Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Corner of the Sky…

What a week!  It has been a whirlwind of activity around our house.  Everyone in the family stepped up to make the house presentable for Grandma and Tim, Jim’s brother.  I must say it is awfully nice to have the entire house clean at one time, rather than attacking the neediest room each week.  The main focus of their visit was to see Pippin, but I’ll save those stories for later.

After the house started to shine, I did manage to squeeze in more needle felting.  I’m very excited about the felted tiles I’m creating featuring vegetables and fruit.  Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are healthy to eat, but mine are especially high in fiber.  Ha ha ha!  This week I focused on peas.  When I was sitting outside the room where the boys were having their voice lesson I was positioned underneath a large commissioned piece that featured pea vines on a trellis, which made for a wonderful creative connection.  I worked, listened to singing and looked up at my artistic history.  When I thought about the fancy wine we planned to drink with Tim, I got to thinking about grapes so I had to make a few of those to feature on tiles.  And of course you can never have enough tomatoes, so I made more thick slices that show off the delicate seeds and internal structure. 

Saturday night featured the opening performance of Pippin!  It was fabulous to share the event with my family around me in the center of the sixth row—best seats in the house!  I just got to take it all in.  The kids were amazing!  They sang and performed their hearts out and the audience loved it.  The costumes really pulled it all together—I must say I’m really proud of my designs, and I’m incredibly grateful to all the people who transformed them into costumes, especially Nancy Riggert.  It was fun to see some of the parents who contributed to the costuming after the show, and they got to see how their efforts fit into the big picture.  They were in awe of the entire performance.  I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a group.  I’m grateful to Gwen Witten and Chris Miller for giving me this opportunity.  It’s just the biggest canvas I’ve ever worked on, and it’s so much fun to see it all come together. 

Next, a little parental gloating is in order.  Tommie and Jacob were fabulous!  The transformation that Tommie undergoes when he is onstage is phenomenal, to the point that people don’t recognize him.  He does appear different visually underneath grey hair and behind a beard, but his body movements, gesturing and voice characteristics are completely fabricated and distinct from his day-to-day persona.   And, if you want to see them live - the next performance is this Saturday Oct 22, 7pm - and here is the link to the tickets!
I wish my grandfather, a bass in the Czech opera, could have seen him in action.  Jacob shone too—he was a glowing, performing ball of energy.  He embraces the stage, but his stage persona is a caricature of how we see him at home.  He was a confident magician, a dynamic circus performer, and always in command of his art.  My little pumpkins!

We had a wonderful visit with Grandma and Tim.  We shared lots of stories and laughs over meals and a trip to the Farmer’s market on Saturday morning.  We found hot chocolate and coffee for everyone—including me!  Marina made me a special, off the menu, decaffeinated coffee that made me very happy.  At the market we sampled a variety of dainties for breakfast and found enough vegetables for the week. The biggest news from the gastronomic adventures was that there was pie.  It was an amazing blueberry/strawberry creation using fruit from our trip to Andrews Produce on Topsail Island back in May.  It came after the almond encrusted walleyes the crew caught in July and a nice bottle of wine, so we had an excellent meal.  And I got pie for breakfast over the next few days!  Today I finished the last slice, though.  I’m beginning the next countdown to the next pie—I wonder what and when it will be?

Until next week

Martina Celerin

Monday, October 10, 2016

The felting continues!

I have been trying to balance my art creation time between wet and needle felting projects.  After the boys are off to school each morning I transform the kitchen into a wet felting studio.  The height of the central island is perfect for keeping my back happy as I work.  I have been playing more with colors as I create vessels that are dimensional and textured.  It has been a lot of fun to explore little experiments using merino top with different colors and exterior patterns.  I’m learning about how the wet felting technique itself affects the outcome.
For example, if I do the entire felting and fulling process on the resist (a balloon), I can encourage the fibers closest to the balloon to migrate to the surface.  I realized this because when I use two colors of fleece I can get the lower fleece to peek through the upper layer.  If I do the fulling without the resist, the process happens more quickly but I don’t get as many inner fibers peeking through the surface layer.  I have some more ideas on how to create new textures on the surface and I’ll experiment with those this week.  I feel like I’m on a fun working vacation by taking a break from my weaving. 

I have spent a lot of time creating tiles that will act as backdrops for my new my individual felted fruits and vegetables tiles.  In this project I have benefitted from the fabulous advertising job that Cardinal Stage Company does in town.  They use corrugated plastic yard signs to get the word out about their shows, but unfortunately the material is not recyclable.   
I have found lots of uses for them in costume and prop creation for Pippin, but now I’m using them as a rigid support for the black felt background for my small tile pieces.  This week I focused on creating turnips, oranges, and jalapenos to feature on the tiles.  My collection of felted pieces is steadily growing, so I should a nice collection by November 4th.  That’s the opening date for the Artisan’s Guild show at the Convention Center, which runs Friday from 5 to 9 and Saturday from 9 to 5 on November 4th and 5th. 

Saturday proved to be a wonderful day for a morning visit to the farmer’s market.  The weather was cool, crisp and amazing.  Marina at le Petit Café served us hot cocoa and mocha to warm us up until we got into the sun, but soon we were focused on the abundance of fall vegetables.  We will have family visiting each of the next two weekends for Pippin and I’m planning to make a big pot of vegetarian chili and freeze it in meal size units.  I’ll be sneaking in a lot of yummy vegetables—red peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash—and may be even sweet potatoes.  I love to have meals in the freezer!  They are also perfect for family evenings when everyone is exhausted and no one is excited about making dinner.  It is good to have something ready to pull out.  The last word of the week goes for a pie report.  I finished the last slice of the apple pie on Friday and no replacement appeared on Saturday!  I didn’t see any raspberries Saturday at the market, and I guess it’s too soon for another apple pie.  Grandma and Tim are visiting this weekend and I’m sure they’re going to want a pie.  I can’t wait to see what happens!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Making mini Martinas…

I’m wearing three hats this week!  The first is my needle felting hat.  I had so much fun last fall creating the needle felted vegetable and fruit collage pieces that I decided to scale down to make individual felted pieces.  Each fruit and vegetable really is its own mini artwork full of visual information, detail and interest.  Some are symmetrical, others are not, and often the subject brings vibrant colors.  I’m now thinking about my fruits and vegetables as small tiles that can be combined for display.   
The project fits with my fall life because Saturday mornings revolve around trips to the farmer’s market—yesterday was a three-bag haul, with lettuce, apples, garlic, peppers and more.  There is such a bounty of the harvest on display in rich, warm fall colors.  The vegetable haul mirrors the social experience, seeing lots of friends and regulars.  Marina at Le Petit Café becomes a regular fall connection with special hot chocolate and coffees for the family, and Maria from Piccoli Dolci often provides a special treat.  The man who sells us jam and jellies knows that our teenage boys eat through whatever we buy (and hence will be back).  The farmer who saved a huge bag of onion skins for me thought I was a little crazy, but they proved to be the perfect source for the dye to create an accurate onion skin color.  The whole Saturday morning adventure just fits so well with my art. 

My second hat is a wet felting hat. Not that I’m felting hats!  I had a fabulous experience a couple of weeks ago in Fredericksburg, starting with a workshop by Pamela MacGregor and continuing with Elizabeth Woodford, that started me thinking about wet felting vessels.  I’m now playing with different fibers and experimenting with new techniques.  I really want to be able to create textures and then embed objects into my vessels, much like my weavings where I create underground scenes. That way you’re encasing memories and stories in the vessels.  At this point, though, I need to sort out the techniques first.  That’s about the time when my science background kicks in.  I started by creating flat felt circles and embedded various yarns (synthetics, wools, sisal and felt balls).  I learned a lot from my first piece and launched into creating a few simple vessels.

My third hat is maintaining and tweaking costumes for Pippin costumes and props.  The big performance at Bloomington High School South starting October 15th and running for two more weeks on Saturday nights.  You can order tickets here. The costumes themselves are finished, but those darn kids keep growing!  Final adjustments are in order so the costumes fit perfectly on the night of the performance.  Watching the rehearsals over the summer has been revealing, because socks slowly appear as legs grow longer while the pants do not.  Come see Tommie, who is Charlemagne in the first two performances (October 15 and 22), while Jacob is a magician in all of the shows.  I’m looking forward to seeing the visual spectacle as my art pieces dance around the stage!  Oh, and I’ve heard that the kids might sing too :)

The big news in my workshop world is that I'll be doing another workshop - next month - in Crawfordsville, IN.  If you are interested in participating, please contact the event organizer, Jessica Madsen at jdpmadsen@gmail.com  It will be a one day workshop on Saturday November 12, from 9:30am - 5:50pm.

 And on the family front, we’ve been taking in some theater of late. Last Friday we saw BPP’s ‘30 Days of Mourning’ that featured Steve Scott (aka the boy’s taekwondo instructor) Paul Kuhne (an amazing actor and friend) and Aubrey Seader (a fabulous actress and Sounds of South alumna).  It was amazing!  The interactions were believable, intense, and powerful.  The actors embraced the roles such that you were immersed in the situation and rooting for the characters.  On Friday night we saw Cardinal’s performance of Baskerville.  What a fun production!  The staging was phenomenal.  They brought the Hound to life, even if it didn’t end well for the sheep in the performance or the spectral hound who attacked the Baskerville clan.  The pacing was fast and the costume changes constant, which made for a very entertaining evening.  I love having two such strong theater companies in our town.  As I started to write this on Saturday, I wasn’t sure there was going to be a pie for the report.  Fortunately, Jim found some gold rush apples at the farmer’s market.  He got up early to make a pie this morning!  It looks great, but I won’t know for sure until dinner tonight.  I’ll provide a report when I can.

Until next week

Martina Celerin

Sunday, September 25, 2016

My month of adventure and travel!

The last time I blogged it was the week prior to the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts.  I’m tugged in so many different directions once the fair starts that I can’t focus on much else.  This year’s show turned out to be perfect in so many ways.  The weather responded beautifully to my demands and the weekend was sunny and pleasant.  The crowds responded by packing the streets, looking as happy as I’ve ever seen them flowing by my booth.  The show was the perfect capstone to a wonderful summer of art.  After take down Sunday, my life took a few days to return to something close to normal.  I had to get everything put away and re-enter the family routine.  I was welcomed home with a delightful dinner and raspberry pie so I knew everything was OK. 

About that time, though, I had to begin preparing for a workshop I was planning to do at the Artful Dimensions gallery in Fredericksburg Virginia.  I was so excited to participate instead of coordinate a workshop! Having the amazing Pamela MacGregor teach us about dimensional wet felting was an incredible prospect.  Except for one small problem.  The workshop was scheduled for Friday through Sunday, and my flight touched down on Saturday night.  Our organizational wires got crossed somewhere and it look like I was not going to be able to attend.  The husband of my host Elizabeth Woodford, Tom, came up with a great solution, though.   
He said I should just come to Virginia for an art-cation!  Both Elizabeth and Barbara Posey, my host from my last trip to the gallery, both urged me to come in such welcoming tones that I felt good about traveling.  On the trip east I made lemon slices for a new art piece idea I’m going to try out at the holiday markets—I’m going to create some much smaller compositions at a lower price point.  Somehow the idea of making lemons on the trip was my way to turn the trip into spiritual lemonade.   
The bonus for me was that they worked it out with Pam that I could participate on the final day of the workshop.  I do have some experience with wet felting, which meshed with the call for intermediate to advanced felters at the course.  She guided me through techniques I had read about but hadn’t tried myself.  I ended up with a fabulous tea pot, wet fingers and a lot of great new ideas to try back in Bloomington.  I’m inspired to create more 3D pieces after completing the entire teapot project on the last day.  Pamela is such an amazing teacher and a fountain of knowledge and techniques that traveling to Virginia was definitely the right decision. 

The trip wasn’t all hands-on art exploration, though.  Elizabeth and Tom are regular commuters to Washington DC, which makes them familiar with the best times, routes, lanes and strategies for efficient travel through a gridlock-prone highway system.  Elizabeth concocted a plan for us to visit DC the day after the workshop to visit museums. 

 I did spend a couple of weeks in DC during my Ph.D. training, but I was tethered to the NIH complex doing research and never got a chance to be a tourist.  Elizabeth more than made up for that.  We visited the Textile Museum and saw some historic kimonos and surface design techniques that survived centuries.  I was constantly doing my visual dance where I take off my glasses and stare very closely at the interstitial textile framework before stepping back to get the big picture view.  Unfortunately, most of the rest of the gallery was between exhibits.  Other trip highlights included the Vietnam veterans memorial, the Vietnam nurses memorial, lunch in a fabulous Mediterranean restaurant and walking along the mall.  That afternoon we visited the Hirschhorn museum.  It’s a place I’ve  read about many times in ArtNews, but to actually be there in the space to experience the outdoor sculpture garden and the exhibits was wonderful.  
 I enjoyed the video art there, which is a form that I have tried hard to appreciate and understand without complete satisfaction on my part.  I also got a chance to see some of the gallery’s own collection, including a huge Helen Frankenthaler, several Calder pieces and at least a dozen Willem De Koonings.  It’s wonderful to see images of pieces, but seeing them live—enjoying the colors and the textures and the face-to-face experience—is so much more powerful than viewing reproductions in a book or on a screen.  It was a fabulous cultural and personal experience, but oh my gosh, the traffic!  The number of people and congestion is just overwhelming.

I spent my final two days in Fredericksburg playing in Elizabeth’s sandbox, which was a lot of fun.  We explored techniques and tried a few experiments to see what we could come up with.  Overall it was a wonderful art-cation, but by the time I was flying home my mind was flying back to the reality of Pippin costuming.  When I had my feet in the costuming studio I launched the final push to create the last of the props and costumes for the production.   
As of today I’m official declaring myself finished!  Of course there are still a few costume tweaks in store.  I’m expecting a few broken elastics to appear and a snap to add or repair.  But all in all, with safety pins and duct tape they could go on stage tomorrow.  The best part of coming home, though, was that my family was so glad to see me that I got another peach pie!  The second pie lasted the past week, with the final slice accompanying coffee Friday morning.  My wonderful family was super excited to see me and I was thrilled to be back home again.  Next up is getting ready for family visits for the Pippin performances, and to take on all the art projects I’ve lined up in my home studio.  Now I need to get back to the enjoyable task of being a working fiber artist!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, August 28, 2016

One week to go!

The Fourth Street Festival is right around the corner.  Come and see all the art from the 120 participating artists this Labor Day weekend.  The show is open on Saturday from 10-6 and Sunday from 10-5 on Fourth Street between Grant and Indiana.  If you’re a local, that’s about from the fire station to the campus.  After a few years of too-hot or too-rainy days, I put in a special request for lovely weather and the long range forecast looks wonderful!  To prepare for the show, in the days to come I will transition away from Sounds of South costume production and toward finishing a couple of weavings in progress.  
 I have been wrapping strands of wire with brown yarns to create tree branches for one of my new tree pieces.  I created leaf clumps by crocheting strands of green yarn into blobs that will look like bunches of leaves once attached.  I think the completed pieces will be ready for display this weekend, so stop by and say hello!

Looking back over the past week, I spent most of my time at South along with my costume co-conspirators Nancy Riggert, Daphne Richards and Misti Hayes.  We’ve been cranking along on creating realistic swords and have more than half of the seventy finished.  I have been custom fitting armor chest plates to individual students, but with an eye toward final alterations to make the armor more resilient before handing it to students for dress rehearsals.  Fingers crossed that the armor survives until the performance!  Marauding medieval armies had no power to destroy swords and armor as powerful as cosplaying teenagers.

Last week I turned my attention to making hats to augment the already funky costumes.  I’m calling my style vintage circus with a touch of steampunk and Alexander McQueen.  I’m thrilled with the costumes, but the hats need to funk-ify them and push them over top.  The first one I created was an oversized steampunk influenced top hat.  The very top circle of the hat is cut from corrugated plastic recycled from a Cardinal Stage Company yard sign for Les Mis.  
 The hatband is cut from an old High School South Panther’s scarf, which luckily works well in my color palette.  The stack and the brim I made from thick card stock that I covered with a satin scrap I discovered at the recycle center/Materials for the Arts program.  The final touches include a feather I plucked from the prop room at South and a jewel from an earring that was half of a broken set that was donated by My Sister’s Closet.  A big shout out to them for being so supportive of the Pippin project! 

A couple of other hats that I created were much simpler.  The “amaryllis” hat was built from a toy and a dog bowl rescued from the recycle center.  I embellished it with a Styrofoam ball and purple jewels that are part of the collection we started when we began preparing for the project last year.   
I attached the whole thing to a white baseball cap that one of the parents donated.  Baseball caps make perfect bases to build form for stage hats.  They let me build freely and still be sure that the hat fits the specific actor.  The last hat was an Octoberfest headpiece from which I removed all the decoration and re-embellished the base to look more like a vintage clown hat using pom poms and a colorful bow from a hair barrette. 

At home it was an exciting week—there was pie!  Last Sunday a fresh peach pie appeared and carried me through about mid-week.  Normally I would be starting the drumbeat for the next pie by now, but fortunately Tommie’s 16th birthday fell on Friday, so it was a double treat week.   
Jim baked a Mary Ann cake and I made lemon curd cream to fill in the reservoir.  Topped with fresh peaches from the farmer’s market made for an excellent dessert and breakfast treat.  I love peach season!  I wonder if we’re still in it, and I wonder how I’ll find out? 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rain, rain, rain…

Mother Nature delivered a hefty dose of rain to Bloomington this past week.  She seemed to be a little off-target, though, because a substantial amount of it found its way into my art studio.  Fortunately, there was no damage to my art or materials, but recovery meant rearranging stacks of materials and rolling back the rug.  My array of fans and dehumidifiers took over and I’m back to being functional, but the net effect was an interruption in progress in my studio.  Of course I can take inspiration from just about anything, so rain was my muse this week.  I channeled water away from my happiness by creating umbrellas for Pippin.  In our version, the players are part of a vintage circus scene.   
Rather than shielding the performers from rain, our umbrellas help balance tightrope walkers and add drama to characters.  To achieve the costume palette of amethyst, sapphire and emerald, with black and white serving as neutral colors, I created all of the umbrellas from broken or re-purposed umbrella skeletons.  Thanks wind!  My favorite has to be the one that I made out of the crinoline from a fancy doll dress.  I cut half moons out of the canopy to scallop the edges and added a cane that I picked up at the Recycle Center from the Materialsfor the Arts program.  I replaced the rib tips with disco ball beads from a necklace that Nancy and I found at the Hoosier to Hoosier sale. 
I embellished each of the panels with trim scraps, reclaimed rhinestones, and circles of cut out of old sweatshirts. 

I created two additional umbrellas in a similar spirit of recycling.  This time I used actual umbrellas from which I removed the canopy and replaced it with triangles of fabric scraps.  Of course I embellished the panels!   

Sparkle, pompoms, felt balls and ribbon seemed right.  If that weren’t enough, I made an umbrella for Berthe.  She’s the flamboyant grandmother whose red dresses are shrouded in black that I created a couple of months ago.  The base costumes came from red dresses from My Sister’s Closet.  They were damaged and couldn’t be sold, so they generously donated them to our project.  I overlaid the dress with black lace fabric and clothing from the Recycle Center.  Berthe’s umbrella is unlike those of the circus performers and has a very different color story.   
I replaced the original fabric from an umbrella canopy with black lace triangles.  I covered the ribs on the outside with faceted trim that I got at a surplus store in Tucson, Arizona last year.  I added black felt balls I made several years ago and embellished the umbrella with lace velvet ribbon and red trim the Sounds of South students harvested from various pieces of clothing and curtains.  By the time I was done, the skies had cleared and the rain was gone!

This week I had the opportunity to sit and watch rehearsals for Pippin.  Even though some of the details are still being fleshed out, I can see the that the singing and choreography will be amazing.  I was able to visualize the scenes costumed and with all the props in place, which was an amazing feeling.  I can hardly wait the couple of weeks before costume rehearsals begin!  I can see that there will have to be many quick costume changes, so I’ve built technology into the costumes to allow them to snap on and off.  With seventy kids, who sometimes need to change their complete outfits in a short time, chaos doesn’t begin to describe the first iteration of rehearsals in costumes. 

In other big news of the week, the Pippin T-shirts with my logo I designed have arrived.  Between projects I managed to carve out a few minutes to sit and read the Herald Times in my big comfy chair, but clearly the paparazzi was watching.  I kept waiting for a pie to appear, expectantly sniffing the air when I woke each morning for the wafting aroma of baking pie, only to be disappointed.  My best hope is the peck of peaches that sits in a mound on the kitchen island.  Let it be today!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Much accomplished, little finished…

I thought this week I would begin by talking about costumes I’ve created for the Sounds of South production of Pippin.  That project has taken over most of my week.  One of the big tasks I moved forward, with the help of Nancy Riggert of course, is making Charlemagne’s costume.  In the spirit of full disclosure, Nancy’s son Will and my son Tommie portray the king, so Nancy refers to us as the queen mums.  We worked on the king’s regal cloak, which I wanted to make as rich and ostentatious as possible to reflect his character.  I found a blood red velvet curtain at the recycle center (Materials for the Arts program) months ago, and this became the starting point for the costume I envisioned.  If you’re a person of my generation, there’s a hint of Carol Burnett in the costume, without the curtain rod.  I also found bits and pieces of costume embellishments at the Recycle Center, including a formal red table runner and trim from fancy pillows.  
I added used black fake fur from the hoods of jackets we collected at the Hoosier to Hoosier sale last year, as well as the last bits of a black vest I used to make the headdress for the beast in Beauty and the Beast.  I even found a use for some rings from an old purse, a gold hair barrette, black trim that we harvested from a different red curtain and gold fringe that we got from the Bloomington Thrift Shop.  If that wasn’t regal enough, we added lots of harvested gems to give it sparkle as well.  I love how it looks on the hanger, but I think it looks even better on the actors!  Now I need to create a crown worthy of the cloak.

A second project that we’re tackling is completing an arsenal of swords for the chorus army.  I created a sword design to complement the armor and helmets of the warriors.  The real challenge is repeating the process for seventy swords!  Bret Rothstein cut over 140 hilt halves from rug padding that wasn’t used for the armor.  Charlotte Appel cut out my swirl pattern from craft foam and Bill Riggert cut the lengths of PVC pipe from scraps we found in the theater woodshop, the Re-store and Alice Lindeman’s backyard.  We also cut out blades from leftover corrugated plastic recycled from last year’s Beauty and the Beast costumes.   
Misti Hayes glued the handles all together, including attaching plastic ornaments I collected from the Recycle Center on the handles.  Nancy Riggert is attaching all of the silver fabric to the blades.  Finally, we’ll need to paint the handles silver and attach them to the blades, then -- ta da!  Seventy battle-ready swords for the stage. 

I also spent some time at South working on the sculptural piece needed for the performance, a duck puppet.  For the body of the duck I used a deflated, oversized volleyball that I got from Brian Shepherd at Binford Elementary.  I cut a hole for the actor’s arm to fit in and filled the inside with remnant quilt batting that great Aunt Lois gives me.   
The arm entry passageway is crafted from a stocking of Meredith Burnham that she no longer wanted.  The head I carved from a cylindrical piece of foam from the Recycle Center and the whole thing is covered with felt remnants, also from the Recycle Center.  I began attaching the final layer of feathers, which are leftovers from Babette’s feather duster costume of last year.  It’s so fun to know the history of each little piece of my creations—nothing is cookie cutter when I get rolling. 

On the weaving front I did manage to release the water and sky background from the loom for the willow commission piece and stretch it out into its frame.  It is a small step, but the process is moving forward.  Next I will use my dimensional crocheting technique to build the water forward and create the land mass from which the willow will emerge. 

On the family front, the first week of school is behind us!  It was a long week, even though it had only three days.  As school moves into full swing, the boys will keep training in Taekwondo and weapons as they move toward their second degree black belt.  They will add twice weekly evening rehearsals for Pippin from now through the end of October.  
 It’s going to be a busy fall!  On this Sunday morning, though, after a restful Saturday, they were catching up on their electronic gaming.  This afternoon when the homework clock struck one, all games ended.   

Hmm, and did I mention there is no pie?  We had visitors from Ann Arbor Friday and Saturday night, who generously took us out for a leisurely brunch.  Unfortunately, we missed our Farmer’s Market trip, so at this point there are no peaches for pies or watermelons and cucumbers for the week!  Hopefully the Tuesday market will come through for us.   

Until next week,

Martina Celerin