Saturday, March 28, 2015

Two Dogs and an Art Fair

--> It has been a busy, full week culminating in big celebrations.  First and foremost, I finished my latest commission and delivered it to its happy home.  I put a sneak peak of a section on Facebook earlier this week.  Now here’s the full view.  I really did almost nothing else over the past few weeks to get this piece done on time.  It traveled with me to Michigan where I stretched it out.  Grandma’s cats, Yahzee and Callie, looked on skeptically as an unwelcome object invaded their space.   The leaf clumps for the canopy were made as I traveled to and from Tuscon, including during the layovers in the Dallas airport.  Thankfully, crochet hooks are allowed on airplanes these days.  
 I had a lot of the components completed before spring break but not the dogs.  I had taken multiple pictures of them and created a collage so I felt ready to build them from scratch by needle felting.  I felt an added pressure because the dogs were not purebred.  I wanted them to be as true to their appearance as possible to make them familiar to their owners, both by their looks and their gestures.  I spent a lot of time crafting the faces to be happy and enthusiastic.  I was pleased with how they turned out.  On Friday morning I delivered the piece to the new owner, just in time for the spouse’s birthday.  They both loved it, which made me happy. 

Other bright news came my way at the end of the week.  I was accepted into the Madison Art Fair!  It is one of my favorite summer shows to do.  I love the people of Madison that come out to support art.  Their general enthusiasm and financial support make it extremely rewarding for artists to participate.  Another big bonus is visiting with Wendy and Duane and staying out on their farm far from the city.  It is located in beautiful rolling farmland outside Hollandale, making for a beautiful drive back and forth to the show each day.  It’s going to be a lot of fun! 

Friday also marked my return to costume creation at Sounds of South.  We have eighteen freshmen joining the group, which means thirty-six new costumes to complete.  As if my life isn’t busy enough!  The project is moving forward nicely - the new kids all came to an orientation meeting Monday.  With the help of Nancy Riggert and my son Jacob, we fitted them for their costume bases for villagers, and measured them all for the kitchen utensil costumes.  On Friday we had all of the hands of the Sounds of South current members busily working on cutting and seam-ripping and gluing the normal clothing into what will be eighteenth-century eastern European/French peasant costumes.  I feel great about the progress.  At the welcoming meeting Gwen introduced the incoming parents to the concept of the craft nights that we are having every Monday.  They seem enthusiastic about participating, and I’m looking forward to big group of worker bees on Monday nights. 

I also managed fit in sketching the Beast’s three different looks as we drove home from Michigan.  In my vision, the beast first appears to Belle wearing a menacing cloak with a raised collar.  In the library scene, he starts to relax a bit, and he will wear a in Bohemian style shirt.  Finally, in the formal dinner scene he will sport a regal dinner jacket featuring lots of glitter and gold.  I just hope that the ultimate reality is as good as the vision in my head. 

On the home front there were a few highlights as well.  Jacob, in between Taekwondo, Jiu-jitsu and hip hop practice, sparred for the first time as a black belt challenger as his friend Seth tested for black belt.  While in Michigan, Grandma made me a delightful apple pie with some secret ingredients.  
 It had white Pinconning cheese in the filling and whole cream somehow drizzled onto the crust.  Just as I was experiencing pie withdrawal upon returning to Bloomington, Jim made me a delightful tart cherry pie shortly after we came home.  I have been enjoying pie and espresso all week, but now I have none.  Great sadness.  The next pie watch begins now. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

From summer back to spring!

Last week I packed up my warm weather clothes and hopped on a plane.  I was commissioned to hold a fiber arts workshop in Tuscon, Arizona.  I left a foot of snow on the ground with a hopeful suitcase full of shorts and light clothes to match predicted highs in the mid eighties.  And Tuscon came through!  I had a fabulous time at the workshop, and the beautiful high desert setting didn’t disappoint either.  I’ve never been to a climate like that before—it’s so distinct from anyplace I’ve ever been.  I’ve seen cacti in New Mexico, but never stands of saguaros and dense fields of cacti.  There were even saguaros in the medians of the highways!  I was amazed!
 I found it fascinating that there were no trees or bushes taller than about fifteen feet.  Somehow that makes the sky look even bigger.   The days were wonderfully warm in the mid eighties every day.  Even better, the group of seven people in the workshop were just an enthusiastic bunch, bringing varied backgrounds and experiences. 
  Some had done extensive workshops in tapestry and were used to being very rigid and structured and exacting.  I tried to push them out of their comfort zone and into creating organic shapes with non-conventional materials.  They mixed different weights and types of yarns and it was interesting to watch them evolve and grow into their more relaxed and reflective creations.   
Others had never woven in their lives, so the idea of creating fabric from yarn was novel and exciting.  They were all ready to try new things and take on challenges.  That made it even more rewarding for me.  When I teach workshops I never begin with a preconceived notion of what the art should look like at the end.  I never hold paint by number workshops—I try to be very much open as to how the process develops.  
 Every hour or so I introduce a new technique, approach or combination that people may incorporate or explore as well.  Every couple of hours we have a stretching fest where I get all of the participants to stand up and move their bodies [I’m thinking of you, Darrelyn]!  
 The participants and I then walk around to see how others are interpreting the new techniques.  By the end of the workshop the people are creating their own applications and sharing what they developed with their cohorts.  They all seemed happy with what they accomplished.   
Overall, I’m delighted with how everything turned out. 

I have to thank my hosts for the five days stay, Lura and Jill.  Oh my gosh they were just so perfect!   
We had such a wonderful time.  I’m so incredibly grateful to them for hosting me.  They were everything from tour guides to wine stewards and baristas.  They came with two wonderful dogs, Teddy and Romie, who took me for walks through the neighborhood each evening.  I discovered amazing rock hounding, learned the names of mountains and plants, and was able to pepper them with questions about the flora and fauna.
Lura is a fabulous gardener and she always had a thoughtful answer to my questions about what I observed.  She is also a production weaver and creates baby blankets and chenille scarves and shawls.  Jill spins exceedingly fine yarn.  I think her favorite is silk and wool that she uses to create lacework.  They work with local cotton growers and are a resource for the processed cotton products in a rainbow of natural colors.  They are both retired nurses that saw the light and are now both fiber people, which gave us a lot to talk about.  Plus, they’re just a lot of fun—we laughed a lot. 

There is a funny story about how the workshop came to be.  About two years ago Wendy, one of the workshop participants, saw my work on Pinterest and contacted me about visiting Tuscon to do the workshop.  The cogs turned slowly but effectively.  Roxanne, the workshop coordinator, brought the whole trip together.  I’m very grateful to both of them for making this all work out.  I came home with a brain full of textures, colors and ideas.  I’m not exactly sure how that will translate into my own work but somehow I know it will.  I’ve already been hearing from my friends that I’ll be needle felting cacti and using toothpicks for spines.  Everyone has an idea for me.   
I came home to a wonderful family with open arms and lots of hugs.  Plus the house was clean—OMG!  It was terrific to see my family.  On Friday I launched back into SOS (Sounds of South) costumes and I just about completed the Le Fou jacket.  This is a costume I sketched on a piece of scrap paper as I watched the boys do Taekwondo before I left.  
 It would be done now if the rainy Friday didn’t prevent me from spray painting the buttons I needed.  Oh, and on the way home I did some sketching for still more costumes.  I need to accommodate the new additions to SOS that auditioned into the group while I was gone.  Things are moving along well on the costumes in progress over the past few weeks, such as completing Babette’s feather duster gloves.   
We riveted the napkin ring waistband closures and laced up the last of the village boy’s shirts.  And no blog would be complete without mentioning the pie status, especially on international pie day (3.14.15).  Sadly, the closest I came was cold, leftover pizza pie with my coffee this morning.  Ugh!  The fruit fairy really needs to visit soon. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Planting Flowers!

This week we are in the middle of a February deep freeze.  A fresh blanket of snow fell on the foot or so that we already have, but that just increased my determination to plant some flowers.  No, I haven’t completely lost my marbles.  I’ve been working on one of the commissions that features a fence with a bicycle propped up against it.  Behind the fence is a garden of summer flowers along a flagstone path, and creating summer colors is what has helps get me through the cold weather. 
 If you’ve read my posts regularly you know that I don’t post an image of the completed piece until the commissioner has had ad chance to see it, but I will post a sneak peak of the view looking down at the flowers to remind you that summer is coming.  I’m planning to ship the piece to Canada on Tuesday, where I’m sure they will appreciate an early peek at summer. 

As one piece comes together I’m usually well along on the next commissioned piece.  I have all of the tree trunks in hand and the background is woven for the next piece in line.  I’m making branches for the trees as well as leaf clumps to fill in the canopy.  
 The background weaving already contains elements of the treetops, but I’ll build it forward with crocheted leaf clumps.  When I have all the pieces assembled I’ll start putting it all together.  I promised completion of the project by the end of March so I feel like I’m in good shape. 

These days I’ve been splitting my time almost evenly between commission work and creating costumes for the Sounds of South production of Beauty and the Beast.  This week on Friday I got closure on one section of the costume making. 
  With the invaluable help of my dedicated team of costume makers (students, parents and parents of former students!) we now have all of the shirts and vests for the male villagers completed.  I decided to mark the occasion with a costume parade in the SOS classroom to see them all side-by-side.  Some of the students and I hung the outfits along the back closet.   

This also allows me (and Nancy Riggert, my right hand in this process) to evaluate how the costumes work with each other, as well as how they all look from a distance.  We stood back and decided which costumes needed a little more embellishment or fabric love.  We’re pretty happy, but there might be some more changes once we see them on stage on the set and under the lights.  Thanks Becky DeLong for that good advice.   
The pants are still a work in progress, but they’re almost complete—Geni Schermer is on the job!  We picked out full-length pants in the show’s color palette of orange, teal and plum.  The SOS kids have cut them off at the appropriate length and now Geni is hemming them and introducing elastic into the calf bands.  Nancy’s friend Noni has made the ties for the bottoms of the knickers.  The goal is to create the feel of an old French fairy tale.  I think we’re pretty close, but I’m sure some of my Slavic roots crept into the costumes.  I’ll settle for an old European fairy tale look. 

My life isn’t destined to be all winter fun.  I’m delighted to be packing up my suitcases this week and flying out to Tuscon, Arizona for a five-day trip/three-day workshop for their fiber guild. The weather forecast is for the temperatures in the eighties!  I’m very much looking forward to the trip, and in anticipation of the workshop I’ve already shipped two big boxes of stuff (yarn, fleece and looms, plus show and tell items).  It will be a packed three days of fiber fun where I get to share my passion for what I do.  I do seem to have a lot of friends who will be stowing themselves into my suitcases, though, so there might be some extra costs for baggage.

Oh, and I discovered a blueberry pie this week—mmmm!  It didn’t have the rich and subtle flavors of the last pie, which has sparked much discussion about blueberry growth, varieties and the best time of season to harvest.  This is such a serious problem that I think we should run some more tests!  Or compare blueberries with cherries or raspberries! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I want to ride my bicycle!

The story of my winter has been creating commissioned pieces.  The next in line features a bicycle propped up against a fence in front of a flower garden.  Last week I completed the fence and this week I finished the bicycle and painted the fence!  Painting is exciting in the winter because it means we finally had a brief window above fifty degrees that allowed me to coat my popsicle sticks.  I was delighted to get that done because the forecast for the next ten days is for miserably cold winter weather with ice pellets mixed in for good measure.  On the bike itself, I always feel a little extra pressure to get the shape and proportions of the bicycle just right.  
 I showed the very first bicycle I made to Jeanne Smith, the owner of Bikesmiths in town.  I’m sure she tried to not to hurt my feelings as she gently critiqued the angles and proportions of my bike.  Ever since I have tried hard to treat my bikes like my biological organisms and get the details just right. This was also my first red bicycle, which is what the commissioner wanted.  I’m delighted to be pushed out of my black bicycle norm.  I guess I flash back to the bicycles in Amsterdam from my visit twenty years ago—I remember the bikes were always painted black.  I discovered that red just makes me feel cheerful and happy and I really like it.  I promised to have this commission to the owner by mid-March and I feel like I'm on track for that deadline. 

The next commission I promised to deliver by the end of March, so I’m feeling a little pressure to keep moving on that piece as well.  The piece features a forest path with two dogs waiting for their keepers in the foreground.  I’m very pleased with how the sketch turned out and I’m looking forward to creating the piece, which features a lot of trees.  That means that where ever I have gone I’ve been needle felting tree trunks.  Or unicorn horns, or whatever people see when they view the unfinished trunks as I poke away to shape them.  
 Oh, and when the warmer spell hit I also took that opportunity to do some more dyeing, because my stores of green yarns were seriously dwindling.  From the sketch you can see that various shades of greens are essential to the composition.  I got a great start on weaving the background yesterday afternoon when we had a snow day for the local school system.   
That gave me time and space to work in the art studio as the boys entertained themselves upstairs in the afternoon.  The morning was filled with boy-made pancakes, Apples to Apples, and the movie ‘The Boxtrolls”.  Then the boys invented a game that involved rubber balls, metal bowls, rubber bands and doing push-ups.  That’s all I need to know!  It gave me several uninterrupted hours with my loom, space heater and classical music as they played upstairs.  They even transitioned into making dinner for the family.  
 That turned out to be artisan macaroni and cheese by Jacob and three different versions of blizzard cake balls by Tommie.  The evening ended with a fire in the fireplace and a delightful glass of wine.  Hooray!  I hope I can be as successful today with a second snow day. 

On the family front, the big news is that both boys won gold medals at the ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Association) vocal competition.  I’m so proud of them!  An apple pie did appear just after I wrote the last blog, which means it’s been gone for over a week.  
 Fortunately the espresso has been available each morning, which pairs nicely with the ‘Oblivion’ cake from the Bakehouse.  That’s a flourless chocolate cake with a wonderful chocolate ganache layer on top.  We had a guest over for dinner and didn’t have time to bake anything ourselves.  The Bakehouse only had large cakes left when I got there in the afternoon, but that turned into a positive because the cake is awesome and I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast.  I think I have my new favorite local cake from a bakery since the departure of Angel B’s!  I’m thinking it will last until Wednesday, at which time I’ll be ready to switch back to pie again.  Maybe a midwinter cherry pie?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Back to the Studio!

I’ve said this before, but it’s been another busy two weeks!  I have three major work fronts that I need to pop in and out of:  finishing commissions, making costumes for Beauty and the Beast, and keeping my family happy.  Of course the family includes me, so making sure more pie appears is a priority. 

On the commission front, two pieces are moving along.  One features a white picket fence with a bicycle propped up against it.  The weather has been very cold, but the warm breaks we had allowed me to bring out Grandpa’s belt sander.  I set up on the veranda with the sun shining and the temperature in the mid-forties and donned my facemask and safety glasses.  I plunked myself into a comfy chair and sanded popsicle sticks to make fence slats, a process I love.  It brings back memories of the time I learned to count.   
My teachers, Mrs. Kirk and Mrs. Logan had bundles of popsicle sticks that were supposedly in bundles of ten, fifty or one hundred sticks.  I was fascinated by the bundle of one hundred because it didn’t look to me like it could have that many sticks.  I started to count it and she gave me the teacher’s “No, no no!  We just pretend there’s one hundred sticks in there”.  I remember my certainty that there couldn’t be one hundred and I was very frustrated that I wasn’t allowed to count them.  It just wasn’t right!  I was a good kid who did what I was told, but as soon as I couldn’t trust that there were one hundred sticks in the ‘hundred’ bundle I started to question how many there really were in the fifty bundle.  Perhaps that’s what turned my life toward science at an early age.   
Anyway, I’m forgetting the commission!  I do love the color, texture and size of popsicle sticks.  As I sat sanding the end of sticks to form a pointy end I counted them and put them into piles of exactly ten or fifty sticks.  And I basked in the satisfaction of knowing how many stick were in each pile!  I made enough for the fence commission but the weather was so nice that I made enough for another commission that won’t be completed until the end of April.  It also features a fence so I bundled a stockpile of forty fence slats.  On my current work Ive glued them into a gate that will open on wire hinges strong enough to bear the weight.  
 It looks like it might be a while until I can get outside again to paint the wood so that part of the project is on hold.  I did finish weaving the background, using my dimensional crochet technique to build forward the foreground.  The weaving is stretched out on its frame so I’m ready to start planting the flowers once the painted fence is attached. 

At Bloomington High School South I’ve had lots of help from the students in the choir programs, both Sounds of South and the mixed choirs.  Together we’ve moved a lot of the costume projects forward.  It’s been amazing and heartwarming to see the enthusiasm of the students.  As soon as they come into the classroom they ask if I have anything for them to do, and my answer is always “of course”!  
 I feel good about introducing many of them to potential life skills, such as seam ripping and sewing on snaps and poppers.  Most have done very little sewing and the outcomes can be unexpected, but it all works out in the end.  The most fun is when I can get a student working on is or her own costume so they can connect with their contribution.   
Nancy and I have been working in parallel cutting and pinning lace, ribbon and trim to what we’re referring to as base costumes.  We have scrounged a lot of outfits that need to be embellished to look like village people from the eighteen hundreds.  We’re just about finished with the women’s racks of clothing.   
The process is thoroughly organized such that a person can pull out a list of things that need to be completed on each remaining costume.  The volunteer then checks off whatever tasks they have completed and returns the costume to the rack.  I’m imagining that the process will take a couple of months to complete.  With Nancy’s keen oversight this should roll right along until it’s done. 

On the home front, Jacob made his first homemade pancakes last Saturday morning, which turned out very nicely.  The dark news:  it’s day 17 and still. no. pie.  I’m holding out on healthy food, espresso and wine, but I not sure if life still has meaning.  I saw what looked like a crust in the refrigerator this morning and a bag of frozen fruit, but then it just sat there.  Cautiously optimistic, I move forward with my life!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Back to the Studio!

I’m back in my art studio working on several projects.  I have several commissioned pieces in various stages of completion, due early this spring, and I’m trying to keep them moving along.  The first features a bicycle propped up against a fence.  I wove the background and stretched it out in its frame.  I’m now building forward the flower garden and path area that projects into the viewer’s space.  I am also in the early stages of a second commission that is still mostly a vision in my head.  I know it will require tree trunks, so those are underway.  I suspect the composition will feature a forest path with two dogs sitting patiently, waiting for their owners to catch up.  
 I completed some sketches to share my vision, but I need to have the layout approved by the commissioner.  Now that I’m weaving and creating again, it feels great to be back working with my hands using materials that are familiar.  It was a lot of fun playing with new materials in the Bahamas, but fiber art is my life and livelihood. 

I have also made some major strides forward on my other big project.  I’m working on sculptural costume design for the Sounds of South production of Beauty and the Beast, to be performed this October.  My first completed piece is ‘Chip’, a sweet little cup with a small crack and the son of Mrs. Potts.   
She’s always ready with a cup of tea for anyone willing to brave the castle grounds.  Mrs. Potts is next on my plate (actually, I have to make the plates too!).  I have a delightful sketch for her and I have assembled her skeleton from donated, water sport hula hoops (I found that out directly!) and plastic tubing recycled from the former home of World Wide Automotive.  I will coat the hoop skeleton with ½” thick soft foam, then used and washed white felt (retired from Twisted Limb Paperworks) and then yellow fabric (scrounged from a thrift shop), green stripes and purple flowers that match Chip.   
The stripes will be easy because years ago I ordered ribbon that I thought would be perfect for an unrelated project.  It wasn’t.  On the bright side, I got a great deal for the ribbon on e-bay.  After eight years of storage I have finally found the right application for the green ribbon.  The flowers on both Chip and Mrs. Potts are made of the same purple felt (from the Materials for the Arts at the Recycle Center) so they match each other.  I made a pattern for the flowers and handed it off to one of the Moms of the SOS group and she cut out all sixty-four flowers I needed!  I love having the support to bring my visions to life! 
As soon as Mrs. Potts is assembled I’ll be ready add her final touches.  Her spout is in progress—I have now fitted the prototype onto the girls who will portray her.  The base is made of one inch thick couch cushion foam which I will up holster with yellow fabric.  It will be removable and attachable to the body of the teapot via Velcro.  Overall, I’m having a lot of fun with the design elements here—Chip is built from a laundry basket and a pool noodle, but you’d never know from the costume.  My younger son Jacob is modeling the costume in the picture above. 

I also had a wonderful adventure to West Lafayette Indiana with three other SOS moms this week.  The costume creating committee embarked on a hilarious adventure to see the Disney stage version of Beauty and the Beast to get ideas.  On the drive up we stopped at several thrift shops and scrounged for costume and prop parts.  We started off early in the morning, stopped anyplace along the way that might have clothing or prop treasures, and attended the evening production.  It turned out to be very educational for our planning.  I got a great hint for creating Lumiere’s torches without using an actual flame and an idea for the beast’s jacket and cloak.  
 I was less keen on the napkins and utensils that were part of the big dance number.  It reinforced for me how happy I am with my designs.  There are a large number of costumes to create for all the villagers, utensils and characters, but they are also coming along swimmingly.  I’ve completed the sketches and a prototype for the top half of the napkins and passed along a takeaway project to another mom to sew both top and bottom pleated napkin parts.  That’s basically how I’m hoping this will work—if I create the design and bring the materials and instructions together, one of the SOS parents can take over finalizing the actual costume completion.   
I have to give a big thanks to Nancy Riggert in this process, who has been an enthusiastic partner and a fountain of knowledge about how to get things done.  Her energy and effectiveness give me confidence that this whole project will actually come together on schedule. 

Good news!  There was a pie last weekend.  Jim made a beautiful blueberry pie from farmer’s market berries.  There was something subtle and special about the fruit in this one—it had a hint of black current flavor in the filling of summer blueberries.  
 I even think it was his best blueberry pie yet.  And I’m not just saying that because I know there are two more bags of blueberries in the freezer!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin