Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summertime travel, with art packed in the crevices…

It has been a jam-packed month since I last posted.  This is likely to be the summer pattern until I make it through the summer art fair travel season.  On the bright side, my days have been filled with family time, enjoyable workshops, work on commissions and preparations for travel to art fairs.  First came the family time.  At the end of the school year we made our annual trek to Topsail Island in North Carolina.  I thoroughly love people and interacting with them to share ideas, but at some point I just need some down time with my wonderful family.  This year we opted to spend two wonderful weeks relaxing on the beach.  
 It was exactly what I needed to recuperate and regroup before my busy summer schedule begins.  We ate fresh ocean fish (grilled amberjack was a very nice surprise), walked in the surf, collected fossilized shark’s teeth and found seashells. Jim made three glorious pies while we were there.  One was a blueberry-strawberry pie from local fruit and two were peach pies, baked together when Jim realized he had way too much filling for the available pie plates.  The time off was just what I needed.

On the drive home from Topsail the boys dropped me off in Richmond Virginia for my workshop.  One of the organizers is a long-time Facebook friend, Elizabeth Woodford.  She met me in Richmond and brought me to Fredericksburg.  We had a fabulous hour-long drive where we finally got to talk one-on-one and bond.  I think we must have been sisters in a previous life.  She’s an amazing person and I’m so glad to have finally connected with her to share a big hug.  After dropping boxes of workshop supplies at the Artful Dimensions gallery, Elizabeth delivered me to my hosts, Barbara and Bobby Posey.   
What amazing people!  They were gracious, generous, fun and interesting.  I just can’t even come up with enough positive adjectives to describe them.  We had such wonderful conversations.  I’m just delighted to be part of their world. 

I arrived in Fredericksburg early enough to be a tourist for a day.  I had the opportunity to visit some interesting local sites, some historical and some artistic.  I was as struck by the cannonballs embedded in a church since the civil war as I was exploring the local galleries that featured contemporary artists.   
That includes some fiber artists using synthetic felt and heat guns to create sculptures and textures that almost looked aquatic.  I have stored away some ideas that I’m sure will influence future pieces of mine.  We walked and had a wonderful time, but I was jarred into some of the realities of the civil war era.  The slave auction block in downtown Fredericksburg stands in stark contrast to the quaint charm of the historic southern town. 

The next day, Monday, was the beginning of the workshop.  Fifteen participants arrived, bringing a very high level of enthusiasm.  Working with them was somewhat intimidating because most were accomplished artists in their own right.  
 They embraced my ideas of weaving outside of the conventional structured methodologies and incorporating non-conventional materials into the weave structures and the weavings.   
We all had fun pushing the envelope of creating art in unexplored areas.  I truly enjoyed seeing the pieces that were created at the workshop and the sharing of ideas among the participants.  
 I’m looking forward to seeing how their workshop experiences influence their subsequent pieces.

On Wednesday I flew home to Bloomington for a day and a half.  That was just long enough to do laundry and re-pack my suitcase for a trip to Michigan.   
At Grandma’s house in Kawkawlin we overlapped with Martha and Dave from Mississippi and Haley, Kris and Arya from New Mexico.  It was a full house, including one giant family dinner with the Gibsons from next door and Aunt Lois from Essexville.   
Dave and Kris each got to spend a day with Jim and Tommie on Saginaw bay fishing for walleyes.  This was the first venture of the new boat onto Michigan waters.  They were very pleased with the boat and the fishing, resulting in a delightful fish fry and a freezer full of walleyes to bring home. 

During all my early summer adventures I have been working on my commission piece, which involves needle felting of a large number of leaves.  I have a mountain of sweet pea leaves completed as well as leaves for a lily plant and a blueberry bush.  Now that I’m home I can start assembling the pieces I created on my travels.  I can’t rest for too long, though, because I’m scheduled to travel to the Des Moines Art Fair next weekend.  
 I picked up my weavings from my exhibit at the Bloomingon Bagel Company and I’m beginning to pack the rest of my weavings for the trip.  I’m looking forward to my first art fair, but there hasn’t been a pie for breakfast since North Carolina.  On the bright side, we caught the tart cherry pie season yesterday morning at the Farmer’s market and bought enough tart cherries for three pies later in the season.  Tart cherries make my favorite pie, so I know I’m in for some treats.   
When I get home I’m imagining that I might get a blueberry pie as a reward for a successful trip west to Iowa.  Bring on the art fair!   

Until next week, or sometime soon,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Birches and White Pines

My blogs often tell the stories of the piece work I do when my life gets busy—which is most of the time.  Last week I was making kohlrabi, but I’m often making roots, fruits, animals, vegetables, hands, or tree clumps that comprise my bigger pieces.  The cerebral part of the process comes when I get the chance to assemble the pieces and arrange them in an art piece.  I usually need a big window of time when I can internalize this creative part of the process.  Deciding what works where and why is a very personal, reflective process.  I need silence in the art studio, free of fretting about upcoming deadlines and the routine of transporting boys to their activities for a long block of time.  It’s the time when I connect at my deepest level of consciousness with each piece.  I need to mull over the tentative composition and color balance in a critical way.  This week that happened for a new piece that features birches by a lake. 

Of course my week is also filled with small blocks of studio and travel time when I can work on the labor intensive parts of my craft.  One of those involved warping a loom for my next commission piece.  I picked out the yarns I’ll use for that piece last week and had a chance to do some weaving.  I love my weaving time, because it allows me to let my mind wander over the recent events in my world.  This was especially true this week because I’m weaving a structured fence and it felt like my hands were working independent of my brain.  I looked down and thought wow, look how much I’ve made!  I find that it helps to keep a piece of paper and pencil beside me when I’m weaving to make lists of problems to solve should they intrude in my weaving process.  That lets me clear my mind and quickly return my focus to more mental wandering. 

I also did have an artistic epiphany this week amidst my birches.  For the past several years I have yearned to create three-dimensional evergreen trees, but I’ve never felt that I could capture the structures to my satisfaction.  I’ve reveled in creating deciduous trees—birches, maples, sycamores and oaks—but not the pines of my childhood.  When I was young we used to take our family vacation at the Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario.  We’d stay at Pinedale hotel just outside the park and spend all day and into the evening on the beach.  The dune system on that part of Lake Huron is stabilized by eastern White Pines, which are a favorite of mine because the needles are long, soft and elegant.  They were planted there in the sixties in a misguided attempt to stabilize the fragile oak savannah ecosystem.  Anyway, I was staring at the large roll of thin, rigid aviation wire that Ben Gibson gave me last summer.  I realized that if I wrapped long fiber chenille around it that it might look like a pine bough.  Fortunately, our old wooden fence in the back yard has toppled over, making it easy to access our neighbor’s eastern white pine so I snipped a small branch (Eileen, I hope you’re not reading this!  Or if you are, I hope that was OK!).  I took it down to my art studio and dug around in my yarns to find that if I combined four different colors and textures together it resembled the bark of the pine branch.  I made some prototypes and I think I’m off to the races. 

In family news, the school year is drawing to an end.  Last week was Jacob’s spring concert at Jackson Creek Middle School and this week was Tommie’s at Bloomington High School South.  The auditoriums were packed with families and friends waiting for their little pumpkins to shine in the light.  And shine they did!  Now we’re crossing days off the calendar to the end of the school year.  The last event of the week was Second Saturday Soup.  Our generous neighbors open up their house and make three big pots of soup and invite friends and colleagues to the event.  Jim always tries to bake something for the dinner.  This week I found two more bags of chopped apple pie filling hiding in the back corner of the lowest shelf in the freezer.  These really are the last of the farmer’s market Mutzu apples from last summer.  It was a big hit—but it was completely consumed.  Which is great, but it meant that I didn’t get a slice for breakfast.  What’s a pie princess to do? 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother’s Day means pie!

This week I excitedly laid out all the vegetables for the ‘My Roots’ composition, thinking I had enough vegetables to fill the piece.  I was mentally ready to stitch it all together, but dang if it didn’t still have an empty spot!  That sent me back into my art studio with my fingers digging deep into my boxes of yarns and fleece.  I settled on making one more kind of root vegetable that speaks to my childhood—kohlrabi.  I remember finding peeled and chunked-up pieces in the fridge quite often and eating it after school like pieces of apple, although I don’t remember anyone ever cooking with it.   
To get started on making my own kohlrabi, I sorted through my big bin of green fleece and pulled out about six shades and tints of green that I thought looked as if they could come together to create the coloration of the skin.  I used my drum carder and blended my choices together into a green that I was happy with.  The kohlrabi bulb typically has a light green color with petioles that come straight up from the bulb.  I decided to do a little wet felting to create those structures.  I used my kohlrabi green fleece to needle felt everything together and viola—kohlrabi!  Now I think I need to make five more bulbs and I’ll have enough root vegetables for my piece. 

This week I also launched into my commission piece that will involve creating a trellis to stand in front of a garden fence.  I’m envisioning the fence to be made of weather-worn wood, much like the one that surrounds our back yard.  I went out and took a few pictures so I could capture all of the colors hidden in the aged wood and returned to my stash of yarns.  I dug through my gray and sand and light olive bins and pulled out everything that was even close to the colors I envisioned.  I warped a loom and now I’m looking forward to weaving this week. 

I haven’t completely abandoned my efforts for the Sounds of South production of Pippin this fall.  One side project that I did was playing with graphics that we might use to support the production as T-shirts and posters.  In designing the imagery, I thought a lot about the story line.  It’s basically a coming of age story where the principal character is guided by the lead player who wears a black top hat.  
 Our setting will be a vintage circus decked out in royal colors that represent precious stones.  I’m using sapphire blue, emerald green and amethyst purple for the chorus costumes.  Pippin is the son of the king who rebels against his tyrant father and ultimately chooses his love interest to be Catherine, a member of the circus troupe.  He decides that a simpler life with her and her son is closest to his heart.  Some how that seems appropriate on this Mother’s Day.

Speaking of that, I’d like to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all today!  I got a beautiful bouquet of flowers yesterday from my boys, and I woke up to the smell of pie baking in the oven.  It turned out to be a mutsu pie from last summer’s fruit.  It made a fine breakfast as a fresh-from-the oven warm treat.   
Last week I delighted in a strawberry-rhubarb pie made from Nancy Riggert’s rhubarb and farmer’s market strawberries.  That was nice, but only lasted until about Wednesday, since the boys seemed to like it a lot too.  For me, life is good when you get two different fresh pies in one week!  I hope you find whatever makes your life special on Mother’s day today.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Transition time…

As the calendar page turns over into May, I’m turning from creating Pippin costumes back to making fiber art in my studio.  I did get a lot accomplished this month in the costume realm.  One of the main characters in Pippin is the sassy grandmother Berthe.  She encourages Pippin to embrace the pleasures of life.  For her I created a Victorian style dress, because on the outside she must maintain a prim and proper fa├žade for the world.  Her dress is black lace with red fringed satin dress underneath that speaks to her deeper, flirtatious nature.  I’m trying to let the red flames of her passion shine through the black surface restraint of her expected societal edifice. 

This week I also launched into the penultimate lead costume on my list, which is King Charlemagne.  Although royalty tends to wear blue, he is a war-mongering king so I really wanted him to have a flowing deep red cloak that speaks to the volumes of blood shed in his name.  One of the reasons his costume is among the last completed is that I’ve been waiting for the right fabric to appear.  Because all of my costumes are made from reclaimed and recycled materials, I spend a lot of time collecting treasures from sources such as the Recycle Center and local resale shops.  I get a few more materials as donations from parents.  I’ve been waiting patiently for the King’s fabric to appear.  Last week it fell into my lap in the form of a used curtain from the Materials for the Arts program at the Recycle Center.   
There wasn’t quite enough width to the fabric for the King’s outfit, so I went digging in my bin of brocade scraps until I came across a piece of fabric that I bought at the Junk in the Trunk sale a couple of years ago.  I claimed it then as the perfect drape of backdrop fabric for the treasure chest scene in one of the operas within an opera in ‘Phantom of the Opera’.  Although there was a little too much green in the fabric itself, I was able to cut strips that contained predominantly red and gold.  I added still more trim scraps from curtains and bed skirts and beads from a broken necklace.  I will make it still more regal by trimming it with fur from hoods and collars of coats that I wasn’t able to use for last year for wolves in ‘Beauty and the Beast’.  I’m still hunting for the perfect chest medallion, but I know that will appear.  The King’s ensemble is now pieced together and needs to be glued and sewn into one unit. 

With the Pippin costume project at a stable stopping point I moved back in my art studio.  I’m now working on three pieces.  One is a shore scene that will feature birches leaning over the water, which I’ve been needle felting onto the weaving foreground.  To spice things up we even had a tornado siren go off a couple of nights ago so the family joined me in the art studio.  It was the perfect opportunity to do a little evening poking as we listed to WFIU on the hand-crank radio for updates.  We still had power, but you can never be too prepared for an emergency!  I also finished needle felting the last of the white radishes I need for ‘My Roots’, a weaving that features root vegetables that we buy at the farmer’s market.  Soon I’ll be laying out everything together for assembly, although this time I’m the only fiber art faerie to attach it into one ensemble!  Finally, I’m launching into a commission piece that will feature birds, flowers and vegetables in a garden.  I’m really looking forward to creating this special piece. 

On the home front, Tommie and Sounds of South went off to compete in the ISSMA competition this weekend, and everything seemed to go very well.  I had to settle for treats from the farmer’s market from Maria yesterday for breakfast, since I ate the last of my blueberry pie Friday.  Jim did pick up strawberries at the farmer’s market, and Nancy Riggert is supposed to harvest rhubarb for two pies, so fingers crossed—that it will smell like spring pie in the house very soon! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 24, 2016

And Pippin Continues…

Pippin is still filling my world. Now that I have the vintage circus chorus costumes finished, I’m turning my attention to costumes for the principals.  This week I created the Baron’s outfit.  I began with a black overcoat from the Sounds of South closet and rebuilt it by lining it with the red velour that came from a seventies lounge dress.  I trimmed it with gold Christmas cord and curtain tie-backs.  The coat, now a justacorps, worked perfectly with a quilted red and gold vest I found at the recycle center a couple of months ago.  I had no idea what I needed it for at the time, but it became quite obvious when I started working on the baron.  It just needed to add a few red sparkles as embellishment.  The vest covers a fancy dinner shirt that used to belong to the Beast in Beauty and the Beast last year.  I removed the blue gems from the neck ruffle and replaced them with a red and gold piece of a Christmas ornament that I got from Becky DeLong (thanks, Becky!!)  
 The buttons on the jacket cuffs are old earrings with red jewels glued in the center and the front panels of the justacorps are held open with flattened gold Christmas tree candle holders with a red jewel hot glued in the center.  My baron will sparkle! 

I also worked on Pippin’s ‘Morning Glow’ outfit.  I learned I needed to create this when Chris Miller came into the costume studio and asked me what Pippin was going to wear.  I looked a little saucer eyed at him and asked “what do you mean?”  He explained that traditionally Pippin wears something over the top, something surprising and eye-catching with a little ‘wow’ in it.  I pulled out a black and gold collar/bib that I had cut from a woman’s tunic top.  To that I added reclaimed gold Christmas ribbon.   
I pressed in gold studs on the embroidered lattice work and added gold trim that I bought in Tuscon last year at SAS Fabrics and Trim Surplus Store.  I added golden yellow jewels and I pinned on a gold chain with a tassel that Nancy Riggert will hand sew onto it (thanks, Nancy!)  I counterbalanced Pippin’s heavy front of the bib with three medals that I picked up at the Materials for the Arts - Recycle Center, taken from the Texas Senior Games.  That really tickled my fancy!  I put the studded bib on the chain mail-esque shirt and hoo-doggies—it looks great!  Chris was delighted. 

If that weren’t enough, I’ve been building the ‘Headless’ character.  I started with a damaged backpack from the Recycle Center and added an additional buckle across the chest for stability.  I inserted used pool noodles and scrap Styrofoam into the backpack to give height to the tall headless fellow who would be carrying the actor’s head.  I then took an old jacket worn by Jouvert from ‘Le Mis’ (many, many years ago) and cut a head hole in the chest panel for the actor and installed it on the backpack understructure. I repurposed two gloves from the recycle center and put wire and stuffed fill into each of the fingers so I could position them to look like they are holding a decapitated head.  The build isn’t quite done yet but it’s close. 

The other big news form the past two weeks comes from the Sounds of South trip to New York City.  Sixty-five students and a handful of parent chaperones took the city by storm.  The highlights include seeing the production of Wicked at the Gershwin Theater on the night we arrived.  The costumes were amazing and the singing phenomenal.  I just was completely immersed in the production, even though I was up at 2:15 that morning to make the trip.  Friday night took me to the Franco Zepharelli's staging of La Boheme at the Metropolitan opera, which was awesome—it’s the Met, so what can I say?  
 On Saturday afternoon I took in the off Broadway production of Newsical, which was completely inappropriate for language and content—and I loved every minute of it!  It was hilarious.  I stopped in at the fashion fabric mecca Mood and was just overwhelmed with the number, range, colors, and textures of fabrics.  
 It was astounding, and yes, I met Swatch.  The final evening dinner cruise on the Hudson was gorgeous and delightful, and the perfect end for an amazing three-day visit to New York.  We had a nice dinner when I got home, but I had to wait for the pie until this weekend.   
A blueberry pie for dessert on a beautiful spring summer evening out on the veranda was a fine end to the week.  The sad news was that I have been informed that there are no more fruit pie fillings in the freezer from last year’s farmer’s market.  All I can add is that I hope the rhubarb is ripe!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Monday, April 11, 2016

Less Wall Art, More Costumes…

My art studio time was limited this week, primarily because I blocked off April for costume creation to support next fall’s performance of Pippin.  More on that later.  It seems appropriate that I devoted some time to completing the last little corner of my piece called ‘My Roots’.  I chose to make some white radishes as the last root vegetable to connect to my childhood.  I still remember when I was little and thought radishes only came in round and red.  That’s what always went into our salads.  My stepmother brought home long, white radishes and told me that they were just like the red ones.  I was confused by the shape and color yet trusting, so of course I tried them.  They were so spicy I vowed never to eat them again!  Of course one should never say never, and now I love white radishes.  One of my favorite spring treats is a radish sandwich on rye bread with cream cheese.  Slice the radishes thickly and top them with salt and it’s a perfect sandwich.  Yum!

Most of my time this week was devoted to costume design and creation.  The number of the week is seventeen, which is all of the new Sounds of South members who needed a vintage circus costume for the chorus.  Some of the outfits are completely finished.  Others still need some loving touches by the hands of my sewing and gluing faeries.  When I was done the studio was an absolute mess.  One day around midweek, Nancy Riggert came in and saw me sitting in the middle of the chaos, which means piles of blue, green and purple everything (trim, ribbon, lace, fabric, sequins and more).  She looked at me, and in her sweet voice asked if a raccoon broke into the studio and made this mess?   
Raccoons can make a good mess of things, but if you want true chaos you’ll find me sitting in the middle of it.  In the end I spent four hours on Friday just reclaiming the costume studio.  I rolled, folded and reorganized all of my materials into bins, drawers and containers.  Now the studio is ready for the next stage, which will be to make the armor for the war scene.  With seventy cast members, or as many as seventy chest plates, helmets and swords to fits kids of different shapes and sizes, the task at hand will be enormous. 

I’ll design templates for the outfits in small, medium and larges and hand them out as take-home projects for the parents to do during their down time.  A fun sidelight of this project is that my friend Dawn Adams has been diligently taking the filters out of all the Starbucks Keurig coffee units that her husband drinks.  She has been washing and saving them for me.  I see them as just perfect as rivet establishments, so I might have to crowdsource a coffee filter collection project among the group.  I’m going to need a lot.

The big excitement for the upcoming week, and the reason there won’t be a blog next weekend, is because I’m one of the chaperones for the Sounds of South trip to NYC this week.  Jacob is coming along as well, but Jim is going to stay home and turn up the heat before we get back.  I suspect the trip will be an amazing experience, since it’s already jam packed with tickets to Wicked, a dinner cruise on the Hudson, Opera tickets at the Met to La Boheme, and tickets to NEWSical.  The SOS choir will even sing at ground zero as part of the trip.  And oh, fingers crossed, I’m hoping to sneak off for my first ever trip to Mood, the mecca of fabric stores to see all the goods and meet Swatch the dog.  Last, you’ll be pleased to learn that my happiness is not going to depend on the appearance of a pie upon our return.  I plan to indulge at every pastry shop I can in downtown New York.  I’ve heard that there’s an amazing cheesecake place in Times Square.  The struggle will be to decide which piece to choose.  And if there should be a pie when I get home, I’ll still be genuinely thankful and surprised!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Lots of irons in the fire…

My blogs often start out with the manageable lamentation that I have a bunch of projects in the works.  It seems that I have too much going on to accomplish it all.  What helps me manage is to stand back and look at the big picture.  I find if keep I moving forward, a little bit on each project each week, my responsibilities don’t feel so overwhelming.  This was one of those weeks!  I stepped back into working on a weaving project I started a while back, which was to work on the background for a birch piece set next to a summer lake.  I’ve made similar pieces, and this composition is especially calming for me.  I pulled the piece off the studio wall and started crocheting some of the foreground land mass to build the piece away from the wall.  
 I’ll plant the birch trees there.  Then I spent some time needle felting the effects of the gentle summer breeze on the water to create the perceived notion of waves.  I’m hoping that the piece should be finished and ready to travel to summer art fairs by this time next week. 

I spent some time this week moving ‘My Roots’ forward as well.  I’m creating this for an exhibition in November, although I’ll travel with this piece to summer art fairs.  I have decided that if it finds a new home this summer, it wasn’t meant to be part of the exhibit.   
My goal was to finish making the turnips that will nicely fill in the green hole still in the piece I shared last week.  I worked on these as the boys did their taekwondo, and the early-stage turnips are usually mistaken for potatoes or some other roots.  As the delicate purples and greens are added the turnips take on their identity.  I can tell they’re exited to join their other root relatives on the weaving. 

April marked my return to the costume studio at Bloomington High School South.  If you haven’t heard, and I can’t imagine that many of you haven’t, I’m currently creating the chorus costumes for a performance of Pippin this fall in a vintage circus motif.  I’ve been collecting all sorts of treasures from various places, both local and on my travels, to fit my color scheme for the performance.  I focus on reclaimed and recycled clothing and materials for the costumes.  Some parents have dropped off materials, but I regularly visit the Recycle Center (especially the Materials for the Arts program), My Sister’s Closet, and the Bloomington Thrift Shop.  I even found some useful costume things at the Re-Store in town!  On my spring break visit to Michigan I brought home a big haul from a store called the Cat’s Meow. 

One of the first new costumes I have laid out for the incoming freshmen includes a peplum I cut from a dress I found at the Cat’s Meow.  The purple skirt was formerly a purple dress, and what will be the black and white skirt was formerly a bed skirt.  I’ll trim the costume with Christmas ribbons and chords made from t-shirts, cut as a continuous strips to make the cordage. 
I am generating lots of projects for my sewing faeries!

While the costumes are my day job, I’ve been moving forward on pulling things together for my workshop in Virginia in June.  I took advantage of the beautiful weather from last week to bring my wide belt sander on the veranda.   

I converted the slats of wooden blinds into batons or pick-up sticks as the boys spent some quality time outside playing with bubbles.  They also decided they needed to try some stained glass work, so they spent a couple of hours on that project.  So yes, I happened to have copper tape and a soldering iron, and yes we have a bunch of beach glass, shells and funky found objects that they could fuse together.  Doesn’t every mom have those things? 

Family life has been about as busy as usual, with the biggest news focused on Jacob.  He had some extra practices this week before his big Hip Hop Connexion performance on Friday night.   
It was terrific!  The Jaywalkerz did a fabulous job, as usual, and brought the house down with their performance amid a dozen other skilled performance groups.  

 On the pie front, I had been scratching days on my calendar to maintain some hope.  Jim hasn’t been 100% and I wasn’t sure I was going to get a pie this week.  But good news!  I woke this morning to the smell of blueberry pie baking, and tonight night was a pie night!  Hooray!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin