Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Key to Weaving...

One of the joys of weaving with found objects is collecting materials with only a vague idea about how I might use them.  I’ve been collecting brass keys for years, knowing that someday I would need them for a composition.  This week the veil of uncertainty lifted and I started weaving.  The background for a piece will feature a bird cage with the door open and a bird peering out toward freedom.  The background will be woven with brass colored yarns with keys integrated into the yarn.  I didn’t want the warp to distract from the keys, but I didn’t find anything that was quite right when I dug through my warp materials.  I then rummaged through my box of gold yarns, and lo and behold I found gold lame´.  A good warp must be strong, so a good test is to pull on the material and see if it breaks—and one strand broke easily.  So tried two, then three strands of lame´, but it wasn’t until four strands held up to my fury and I knew how to warp my loom.  I love empirical learning!  I laid out my keys, dug through my dark yellow yarns and started to weave.  It’s a little like doing a puzzle to incorporate materials into the background.  I want the objects to appear randomly placed, but of course the weaving is very structured.  I’m constantly doubling back to get materials back into frame.  I love how it looks so far, and I’m very appreciative of input I’ve gotten from Chris Miller on this piece as the design for the composition has evolved.  Thanks Chris, your creativity is a wonderful influence on me! 

Of course one weaving isn’t sufficient to fill my days, so I’ve been working on several pieces in parallel where the compositions have evolved from my original thinking.  I’m working on a migration series, with the idea that fish also migrate.  I zeroed in on featuring some kind of a salmonoid undulating over a rocky river bottom with slimy greens and earthy clay brown river bottom.  The problem with just placing the fish over the rocks is that it wouldn’t read ‘water’.  My thought was to feature lily pads to define the water surface level and make the fish look more natural floating over the bottom.  The salmon no longer made sense, since lily pads are found in still, warm waters.  I thought of a print that Jacob created that won a Scholastic Gold Key award last year that featured koi.  I’m partial to the orange and black mottled varieties, and a little research taught me that koi migrate significant distances to find flooded meadows or stagnant waters to spawn.  Perfect!  This coming week, as Jacob is kickboxing, teaching, or training in Taekwondo I’ll be needle felting his koi.   

Last week I was rummaging through the freezer to find something for dinner and I stumbled onto a bag of frozen dandelion heads.  Of course I didn’t recognize it, thinking it was probably some long forgotten project of the boys when I realized it was mine.  Ten years ago or so there was a bumper crop of dandelions in Bryan Park, so we collected and froze them for the moment when I had the chance to dye with them.  Good news, that time appeared this week.  With great confidence and little fanfare I plunked the whole bag into a dye pot filled with water and sent it through a cycle of boiling, steeping, cooling and filtering.  I added two tablespoons of alum, tossed in around eight ounces of fleece and brought it back to a boil for an hour.  After cooling overnight I pulled out the fleece to find a color in the yellow range, but it’s a little browner than the lemony yellows that I’m accustomed to getting when dyeing with dandelions.  I still have some of the yellow to compare it with so I can test my memory.  No matter what, I know it will be useful for something. 

The sad news of the week?  No pie.  I had my last slice of blueberry pie on Friday morning.  I survived the weekend nibbling on cranberry pumpkin muffins I made, but I’m not sure they will carry me through to Monday.  Jim…? 


Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Pine Cones, Painting, and Pie

The big news of the week:  "Sipping the Sweetness" is finished!  I began the week hibernating in my art studio with a huge pile of yummy green yarns and an empty loom. I ended the week with a finished weaving.  To be fair, I created the hummingbird and trumpet vine flowers and leaves a couple of months ago.  They sat patiently waiting for their backdrop, and I’m delighted with how all the elements of the piece came together! 

It was also a week where I completed my applications for next year’s tour of art fairs.  It’s always fun to think of the possibilities of places I can visit and share my art, especially in places I have never visited.  My fingers are crossed that the jurors will like my art without experiencing it in person—they will determine my summer schedule. 


This early winter period has been a crazy time of year, with the temperatures, winds and precipitation varieties fluctuating on the whims of nature.  Artists have to be prepared to seize the moment when opportunity presents itself, and when I noticed that the weather Friday was predicted to be perfect for frame finishing and painting I leapt at the chance.  I completed the finishing of five more frames so I’m ready to fill them over the winter months when it becomes too cold to sand or paint outside. 

