Wednesday, April 16, 2014

More rain comes to Bloomington!

Mid April is a busy season for me.  April brings taxes and the major review of all the slides from almost 400 applicants to the Fourth Street Festival of Art.  I also serve as a reviewer for the Bloomington Arts Commission grants and this year, a juror for the NanoArt exhibit sponsored by Wonderlab.  The latter was something fun and new because I had to look through over 50 beautiful images from microscopes, usually from living things.  When I wasn’t poring over grants, taxes, and images of wee art, I kept my large format commission piece moving forward.  I finished weaving the background while my frame-maker, Tom Bertolacini, came through with the giant frame.  I’ve had some past experiences with the landscape format oak frames bowing from the stretching of the piece.  
 That meant a quick trip out to Kleindorfer’s hardware and some expert advice.  After some conversations with the fellows there, I picked up two slats of steel, six feet long by an inch wide and an eighth of an inch thick.  I cut them to size to reinforce the back of the frame and I drilled holes every six inches to merge steel and wood.  When the rains finally subside and the weather warms up I’ll get outside and paint the frame.  That will allow me to stretch out the background in the frame and move on with completing the piece.  I’ll know when the rains let up because the artesian spring in my art studio will stop flowing so robustly.  I capture most of the water with towels (the rug is rolled back) that I spin out and dry. 
 I decided that while I had a little ‘free’ time I should clean out the veranda.  It becomes a bit of a dumping ground over the fall and winter, and I'm just as guilty as the boys when it comes to stashing stuff out there.  My first big project was dealing with the mountain of fleece I inherited over the past year or so.  The first step is skirting the fleece.  That might sound elegant, but what it really means is that I trim out the sheep poo.  People who think art is full of all glamorous activities have no idea!  After I washed the trimmed fleece I leave it sitting outside in mesh trays.  I systematically pull apart clumps of the fleece to untangle it.  Normally that would be pretty tedious, but the last couple of days have been in the upper seventies with a slight breeze and birds singing.  Playing with the fleece and straightening things up is just a wonderful excuse to sit outside. 

The first fleece that I washed a couple of weeks ago was the darkest fleece.   I used that to create the foreground tree in the commission piece.  I needle felted that tree structure and found dark brown yarns in my collection that I'll use to create the branches for the tree.  I also did all of the crocheting to make the leaf clumps so I feel like pieces of the work are coming together.   
As I’ve described before, I create the inside of trees I’ve been making from Grandpa’s old army blankets.  Sadly, when I began this piece I cut into the last of the supply.  That's a problem because the flagstones that make up the path are also made from old army blankets.  Not to worry though—Karma has been looking out for me.  I have to tell a story to have this make sense, so indulge me for a moment.  A couple of months ago I took some of my pieces to the fifth grade class at Binford Elementary School to show the kids because one of the pieces was inspired by a drawing sketched by one of the kids (Tethered Memories).  During my conversation with them I mentioned that I had one last army blanket for my artwork.  One insightful student asked what I would do for tree trunks when that was gone.  I told her that something would appear—it always seems to.  Fast forward to this week.  I visited the Recycle Center and—lo and behold—what should I find but an army blanket!  I had to complete the circle so I told the teacher when I saw her at the Carnival last Friday.  She is looking forward to telling the students. 

I do have a few other events to report on from the past few weeks.  I have an exhibit up at the Meadowood retirement community that will be up until the end of April.  They invited me to a nice reception where I got to meet a large number of the residents who came to see my art.  I had some delightful conversations as they passed through the gallery and shared their reactions to the art.  That was followed by a lovely dinner on site, hosted by Jeune Baker and attended by some of her friends and my husband Jim.  It was a nice little date with the boys off watching the black belt test of a friend at Monroe County Martial Arts.  Their time to test is coming soon, likely over the summer.  I know life is good because I got another pie—this time it was blackberry from the summer farmer’s market.  The berries froze well and I enjoyed pie and espresso for breakfast for a whole week.  The sad news is that we only have apple pie filling in the freezer now, and I’m more of a ‘berry’ kind of person.  I guess I’ll settle for apple next, although I did see some rhubarb in the grocery story recently.  Maybe there will be some early rhubarb at the Farmer’s market!  A girl can dream.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Summer comes to Meadowood!

This time of year, signs of spring pop in and out of view all over town. On Monday, my ‘Portraits of Trees’ exhibition at City Hall is coming down.  They have to hold on until the Farmer’s Market opens next Saturday for spring to reappear.  If you missed the exhibition, on Tuesday the pieces will resurface at Meadowood Retirement Community for their peek into Summer.   
Meadowood is on the north side of town, on Tamarack trail north of the Unitarian Universalist church.  It will be on display in their gallery for a month, and I’ll be in attendance to enjoy an opening reception and dinner on Friday, April 5th.  

My art focus hasn’t changed much—I’ve been beavering away at a very large format commission piece.  It is a giant weaving featuring a spring path with flowers—hints and bursts of purple, yellow, gold and pink line the path.   
I’m so ready for the full arrival of spring that I have thoroughly enjoyed imagining the grass turning to some shade of green and the colorful flowers to follow.  I sifted through my stores and picked out all of my crunchy green yarns to combine into leaf clumps.  I then dug through my dark brown fleeces to find one that I bought at the Fleece Fair a couple of years ago.  I just washed it and it’s ready to needle felt.  I love the contrast between the crunchy greens and the dark earth tones when I lay my materials out in the art studio.   
 The garden path and the tree trunk contain more of Grandpa’s old army blankets in them.  I just cut into the last of the blankets, but I see it more as a rebirth than the end of an era.  Grandpa’s old treasures that had meaning for him provide a different emotional connection to me as I create my art.  

One aspect of the piece that I’m particularly pleased with is how the green background gradient turned out.  I wanted to have the path fade into paleness in the distance, and you can see a hint of that in the background weave.  The trees in the foreground and background will anchor the piece and bring dimensionality and depth.  Right now I'm waiting for the custom frame to arrive so I can stretch the piece and start combining the dimensional elements. 

Despite my best intentions to get back to a weekly blogging schedule, last week brought spring break and a trip to New Mexico to see Jim’s brother Tim and wife Bobi (and Lucy the dog).  We had an awesome time, featuring a ride up the world’s longest tramway to an elevation of 10,378 feet on Sandia Peak.  
 It was an exciting ride up and even more dramatic coming down with forty mile an hour winds buffeting the tram on the last descent of the day when they deemed it too dangerous to keep transporting people.  We feasted at the restaurant at the peak, watched the ravens take wild rides on the gusts, and enjoyed searching for fossils on the top of the mountain.  Unfortunately, the peak is an old shallow seabed that became limestone, so we found the non-exotic crinoid and geode mix that we find all the time in our back yard.  Rock hounding at the base was more interesting because the formation there is granite.  I collected lots of interesting things at the bottom, including some pretty green travertine that will be moss-covered rocks along a forest path, and some bubbly, chocolate-y lava rocks that seem perfect for cross sections through dirt in some of my pieces. 
 In New Mexico they crunch up the lava rocks for winter traction on the mountain roads instead of sprinkling salt.  Tommie discovered that some cacti have sharp thorns and can pierce leather shoes—ouch!  The whole crew drove to Santa Fe for dinner and shopping—what an amazing place for pottery and jewelry!  Grandma and I had a wonderful time poking around in shops looking at jewelry.  I managed to find a delightful pair of very simple silver earrings.  Most of the work is hugely ornate, which I appreciate but know that it isn’t my style. 

When we returned home, my sister Edita visited for a longer weekend.  That meant more dining, more shopping, more wine and chatting.  It was a great spring break!  I even got a tart cherry pie!  It had been so long that I thought Jim forgot how to bake them!  It was delightful, however.  It was a little piece of summer to get me ready for trips to the Farmer’s Market this year. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Summer comes to City Hall!

My week in a nutshell:  the exhibition is up!  It’s time for a new project.  It feels a little surreal to walk into the Showers building and see the massive body of work I produced over this winter displayed all together.  On Friday Jim and I stopped in around noon for a peek and to make sure all the details survived the transport and hanging process.  The most enjoyable moments came from watching people interacting with the art.  One woman walked down the stairs past the pieces very slowly; she would stop and become completely enveloped by each piece as she came down.  It’s fascinating watching people explore and experience my art.  It will be up at City Hall for the month of March and then it will travel to the Meadowood Retirement Community Art Gallery for the month of April.  I’ll be at the opening reception on the first Friday of April doing a demonstration, enjoying dinner, and talking with the residents. 

Of course I can’t sit still for too long because there is more art to be made!  I did some sketches for my next commission piece and the patron gave the go-ahead to start the piece.  It’s going to be a very large format piece, with outer dimensions of 50 inches tall by 30 inches wide.  I’ve already contacted my frame maker, Tom Bertolacini, to build a special order oak frame.  The weaving itself feels like a light spring piece, with lots of purple, pink, and yellow flowers.  I’m planning on making the stones for the flagstone path from the last bits of my father in law’s old army blanket.  I also talked to the patron about making it more personal by using a piece of her purple chuppah to create some of the flowers.  The loom is warped and I’m off! 

The week has been a juggling act to keep all my peeps on track for all their activities.  Jacob has had extra rehearsals for his hip-hop performance that took place Friday night at the Buskirk-Chumley theater.  He and his troupe, the JayWalkers (formerly Footnotez) did an amazing job as part of the Hip Hop ConnXion ‘Set it Off’ program.  He was cute as a button in his dress shirt and red bowtie and did an awesome job.   
His moves were spot on, his facial expressions showed that he was really into it, and his enthusiasm for dance really came through.  To celebrate we had dinner at the Owlery followed by a chocolate ganache and carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting cake from Bloomingfoods back at home.  I’m so proud of my little pumpkin!

We’ve had several visitors over the past week, both of the two and four-legged variety.  Dr. Bob and Beth just left this morning after a weekend visit to see their son Noah and friend Lita, my sister Edita was here last week, and Zeus, the ginormous black standard poodle, has been here since Wednesday.   He’s been gracing our floor with his magnificence and trying to grace the sofas.  The boys have enjoyed walking him and playing catch with him in the yard.  The whole adventure reminds me how much I like dogs, but it’s also nice to just have them visiting.  The only down notes are that Jim and Tommie both had colds and I didn’t get a pie.  I’m really concerned that Jim won’t bake one before spring break because we have two half cakes in the fridge.  It might be time for drastic measures!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Come see Portraits of Trees!

February?  Sorry, but there just wasn’t enough time to blog!  I feel badly that I couldn’t find a little time to sit down and share some stories about my work and life.  I really have been spending every free minute in my art studio trying to complete the artwork I promised for my ‘Portraits of Trees’ exhibition scheduled to go up on March 4thin Bloomingon's City Hall atrium.  If you live in town or are passing through, I hope you can stop in and see it!  I’m really looking forward to seeing all 15 of them together and experiencing the story that they tell as a group – a family album.

I think the most fun I’ve had creating this exhibition has been bringing together the last few pieces for the story.  One of them is a piece called “Working Trees.”  I think everybody goes through times when they are working to save money, which made me think about stringing the laundry out to dry on a clothesline behind our house.  I created a line between two trees, then repurposed some of my family’s old clothes to hang on the line.  The T-shirt is a little piece I sewed out of one of Jim’s old favorites.   
And as long as he doesn’t know which one it is I think I’ll be OK saying that.  Tommie produces fabric for me to use all the time.  In this case I made a pair of jeans from a pair he ripped apart at the knee.  Luckily they were also a little too short for him, because the knee rips are now stylish and it’s harder to get him to part with his treasures.  I add a pair of red socks (from a felted sweater) and create a laundry basket to complete the composition.  Oh, and I had to play around a little with fabric stiffeners to get the clothes to hang the way I wanted.  I tested several brands against swatches to get a sense of how they behave.  I quickly found one that gives the effect I wanted on all the fabric types: wet clothes hanging on the line in a breeze. 

Last week I finished my “Flowers by the Tree” piece for the show.  I’m still working on that name, it's just a bit too factual.   I desperately needed a little spring color and memories of summer.  When it got so cold and nasty I just started making some colorful flowers.  I created a few colorful clumps and decided I needed some spiky liatris for a structural contrast.  
 I started out thinking about spring flowers, but as the piece came together the flowers turned out to be from the summer season.  I really like the bright red roses that I created from some bits of satin cording.  The piece also features a fence that I made out of used (and washed) Popsicle sticks that I stained to look like aged fence wood.  The staves are narrowed sequentially to create the forced perspective of the fence.  I could go on describing pieces, but it would be easier if you would just stop into City Hall and check out the show sometime in March!

A whole month passing means a lot happened in my family.  The highlight was Friday night, when my sister Edita came to visit.  One of the great things about being on Facebook is being able to reconnect with family and friends living in distant places.  This was so true this week when I saw that my sister, whom I haven’t seen in almost ten years, was flying from Chicago to Indianapolis for a workshop.  I reached out to her just before she reached out to me!  She ended up coming to Bloomington for a couple of days.  The first night we decided to stay home for dinner, then have a nice glass of wine by the fire and catch up.  It was great to sit back and share memories that were long forgotten by one of us.  It’s about time, since we’ll both turn fifty this year.  We agreed to stay connected and try to be a part of each other’s lives. 

The boys have been very busy too, with Jacob doing extra practices for his Hip Hop performance next Saturday (March 8th) atthe Buskirk Chumley theater.  His dance troupe, called the Footnotes, will be playing with the Hip-Hop troupe, ConnXion.  Tommie went off to Butler University with the Jackson Creek Science Olympiad team and came back with two medals - we’re very proud of him!

And...I’d like to note, though, that there hasn’t been a single pie in ALL of February, which is UNACCEPTABLE, especially given that there are four pie fillings waiting in the freezer.  It may seem like winter is going to last forever but it isn’t.  Lastly, I have some fun pictures of the boys to share.  Tommie wore shorts and flip-flops on the day it reached well into the sixties, and Jacob is very proud of his new Minion hat (thanks Peg Dawson!).  

Life. Is. Full. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Put head down, weave, feed family, exercise; repeat.

It might sound like a broken record, but it was another very cold week with lots of quality time spent in my art studio.  I focused mainly on another piece for my ‘Portraits of Trees’ exhibition this spring in the Showers building.  The inspiration came from a walk I had this past summer with my niece Haley, her new baby Arya, Grandma, Jacob and Great Aunt Lois.  We had a lovely afternoon stroll on the Riverwalk along the Saginaw River in Bay City, Michigan.  My memory now is just of a happy, even emotional family time.  We saw lots of willows along the shore, with several leaning over the river and the rock walls that prevent erosion.  I tried to capture the swaying willow branches in the piece that I’ll call “Riverwalk Willow.” 
 I’m getting close to having my target of twelve pieces for the show, but I’m going to keep steaming on.  My tree-based pieces are always popular at summer art fairs, and I’m in a bit of a groove right now…

One highlight of my week was having lunch with my artist friends Dawn and Cappi.  I carved out a little time around noon on Friday to see “Ed Bernstein:  Almost Illuminated” on campus.  I always have a fabulous time with Dawn and Cappi, but sharing the art experience is a great way to get out of my usual routine.   
The exhibition was a retrospective featuring a large body of printmaking with lots of riffs on a common subject placed in different contexts.  I was struck by the burning chairs placed in different situations, where Ed’s use of light and dark was quite striking.  His textures in the water were full of detail up close that fell into harmonious movement from a distance.  Very nice.

I have a new project in the works: to update my website.  I’ve been working with Paul Smedberg to expand my interface with the rest of the world.  The final product should appear in a week or two.  What’s most exciting to me will be a link to my Flickr site that shows the images of all of my photographed pieces over the span of twelve years.  It’s so much fun to look back and see where I’ve been and where I stand now as an artist.  My work ends up in the media more, and yesterday there was a picture of my “Tethered Memories” in the Herald Times.  
They published a very nice piece about the people in the Spinners and Weaver’s Guild, where I’ve learned new techniques such as needle felting.  In fact, I spend a lot of my time there poking away quietly during the meetings, just taking it all in. 

Yesterday we finally had a break in the weather, with temperatures up to forty-five.  Wow, did that ever feel good!  But we’re back into the icebox today and Tuesday.  We’re all expecting some school delays.  Sadly, the delightful cherry pie from last week is gone.  Did I mention that I really like cherry pie!  I know there’s another bag of tart cherry pie filling in the freezer, so I just need to figure out how to get it out and into a crust!  Sometimes little hints in the blog do the trick—we’ll see.   
Yesterday evening I waiting for my little pumpkin Jacob to come home from his first ski trip to Paoli peaks.  I kept busy as I waited and only periodically (not more than 6 times I'm sure...) asked Jim "how do you think that he's doing?" The word is that it was ‘epic!’  I *knew* that he has some Canuck in him!

 Jim cut up and split a bunch more firewood so we’re ready for family fires when the cold weather hits.  We’ll hunker down and play card games that the boys have been teaching us.  And if I just keep ignoring Winter, soon it will be Spring!  And that’s when I have my art show downtown—yikes, I better get back in the art studio!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Portraits of Trees are on my mind

I’ve been weaving feverishly in my art studio of late.  Looming hard deadlines to hang a show are always a great motivator!  I’ll be exhibiting a show called ‘Portraits of Trees’ in the City Hall atrium in the Showers building starting March 4th, but I started the new year with only two pieces appropriate for the show.  I was envisioning a collection of pieces that resembled photographic portrait stills.  The subjects are trees of varying species set in different contexts, but always capturing a family connection or relationship to the people in their lives.  Given the space, I think I’ll need at least a dozen new pieces with this theme.  Now I’m up to seven, after many hours in my art studio.  In my last blog I featured a piece I called ‘Tethered Memories’, which featured a balloon tethered to a park bench.  I love that piece, and it set me to imagining a baby in a stroller with a balloon tied to the handle. 
The completed piece spawned the idea for a triptych entitled ‘Trips to Bryan Park.’  The second piece in the series features a tree and a little red wagon, imagining a child old enough to pull a wagon full of essential toys to the park.  These are both pieces that resonate with my trips to Bryan Park with my boys as they grew up.  The current phase of their life will be titled something like ‘Emerging Independence’ and features a bicycle leaning up against a tree.  Now both boys ride to the park by themselves, armed with a cell phone and instructions to call when they arrive and when they set out for home.  They take their tennis rackets or a basketball when the weather allows and meet their friends in the park.  The last piece I just completed for the show is called ‘Family Portrait’ and features a large paper birch stand in a landscape format, shown in the summertime. 
Both Jim and I grew up in northern climes surrounded by lots of birches, so the piece feels like an extended family portrait.  I had some help from Noah Blumenthal wrapping birches at the end of last year after he graduated from IU.  Some kids end up flipping burgers, but Noah decided he wanted to wrap birches to show his parents that their money supporting his college education was worthwhile!  It was good to have someone in the art studio to chat with, but it is also good that he’s a quiet person so I was able to focus on my own work.  Anyway, now I have a month and a few days to come up with five more tree pieces!  I really have to stay focused.

After some brutally cold weather, January has begun to look up.  Well, at least the days are getting longer...  Jim finally got the hint that it was time to make another pie.  A beautiful cherry pie appeared Sunday morning while I worked in the art studio.  I didn’t even notice it until later in the day when I spotted it on a swing through the kitchen.  My birthday celebration is also coming up this week, which we moved from late in December.  There are just too many good things to eat around the holidays, so making another chocolate cake didn’t seem like the right thing to do.  I’m hoping for a nice dinner and a Sacher or Linzer Torte.   
And maybe even a present!  I won’t get my hopes up too high just yet, though.  With all the goodies coming my way, it felt great to get back into a fitness routine of late.  I seem to have gotten into more classes than I was doing before, but I love it.  There’s a new Dancefit class at Windfall in the mornings, and Hayley, the instructor, is an amazing ball of energy.  She’s incredibly positive and enthusiastic, so much so that it’s fun to get up in the morning.  I’m still doing Bollywood on Saturday mornings at Panache, and this past Saturday the class was packed.  A lot of my favorite people were together having a rocking good time.  I even get some afternoon exercise time with Jenny (sweaty Mondays) or Walter (wicked Wednesdays).  After a full day of making art I really appreciate the chance to just go dance and throw my body around.  I get a reminder with my morning espresso and cherry pie that I need to get up and exercise!  Life is good.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Birthday cakes and Christmas cheer!

Despite my best efforts, blogging fell to a low priority over the holidays.  I almost got this post out before Christmas but I never got around to posting.  I’m going to update and share it.  I’ll tell you what’s new and exciting in the new year in a fresh post shortly. 

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but my studio is delightful.  It’s been a very good week in the art studio.  I spent time there weaving each day this week and managed to finish a piece called ‘Cousins at the Lake’.  I’ve been thinking about family, and that the holiday season is the perfect time to get together.  I’ve been doing my nook and cranny cleaning and general home re-organizing in advance of my family coming in from Michigan and New Mexico over the Christmas holiday.  I also flashed back to my friend and photographer Tom, who has a cottage on a lake with birches surrounding it.  Somehow those ideas all came together into the piece as the holiday approaches. 

I’m also hoping to get at least one other piece completed before I have to convert my studio into a bedroom.  A drawing on a thank you card I received after I visited a fifth grade classroom at Binford last week inspired this piece.  I was invited to talk about using recycled materials to create art, something I do in each of my pieces.  I had a really good time with a fun and enthusiastic bunch of kids.  I was very impressed with the insightful questions they asked about interpretations of the pieces.  A few days later they surprised me with an amazing batch of thank-you cards!  One had a sketch that really spoke to me, and I’m planning to build a weaving around the idea.  The weaving will feature a balloon tied to a park bench that’s under a tree.  I’ll call it something like ‘Tethered Memories’.  Since the time I wrote the first and last draft of this post, I’ve managed to bring the piece to completion. 

If you didn’t get that I’ve been on an art frenzy since I’ve completed my last commission pieces and before I go into holiday mode, I can report that I have also been working on my felted fruit piece.  I have all but the seeds finished on the watermelon chunks.  I filled in the meat of the lemon slices with wool that I have in my stash that I dyed to a gentle yellow with dandelions.  Then I finished the edible white part of the apple slices.  It’s nice to be working on this project because I can work on it anywhere.   When my art studio becomes a bedroom for the New Mexico Drummonds I’ll still be able to move the piece forward.  I plan to do a lot of chatting with family, and I can always poke while I talk and listen. 

I have to start winding this down, but lots of other stuff is going on.  I’m in the process of sorting out my summer travel schedule. I heard back from the Des Moines art fair, but unfortunately they wait listed me.  Tommie is convinced that they’ll invite me to participate, so we’ll just wait and see.  On Thursday we celebrated Jim’s birthday.  It wasn’t a pie week, but I did make an elaborate German chocolate cake that Jim requested.  I found a Bobby Flay variation on the classic recipe listed with a high degree of difficulty.  I was up for a challenge, so off I went!  I was sold on the cake part when I read that it featured a cup of cocoa powder.  I ended up using Giaradelli’s instead of Dutch (Drost) because that was all I could find.  The frosting recipe called for a cup of goat milk, but I haven’t seen any goats lately so I improvised.  My favorite part of the process was learning Bobby’s ganache technique , which was the absolute simplest process I’ve ever used.  I’m definitely going to use that again on some other baked delight very soon.  The cake was a big hit!  It took several days to finish it off, even though it went very well with espresso for breakfast.  Who knew?  Happy birthday to my sweetie pie. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin