Mermaid Tavern

September 2004
18 3/4 x 18 3/4

In 2004, Tomme Fent challenged members of the online quilt forum QuiltArt to exchange gallon ziploc bags of things from their studio and exchange them anonymously within a membership, create original works using these pieces, and then return the piece and the remaining stuff to the original owner of the bag.

When I received my bag and laid out all of its contents, my first thought was “mermaid.” There was a wonderfully reflective material, some wispy yarns, and several beautiful shells that someone had gone to a lot of trouble to make holes in. I showed it to my husband without commentary and his first idea was also a mermaid. So that is where she began.

I sketched a drawing and made the preliminary background with a great water fabric in the bag and some pieces that I had hand dyed. Then I cut out the main shapes and worked on composition. I added silver foil, ribbon floss, metallic yarn, and thread painting. Fabrics include cotton, silk, lace, Angelina fibers, tulle, and various shiny polyesters.

I knew that I wanted a lot of beading and charms so I proceeded with just the top and batting. I quilted the piece in monofilament, cotton, and a Superior metallic that blended and contrasted well with the changes in the background. I then added lots of beads and charms that were in the bag as well as my own and several beautiful shells.

I decided to use Nancy Eha’s method for finishing the quilt by adding Wonder Under to the back fabric and then sewing it to the front. I then flipped the quilt right side out, closed the opening, and ironed the back to the front and batting. The beading stiches are covered, and I was able to add a sleeve to the backing by machine.

Intuition told me to look for a poem by Yates – but it was Keats that provided the necessary inspiration for the title. The first sentence in his poem “Lines from the Mermaid Tavern” read:

Souls of Poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern,
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?

Since the mermaid in the piece is obviously in her favorite hang-out, I decided that Mermaid Tavern was quite appropriate.

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