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

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Growing My Roots…

My attention this week has been on my latest weaving project called ‘My Roots.’  The green background gradient is finished, and I was very excited this morning to get out my trowel and plant all my felted root vegetables onto their new home.  I love how they look together, and I’m relishing the little radishes I created this week.  I needle felted the red body and wet felted some white merino top into very thin, tapering tubes for the tap roots.  To the surprise and concern of my husband, I duct taped a bamboo sushi mat to the kitchen counter to support the project.  The bamboo reeds of the mat give me the roughness to create the agitation I need to make a thin, felted surface skin on the fleece that looks wonderful as a radish tap root. 

When I saw my piece laid out, I realized I still need to put on my farmer’s hat and grow a few more vegetables to fill in the last little gap in the piece.  
 I’ll probably make some turnips, which I’ve been fascinated with since I saw a big winter crop grown for ground cover at my friend Cinny’s house at her birthday party.  I just love that little dab of purple color in the ring around the top of the white root.  With most of the foliage gone from the cold weather they are probably producing the anthocyanin pigment to protect that precious carbohydrate rich tuber.  It just makes me want to pull out my slow cooker!  The purple makes me feel happy, though, because it reminds me of fond memories of a walk with Dawn Adams when she introduced me to the turnip field.  That was back when IU was playing basketball.  Sorry for the tangent, but if you don’t know, the Indiana men’s team lost in the Sweet Sixteen last night to end a great season of basketball. 

This time of year I’m usually trying to juggle preparations for all of my project responsibilities that won’t come to fruition until the summer or fall.  One of them is a workshop I’ll do at the Artful Dimensions gallery in Fredericksburg, Virginia in early June.  I have now completed the fifteen looms and a set of shuttles we’ll use, which is a fulfilling milestone.  In my artwork I love to use reclaimed and recycled materials, which is a philosophy I try to extend to other arenas in my life.  This week I repurposed some yardsticks into three footstick shuttles.  I use a drum sander attachment on my drill press, which is my favorite power tool.  My family gave it to me years go for Mother’s day.  Second to pie, that’s a pretty special gift!  I also picked up a broken blind with wooden slats that will also find their true purpose after sanding into weaving batons.  As the weather gets warmer I’m looking forward to sitting outside and creating a little sawdust on the back porch instead of downstairs.  That’s my version of plein air art. 

Of course the boys are involved in lots of activities that keep me running.  Jacob has been doing hip hop for about four years now and is a member of the dance troupe called the Jaywalkerz.  The group is now led by Tiffany Pham, and they have been working hard on a new routine which they will perform on April 1 with the Hip Hop ConnXion-Indiana at the Buskirk-Chumley.  The doors opens at 7, show starts at 8, purchase tickets online at: and come see it if you’re in town!  Oh, and last week’s raspberry pie is gone.  It was especially appealing to the boys, so my breakfast pie didn’t last past Tuesday.  I can’t wait to see what kind will appear tomorrow—right Jim?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, March 20, 2016

One Potato, Two Potato…

Three potato more.  I’ve been making potatoes!  Needle felting sweet potatoes, Yukon gold, and redskins pretty much filled up my week. We spent the first part of spring break in Michigan, which gave me hours to needle felt along the drives to and fro.  I’m assembling components for my weaving ‘My Roots’, so I’ve been thinking about all the root vegetables that are part of my life.  
 Sweet potatoes are back in our life after a long hiatus.  They left our diet when the boys came along, but as they have gotten older, new flavors are creeping past their selective palates.  A couple of years ago, baked sweet potatoes finally made the cut.  Now sweet potatoes are a pretty consistent part of our dinners, including when we go out to our favorite restaurant, the Owlery.  Sweet potato fries are the side of choice, and hands down they have the best fries in town. 

From an artistic perspective, I’m still pretty excited about figuring out how to do potato skin surfaces.  The secret is something I picked up from a video series about Mark Rothko’s strategy of layering translucent paint colors to create glowing effects.  I have embraced that concept in my medium to make lifelike potato surfaces using dyed fleece.  The sweet potato under color is fleece dyed with onion skins and the over layer is a hot chocolate brown that I bought a few years ago at The Fiber Event in Greencastle.  Together the fleece combinations produce an effect that I’m very happy with to replicate the skins of root vegetables.

Speaking of Michigan, we had a wonderful visit with Grandma.  We also got to spend some time with Ben and Kathey Gibson and Great Aunt Lois.  At Grandma’s house the rules are always a little different, especially with our diet.  The boys get delightful things such as ice cream and whipped cream on their cereal for breakfast.  We tried on a new tradition for happy hour by baking some of cousin Martha’s very southern crispy cheese snaps to enjoy with a glass of wine.  They were very good, but when I make them again I’ll need to add a Czech twist and include a little garlic. 

While in Michigan we did our usual rounds to stores where we bulk up on supplies.  We stopped at Williams Cheese Factory in Linwood, aka ‘The Cow’ to stock up on cheeses and spreads.  We visited Northwood’s Outlet to stock up on things I don’t know I need yet, but look as if they could be useful in a weaving.  The Cat’s Meow is also on my rounds, where I get my big pink bag to fill for seven dollars.  I secured a big load of pre-costumes for the incoming freshmen in Sounds of South to make their circus costumes.  Overall, the visit was intended to be low key, but my health didn’t get the memo.  I left Bloomington with a runny nose and came home with pneumonia.  Fortunately, I think I’m back on the mend, although I’m supposed to take it easy.  The Indiana basketball games were my only source of excitement this weekend, and last night’s defeat of Kentucky was truly awesome!

Finally, I think Jim felt sorry for me and made a delightful raspberry pie on Saturday morning.  I just had some for my breakfast, along with an espresso.  I’m ready to face the world again! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Saturday, March 12, 2016

I’ve Got Parsnips!

Traveling has been a big part of my world these days.  When I have to sit and wait in the airport, or travel as a passenger in a car, I have a need to keep producing art.  I really enjoy the process of needle felting, which is especially portable and well-suited to my waiting times.  Lately I’ve spent most of my time creating needle felted vegetables.  My current harvest will be incorporated into a piece called “My Roots”, which will be full of root vegetables.  The piece is really an offshoot of my “Fall Stew” piece.  I had so much fun making the vegetables for that piece I decided to develop a new composition that could feature only my felted roots. 

I need to step back for a little context.  The “My Roots” composition speaks to the intersection of three major parts of my life.  First, I’m preparing for a November exhibit entitled:  “From the Earth”.  I’m developing a family of weavings ideas for the project, and “My Roots” fits in perfectly.  Second, the piece speaks to my transplantation to Bloomington.  I was born in the Czech Republic and raised in Canada, but now Bloomington feels like home—my roots are really here now.  Third, much like the “Fall Stew” piece, it brings back such fond memories of my experiences at the local Farmer’s Market.  Autumn brings the bountiful harvest of roots that have been hidden and developing all summer.  Now the root vegetables are all laid out in rows on tables for anyone to buy.  I like the veggies, but I love looking at all the colors and variations on display. Plus I get to slip them into our fall meals. 

For the weaving background underneath my lovely colorful roots I need a green gradient background.  That’s coming along, encouraged by the emerging greens of spring.  Our first daffodils are complementing the crocuses and snowdrops in the yard, and poke up through the brown leaves as rich green foliage before the yellow flowers bloom.  Greens aren’t on the trees yet, but the world is coming back to life around me, and I’m channeling the rich colors into my art again.   

Of course my art life has many other demands that take me away from weaving.  This time of year means business taxes need to be completed.  I sit at the computer and sift through my year’s receipts, translating dollars into tallied categories in a big spreadsheet.  It’s a huge project that I’m delighted to have behind me now.  My costume work for Pippin is on hold for March while I get my life back on track, but April will find me back fitting the new Sounds of South members for their circus chorus costumes.   
This week I also spent some time making looms for my next workshop on June 6-7 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, at the Artful Dimensions Gallery.  Finding wood and brackets for the looms gave me the perfect excuse to visit the new Re-Storelocation in Bloomington.  They moved to a bigger site that, helpfully, is closer to me!  I found some paint covered 1x2s that are perfect for looms.  Of course the patina got me thinking about their previous life, because I get a lot of satisfaction knowing the histories of all the materials in the pieces I create.  Oh, and I even picked up a cheesy Hawaiian shirt that will be perfect for the Jimmy Buffet scene in Pippin!  You never know when you’re going to find just the right wacky thing you need. 

Finally, I managed to space out my cherry pie breakfasts all the way until yesterday morning.  I’m prompted to write my blog because yes, again, I’m without pie for breakfast.  Like a cat who knows there is fresh fish in the fridge, I KNOW there are bags of pie filling in the freezer.  Soon it will be the summer Farmer’s Market, with fresh rhubarb and strawberries for pies.  We can’t let local berries go to waste! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin