Monday, January 16, 2017

Hello Willow and Hello Dolly

The winter skies outside might be dark and foreboding, but the new bank of lights in my art studio makes it feel like the middle of August.  Thanks sweetie pie Jim!  It’s bright and sunny inside, so I’m working on a bright and sunny piece--my Willow by the Lake.  It feels good to return to a calm organized space.  It’s a refuge for me.  The piece still requires me to attach the dangling, swaying branches and adorn the shore with some stones, but the peace and calmness is just what I needed at the end of this busy week.  I had a hectic but rewarding few days in the costume studio fitting all of the returning Sounds of South members into their pre-costumes for the October production of Hello Dolly.   
When the curtain rises there will be roughly seventy kids on stage and each one needs at least two costumes!  The color story matches the happy, sweet and cheerful play.  The musical might be a little fruity and sugary, so I chose the color palate with that in mind—watermelon and lemon.  Each of the chorus members will display all of the colors in their costumes.  The production is set in 1885, which was the height of late Victorian extreme fashion.  I’m having fun assembling the huge bustles and leg o’mutton sleeves into colorful creations.  I have five of the women’s costumes designed and assembled to various stages and I’m working on the sixth.  It’s so much fun because each outfit is completely different.  I’m fortunate to have big bins of trim to work with, harvested by the Sounds of South kids from old clothing, ruffled curtains and lacy table cloths.  And of course there are some unusual treasures - the "buttons" in this green costume are actually vial caps that Cook donated to the Material for the Arts program at the Recycle Center!
I also have T-shirt cording that parents have created by cutting one inch continuous strips from watermelon and lemon-colored T-shirts.  I’m making the bustles out of the crinoline that I can harvest from old prom gowns that have fallen out of fashion. 

On the family front, I can’t believe it’s only been a week since we’ve returned to school.  I feel like we have seamlessly returned to our routines and are again rocking along on all of our daily activities.  The boys are back into voice lessons, hip hop, science Olympiad, Taekwondo and sparring.  I’m back into city meetings, E2C exercise classes and Zumba.  Speaking of the boy’s Taekwondo training, they have scheduled their second degree black belt test for March 4th 2017.  Over the holiday they did some extra aerobic training to enhance their endurance for the grueling test.   
Forgive me for a mom moment—I’m very proud of their accomplishments and I’m looking forward to celebrating their achievements!  Speaking of pie (how did that pop into my mind)—there’s only been one, but sadly it was a pizza pie.  It was beautiful.  It was amazing.  It was tasty.  It went well with a glass of wine.  But it wasn’t a “pie” pie.  Helllooooo…   Jiiiiiiimmm…  There hasn’t been a pie picture in the blog since November 15th!  What ever shall I do...?

Until next week

Martina Celerin

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Trees and tomatoes and no pie, oh my…

It’s been a tree week.  Looking around outside I see a lot of bare branches and snow.  I remember my husband telling me that you have to love browns if you want to live in Indiana.  I do, as long as there is some pop of color associated with it.  Like tomatoes!  After a long couple of weeks of family activities followed by reclaiming the house, I’m finally getting back to work in my art studio.  I’m finishing a piece that I started over a month ago.  I’m creating the grey-brown tree trunk as I look at all the grey-brown trees and brown withered plants with a dusting of snow in the neighborhood.  There is something beautiful about the complexities of the lines of the branches that is now visible with the leaves missing.  With that said, I’m ready for the hints of spring green to give some much needed color to the world.   
My answer to the problem was to make some tomato slices as part of a weaving called ‘Salsa to Go’.  The title might evolve, though, because this week I introduced the boys to home-made guacamole—thanks Kroger for having 88¢ avocados—and they loved it!  My art really does reflect my life, so the art piece might actually become a visual recipe for guacamole. 

Speaking of yummy foods, I put my birthday present from Grandma to the test.  She gave me a new potato ricer and I used it to make butternut squash gnocchi.  I actually used it for the potato portion of it.  I made a ginormous double batch and half went in the freezer.  We topped it off with a garlicy-roasted red pepper sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.   
I filled to capacity two six-foot teenage boys and their parents.  It’s the time of year when the new school year begins and we need quick dinners in the freezer.  The luxury of time over the holiday break allowed us to make slow meals, but that will all change tomorrow when school restarts.  Fortunately, I’ve got plenty of soups, chili and lasagna in the freezer for those crazy packed days that are fast approaching. 

Speaking life getting back into full swing, tomorrow I will launch into costume making for Hello Dolly.  At last count I had over thirty suit coats and pants in watermelon and lemon colors (fuchsia, emerald green, lime green and crisp yellow).  I’ll start fitting the boys with their colorful pre-costumes.  Each of them will wear all of the colors.  No Indiana winter grey-browns in this crowd!  And yes, still no pie, although Jacob has been making Pizelles and Jim’s homemade bread is wonderful, but they’re not pie.  I need fruit to prevent scurvy for my long voyage through winter—just sayin’!

Until next week

Martina Celerin

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I exercise with a bunch of crazy fun people in the wee hours of the morning three days a week.  They’re a terrific lot and we share many stories.  They have embraced me in their group and I love being part of it.  Not only do we exercise, we share stories and bounce ideas and act as each other’s support staff.  Just before Christmas, Cathy Green announced that we all needed to wear our solstice shirts to our exercise class on December 21st.  Of course the rest of us just looked at each other in a puzzled way and hemmed and hawed.  When I got home I decided that if Cathy said we needed them, I was just the person to make them!  After scrounging for shirts, especially long-sleeved white ones (the sleeves are for yet another project—they’ll be pseudo socks for the Scottish highlanders in the parade in Hello Dolly—more on that later), I brought out my glitter glue, gold fabric and solstice-appropriate embellishments.  I briefly transformed the kitchen island into a craft space and gleefully spent the day on a silly fun project.  Oh, and Mary Madore, yours will be waiting for you when you get back to Bloomington! 

So Christmas—it was wonderful in our house with Grandma and Great Aunt Lois visiting.  On Friday evening before Christmas we ventured out into the rain to see Oliver.  It was wonderful—Cardinal never lets you down, especially for the holiday shows.  The joy pouring out from a stage full of kids singing and dancing is overwhelming and you can’t help but smile.  The costumes were terrific.  The sets were incredibly complex and featured constant rearrangement and reassemblies.  The choreography of the shadowy bodies flitting across the stage to create the sets was a captivating performance hidden inside the play.  I had seen many of the primary actors before, but the undertaker’s daughter was new to me and I thought she was terrific.  Mike Price, the outstanding professional pillar and mooring for all the young actors, was in his element.  He is an amazing character actor—I could watch him on stage all day.  We went home delighted to feast and party until we had to deliver everyone to the airport on Monday.  

On Christmas morning, Jacob received an unexpected present.  He was supposed to be a bad boy in the Sounds of South holiday performance.  It’s part of the newer Christmas song:  “I’m getting nothing for Christmas”.  Unfortunately, Jacob got sick and wasn’t able to perform, so Jim tried to make it up to him.  You have to sing, or at least say, that title line in your head to get the joke, but hopefully you’ll grasp it when you look at the box that Jacob is holding. 

My boys must have heard some running water around Christmas, because they turned into beavers and built a dam around the carport.  Our neighbor, Martha Oakley, had a large tree cut down in her front yard, leaving huge chunks of trunk that needed a new home.  After a large number of treks back and forth to Martha’s house, hauling some ginormous hunks of wood each trip, and a heck of a lot of swinging of the maul, we now have at least a year’s supply of firewood guarding my car.  The only downside to the break is that there Was. No. Pie.  OK, yes, we’ve had cookies, brownies, stollen, chocolate, and rumballs, but no pie.  But I’m hopeful!  The stollen didn’t last long.  The cookie supply is dwindling after giving away many tins and keeping after them after meals.  There are a few rumballs and brownies put away in the freezer for a time when chocolate is needed, but it’s time for a new dessert!  We NEED some of the summer farmer’s market fruit to come forth for a pie! 

Until next week

Martina Celerin

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Welcome to winter…

I see that there’s a sprinkling of snow on the ground over a layer of ice, with little green salt crystals on the road.  Must be winter in Indiana!  We’ve had two nights of freezing rain and entirely unsafe driving, so I spent yesterday inside.  With Christmas only a week away now, the household has been a beehive of activity, even as my art making has been a bit sporadic.  Christmas to me means family—getting ready for visitors and planning holiday foods and activities. Even the weaving I’m currently working on will feature a pond with a willow, which is very special to me because of all of its family connections.  Grandpa was connected to the giant willows in his backyard, and the Czechs have a long history with the willow.  We talk to the willow when we have problems, and those long draping branches just seem magical.  Whenever I have some time, I work a little on my willow piece. 

Even as I focus my activities on the holiday season my art has been on the move.  I have had several exhibits come up and go down since I last wrote.  Currently I have my ‘Nature to Nurture’ show hanging at the Bloomington Bagel Company on the east side of town (in the Shoppes) and a display of my vegetable and fruit felted tiles at By Hand Gallery.  While I haven’t been weaving much, I have filled my creative needs in other ways.  One of my favorite things to do with the boys near Christmas is to bake cookies.  This year we baked eleven different varieties. 
We made several old favorites, including Linecke kolacky, snowballs, Tommie’s spicy chocolate diablos, and frosted lemon cookies.  This year Jacob introduced his ‘party on a stick’ cookie balls and pecan chocolate half moons.  The cookies are wonderful to share, but Christmas at our house would not be complete without Stollen on Christmas morning, at least according to Grandma.  Last year I finally finished off the candied peel that I made years ago, so this week I bought diverse citrus fruits to harvest peel and candy for Stollen this season and over the next few years.  Add into that decorating the house and trimming the Christmas tree and you’ve got a pretty full mix of activities! 

The last big news of the season was the announcement of the musical to be put on by Sounds of South next fall—Hello Dolly.  I’ve already been collecting pre-costumes, i.e. clothing from the Recycle Center, Opportunity House, Cat’s Meow, My Sister’s Closet, the Bloomington Thrift Shop and Goodwill.  I chose the colors for the chorus to be watermelon and lemon (think fuscia, emerald green, light green and a pure yellow, with black and white neutral colors).  I should have about seventy kids to dress in Victorian garb, in the style of 1885.  I’ve been watching Youtube videos to educate myself on the difference between late the Victorian and early Edwardian periods. I’m excited about making big bustles and using lots and lots of feathers and flowers.
  My travel calendar is also starting to fill up for next year, featuring workshops, talks and trunk shows.  I’ll provide more information as the events come closer.  It looks like 2017 is going to be great year—but not until I enjoy holidays!  I’m thinking that something is missing here, though.  Wait—there wasn’t a single pie over the past month!  Surely the planning for a Christmas or birthday pie is in the works. 

Until next week

Martina Celerin

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Looking back at a crazy fall…

Last week I dropped off several of my latest art pieces at By Hand Gallery, closing the door on my frenetic efforts to build an inventory for fall shows and holiday events.  Two weeks ago I was still preparing for the Artisan’s Guild show at the Convention Center while I was organizing my exhibit in the Roger’s Room titled ‘Nature to Nurture.’  The events were a lot of fun, as usual.  It gives me the opportunity to chat with people that I don’t normally connect with during the year.  My newest tiles were well received by the passers by, and I think that people were happy to see the smaller format.  We chatted about the concept behind them, which is valuing the smaller things in life.  
 In the end, they’re what really matters.  The Rogers Room lies across the hall from my booth, so I very much enjoyed participating in the opening reception for my exhibit.  A special thanks to Patty Russo for all she did to make it successful and her ongoing support.  The exhibit’s title, 'Nature to Nature,' really tells the story of the exhibit.  The layout begins with sky and water themes and moves to pieces that feature landscapes and trees.  It transitions into compositions that imagine how we interact with agriculture and gardening, ending with a bounty of fruits and vegetables. 
 I added a tiled display of individual vegetables that I’m thinking of as visual recipes, but focusing on the individual vegetable on its own highlights how each plant is important and contributes to greater things.  It speaks to the bounty that we really have in this community. 

Closing the door on my shows brought me back to the reality of my last workshop for the year.  I spend months organizing and collecting materials for each workshop, but there’s always a last minute push to be sure I have enough looms and unique materials for each exploration of weaving techniques.   
I had an enthusiastic group of weavers on Saturday that were energized and ready to create!  It’s funny because it is always a challenge when I have weavers as participants.  Asking them to break from the rules and move away from straight lines and strict edges brings out a saucer eyed look.  I ask them to trust me—we’ll all hold hands and jump off the bridge together.  You might scrape your knees, and the cold water is a shock, but it will be worth it!  I was delighted to see them experimenting by combining different weights of yarn, weaving structures and throwing the concept of straight lines to the wind. 
 I feel like I can offer them a bunch of new tools for their artistic toolboxes and I can’t wait to see what comes from their experience.  As always, however, the best part of my adventures is coming home.  Saturday night night was no exception.  My family delayed dinner to surprise me with a delightful feast of ginger glazed salmon, fresh salad, rice and a still warm apple pie made from local golden delicious apples that Jim bought at the farmer’s market. 

Now I can rest!  OK, maybe not.  I need to put the Pippin costumes to bed and begin organizing fabrics, trim, props and everything else for next year’s adventure.  One of the participants at the workshop asked me what I do in my spare time—what’s my hobby?  Creating art is my career and my hobby.  It just fills my life.  It’s what I love to do.  And I have such a wonderful family to support me in all my adventures! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Monday, October 31, 2016

Shifting gears, again…

I’ll share the fabulous conclusion of this year’s Pippin saga below, but my mind is already re-focused on the first of the holiday shows.  The Artisan Guild show at the Convention Center sets up Friday morning.  The fiber, glass and clay guilds come together under one roof, and I’m very excited about participating.  I’ve been working feverishly at advancing two huge new bodies of work that I’ll show this season.  First, I’m pretty excited about the felted tiles I’ve been working on.  

The inspiration for the tiles really comes from visiting the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.  In my family I’m the really big tomato fan, so fall is the conclusion to my season of my tomato sandwiches.  When I arrive at the farmer’s market I casually conduct a surveillance loop around the market to pick out my one perfect tomato for the week.  My selection has to big, red, ripe and juicy, but not especially pretty.  I love the idea of having one big fat slice of tomato in my sandwich - as thick as the bread slices.  The reality of my weekly search explains the inspiration for the new felted pieces.  I’m trying to capture the essence of that one, big special thing recognized as essential to your life.  For my family, the week the first ripe snap peas appear in boxes on tables is a good example.   
At the Farmer’s Market you suddenly see the rich, green color and the memory about how much you love them kicks in.  We buy a box and eat them raw at the market.  Then we usually buy a couple more boxes and put them in a big bowl at the center of the table to munch on.  Taking an important part of your life and framing it for the wall to help you remember it is important to me.  Of course as soon as I start making one type of vegetable I’m inspired to begin making another.  I have a few big pieces where comfortable combinations of vegetables come together to shape the whole.  I also love the idea of being able to piece together a favorite dish by combining tiles.  You might create a salsa art piece combining tomato, onion and jalapeno tiles.  Or you might think of borscht by mixing beets, onion slices and garlic.  The tiles are like a visual recipe.  Of course some of the tiles do speak volumes standing alone.  There is something seductive about a pile of cherries, which my brain would immediately commit to inclusion in a pie. 

My second new body of work is the collection of felted vessels I’ve been making.  The genesis of these vessels, along with pictures of my first attempts, are featured in earlier blogs.  I now have a collection of felted vessels that I have begun to package to display at the show.  It has been a lot of fun to explore how different materials behave and combine to create new surface textures.  Merino noils, the very short waste merino I picked up several years ago from Sheep Street felts incredibly quickly, but the short fibers result in a bumpy texture.  What I like about the merino is that the finished product is very rigid.  The merino top, which is the longest merino fibers, felts quickly but results in a softer vessel.  If the vessel were created on a larger scale I can imagine that it might collapse in on itself.  I also did some experimenting with some spun horsetail hair.  It has a fascinating texture that I incorporated into one of the vessels.  The contrast of the coarseness of horsetail hair with the soft, fine merino is striking in both texture and color.  I’ve done some additional embellishing on a few of the vessels, adding cute little felted balls to supply even more character and make them more whimsical. 

Another chapter of my life closed this week to make room for my holiday art fair season.  The final production of Pippin was presented on Saturday night and yesterday morning we did the set teardown.  The costumes were divvied up for washing and the parents hauled them away.  The armor and the props were collected, organized and put to bed for now.  Monday morning it all seemed like a dream.  For now, I’m delighted with the amazing number of parents and SOS kids that came together to deconstruct the show—the stage and costume studio were beehives of activity.  The entire set was broken down and put away within three hours.  Thank you again to Gwen, Chris and Nancy and all of the parents and students that made this an amazing experience.  I will forever cherish the memories.   

Right now, though, my calendar shows me that I have a workshop in Crawfordsville on Saturday, November 12 to teach about weaving with reclaimed and recycled materials--please do sign up!  You may contact Jessica Madsen for more details.  The workshops will be capped at 10 people, so signing up sooner is better.  At last check we were at five participants.

And finally, the last Pippin performance also coincided with the end of the first trimester of high school for Jacob, who came through stressed but successful.  Tommie is on autopilot, carving through his curriculum as junior.  Coming up sometime in the near future will be a second degree black belt test for the two boys, who have just about completed their weapons training for their cross-training requirement.  We’ve managed to stay on track with Taekwondo training, voice lessons and hip-hop dance training, but we’re now transitioning into the late fall schedule of boy activities.  This week Jacob and I are looking forward to seeing Sweeney Todd at Ivy Tech, while Tommie and I are excited to be at the home opener for IU men's basketball.  Basically, we just buckling our seat belts until Thanksgiving vacation, because it will be a crazy, busy ride with lots of laughs and pie along the way. Oh, and Jim tried to hide it between loaves of bread, but an apple pie emerged from the oven yesterday morning while I was away breaking down the show!  Best.dessert.this.week!!

Until next week

Martina Celerin

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