The light streaming through the window to the bath house reflected an almost solid gold light on the marble walls as the princess held her arm above the edge of a stone soaking pool. The steam curled the edges of her hair and sweat glistened slightly on her skin, flushed slightly from the hot water. The princess’ three attendants kept their eyes downcast, every other sense heightened in order to anticipate the fickle princess’ next desire.
As the young princess admired the many gold bracelets that nearly encompassed her entire forearm, she spoke to the nearest attendant, “Bring me my box of necklaces. My neck is cooling without the comfort of more gold and jewels upon me.”
Without looking, the nearest girl turned and dashed from the room so that her mistress would not think her lazy.
“Am I not the luckiest princess in all the world?” the princess asked no one in particular. “Men come courting me at every turn, bringing the most lavish gifts of gold to impress me.” The princess lifted lightly from the seat she was reclining in and glided smoothly through the water toward the edge where her personal slaves awaited. “If only those silly men knew that my only two loves include bathing and gold.” The princess waited for any response from her slaves. Nothing. Annoyed she pressed them for speech. “Well, what do you think, slave?”
Not knowing which of them the princess was referring too, both girls answered in unison, “Yes princess, you are certainly the luckiest.” Their eyes never left the floor at their feet.
At that moment, the first attendant ran back into the room empty handed. She knelt at the edge of the bathing pool, prostrating herself before her mistress.
After seeing this unusual behavior, the slight flush on the princess’ skin, originally from the heat of the pool, deepened to an angry red. All three girls began to tremble. Unlike the temperature of the bathing pool, it took a lot more time for the heat of the angry princess to lower and it usually involved punishment for the innocent as well as the guilty.
Before the princess could utter her first admonishment, she gasped in surprise as a woman dressed, and veiled, entirely in black entered her bathing room without escort or permission. Surprise was quickly replaced with unbridled rage at this uninvited guest, but when the woman lowered the black veil hiding her face, the princess froze in fear.
The woman in black hissed, “Surprised to see me, Koiranna?” The woman spoke as if intimately familiar with the young princess.
The princess stammered, “Why are you here? We had a deal.” The princess could feel the bath water cooling around her and goose pimples began to cover her skin.
“We did have a deal, young princess. I provided you with a spell that would lead a prince for you to marry to your side who was worthy of you and would provide you with a full happy life and you would keep your father from sending his men into my woods. You turned the first prince down, as well as the hundreds of worthy men who have been drawn to you from all over this world, seeking your hand in marriage. Instead of seeing the men, you saw their gifts and you became greedy. You have hoarded their gifts of gold and hoarded their love, returning nothing. Under the spell, the men were forced to leave your presence, but they could not get you out of their hearts. Hoping you would change your mind, they wander around your tower, awaiting your call. They eat nothing, they drink nothing, and very quickly they fall and perish. The land surrounding your tower is covered in the bones of men, lost because of your greed.” The old woman was slowly rolling the sleeves of her robes up, exposing flesh burned with the caustic chemicals of her craft.
The princess was visibly shaken. “I had no idea they would perish.”
“You asked for a spell that would make a man unable to live without you. What did you think would happen when you spurned him?” The old woman pulled a knife from within her robe and faster than one would imagine, she reached forward and cut a lock of hair from the paralyzed princess’ head.
“No one told me.”
“You never cared to ask what happened to the men, and no one dares speak to you out of turn for fear of your wrath.” The old woman was rubbing a mixture she poured out of a small blue vial into the hair in the palm of her hand. Even from several feet away, the serving slaves could hear the sizzling of hair and flesh as the old woman pressed the mixture into her palm.
“You can’t blame me. They kept coming.” The princess could not take her eyes off of the old woman even though she wanted to do nothing more than send her slaves for help.
Peering down at her palm, satisfied with the results, the old woman reached for a lamp that was hanging on the wall next to the pool. The lamp was burning lavender oil and the flame was steady and strong as she held it out in front of her. “Until you chose a prince, the spell would continue to influence men to seek you out. The compulsion they felt was too powerful.”
“I will choose the next man that comes.”
“It’s too late. I have come to end the spell.”
“Are you going to kill me?” The princess was as far as she could possibly be from the old woman, but she knew that she could not escape her.
Chuckling, the old woman shook her head. “No, death would be too good for you. I do want to make sure you have those things you say you truly love with you at all times.” The old woman held the saturated hair above the flames, and as fire enveloped the hair, a splash sounded in the pool. “Men will still some to gaze at your wonder as you swim in your pool. They will still toss gold at you as they will still feel that you will reward them with luck. But, when they leave, they will live, as the spell is now broken. You will remain as empty as you have always been until a man comes to love you for who you are, rather than for the luck he hopes you bring him.”
It took several minutes of silence before the attendant slave girls would lift their heads to peer into the pool. When they did, they saw a beautiful fish made of rings swimming effortlessly through the now cooled waters of the pool. The girls looked at each other in fear. Although it seemed as though they were beyond the reach of the princess, the king would not forgive them if his daughter was harmed. As they ran for their quarters, intent on gathering their things and running for their lives, they could hear the king begin to call for his daughter using the nickname he had given her when she was young.
The assignment was to create an organically inspired model using a singular geometric shape. We could vary the dimensions of the shape. I chose a ring.
The Koi was made with Bristol board cut into strips and glued at the ends to make rings. I first began with ½in x 6in strips. I glued several together, making large rings. I made 4 progressively smaller diameter rings to be placed inside each large one. I glued them together as one side of the ring using super tacky glue. I made a couple of smaller sets and then glued them end to end, making the spine of the fish. The inner rings are intended to be the “ribs” of the fish. I then began to make ¼in and 5/16in wide strips and cut them 3-4in in length. These strips would be glued at the ends to make the scales. I started with the smallest rings and glued about ten of them together to make a chain. I then wrapped these “chains” around the fish body to make the scales. I used a ring at the top to attach two chains to each other and part of the larger rings of the spine. I attached each chain at the bottom with another ring which was also looped through the bottom of the fish spine to secure the scales in place. I layered chain over chain, using progressively larger rings in order to increase the girth of the fish.
I used a couple hundred rings to make the scales. I made much wider rings of various diameters to make the fins. I used 1/2in rings of decreasing diameters, glued to each other at the top and bottom to make an “oval” feature for the head of the fish. I made small 1/2in diameter rings and glues them together at the top and bottom to create small orbs for the eyes. I made and eyebrow from various small rings as well as a dorsal fin that runs the entire length of the body with rings as small as I could make them while still keeping them round. The finished Koi was entirely white. I estimate the project took 40-50 hours.
I liked the white, but I wanted to give it some color to contrast the outer scales with the inner spine rings. I initially considered spraying the fish. I could not come up with a way to prevent overspray, so I decided on watercolors. I had originally planned to just pain the edges of the rings to subtly add color. I was unable to keep from hitting the backs of the scales, so I painted them completely. I chose a yellow base and added swaths or splotches of red and black. The fish stays pretty white from the front, but almost becomes solid color from the back. I decided to not paint the side or tail fins. The inner white is visible through the colored scales.
I mounted the fish to a mirror to give it a water feel and entered it into the 2012 Irvine Valley College student art show. The Koi was selected to be in the show. I am very pleased.