I’m also continuing on my fun weekly dyeing adventures using natural materials.  Last week we visited Grandma in Michigan for Thanksgiving, and she is a meticulous caretaker of her yard.  The visit coincided with the appearance of a bumper crop of white pine cones, which didn’t make her happy because she has to clean them up.  However, it made me very happy because it gave me another chance to try more dyeing.  I recently dyed some fleece with a pot of spruce cones that I collected near the convention center in Bloomington, so I tried a true experiment.  
I used the same dye pot, the same materials and process, and fleece from the same batch for the new white pine cones (right side; fleece from spruce cones on the left).  They either yielded more dye, or it was better taken up by the fleece, so I ended up with a more intense product.

The visit to Grandma’s spurred me to finally spend some quality time with Photoshop.  She lamented that she didn’t have any cards from me in a while, and that was just the push I needed to create eleven new cards featuring some of my recent pieces.  
They are now available at By Hand Gallery in Bloomington and hopefully they will appear soon at Juniper Gallery in Spencer.  I’m meeting with the gallery director, Jaime Sweeney, this week to drop off some weavings and I’m excited to see her new space. 


Rounding out my week, I find that completing a piece drives me straight into the next weaving project, which I have already laid out for next week.  I have all my river rocks finished, and I really like how they look.  I need to weave the river bottom background.  Fortunately, Jacob will be teaching and training next week so I’ll have plenty of time to work on the salmon that will be swishing their tails over the rocks.  
And last, yippee skippee—you guessed it—pie!  The stars aligned and my wonderful husband surprised me with a deep dish blueberry pie, perfect for the season in my world. 

Until next week,

--> Martina Celerin

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thanksgiving week…

This week was filled with planning, exploring and travel as we visited Michigan for Thanksgiving.  I was mentally developing my body of work that features creatures that migrate for an exhibit to open August second.  One of the fun things about creating a body of work is that I can take time to explore and understand the animals and their movements, which led me to the realization that only Monarch butterflies migrate.  I especially connected with them as frosts killed off our annuals, including the Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) that Jim tried to grow from seeds this year.  Unfortunately, the deer ravaged the plants.  Even after spraying to deter them, the deer adeptly munched off all the budding flowers before they blossomed.  
From my perspective, Mexican sunflowers have beautiful orange flower heads and monarchs love them, which makes them a perfect fit for my migration series.  I’m imagining a piece where Monarchs are dancing above and landing on the puffy yellow centers of the sunflowers.  I’m thinking about a landing site here in the Midwest that is almost a replica of their wintering place in Mexico.

In my family, fish are never far from my reality, and that got me thinking about fish that migrate.  And that led me to an interesting new felting technique.  I was imagining the one-way trip up rivers that most salmonoids make.  I want to create a piece where I’m looking through the cold flowing water to the smooth, mossy rocks on the bottom where salmon lay eggs.  
The constant flowing water polishes the surfaces, and the slippery bacteria on the rocks give them a unified, mottled appearance.  I already have a technique to felt balls to create rocks without a lot of effort by stuffing yarn and other wool scraps into old nylons and sending them through the washer and dryer.  I still needed to work through the painstaking task of felting fleece directly on the surface to create the look I want for the rocks on the river bottom.  I decided instead to try tacking the dyed fleece layers on the surface of my felt balls and repeating the machine felting process.  It worked swimmingly!  I’ll expand this strategy to complete my collection of river rocks.  After that, I’m looking forward to needle felting the salmon. 
Fortunately, Jacob is teaching and training at MCMA at least twice a week, so I’ll have ample time to sit and poke. 

With the drive to Michigan I had plenty of time to do transportable handwork.  We drove to Grandma’s in Kawkawlin on Tuesday, and then Jacob and I drove the loop to Oberlin to pick up Tommie on Wednesday.  We settled in for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with Lois and Grandma on Thursday.  It was good to have us all together.  I’m discovering that as the kids and family gets older, life just gets more complicated, making it harder to bring everyone together.  It just feels all the better when it does come together.  It was relaxing to catch up and hug.  
The best part of this American Thanksgiving holiday is that it’s so late in November that it isn’t far from the Christmas holidays.  Oh, and there was pie.  Grandma surprised me with a raspberry-cherry pie.  She had to go to three different stores to get fruit for the filling she wanted.  I’m tickled and honored that she went to all that trouble for me.  It feels good to be part of such a loving, caring family. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin