Sunday, August 28, 2016

One week to go!

The Fourth Street Festival is right around the corner.  Come and see all the art from the 120 participating artists this Labor Day weekend.  The show is open on Saturday from 10-6 and Sunday from 10-5 on Fourth Street between Grant and Indiana.  If you’re a local, that’s about from the fire station to the campus.  After a few years of too-hot or too-rainy days, I put in a special request for lovely weather and the long range forecast looks wonderful!  To prepare for the show, in the days to come I will transition away from Sounds of South costume production and toward finishing a couple of weavings in progress.  
 I have been wrapping strands of wire with brown yarns to create tree branches for one of my new tree pieces.  I created leaf clumps by crocheting strands of green yarn into blobs that will look like bunches of leaves once attached.  I think the completed pieces will be ready for display this weekend, so stop by and say hello!

Looking back over the past week, I spent most of my time at South along with my costume co-conspirators Nancy Riggert, Daphne Richards and Misti Hayes.  We’ve been cranking along on creating realistic swords and have more than half of the seventy finished.  I have been custom fitting armor chest plates to individual students, but with an eye toward final alterations to make the armor more resilient before handing it to students for dress rehearsals.  Fingers crossed that the armor survives until the performance!  Marauding medieval armies had no power to destroy swords and armor as powerful as cosplaying teenagers.

Last week I turned my attention to making hats to augment the already funky costumes.  I’m calling my style vintage circus with a touch of steampunk and Alexander McQueen.  I’m thrilled with the costumes, but the hats need to funk-ify them and push them over top.  The first one I created was an oversized steampunk influenced top hat.  The very top circle of the hat is cut from corrugated plastic recycled from a Cardinal Stage Company yard sign for Les Mis.  
 The hatband is cut from an old High School South Panther’s scarf, which luckily works well in my color palette.  The stack and the brim I made from thick card stock that I covered with a satin scrap I discovered at the recycle center/Materials for the Arts program.  The final touches include a feather I plucked from the prop room at South and a jewel from an earring that was half of a broken set that was donated by My Sister’s Closet.  A big shout out to them for being so supportive of the Pippin project! 

A couple of other hats that I created were much simpler.  The “amaryllis” hat was built from a toy and a dog bowl rescued from the recycle center.  I embellished it with a Styrofoam ball and purple jewels that are part of the collection we started when we began preparing for the project last year.   
I attached the whole thing to a white baseball cap that one of the parents donated.  Baseball caps make perfect bases to build form for stage hats.  They let me build freely and still be sure that the hat fits the specific actor.  The last hat was an Octoberfest headpiece from which I removed all the decoration and re-embellished the base to look more like a vintage clown hat using pom poms and a colorful bow from a hair barrette. 

At home it was an exciting week—there was pie!  Last Sunday a fresh peach pie appeared and carried me through about mid-week.  Normally I would be starting the drumbeat for the next pie by now, but fortunately Tommie’s 16th birthday fell on Friday, so it was a double treat week.   
Jim baked a Mary Ann cake and I made lemon curd cream to fill in the reservoir.  Topped with fresh peaches from the farmer’s market made for an excellent dessert and breakfast treat.  I love peach season!  I wonder if we’re still in it, and I wonder how I’ll find out? 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Rain, rain, rain…

Mother Nature delivered a hefty dose of rain to Bloomington this past week.  She seemed to be a little off-target, though, because a substantial amount of it found its way into my art studio.  Fortunately, there was no damage to my art or materials, but recovery meant rearranging stacks of materials and rolling back the rug.  My array of fans and dehumidifiers took over and I’m back to being functional, but the net effect was an interruption in progress in my studio.  Of course I can take inspiration from just about anything, so rain was my muse this week.  I channeled water away from my happiness by creating umbrellas for Pippin.  In our version, the players are part of a vintage circus scene.   
Rather than shielding the performers from rain, our umbrellas help balance tightrope walkers and add drama to characters.  To achieve the costume palette of amethyst, sapphire and emerald, with black and white serving as neutral colors, I created all of the umbrellas from broken or re-purposed umbrella skeletons.  Thanks wind!  My favorite has to be the one that I made out of the crinoline from a fancy doll dress.  I cut half moons out of the canopy to scallop the edges and added a cane that I picked up at the Recycle Center from the Materialsfor the Arts program.  I replaced the rib tips with disco ball beads from a necklace that Nancy and I found at the Hoosier to Hoosier sale. 
I embellished each of the panels with trim scraps, reclaimed rhinestones, and circles of cut out of old sweatshirts. 

I created two additional umbrellas in a similar spirit of recycling.  This time I used actual umbrellas from which I removed the canopy and replaced it with triangles of fabric scraps.  Of course I embellished the panels!   

Sparkle, pompoms, felt balls and ribbon seemed right.  If that weren’t enough, I made an umbrella for Berthe.  She’s the flamboyant grandmother whose red dresses are shrouded in black that I created a couple of months ago.  The base costumes came from red dresses from My Sister’s Closet.  They were damaged and couldn’t be sold, so they generously donated them to our project.  I overlaid the dress with black lace fabric and clothing from the Recycle Center.  Berthe’s umbrella is unlike those of the circus performers and has a very different color story.   
I replaced the original fabric from an umbrella canopy with black lace triangles.  I covered the ribs on the outside with faceted trim that I got at a surplus store in Tucson, Arizona last year.  I added black felt balls I made several years ago and embellished the umbrella with lace velvet ribbon and red trim the Sounds of South students harvested from various pieces of clothing and curtains.  By the time I was done, the skies had cleared and the rain was gone!

This week I had the opportunity to sit and watch rehearsals for Pippin.  Even though some of the details are still being fleshed out, I can see the that the singing and choreography will be amazing.  I was able to visualize the scenes costumed and with all the props in place, which was an amazing feeling.  I can hardly wait the couple of weeks before costume rehearsals begin!  I can see that there will have to be many quick costume changes, so I’ve built technology into the costumes to allow them to snap on and off.  With seventy kids, who sometimes need to change their complete outfits in a short time, chaos doesn’t begin to describe the first iteration of rehearsals in costumes. 

In other big news of the week, the Pippin T-shirts with my logo I designed have arrived.  Between projects I managed to carve out a few minutes to sit and read the Herald Times in my big comfy chair, but clearly the paparazzi was watching.  I kept waiting for a pie to appear, expectantly sniffing the air when I woke each morning for the wafting aroma of baking pie, only to be disappointed.  My best hope is the peck of peaches that sits in a mound on the kitchen island.  Let it be today!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Much accomplished, little finished…

I thought this week I would begin by talking about costumes I’ve created for the Sounds of South production of Pippin.  That project has taken over most of my week.  One of the big tasks I moved forward, with the help of Nancy Riggert of course, is making Charlemagne’s costume.  In the spirit of full disclosure, Nancy’s son Will and my son Tommie portray the king, so Nancy refers to us as the queen mums.  We worked on the king’s regal cloak, which I wanted to make as rich and ostentatious as possible to reflect his character.  I found a blood red velvet curtain at the recycle center (Materials for the Arts program) months ago, and this became the starting point for the costume I envisioned.  If you’re a person of my generation, there’s a hint of Carol Burnett in the costume, without the curtain rod.  I also found bits and pieces of costume embellishments at the Recycle Center, including a formal red table runner and trim from fancy pillows.  
I added used black fake fur from the hoods of jackets we collected at the Hoosier to Hoosier sale last year, as well as the last bits of a black vest I used to make the headdress for the beast in Beauty and the Beast.  I even found a use for some rings from an old purse, a gold hair barrette, black trim that we harvested from a different red curtain and gold fringe that we got from the Bloomington Thrift Shop.  If that wasn’t regal enough, we added lots of harvested gems to give it sparkle as well.  I love how it looks on the hanger, but I think it looks even better on the actors!  Now I need to create a crown worthy of the cloak.

A second project that we’re tackling is completing an arsenal of swords for the chorus army.  I created a sword design to complement the armor and helmets of the warriors.  The real challenge is repeating the process for seventy swords!  Bret Rothstein cut over 140 hilt halves from rug padding that wasn’t used for the armor.  Charlotte Appel cut out my swirl pattern from craft foam and Bill Riggert cut the lengths of PVC pipe from scraps we found in the theater woodshop, the Re-store and Alice Lindeman’s backyard.  We also cut out blades from leftover corrugated plastic recycled from last year’s Beauty and the Beast costumes.   
Misti Hayes glued the handles all together, including attaching plastic ornaments I collected from the Recycle Center on the handles.  Nancy Riggert is attaching all of the silver fabric to the blades.  Finally, we’ll need to paint the handles silver and attach them to the blades, then -- ta da!  Seventy battle-ready swords for the stage. 

I also spent some time at South working on the sculptural piece needed for the performance, a duck puppet.  For the body of the duck I used a deflated, oversized volleyball that I got from Brian Shepherd at Binford Elementary.  I cut a hole for the actor’s arm to fit in and filled the inside with remnant quilt batting that great Aunt Lois gives me.   
The arm entry passageway is crafted from a stocking of Meredith Burnham that she no longer wanted.  The head I carved from a cylindrical piece of foam from the Recycle Center and the whole thing is covered with felt remnants, also from the Recycle Center.  I began attaching the final layer of feathers, which are leftovers from Babette’s feather duster costume of last year.  It’s so fun to know the history of each little piece of my creations—nothing is cookie cutter when I get rolling. 

On the weaving front I did manage to release the water and sky background from the loom for the willow commission piece and stretch it out into its frame.  It is a small step, but the process is moving forward.  Next I will use my dimensional crocheting technique to build the water forward and create the land mass from which the willow will emerge. 

On the family front, the first week of school is behind us!  It was a long week, even though it had only three days.  As school moves into full swing, the boys will keep training in Taekwondo and weapons as they move toward their second degree black belt.  They will add twice weekly evening rehearsals for Pippin from now through the end of October.  
 It’s going to be a busy fall!  On this Sunday morning, though, after a restful Saturday, they were catching up on their electronic gaming.  This afternoon when the homework clock struck one, all games ended.   

Hmm, and did I mention there is no pie?  We had visitors from Ann Arbor Friday and Saturday night, who generously took us out for a leisurely brunch.  Unfortunately, we missed our Farmer’s Market trip, so at this point there are no peaches for pies or watermelons and cucumbers for the week!  Hopefully the Tuesday market will come through for us.   

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Weaving blue skies…

This week I spent time in my studio working on my next commissioned piece.  After the long, wonderfully busy summer, I needed to take myself back to the beginning of the summer.  We spent two weeks on the beach in North Carolina looking at water and blue skies, and I’m delighted to report that the background of my commission captures those elements.  The foreground will feature a willow with its long branches swaying over the water.  I have started working on the tree as a traveling project to poke at while I wait for the boys at their activities.  I have been using army blankets to create the inside of the tree trunk and I still have one more blanket piece left.  Those of you who are regular blog readers will recall that I began using army blankets when Grandma gave me Grandpa’s old army blanket.   
She didn’t know what to do with it and didn’t want to throw it away.  I discovered that it was perfect for the core of trees I make.  It’s basically a felted, solid wool base that I can build on to form the trunk.  Over the surface I needle felted fleece that came to me by chance from a young woman raising Shetland sheep.  She approached me at Fourth Street a few years ago and I bought some fleece from her and I’m just now using up the last of it.  It’s the perfect color for willow bark. 

The Fourth Street Festival, my next big event, is rapidly approaching.  The image that I've posted is of this year's T-shirt design - a tribute to Jerry Farnsworth and his amazing kaleidoscopes.  Coordinating all the small tasks and making sure they’re completed commands a lot of my attention these days, but only for another month.  I made the difficult decision in late spring to step down as president of the Fourth Street festival committee.  I’ve been with the group for over twelve years, and I’ve learned an enormous amount from them.  
 I’m grateful for the experience and the friendships I’ve made.  Still, it’s time to move on after this fortieth anniversary art fair.  I’m excited about all of the artists that will participate this year—120 come from all over the U.S. to descend on the art-loving community of Bloomington.  I’m very proud to be associated with the event that is such an integral part of the Bloomington arts scene.  I do need to keep my nose to the grindstone and create a few new pieces for the Labor Day event.  I have had a very successful summer art fair season already, which means that I will need more work to fill my booth with a fresh display of my pieces. 

On the family front we are approaching the beginning of the school year.  Wednesday will find both of my boys in high school!  Amazing!  I will have to split my time between my studio and the costume studio at Bloomington High School South to complete thecostumes for Pippin.  One of the last elements of costume design that I’m contemplating is providing headdresses for circus performers.  I found a used copy of the “The American Circus:  An Illustrated History” online and it has plenty of inspiration. 

Yesterday morning Jim and Tommie went off fishing and Jacob and I headed for the farmer’s market.  We slept in a little longer than the fishermen and we found the market packed and rocking—it was full of people!  We scampered around to get the produce we wanted.  We got watermelon, corn, cucumbers, basil, plums and peaches.  We dropped our treasures off at the car and sauntered back to get delightful dainties from Maria at Piccoli Dolci.  Jacob and I relaxed on the grass and watched the world go by on a pleasant Saturday morning.   
Oh, and the best news of the week!  All is right with the world.  I found a warm peach pie after the last market that went delightfully well with decaf espresso in the morning for breakfast.  If that weren’t enough, Gwen Witten dropped off a warm Derby Pie yesterday evening for dessert! It was AMAZING!!  Life is very good.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Friends in the Garden

It’s finished!  My large commissioned piece is complete.  If you’re a blog regular you know that I’ve been working on the components for a large garden piece for some time.  The last friend to join the garden was a female yellow warbler that I created this past week in Michigan.  More on that trip later.  This particular piece was a challenge for me because I had to figure out how to make new flowers and creatures.  One of the special parts is the dragonfly that is hovering just above and barely in the weaving itself.  It’s a special guardian.  
 I made the wings out of the lace from the dress that Heather wore the day Dan proposed.  I was delighted when they stopped by yesterday to pick up the weaving—I felt really good about how the piece came together for them. The piece was ultimately so intricate and three-dimensional that I felt I needed to make a movie that I posted to Youtube to help reveal its character.  The link is below:

When the piece left the studio last night I briefly considered taking a day off.  That’s when I remembered that I was commissioned at the show in Madison to create a willow tree by a shore, very similar to the piece that found a home there.  A person came by on the second day of the show eager to buy the piece, only to discover that the willow was gone.  I love willows and feel a special bond with them.  There is a Czech expression that if you have troubles you should talk to the old willow.  The political turmoil in this country is such that I’m looking forward to chatting with my new willow.

And as promised last week, I’m posting some images of the finished armor for the chorus members of Pippin, as well as the armor for Charlemagne, Pippin’s father and Pippin’s half brother Louis.  Huge thank you to Nancy and Alice, and all of the other worker bees that made this come together!!
 I still need to engineer and attach the strap mechanisms so that it is an easy on-easy off costume change for the soldiers.  I’ve been collecting black plastic clips from old backpacks and fanny packs and the like.  I have about forty and I need at least seventy for the performance.  I’d be delighted to receive more donations of these if you should come across some no longer in use. 

We made a quick decision to do one more trip to Michigan this summer.  We hauled the boat, which makes the trip a bit longer, but it was soooo worth it!  Jim and Tommie were able to get the boat on the bay three times, and I accompanied them on the second venture.  
It was an amazing early morning boat ride out on Tuesday out to the Pinconning bar on Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron.  The sun was shining and a gentle breeze moved us along and the humidity was delightful compared with southern Indiana.   
We fished into the early afternoon and Jim and I caught walleyes steadily until there were fifteen in the boat.  While we trolled, Tommie focused on catching perch, which are Grandma’s favorite.  He was able to contribute seven to the fish fry.  
 And oh, was it a fish fry!  Fresh bread, sweet potato waffle fries, Grandma’s cole slaw and potato salad made it a meal to remember.  For desserts, Grandma made some delightful chocolate/cherry/almond no-bake cookies that went well with a glass of wine.  Sadly, though, there still was no pie.  We did collect transparent apples in Michigan in Grandma’s orchard, found a few ripe volunteer blackberries in our garden, and bought a big basket of peaches at the farmer’s market this morning.  There just has to be a pie soon, right!?!?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Cerulean Warbler Searches for Pie

I have been working full-on to complete my commission piece, punctuated with a few ventures to Sounds of South to keep my costuming project moving forward.  The weaving features an intricate garden scene.  The background is now completed.  It is a lush flower and vegetable garden full of vibrant colors and blooms.  Now I’m working on finishing two songbirds for the weaving intended to be focal points.  They are both warblers and beautiful songbirds, although that decision complicated the piece.  The first warbler I finished is a cerulean warbler.  Cerulean describes the beautiful blue color of the bird, which has a rich song to match.  When I studied the warbler I learned that only the male sings.  That’s perfect, I thought, so I named him Dan.  The problem arose when I realized that I needed to find a female warbler with a beautiful voice too.  My choice of a female Magnolia warbler, based on her colors and feather patterns, failed the biological accuracy test when it turned out she doesn’t sing.  Only a few of the female warblers actually sing so my choices were limited.  Curses!  Shouldn’t all warblers sing?  After an exhaustive image search I settled on a the stunning female yellow warbler.   
Her coloration will bring a warm glow to the piece.  In addition to the birds, I’m having a lot of fun with the composition because there are a lot of family heirlooms incorporated into the piece.  I hope it is both aesthetically appealing and meaningful to the commissioners.  I promise to post a picture of the finished piece after it appears in its new home. 

On the costuming front, the Pippin costumes are moving along beautifully.  Nancy Riggert and Alice Lindeman have been busy bees, especially for creating, assembling and painting the armor for the war scene.  Did I mention that there seventy kids in the production?  That means seventy chest plates, helmets and swords.  I am incredibly grateful to them for their hard work while I was off wearing my art fair hat.
  I designed the armor patterns, but Nancy and Alice and other parents traced and cut the chest plates out of reclaimed insulation foam and carpet under pad.  The complementary shields are cut out of craft foam - leftovers from last year's production of Beauty and the Beast.  The pieces are glued together and painted with silver paint.  They also enhanced the shadows of the three dimensional armor features with black sharpie and added rivets that we created from the filters of Keurig coffee units.  Thanks Dawn Adams for collecting and thanks Dale for drinking much of the coffee. 
For some variety, we’re also using the grey caps from pharmaceutical bottles donated by Cook Pharmica to the Materials for the Arts program at the Recycle Center.  Next week I’ll post a picture of the riveted variety, but for now just admire the shining armor! And the sword blades are done – seventy, cut from recycled corrugated plastic - thanks Bill!! If you want to see the final production in all its glory, Pippin will be presented on the final three Saturdays in October. 

On the home front, Jacob is finally got to have his ‘friends’ birthday party yesterday.  He invited fifteen of his closest teenager friends—OMG!  Jim and I hid downstairs in the art studio until the pizza came.  When it was finally quiet we come up to survey the damage—the house was still intact—and they were outside playing a marshmallow-throwing game – all good.  I think my reward for going through the process of cleaning the house and preparing for the party should be a pie – just sayin’

Until next week, or sometime soon,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Blueberry Season

This week I made a huge scientific breakthrough by employing my degree in plant sciences.  I grafted a blueberry branch onto Bergenia rosettes—hahaha! Just kidding.  On my recent long drives (more on that later) I have been needle felting blueberry leaves.  When I was settled back into my art studio I finished the blueberry leaf structures.  I embellished them with veins and created berry clusters from felt balls that I overdyed with icing colorant gels to get the deep blue.   
Yesterday I combined all the leaves and berries onto branches that I made from floral wire wrapped with eight different yarns to match the color of the bark on a blueberry bush.  Ta da!  The berry branch is done!  This just a small piece for a large commission I’m working on that is nearing completion.  I promise to post pictures of the composition after the piece is delivered. 

In another revealing admission, I do spend a lot of summer hours as a passenger in a car.  Most recently I made the trek to Madison, Wisconsin for the Art Fair on the Square.  I had a very successful adventure overall.  The weather in Madison was cool and comfortable and the people were terrific, as usual.  They are an eclectic mix of personalities and I had a lot of rewarding and thoughtful conversations.  One of the most satisfying aspects of my career is when I sit on the perch outside my booth and watch people’s faces light up when they first see the art.  Their happy responses alone are rewarding.  One young couple that has been coming to my booth for three years finally decided to buy a piece—they couldn’t stop talking about a willow piece and had to bring it home with them. 

The last time I blogged I described finishing three new pieces.  Two of them (Tired Tree and Heirloom Tomatoes) found new homes in in Madison, as did several others.  Before we left for Madison I was able to finish two more pieces called ‘Car-nation’ and ‘My Sweet Peas’.  'Car-nation' is a weaving that explores our obsession with cars and the latest shiny thing.  I see a lot of old cars, forgotten and rusting as memories, in countryside yards and car part lots.  I decided to create a piece that featured all sorts of old car components buried underground and have a beautiful flower emerge from the rust and decay.  The carnation works as a flower for me because I’m especially connected to them—my Ph.D. research involved a pathogen of carnations, Microbotryum violaceum.  As I weaved and felted, the line from the song American Pie ‘pink carnation and a pickup truck’ kept cycling through my mind.  That’s how I knew what color the carnation had to be.    

As usual, a highlight of our Madison adventures is the hospitality and surroundings we find in Hollandale, Wisconsin with our friends Wendy and Duane.  Not only do they host us, which is wonderful, they make us happy by contributing to the success of the fair—it’s like having family to visit.  Wendy baked an amazing chocolate cake for Jacob’s birthday and made a triple batch of pancakes to feed the boys on Sunday morning as I was off setting up with Jim.  Duane grilled some wonderful salmon to go with pesto and salad for a celebratory dinner after Saturday’s show.  On our last morning there, Jim (my hero) faced mortal danger (OK, he scratched his legs up pretty good) and entered the wild patch to collect enough raspberries for a pie.  He and Wendy picked a few red and blackberries on Sunday before the rain set in, and even a few yellow raspberries.  I had no idea that yellow raspberries existed!  The Sunday berry pick wasn’t even close to enough for a pie, so Jim set off into the wild undergrowth to finish off the picking.  It was a wonderfully flavorful pie, but I finished the last slice yesterday along with a nice cup of espresso.  Sigh.

Now we’re back home.  It’s good to be home.  Based on my extensive art studio research, I have concluded that it is blueberry season!  Good news, Jim—they come in baskets at the farmer’s market and don’t have thorns! 

Until next week, or sometime soon,

Martina Celerin