catalogs of Architectural Mailboxes: a brown anodized aluminum model with a shape we could rivet aluminum strips to and create the illusion that it was a pirate’s treasure.
As we started our wireframe modeling, the owners contacted us to say that they had a problem: their trash bins were getting knocked over and ravaged by the local deer and raccoons, and could we somehow incorporate the trash containers into our design.
After some noodling on it, we came up with an expansion on the pirate’s treasure chest concept; we would build the remains of a pirate’s boat like a shipwreck moored on the ocean floor. This played in well with the owner’s scuba hobby, and it gave us additional context for the octopus and treasure chest. The octopus would be at the bow of the ship and the trash bins would be contained in the straighter part of the boat.
After several months of fiberglass work, wood cutting, sanding, priming and painting, it came time for the installation. Methodically and with great care, we plotted the proper location off the street of the mailbox, set the first post in concrete thereafter, and then went to work putting all the pieces in place.
Once the post, box, and octopus were installed, we installed the ship’s bow, making sure it was securely fastened to the first post. The remainder of the ship’s hull and related posts followed soonafter, with final touches of sawcutting the boat’s stray timbers to simulate that the rest of the pirate’s boat lies somewhere in the offing.
It was great fun to design and build this project! We can only hope that this piece is worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of mailboxes of the Florida Keys. But, more than this, we hope that our work inspires others to explore the many wondrous animals and plants with which we share this great blue marble.
Square Paws develops and builds custom cat furniture for existing concepts or from scratch. From stylish and modern to the truly unique, we feel that ours is the best cat furniture you’ll find.
No matter what stage your project is in, we can help.