Rug of the Month: March 2021

March’s rug of the month is a project that Ania approached in a very unusual manner. This month’s rug is from a pattern called “Rosewood” by Yankee Peddler. The dimensions of the oval pattern are 22″ x 40″, and Ania hooked it in #5 strips. You might be wondering – what was the unusual manner? Well, the goal of this project was to give up all creative control while hooking!

You can read Ania’s explanation on how that worked below, as well as look at images of the completed rug: 

Rosewood 1 Watermarked

Why did you decide to hook this pattern? 

I won this pattern in a raffle a long time ago. It’s a fine pattern, but not one that I probably would have chosen on my own. I tend not to gravitate towards oval or round rugs, although there were elements of the pattern that I appreciated. The flowers, in particular, remind me of Polish folk art, and I’ve long thought that I should try to hook something inspired by Polish folk art, because it’s part of my heritage. But the shape is not what’s most unusual about this project.

In 2019, I attended the Country Inn Rug School in Rindge, NH. The co-directors of this wonderful school are Beverley Mulcahy and Benita Raleigh. I decided to take this pattern with me, along with a stash of wool, and embark on an experimental hooking journey. I wanted to open myself up to totally new insights and out of the box thinking (for me) about color planning. I knew my teacher at the school that year would be Betty McClentic, and I wanted her guidance specifically on this pattern.

I decided to give up control on this project to Betty because I knew it would be a big learning experience. I would be able to sit in the back seat and observe what Betty’s creative eye saw in this pattern, and how she approached the different challenges and opportunities this pattern offered. I was not disappointed as it was really a great experience.

Rosewood 2 Watermarked

How did you approach color planning?

I really love playing with color and color planning my own projects. I contributed to color planning on this project in a very removed manner. My only contribution was providing the material. And there was a lot of material I provided! It was all wool I had compiled over the course of years from diverse collections efforts and dyeing projects. With this stash in hand, Betty is the one who chose which specific wool pieces and colors would be used in this project.

This process was very enlightening to me, in informing me on both the perceptions and design approaches regarding how I see color and in how Betty sees color. One notable choice was that we ultimately decided to only use textures from my stash.  I don’t use textures that frequently, so that was a big change for me – this is the first time adventure with textures for me.

Rosewood 3 Watermarked

What were your biggest takeaways from your different approach to this pattern? 

Betty actually asked me that as well, what I was learning from this. My biggest takeaway was that it was very stress free! The most important takeaway was how differently someone else could see color. For example, what I called steel blue, Betty called turquoise. It reinforces the very important reality that not everyone sees color the same way. Colors are perceived by the human eye, and individual colors are influenced by the colors that surround them as well as by each individual’s unique viewpoint – influenced by biology, culture and experience.

It made me further realize that when I teach I need to be cognizant of how my students perceive color.

Rosewood 4 Watermarked

Is there anything else you’d like to discuss about this rug?

We ignored the border on the original pattern. Also, the finish on this rug is similar to the one I did on my “Paisley Rain Forest” rug. I used background wool that I cut on the bias. It had to be bias cut wool because the rug is an oval shape. If readers are interested, maybe we can do a separate post on how to do that finish. Please let us know if you’d be interested in such a post.

If you have any questions for Ania on this rug, feel free to comment below!

Tips and Tricks: Tricking the Eye Through Colors

On a recent Rug of the Month post, Ania discussed her “Desert Wanderer” rug, where she faced the challenge of creating hooked sections that mimicked the color of natural wool, without using un-dyed wool. This technique, of tricking the eye through color, is surprisingly common in rug hooking, and in art in general.

Why would an artist need to use one color to mimic another color? Why can’t the artist just use the color they want?

The human eye sees individual colors in relation to those surrounding it. You see this technique quite a bit with artists who used pointillism, for example, where dots of varied colors are used to create the impression of another color.

In rug hooking it’s the same, where all the colors used in a rug influence each other. That means sometimes you need to trick the eye into seeing the color you want instead of simply using the color you want. It’s often a matter of exaggerating a value difference.

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A series of pastels are used in the border of ‘Desert Wanderer’ to create the impression of natural undyed wool.

In the “Desert Wanderer” rug, using off the bolt, un-dyed wool, would have been too jarring to the human eye. It would have looked stark and unnatural, when the idea behind that specific project was that it need to look like a natural, hand-made rug.

To create that effect, I needed to use dyed wool in a variety of colors that would provide the perceived effect of natural wool. If you look at each strip of wool I used to replicate un-dyed wool in isolation, they contain the same yellows, blues, greens, and reds used elsewhere in the rug, but at much lighter values. I leveraged pastels of the colors used elsewhere, to create an effect of natural wool.

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Ania’s completed “Desert Wanderer” rug.

I used this technique in another project I completed, my “Frank Lloyd Wright Stained Glass” wall hanging. In this project I again used pastels of various shades to create the effect of milk glass.

Have you ever used similar techniques in your rugs? Where have you found this technique most useful?

Rug of the Month: January 2021

Happy New Year! 2020 was a difficult year for many of us, and it’s a relief to have a “clean start” with 2021. To kick off the year, and in the spirit of continuing the goodwill from the holiday season, Ania has decided to feature a new project as this month’s “Rug of the Month.” This pattern is called “XMas Bouquet.” It’s dimensions are 31″ X 23″, and it was designed by Jane McGown Flynn. Ania hooked it in #6 strips. We previously featured a sneak peak of this rug, in a blog post about hooking holidays.

To see the finished rug, and to read more about the process behind completing the project, take a look at the post below:

Ania’s completed “XMas Bouquet” rug.

Why did you decide to hook this project?

This was from a teacher’s workshop class in 2019. It was one of the day classes offered that year, focused on flowers. Connie Bradley taught the class.

I thought it would be nice to have another Christmas rug at home. We’ve previously written up a blog post on my only other Christmas rug! I really like Poinsettias – I think they’re very Christmas-y, and I thought this pattern in particular was very pretty. For a number of years, I would buy red or red and white spotted Poinsettias every December. There were holly berries in the original pattern, but I chose not to hook them.

There were a wide variety of textures used in the leaves and details like the petal veins.

How did you approach color planning?

I wanted a red Poinsettia, inspired by the red and white Poinsettia’s I used to buy for my home. Connie provided the wool for the flower petals, and the swatch set I used was all as-is wool. The swatch set I used for this flower was the narrowest value range that I think I’ve ever worked with. A friend of mine, Betty McClentic, offered to pick up wool for me during the class, and I requested that she pick up the red wool that was “least like me.” There’s always a challenge when you’re using wool choices made by someone else, and I wanted that challenge for this project! The class was also held in an old inn that didn’t have great lighting, so it was also genuinely pretty tough trying to see what the colors would actually look like.

The red “petals” of a Poinsettia are actually leaves, and the true flower is the yellow at the center. The kit with the wool included seven values of reds, a texture which I used for the veins in back petals and the veins and stems in my green leaves, and the gold and chartreuse for the true flower. I added two purple and fuchsia spot dyes which I used for the veins in the front petals, and for highlights in the leaves. This was to help create the appearance of the red and white spotted Poinsettia’s that I used to buy.

The greens used in the leaves and pine needles were all from my own stash, they were a combination of textures and spot dyes. The gold I used for the background was dyed for this project. I used a variety of pastel wools dyed over with Cushing Old Gold. I decided to use pastel wools as a base, because I had a lot of left-over pastel wools laying around that I wanted to use up! I also dyed the whipping yarn to match the background. I used an extra strong dye bath using a combination of various gold dyes, including the Cushing Old Gold.

The gold for the background was dyed for this project, using a variety of pastel base wools.

What is your favorite part of this project?

My favorite part was working with the narrow range of reds! It was a real challenge to use those reds for shading to give the flower depth. I also enjoyed dyeing all of the wools for the background and hooking that. I used a variety of blue greens and yellow greens that worked out very well in the greenery. Since red and green are complementary colors, I was able to use such a wide mix of greens and still have it all pull together nicely.

I’m pretty happy with this project – I’m very happy with how it turned out!

If you have any questions or comments for Ania, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Happy Holidays!

For the last few years, Ania has used her blog post for the month of December to show one of her beaded ornaments.

This year’s ornament can be seen below, along with a message from Ania:

A colorful beaded ornament, hand-made by Ania.

Looking back on 2020, it was a most unanticipated year for most of us, certainly for me. It was also a very learning year of how no matter how much we plan for, we have very little control over things and other’s behaviors. I have found, the most important thing to remember is to live in the present moment and be grateful for family and friends, and the kindness of strangers. This has been a very good year for such things, even though there has been much frustration, sadness, and grief.

I wish you a happy holiday and a safe and healthy new year. There will be new things that we’ll pursue and learn in the coming year and I look forward to doing such things with you, in person and other new ways. It is always the joy of the journey, and not necessarily the destination we have the best time in.

Rug of the Month: November 2020

Earlier this year, Ania designed and hooked a project called “Pandemic’s Box.”  The rug’s dimensions are 8″ x 14.5″, and it was hooked in a #3 strips. As you will read below, this rug has a long history, in my mind, but the execution, in the spring, was largely due to closures in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.  With the renewed urgency around COVID-19 cases in the U.S. in recent weeks, it feels like a good time to feature this rug as this month’s rug of the month.

Read on below to see images of the completed rug and to read about how Ania hooked it:

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What inspired this pattern and project?

The name is a play on Pandora’s Box, and as people might be able to guess, I came up with it this spring during the early months of the pandemic. I’ve always enjoyed seeing something as 3-D from 2-D images. I’ve been interested in this phenomenon since early in my career, when I would view 3-D models of chemical structures on my 2-D computer screen. I would rotate the models and look through them to use in my research. This interest in the play between 2-D and 3-D naturally extended to optical illusions as well.

I’ve often wondered if I could hook an optical illusion, and specifically a stereogram, as a rug, and during the early months of the pandemic, I became very interested in this idea, and committed to trying to create a pattern and completing it with this goal in mind. With no opportunities to travel to hook-ins and schools, there seemed to be plenty of time to experiment.

If you look at an object with just your right eye and then very quickly with your left eye you’ll see that they’re a little bit different perspective. To create a stereogram, you need an image of the right eye perspective and an image of the left eye perspective of an object, to mimic what your eyes see in real life.

I ultimately decided that what I wanted was something simple that I could draw, that gave me the right eye perspective of a box and the left eye perspective of a box, so that when I crossed my eyes and looked at the space between the two I could see the 3-D image of a complete box.

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How did you approach color planning for this project?

It was very simple. The outside walls of the box are white, the inside walls are grey, and the intersections are black. I wanted the colors to be as simple as possible, and to really guide the viewer towards the image I hope they’ll see.

The background is green. I wanted a color that was serene and easy on the eyes. The green I chose also has the same value as the grey used in the box. That further helps the viewer see the optical illusion. There are only three values in the whole rug. Normally I like to use a wide variety of values, so this is as narrow as I can get.

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Is there anything else you’d like to comment on about this project?

The black outline of the box used to be completely hooked in (seen in the image above), but I decided to remove a portion of it and hook it in with white wool instead, to help people see the illusion of the 3-D box better. In the image below, you can see where that black line was replaced with a white line. By removing that black line, it gives the impression that the white portion of the box is frosted glass, or something similar.

Also – sometimes people struggle with seeing optical illusions. There are certain illusions that might be easier for you to see than others, and that might be the case with this rug as well. My husband and one of my daughters can see the 3-D box, but my other daughter cannot.

I might want to try a more complex stereogram in the future. I’ve been giving it some thought, so we’ll see what I’m able to come up with in future projects!

If you have any questions or comments for Ania, as always, feel free to leave them in the comment section below!

Rug of the Month: October 2020

This month’s rug of the month is focused on an unusual project for Ania, a rug in the style of a northern oriental. The pattern is called “Desert Wanderer,” and it was designed by Pearl McGown and Jane McGown Flynn. It’s dimensions are 16″ x 16″, and it was hooked in #4 strip wool.

To see the finished project, and to read about how it came together, continue on to the rest of the post:

Desert Wanderer 1 Watermarked

Why did you decide to take on this project?  

It was part of a class at teacher’s workshop, taught on northern orientals by Ellen Gould. The class was an opportunity to learn about a style of rug hooking that I hadn’t previously spent a lot of time on.

One of the big hallmarks of northern oriental rugs is that they’re very geometric. They also usually consist of very specific motifs, including mountains, running water, ram horns, stars of wisdom, and S motifs. This pattern has mountains, water, ram horns, and S motifs.

Desert Wanderer 3 Watermarked

How did you approach color planning for this rug? 

I worked with colors that were traditional for northern orientals. Ellen provided different reds, blues, yellows, and greens for the motifs. If you look at northern orientals, those are the four colors that are predominately featured. Traditionally, the original weavers would dye the wool they needed with natural colorants, which is why there’s such a specific color palette.

You also see cream and off-white colors in these rugs. This is the result of the weavers used the natural un-dyed wool in their rugs. Weavers at this time would have had access to a variety of different natural wools, from different sheep and locales, which would have had subtle variations in their tone, and modern natural wool lacks that variation. I used a variety of left over noodles dyed in shades of cream and off-white to mimic the natural wool color that would have been available to weavers in the past.

Desert Wanderer 2 Watermarked

Is there anything else you’d like to say about this rug? 

Balancing the colors was challenging. There are a lot of elements, but a limited palette of colors, which made this rug into a sort of puzzle for me while hooking. I had to incorporate patterns into how I placed colors in the rug. For example, if the background of a triangle is one color, then the triangle to the right is outlined in that same color.

There were a lot of little elements that I had to pay attention to while hooking, to make sure that everything flowed well and naturally. For example, the green mountain motifs alternate on each side of the square pointing away or towards the center of the motif.

Do you have any questions or comments for Ania? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

Tips and Tricks: Matching Dyed Wool

A few years back, Ania mentioned in a Rug of the Month post a dyeing challenge she faced while hooking her “Paisley Hex” rug. While hooking the rug, she ran out of wool that someone else had dyed for her, and so she had to approximate someone else’s dyed wool to finish the project.

In the years since, other hookers have mentioned having the same or similar issues, and so, Ania decided to publish a tips and tricks post to explain the solutions she found to matching someone else’s dyed wool. 

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Ania’s finished “Paisley Hex” project, which uses the trick she discusses in this post.

In what situations would a rug hooker not have enough wool to finish a project?

There’s a whole host of potential reasons! Maybe you bought a kit years ago, and just finally have had the chance to begin hooking the project associated with it. Maybe you got wool as part of a class, or maybe a friend of yours gave you some wool for a project.

My “Paisley Hex” project was part of a class, and the teacher, Patti Stone, had dyed and provided the wool. I realized part of the way through hooking the border that I didn’t have enough wool to finish the job. Normally, I would get out my pots and pans and dye some more as soon as it was convenient, but in this case that wasn’t really an option since I didn’t know how the original wool had been dyed.

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Up close, you can see the differences in the two colors that were dyed – one is a darker brown and the other a warmer brown.

How did you find a solution to this issue?

I was able to ask Patti for the formula she used, and I luckily had the same dyes and wool she had used. However, the color I dyed was not an exact replica of Patti’s original wool. Differences in how people measure, differences in the water used to dye, and other minor changes in the process can all result in variations in the final product that is dyed.

I overcame the visual difference in the original wool and my wool by cutting equal amounts of both, and placing them in a bag. Then, as I hooked the border, I’d pull out a piece at random. This tip will work even if you need to approximate your supplemental wool without the original formula or materials available to you.

If you look closely at the project, you can see those differences in the wool, but because the human brain likes to interpret what the eye sees as consistently as possible, it is difficult to immediately notice those differences.

Do you have any tips for matching wool while you’re dyeing? 

Yes – wet your wool! I wet the piece of wool that I’m trying to dye a match for. I do this because wet wool is always darker. If you’re actively dyeing wool, it’s wet, and you want to match the two wools under similar conditions. You’re going to get a closer match if you’re looking at the wet wool in your pot and the wet wool that you’re trying to match.

If you have any comments or questions, as always, feel free to leave them in the comments section below! Have a great Labor Day weekend 🙂

The Kinetic Water Series: Part 3

This month, we’re finishing up our posts about Ania’s Kinetic Water Series, with one about Ania’s “Koi Pond with Water Lilies” project. If you missed the previous posts about this series, you can read about Ania’s “Water Lilies in Summer Bloom” project here, and about Ania’s “Koi Below the Surface” project here.

This final piece continues the themes discussed in those two previous posts. To see the project, and to read about Ania’s approach to it, read on below:

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The full “Koi Pond with Water Lilies” project.

How does this project tie together the previous two projects in this series? 

It puts together the flora and the fauna of the pond. For me, this project is the closest I’ve come to creating the reality of what goes on in a pond. This is what I could include from a pond without going into a larger scale production.

The lily pads in this piece are much larger than the ones in the first piece. That’s because I had to adjust them in relation to the size of the fish and what you would find in a pond. Similarly, the roots are much longer here, and that was an attempt to create a more immersive experience for the viewer.

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The lily pads in this project were adjusted in size to closer match the fish.

 

I’ve thought about creating this type of project on a much larger scale, but that would require a gallery to install it. Technically, that type of project would require a more industrial level. “Koi Pond with Water Lilies” is the limits of what I could do within my own home. Who knows though, maybe I have a bigger version of this project on my horizon!

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The roots were lengthened to add greater scale to the project.

This project continues the themes that were present in the first two pieces in the series, but how is this piece different from those first two? 

In the first piece, “Water Lilies in Summer Bloom,” the lily pads are placed at heights in relation to each other. In this final piece, the water lilies are evenly placed. That was deliberate, because I wanted to take the idea of perspective further in this project. The placement of the lily pads evenly at the top of the piece gives the impression that the lily pads are floating on water, with a couple of koi swimming among the roots of the lily pads. The placement of each of the pieces in this project is deliberately creating a more full image of a pond.

When you look at “Koi Below the Surface,” the fish could be anywhere in the water. They could be at the very surface, or at the deepest depths of the pond. The lily pads are always at the surface though, so the combination of the lily pads and the koi in one piece really creates a full image of the scene I wanted to create.

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All of the lily pads are positioned at the same height.

 How did you make color planning choices for this project?

That was interesting. I came across a photograph of the underside of water lilies and they were different shades of gold and similar colors. I used that image as inspiration for the underside of these water lilies. I included some lavender and fuchsia shimmer wool to mimic air bubbles caught underneath the leaves and water. For the tops, I used a variety of blues, greens, golds, and violets.

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The lily pads are vibrantly colored underneath, including some fuchsias and lavenders.

The rest of the piece incorporated colors that I had used on the previous projects in this series. The roots in this piece are from the same yarn that I had hand dyed for the roots in “Water Lilies in Summer Bloom,” and my approach to the koi was very similar to how I hooked the fish in “Koi Below the Surface.” I used different shades of orange wool, metallic and shimmer wool to get the effect that I wanted.

If you have any final questions for Ania on her Kinetic Water Series, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

 

Tips and Tricks: Strip Sorters

I’ve had to come up with some creative ways to sort my wool, depending on the demands of my projects and the spaces that I needed to work in. I’ve used a variety of sorters for that task, and I’ve found that I really like one particular style of sorter: one piece Sally sorters.

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Darlene’s one piece Sally sorter.

I really like Darlene Pezza’s Sally sorters in particular. These sorters are a really great tool. They are very well made and well designed. Each sorter can fit 8 values. They can fit a large number of strips and a wide variety of cut sizes. Another benefit to these sorters is they don’t require elastic bands, which have a tendency to get brittle and break over time, as some other strip sorters require. 

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Typically, hookers will use one sorter for one color, like above.

These sorters are also uniquely well suited to one of my favorite tricks when it comes to using sorters: storing two separate colors for one project on one sorter.

The first time I did this, it was because I had limited space where I was working and it was simply easier to have one sorter with me instead of two. I like to run one color along one side of the sorter, from the lightest value to the darkest, and then flip the sorter over and run the other color along the opposite side, so that the lightest value from the second color shares the same space as the darkest value from the first color.

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Looking at the first side of the sorter allows you to focus on your first color.

I quickly realized that this method of storing wool has the added value of showing you what the relative value of each wool you’re working with is. When you line up the values of two colors this way, it becomes much easier to see what the middle tones of each wool is, and how they compare with each other.

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…by flipping the sorter over, you can focus on your second color.

I bought my sorters from Pam Bartlett. If you’re interested in these sorters for yourself, they’re available from her at the Woolen Pear (located at 563 Rte. 106 N., Louden, New Hampshire), or online at Red Horse Rugs. If you’re interested in carrying these sorters in your own store you can contact Darlene for wholesale inquiries at dmpezza@verizon.net, and let her know where you found out about her sorters!

 

The Kinetic Water Series: Part 2

A few months ago, we introduced Ania’s Kinetic Water Series, with a post about “Water Lilies in Summer Bloom.” In that first post, Ania spoke about her inspiration for the series and the significance of making kinetic art. If you missed it, you can find the post here.

This month, Ania is featuring the second project in that series, titled “Koi Below the Surface.” This project also follows a water theme and is kinetic in nature.

Scroll on to see images of the second installment in this series, and to read further about the unique considerations Ania had to make while hooking this series:

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Ania’s completed “Koi Below the Surface” project.

Perspective is very central to this series. How did you think about perspective with this series and this project specifically? 

Perspective is almost always a big consideration for me with rug hooking. For example, I’ve played with unusual perspectives in my “Forsythia” rug and in my “Monte Casino Poppies” rug.

You’re right that perspective is really central to this series though. When I decided to hook “Water Lilies in Summer Bloom,” a primary inspiration for the project was the desire for the viewer to be able to see the lily pad from different perspectives, and especially from under water. Traditionally, lily pads are shown from above. The idea of showing the bottom of a lily pad, as you would see it through water, was really key to sparking my interest in this project.

With “Koi Below the Surface,” I incorporated a specific perspective into the design of the fish. When I first imagined the project, I really wanted to have at least one fish swimming upwards, and so when I designed the patterns I made one that showed a fish twisting, as if it were struggling upwards towards the water surface. This perspective was central to establishing the dimensions and space of the project. The fish aren’t just three dimensional, they’re positioned in relation to each other in a very specific way, to mimic actual fish swimming in a pond and the space around them.

 

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Ania gave a lot of thought as to how to place the koi in relation to each other.

How did you design the patterns for the fish? 

 

I made a lot of mock ups! I went through many, many iterations of shapes and sizes to make sure I could get the fish exactly like I wanted them to look. I ultimately settled on two patterns for the fish, and both were hand drawn. The shape of the fish is much more complicated than that of lily pads, so it really took some time to get it right.

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Ania incorporated her metallic wool, shimmer wool, and beads into the fish. 

The lily pads are relatively flat, but these fish need to have a definitive shape. How did you achieve that effect? 

When I hand drew the patterns, I added in darts to give them more shape. This project involved a lot of sewing. Once I finished hooking each piece of the pattern, I had to cut them out and sew them together. This also involved stuffing the fish to help them hold their 3D shape.

I sewed fins onto each of the fish to give them a distinctive look. All of these fins were unique shapes. The fins also had sequins and beads incorporated on them. I used sequins and beads for the eyes as well. The lily pads had beaded elements too, and I thought it was nice to continue that connection with this second piece in the series.

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Each of the fish was given a touch to make them more individual, such as unique colors and varied beaded patterns on their fins. 

How did you approach color planning the fish? 

Koi can come in a wide variety of colors, which made color planning really fun. I wanted to have some variety in the oranges that were used, and I also wanted one of the fish to be white. I was inspired by the children’s book, the Rainbow Fish, to incorporate bits of metallic and shimmer wool so that the fish would have shiny scales here and there to reflect the light similarly to live koi.

The combination of the metallic wool and the beading on the fins helps the fish catch the light really beautifully as they swim around. I find koi to be very serene relaxing fish to watch and I think this piece conveys that feeling well.

Do you have any questions for Ania on this second installment in the Kinetic Water Series? Leave them in the comments below!