Fish for Dinner – Nancy Turbitt

by Dick Wilbur on March 31, 2016

Today we feature Smithfield, Rhode Island quilter and teacher Nancy Turbitt, who contributed this guest blog on her Water is Life quilt, “Fish for Dinner.”

“Last fall I was asked by Allison Wilbur to be a juror for a Quilt for Change call for entry, Water is Life. I happily agreed and along with the other jurors we excitedly got to sit down to view the quilts for the first time. It certainly did not disappoint! Being in the position of juror, one who must discern which art to include or not, is serious business. After that initial session came many more full of deep consideration of all the aspects of art and expression contained within each piece of work.

“Because this is a Quilt for Change exhibit I found myself reading and then rereading each artist’s statement looking for the entry’s connection to the theme. In this exhibit the message is just as important as the artistic expression. There were quite a few jurors, so once we all had a firm grasp of what we each thought about the entries, we listened via email to each other’s opinions and began the exacting process of cooperatively choosing those quilts which upon deliberation had a clear and strong connection to theme.

“There is not one piece that fails to express a deep concern for clean and accessible water for all. I am honored to have been chosen for this task and look forward to seeing the quilts when they begin their tour in the United States.

Fish for Dinner – Nancy Turbitt


“Along with jurying I was asked if I wished to produce a piece for the exhibit. This call for entry had been on my list of exhibits to create a piece for but I was running late on a call that came up prior to this one. While I had an idea developed for Water is Life, I had not yet begun it at all. I thrust myself into creating one segment of the triptych idea in my head as time would only allow for one of the three ideas. I wanted to express my concern for how water pollution affects the fish and seafood that so many families rely on as a staple of their diet. Toxins in fish cannot be seen but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a threat to the health of those who ingest them. The question I am raising is ‘How does a person discern which fish is safe to eat?’

“I drew out a sketch of schooling fish from below with the light of the sun glowing through the deep water. My background of deepening blue was created and quilted first.

Fish for Dinner – background

“As the fish swim by, I have delegated certain fabrics to them to help create a feeling of depth. Fish by fish I added more until I had created the school. And then there are the pink fish. The pink in the fish and in the Shibori border signify toxins. If we could only see which ones were carrying toxins we would surely avoid choosing to eat them. But as we cannot visually see toxins we have to find an answer for the question posed above. And we have to be more globally concerned with how the toxins are getting into the water and the fish in the first place.



Fish for Dinner – detail

“To finish up after fusing all the fish to the already quilted background, I satin stitched each fish into place. Each of the larger fish received a small button stitched in by hand for an eye.”


Artist’s Statement

Throughout the world, women rely heavily on fish as the primary source of food to feed their families. Fish for Dinner is created as a reminder that not all fish caught from oceans and rivers are eatable because of hidden toxins and our responsibility is to make changes to solve our water contamination problem.

I have always lived near the ocean. Having dug clams and gone fishing with my father for that night’s dinner, I have a personal response to the alarming problem we now have to fix.

Schooling fish are one of the most fascinating sights underwater and I wanted to depict the fleeting freedom of fish as they move through water. Seemingly unharmed, no one sees the toxins lurking within. In my design, the pink areas in the piece represent the fish carrying toxins within their systems while the border done using a pink shibori fabric represents the toxin itself.


Bio – Nancy Turbitt

Nancy Turbitt is a classically trained artist choosing the medium of art quilts for my creations. I lecture about my process and will instruct both in my studio and for workshops.  Follow her at


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post:

Copyright © 2012 – 2019
Website Design by Growing Minds, Inc.