Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Little Fish in a Big City

Little Fish in a Big City
60" x 60"
This is my Quilt National 2009 entry. I am very honored to be in such esteemed company. I will make another entry tomorrow to tell you about the opening weekend!
Little Fish is all about global warming and the new world order, where will I fit in?
Sea levels rising, engulfing cities, the new transportation, fish carrying all the people. Look closely at the bottom right corner for the little fish for whom the quilt was named. This quilt is dedicated to environmental refugees everywhere.
More about how this quilt was made: (I have already posted about most of this, follow the links if you are curious!)
I made the buildings first, just to see if I could sew a 3D cube shaped building. My first attempts did not work at all, but I persevered. All the wrong ones, showed me eventually how to get it right. They are folded, machine stitched, opened up, lined with timtex, and stuffed with polyester, last the bottom opening was hand sewn closed. The buildings range in size from fairly flat to 5 inches tall and stick out perpendicularly from the quilt. This quilt hangs on the wall as the buildings appear to defy gravity. For the most part they did well, however, the tallest buildings had significant problems with sagging and required numerous structural engineering to solve the problems!
The navy background is a whole cloth batik drawn exclusively with a tjanting that I was trying to learn. The fabrics for the buildings are commercial fabrics batiked in stripes and then bleached and overdyed. The turquoise and cobalt blocks are all hand-dyed batiks, mostly stamped from found objects. Among the more unusual ones, a spring from an automatic car window, and hexogonal climbing gear, and children's toys.
There are over 400 buildings, and I forget how many fish, but I can say when I was making them...I never thought I would make enough. The fish are made from screenprinted thickened dyes, machine sewn, painted organza for the pectoral fins, painted eyes and mouths (which are open).
 I fused the turquoise blocks on, then machine quilted densely to make the base stiff.
 Then I satin stitched the edges of the blocks to catch the loose threads and sharply define the edges. Then I did the hand quilting through the middle of the city, they are supposed to refer to the tracks of lights you might see in the photo of car lights at night.
Then I hand sewed on all the buildings, one by one. Then I sewed the worry dolls to the fish, and last I sewed the fish on. Many had to have their fins replaced as they were looking a little haggard.
If you want to see this in person, check out it's traveling schedule at
Follow the link to Quilt National 2009, it is in collection group C.


Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

This is just an amazing quilt.
Amazing in design, concept, message and construction-just to name a few areas.
Your work continues to get better and better.
I don't know how you'll top this one.

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

But I know you will top it!

Allie said...

This is the most amazing thing I've ever seen. I hope it comes to my area so I can see it in person. You have incredible imagination and skill!

Carmen Rose said...

Wow! I've never seen anything like that. I think you've passed quilting and gone into textile sculpting. Amazing! Bravo!!

Unknown said...

Wonderful! One thing I was wondering about was how did you get it there? I do dimensional quilts and packing, shipping and then the wear and tear from hanging them (going to multiple sites) always manages to squish them a little each time, particularly when I'm not the one packing. Love to hear how you did it. Thanks for sharing. I'm looking forward to seeing it in person.

Kathy York said...

Ah, the shipping question.
I wrapped popsickle sticks on all sides of the tall buildings, held on by tiny rubber bands. It takes about 30 minutes. Then I put tissue paper scrunched in long lines down the rows of fish. If there is a tail of tissue left over, I wind it around the between the tall buildings in the center of the quilt. Then I just sort of 'pour' the whole thing, starting at one corner, into a plastic bag. Put the bag in a box, then cushion the sides and corners with bubble wrap. This would be the PERFECT project for PEANUTS, but most people don't want me to ship with peanuts. DARN IT!! How will it withstand the travel? I don't know. It seems rather resilient so far, so we shall see!

Thanks everyone for all the nice comments!! Glad I could bring a smile to your face, as you have brought one to mine!

Karen said...

I am so amazed by your whole process, concept through execution. Congratulations!

Virginia Greaves said...

I love this quilt. I hope to see it when I visit Ohio next month. I suspect that it is even more stunning in person. This quilt is truly cutting edge.

Norma Schlager said...

Stupendous! The amount of work and thought that went into into it is mind boggling. I thought that the fish were plastic, but, no, you made those, too.
Thank you for sharing your process, I probably would have stopped at the batik background, being so pleased with it. But to use it as a background for your fabulous city worked so well. I'm not sure if I'll get to QN this year (I hope so) but I will look for your other quilt in Houston. Bravo!!

Margeeth said...

This is really awesome. I hope it arrives safely at its destination.
By the way, how is your son doing in school now?

Rachel Parris said...

Kathy, Kathy! This is wonderful! What fun to watch you soaring higher and higher.

Linda Laird said...

Dear Kathy,
Good Gravy!! What a piece of work!!!

I think art always starts with the idea--and the better the idea, the more the answers come on how to express it. Usually in the most labor intensive way possible.

I am in awe!

Linda Laird
QuiltArt list

Mizou said...

I showed your quilt to one of my Kids Kwilt Klub members and they want to make one!!!! yikes........and they asked me to design a block that would look like the Sydney Opera house in 3D to put on the shore.

Your quilt is a stunning sculpture, washing it may be interesting...but oh so beautiful and very appropriate for our climate problems.
Mizou in Oz

Cindy said...

Wow, this is absolutely amazing! How many hours did it take!

Nellie's Needles said...

Amazing! Fabulous! Intriguing! It's great that so many people will get to see it up close and personal ... just wish that I were one of them.

Melissa ;-) said...

Are you kidding? This is really amazing. Such creativity!

Anonymous said...

Words cannot describe my delight in seeing this work of art. And I'm looking at it on my iPhone! Can't wait to see it in person. You are a genius.

picklefish design said...

Hello Kathy,
Have only just discovered your blog but have long admired your work in Quilting Arts. Your quilts are sensational and artwork so inspiring. Congratulations on your latest masterpiece.

Laura T said...


What an amazing quilt you have finished! Breathtaking:) Congratulations!!

Laura T

Jeanne Turner McBrayer said...

Congratulations on a most innovative and delightful quilt! Your efforts have paid off in a highly original piece that will be talked about for years, I'm sure!

Anonymous said...

I hate to use the word again but WOW! Amazing piece! Love your inspiration, theme, and of course the construction of your piece. Congratulations for the much deserved acceptance into QN! Thank you for sharing your construction process.
<3 judi

Deborah Boschert said...

I am so happy to see all these detail shots. I have the QN catalog and you just can't possibly get the full effect with the single full shot from the book. Amazing!

Did you know your quilt is the background for a QN ad in the new FiberArts mag?

Martha Wolfe said...

Oh my gosh, that is so cool. You are really clever. What a wonderful and fun idea/creation! I wish I could see it in person...

Twila said...

unbelievable! Not only do I want to "see" it, I want to "touch" it as well...naughty fingers, heeheehee

Patricia Scott said...

This is a wonderful quilt! It is inspiring to me in so many ways! I love it!

Unknown said...

Love the "Fish" series! Your work is so light hearted and fun!

Kathy York said...

Thanks Robin! Good to know that it is still bringing good cheer!