Being Koi

The more art I create, the more I am fascinated by what’s happening. I’m not a planner. I get an idea and I “see” the finished product in my mind’s eye, but not really. Somewhere between the idea and the finished quilt magic happens. Let me explain with the story of one of my most recent art quilts.

The initial idea was a long narrow quilt, with fish playfully swimming around seaweed. What kind of fish? I didn’t know. How would I make the seaweed? I didn’t know. How would I attach the fish to the quilt so that you could see them on top and behind the seaweed? I didn’t know.

I started with the painted background (I pre-paint backgrounds to have them at the ready). Looking through my stash I found yellow batik fabric that was a great contrast with the background and the design in the fabric sort of looked like scales. I used Adobe Illustrator to create several fish templates and traced them on the fabric. OK now what? How would I embellish the fish so they didn’t look so flat? Little by little I added things. A little color pencil, a little metallic paint, a little thread painting, then before I knew it I had fish. Wow! How’d that happen?

Now for the seaweed. I wanted it to be transparent,  so I added layers of green organza. Even though I figured out how to sew the fish on top and behind the organza at the same time, the addition of the organza was a flop. I couldn’t rip it out, I had to proceed forward. But how? A couple days later, I was ironing and saw some green rayon ribbon yarn sitting in my knitting basket. At that moment it was like the yarn shouted, “Hello! Look at me! I’m the answer to your seaweed dilemma.” And it was the answer, especially the way the rayon frayed adding more wisps of dimension to the flowing grass-like vegetation.

The final addition to the quilt were the fish air bubbles. I could have dug through my bead stash, but opted to walk the aisles of a local craft store. I had no intent on buying beads there, but sparkling right before me were the most perfect bubble looking beads. The right size, shape, and color for my fish air bubbles…perfect!

When I look at the finished quilt, I think, “this is exactly what I envisioned.” But I don’t know how it could be what I envisioned when I didn’t have a plan when I started. And so in the end, I’m reminded that each step is an act of serendipity. The piece somehow guides me like I am a magician just tossing things into the air and having them mysteriously take formation. And so that’s how this quilt became “Being Koi.”