Sunday, September 28, 2014

Looking at Water

My exhibition is up!  The primary focus of the past two months has been creating pieces for my “Looking at Water” exhibition.  Its first exposure will be at the Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center, 103 S. College Road, in the newly remodeled Rogers room.  The room is a little secluded, but you’re welcome to stop in to see it.  The pieces will hang there until mid-November, and on December 1st it will move to the Bloomington Bagel Company on North Dunn for two months. 

One feature of the exhibition that I consciously worked toward was to incorporate some design or conceptual element that allows each piece to transition into the next.  I hung the exhibition with the thought of going from a small droplet of water to a small stream of water and on through rivers and ponds and ending in vast body of water—a scene where you don’t see anything but water around you.  One recent notable addition to the exhibition features a bluegill in a pond.  I spent a little time with fish images to ensure that the colors and subtleties were accurate. 
I’m also pleased with “Heading for Open Water”, which was inspired by boating trips to Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron.  We loaded Grandpa’s boat at Gambil’s Landing and drove through the seemingly endless rushes and cattails heading for walleye fishing on Saginaw bay of Lake Huron.  We passed by numerous turtles sunning themselves, dragonflies flitting around, and egrets scanning the shallow water for small fish.  As we broke into the open water of the bay we headed for deeper water, scanning the horizon for packs of boats that often gave away the places where fish were biting.  Far out on the bay you can see the towers at the mouth of the Saginaw River, the shore along Pinconning and Linwood, and the line where water meets sky to the east.  I know Canada is out there, even if I can’t see it. 

Another piece that I’m proud of features single droplets of water and is called “Water Sprout.”  When I water the garden I’m fascinated by watching the water come streaming out of the sprayer head on the hose or watering can.  I feel a certain satisfaction when I give small plants something they need to survive and grow.  The piece I created celebrates that water spout as it nurtures a little bean sprout.  It contains some stainless steel wire wrapped on an old wooden spool that Grandpa gave me at least ten years ago.  I’ve been saving it for a special occasion, because he handed it me accompanied with that serious look that meant ‘stainless steel wire’ was something special that needed just the occasion for use.  My “Water Sprout” features droplets of water created from blobs of hot glue extended from pieces of stainless steel wire from the special spool.  The wire that I used to create the roots of the bean sprout came from recycled spiral notebooks.  The math problems on the pages of the binder may be long forgotten and the paper recycled, but the spiral binder lives on in the weaving. 

I hope you’ll come join me for the opening reception of the show on Friday, October 3rd from 5-8 p.m. during Gallery Walk.  There will be a harpist from IU playing to add atmosphere.  If you live too far away to come, I made a short movie to capture the room and the feel of the pieces in the exhibit.  With the show hung, I feel as if a huge weight has been removed from my shoulders.  Luckily, the weather is warm enough to sit outside on the veranda and have dinner again.  Two nights ago we had pesto with some grilled butternut squash and a delightful bottle of wine, with some shared brownie treats from BluBoy for dessert.  We lit the candles to remember spring and early summer dinners enjoyed on the veranda.  I intend to have a little pause from art creation for a few days to catch up on other things I’ve neglected.  This morning I fixed the vacuum cleaner, and I woke to the smell of baking raspberry pie from berries that Jim secretly bought at the farmer’s market.  I’d say things are looking up!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Weaving an Exhibition!

This is has been an intense week of artwork for me.  I’ve been getting up at six a.m. each morning and going straight into the art studio to weave.  I’m steaming along on pieces for my exhibition titled “Looking at Water.”  My goal is to have sixteen new pieces, and I feel like I’m on track to reach my goal.  I have eleven completed, but I have four more in progress and a sketch for the last piece.  In some cases I have the weaving largely assembled but I’m still lacking a featured animal or physical structure, such as a fish, turtle or a dock.  I don’t think I’ve ever had so many open books!  My attention is now is focused on a second weaving featuring a dock that I’m pretty excited about.  
 The inside of the weathered dock boards are felt from army blankets that came to me in my treasure hunts.  That continues the strong connection to my father-in-law’s old army blankets that supported so many pieces, but the wool from them is mostly gone.  As each piece comes closer to completion I feel better about the show.

My desire to do this exhibition came in part from a very successful exhibit I did early in the year at City Hall and Meadowood, "Portraits of Trees."  The show featured trees and lots of fresh spring green.  It felt great to see the pieces together on the wall after a long, cold winter.  Around that time I decided I wanted to assemble pieces for another exhibit built on a theme.  The idea transformed into the “Looking at Water” themed exhibit scheduled for October at the Convention Center.  Thinking about the shows reminds me that while I lack formal training as an artist, I seem to learn about the art world from unexpected places.  I’m not a television watcher, although I do watch Project Runway religiously.   
At the end of each season the surviving artists create collections that determine the winner.  I love the continuity in the collections the designers create, where theme elements connect the pieces—it might be a style, a fabric or a color.  One piece speaks to the next, not as a reiteration of the composition, but as a spark to begin the conversation on the next design.  I’m consciously trying to replicate that concept in my exhibition.  I’m looking forward to hanging the show as a linear story of “Looking at Water”, with design ideas and materials that flow through the exhibition.  The broader concept is still solidifying in my head, even as I have now mentally created all the pieces.  Come and see the exhibition and we can see how the story unfolds!

My other big art news is the completion of the bigheaded ants last month, which were finally delivered to Wonderlab.  This past week they invited me to participate in laying out the ants in their new home.  They are going to be crawling over the wall up to the sign that introduces the bigheaded ant exhibit.  After laying it out it became clear that they needed one more ant on the back of the sign.  As soon as my water exhibit is complete I’ll create one more worker ant.  Then I’ll re-launch on all my commissions in progress to bring everything together.  I have the large “Garden Path” piece to complete, and that’s my top priority.  
 I also finished weaving and stretching out the background for the “Summer Salad”commission.  That means I’ll be felting lots of vegetables for the foreground.  Sliced tomatoes, here we go!

On the family front, Jim and I celebrated fifteen wonderful years of marriage together.  It’s hard to imagine a life before marriage and my family.  Jacob grilled salmon for the celebratory dinner, which came out beautifully.  
 There was also a new peach pie, but the boys (and I) again made short work of that.  Then, somehow we managed to walk right past the raspberries at the farmer’s market on Saturday!  With the peach pies so fleeting, shouldn’t another pie appear very soon?  I know there’s fruit in the freezer!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, September 7, 2014

My world of water comes back into focus!

I was awake at 3:30 yesterday morning, unable to sleep as I mentally went over my inventory for my upcoming ‘Looking at Water’ exhibition at the Convention Center in October.  I spent a big chunk of my day locked in my art studio weaving water and creating cattails.  The only thing that brought me back to the computer to produce a long overdue blog post was the dire threat made by Jim that I couldn’t have more than one pie per post.  I enjoyed the first peach pie of the season two weeks ago, so I knew I better start writing!  Now I'm getting way ahead of myself.  I’ll try to catch you up on what’s been happening. 

My ants are finally done!  I delivered the colony to Wonderlab this past Thursday.  We’ll have a meeting this week to discuss the display, which might involve making one more ant.  Along the way, I feel like I learned a lot about the anatomy of ants, what distinguishes the species and which morphologies are shared.   
I came to love my ants, but I’m glad they’re out of the studio.  At Wonderlab they’re talking about painting or stenciling ants along the wall that leads to the exhibition, which sounds fun.  If they do that, I really think the last stenciled ant should be an intermediate between the stenciled ants and the first three-dimensional creation.  That would make it look like the last ant was crawling out of the wall.  I think that would be interesting, but it would mean making one more half-ant.  I invite everyone to the opening reception on the first Friday in November.  There will be a fun kids project to create ant parts by wet felting fleece into balls to produce the body segments.  These will be connected with pipe cleaners.  I have just the most perfect brown noils from Sheep Street that I will donate to the project.  This is just the ideal material to learn how to felt color-appropriate ant body parts.  Come and see!

Of course Labor Day means the Fourth Street Festival.  It was a very successful show from my perspective, with no major incidents.  The weather wasn’t ideal when the show opened Saturday in steady rain, but Sunday turned into an absolutely beautiful sunny day.  The humidity was low with some clouds, and over 33 thousand fair attendees came out for the two-day event.  Happily/sadly I sold one of my water-themed pieces I intended to show at my upcoming Convention center exhibition that I described above.  I think I’ll be able to replace the piece and come up with a full complement of sixteen pieces for the exhibition by the end of this month.  
 The ‘Looking at Water’ concept means that you’ll see any and all forms of water, from a drop falling from a faucet to small ponds with aquatic life and on to vast lakes.  So much of our lives revolves around water that I just had to think about water and express it in my art.  I’ll hang the show in late September and the opening reception will coincide with the first Friday’s gallery walk from 5-8 p.m.  Please stop by and say hello at that reception too!

My life is never so simple as to allow me to focus solely on my own art.  I’ve been dividing my time to help with the Sounds of South group’s ginormous production of Phantom of the Opera in late October and early November.  I have always possessed a passion for the theater, having regularly attended theatrical productions, opera and plays with my father.  I fondly remember having season tickets to the Stratford Festival performances in Stratford, Ontario.  When Tommie auditioned into Sounds of South it opened the door a crack for me to get involved.   
Earlier this summer I made a set ofskirts for the performance, and last month I finished repurposing an evil monkey on an ornate music box that is central to the performance.  I made an ornate hat for the diva in the performance, Carlotta, and it matches her extravagant gown and personality.  I added a reticule to her outfit, which is now also a new word in my vocabulary (thanks David Wade!).  I was also charged with making the body of Buquet that is hung from the rafters by the phantom.  I’ve never made a dead body before.  Heck, I’ve never made an alive body – well, except for my sons! 

My life was also filled with big personal events.  Jim and the boys tested for their black belts in Taekwondo on the 16th of August.  His brother Tim was the ‘bad guy’ for self-defense and got thrown around a bit, and Grandma came down to see the performance too.  It was a very emotional test all around.  Jacob was praised for his power and precision in his forms, Tommie for his flexibility and graceful high kicks, and Jim for just making it through the whole process.  We had a big reception at our house after the party where it was nice to just sit and relax in peace and quiet with food from the Owlery, cakes and cupcakes from Blu Boy, and a beautiful personalized cake from Esperanza Hogan.  
 Oh, and I did get a peach pie, a rare treat this summer with so few peaches, as a reward for finished my ants.  I know as soon as I get this posted I’ll get another pie.  Type, type, type!  Start rolling the crust, Jim!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Aspens, ants, and evil monkeys!

Where did this month go?  I’ve never taken a three-week hiatus between blogs, but I know I was focused on making art!  I buckled down and have been working furiously on finishing three ongoing projects that need resolution.  One of them is a large-format commission piece that features aspens in the autumn showing golden leaf clumps in the canopy.  The understory is a nice olive-y green color with a few fallen aspen leaves, while the canopy is solid golden.  When I work with aspens in art pieces I remember being mesmerized by them during my trip to Colorado after graduate school. 
My father took me there in October 1995, and the images are still vivid in my memory.  To make the tree trunks I pulled out my box full of shoelaces and old macramé cord.  I wrapped them with a yarn that has a lot in common with a friendly shelter dog.  The yarn was destined to become upholstery fabric, but it ended up unwanted and tossed outside with the trash.  A friend of mine saw it, rescued it and gave it to me.  It gives me extra pleasure to know the history of my materials, which gives the combined piece a richer character. 
The crocheted yellow clumps were made using yarn I dyed last month, combined with an assortment of materials drawn from my yellow remnant box.  I feel like the piece is finally coming together.

As I work on projects, I feel like all of my deadlines are falling around October 1st.  Another ongoing project I have described before involve a series of bigheaded ants for permanent exhibition at Wonderlab.  I have the colony ants completed, but the queen is the final character I need for closure.  She’s coming along nicely!  Her legs are all made out of predominantly reclaimed materials - reclaimed baling wire, wrapped with a partially used skein of red-brown yarn from my collection.   
The antennae are made from Jim’s old guitar strings.  I like the deeper ‘E’ and ‘A’ strings the best because they are the thickest diameter wire.  Maybe I need to encourage him to play his guitar more.  I’m definitely running out of material—the queen needs her antennae!

The third major project that I have taken on involves the Sounds of South, the choral group at Bloomington Highschool South that puts on musical performances.  This year they’re producing Phantom of the Opera.  Tommie is part of the group, and I now see how enormous an undertaking these performances are!  A huge amount of preparation, construction, painting and groundwork go into the professional product they produce.  One of my tasks is to convert a happy, smiling Gundt monkey sitting on a black box into an evil little cymbal-playing monkey on an ornate music box.   
Somehow I managed to volunteer to transform the little guy into his role.  I have a ways to go, but I have removed the stuffing from his face and replaced it with wool.  I needle felted more wool over the facial structure to sculpt a look more consistent with the production monkey.  I still have to add the skin, i.e., some maple tree bark-dyed fleece to the monkey’s face and replace the stringy fur with some fake fur.  My friend Cappi Phillips generously offered to donate material that should work out perfectly—thanks Cappi!  I also dug out my gold paint and fancy trim to transform the music box into something more ornate.  This should come together shortly.

Last, I want to mention the wonderful, cool weather of late July and early August.  That allowed many enjoyable dinners outside on the veranda, grilled and otherwise.   
I even had a cherry pie that Jim and Tommie baked while I was apparently too busy to notice!  The pie was in the oven while I was downstairs in the art studio just before dinner.  They slipped it out and onto the veranda without me knowing or smelling anything!  It was a wonderful surprise, although as I think about it, one pie in three weeks seems a bit low.  I’m sure something will turn up soon.  I do have a big project, though, which will intercede into my art world.  This week I need to put away my art stuff and don my French maid’s outfit to transform the house into a presentable place for a reception.  Then I’ll smile and pretend the house always look like that!  Along the way, many bags of things will go to the recycle center and much Windex will be consumed.  It’s all because the three boys will test for their black belt in Taekwondo on Saturday the 16th.  Jim’s brother Tim, his wife Bobi, and Jim’s mother will all visit for the test.  Afterward we’re having a reception at 4pm in our back yard, catered by the Owlery and BluBoy from downtown – come if you’re in town!  I won’t promise a pie, but there will be lots to eat and drink!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I’m Back in the Studio Weaving!

Life has settled down a little bit.  I’ve been able to carve out chunks of time to weave in the art studio.  I decided to launch into a piece for my upcoming “Looking at Water” exhibition as I’ve maintained progress on the rest of my projects.  It seems that every time the weather gets hot and humid I start thinking about cool Canadian lakes and birches.  It’s a source of comfort, thinking of my Canadian roots and travels north.  Looking at birches is meditative for me, in part because it brings back memories of my Grandmother.  In Pinery Provincial Park on Lake Huron I would collect pieces of driftwood, freshwater clam shells, pieces of birch bark paper and polished great lakes beach stones. I used these to make her little collages to use as ashtrays.  On the birch tree piece I’m making, I still have to create the birch tree trunks and leaf clumps but I’m really pleased with the woven canvas that I’ve created.  
 I also spent a little time this week dyeing yarn.  That’s less meditative, but it’s part of the art to produce the colors I need.  I currently have two ongoing commissions that require yellow yarn for different reasons.  The first includes a path that will require bright yellow and purple flowers.  The second is a commission that will feature autumn aspens.  The yellow yarns will go into the leaf clumps that I will crochet.  Having several different colors and texture of yellow yarns adds depth and structure.   
My commissions are pretty diverse, so while I’m working on birch trees I’ve also been advancing my big-headed ant commission for Wonderlab.  Right now I’m working on the super major.  I have completed the head and abdomen, and now I need to flesh out the structure that joins the two.  The queen will be the final piece for that insect collection.  As I move all my projects forward, I keep reminding myself that I need to focus on the ‘Looking at Water’ exhibition I’m scheduled to display in October.  I’m feeling some added pressure because I sold five pieces in Des Moines that I would have used in that collection.  Between travel, commissions, and readying the house for an Open House in mid August to celebrate the boy’s advancement to black belt, a lot has to happen in the next few months!  
 Also on the horizon is the Fourth Street Festival on Labor Day weekend.  We have monthly meetings to orchestrate the show and everything is coming together.  This year’s T-shirt design, a tribute to the late Jim Kemp, looks amazing.  Kyle Spears did a great job creating a layout for the art and bringing the project together.  On the family front, we celebrated Jacob’s twelfth birthday.  
 Tommie baked him a peanut butter cup pie, which was wonderful.   
Ever since we started grilling fish in North Carolina, Jacob has taken a real shining to grilling.  We’ve managed to outfit him with a new grill, chef’s hat, and an apron with grilling tools.  The weather has been pleasantly cool so we’ve been able to have many meals out on the veranda.  I’m hoping that Jim and Tommie can keep him supplied with fish!  
 The only bad news to report is that I didn’t get another pie after Des Moines.  I know we bought lots of tart cherries at the farmer’s market, but now I see that they’re in the freezer!  Jim seems to think that just because I finished one pie (raspberry) on Thursday I don’t need a fresh pie on Saturday!   Sometimes I just don’t know what he’s thinking. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, July 6, 2014

To the Des Moines Art Festival and back!

The tomatoes are done!  I had a wonderful trip out to Iowa, which gave me lots of time to needle felt the rest of the tomatoes I needed for the piece I’ve been envisioning.  I’m in a hurry to finish up pieces because I had such a great art fair in Des Moines.  Now I need to replace pieces and expand with some new pieces for an exhibition that I’ll describe in a minute.  In Iowa, the weather didn’t cooperate as well as I hoped, punctuating the show with some pop-up thunderstorms.  
 The patrons still came out to support the artists, though, which I appreciate and respect.  Our visit to Iowa began in Iowa City to see friends we haven’t seen in sixteen years.  We stayed with Ute and David, Jim’s friends from a previous life.  Their two boys are the same age as ours, and we all just clicked beautifully as if we’d been visiting for years.  After a delightful dinner, a good night’s sleep, and a wonderful breakfast we were ready to set out for Des Moines.  Setting up the booth took us longer than usual due to frequent interruptions from the rain.  On the bright side, that gave us plenty of chances to stop into our favorite vegetarian coffee shop, the RitualCafé.  
 In spite of the weather, or perhaps highlighted by it, it’s clear that the show is extremely well organized and administered.  It ran like a well-oiled machine with lots of happy volunteers. There were always people ready to help, from directing us through set-up to squeegeeing the streets to help keep a dry surface between rains.  What impressed me most, however, was the reliability of the patrons.  When the rains came they scattered, but they popped right back into place when the skies cleared.  I really like the feeling that my art is well appreciated; I certainly feel that way in Des Moines.  
 In the end, seven pieces found new homes.  I also managed to break into the local television and print media, appearing in three videos that you can access online.  Click here, here, or here for the links!  My sons Jacob and Tommie appeared in some of the videos and were terrific in the booth with explaining my techniques and materials to patrons.  I just love sitting back and listening to Jacob expound on my work, and he seems to love doing it.  We also managed to find some time to walk through the Pappajohn sculpture park, which was the backdrop for the show and very close to my booth.   
My favorite piece there is an amazing sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.  It is built from fused metal letters that you may walk into and experience from the inside or outside.  We also experienced the newest sculpture, which looks like a rainbow of panels built into a circle.  I took a nice family portrait from the center of the piece.  While I was busy, my family managed to sneak off to do some sailing on Grays lake close to Des Moines and hit the local water park.  Unfortunately, heavy downpours cut short their adventures.   
The show ended early when the organizers watched severe storms developing in the area.  My crew broke all of our records for both take down and packing the trailer, which was all completed in an hour.  Certain my art was safe, dry and protected for the drive home, I completed my tomato felting project as we drove through the hills of Iowa and the fields of Illinois.  
 Now I'm nestled back in my studio thinking about my upcoming exhibit, “Looking at Water”.  One of the pieces I’m envisioning is a large format beach piece where the sand and shells lie in the foreground, the water and waves fill the mid-ground, and the sky is in the background.  One truth that everyone who has visited the beach knows is that one invariably brings home sand.  To capture that concept in my piece, I’ve spent some time coating the frame for my beach piece in sand.   
We got home from Des Moines on Monday evening, which was just in time for me to slip off to the Tuesday Farmer’s market while the boys did TKD.  I brought home some red raspberries, hoping against hope that they might be transformed into a victory pie.  And sure enough, a pie appeared!  It must have been a good show!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Weaving Water and Reclaiming Re-Shirts

I’m working on an exhibition in October called ‘Looking at Water.  I have been distracted by family projects, such as our trip to North Carolina and a family gathering in Michigan, so the weaving sat unfinished for some time.  I was so excited to get back into my studio earlier this week and start work on it that I released the piece from the loom before I finished weaving the sky.  Argh!  I hate that sinking feeling in your stomach when you know you’ve done something silly that can’t easily be fixed.  When life gives you lemons you have to do something.  Jim has been bugging me to try a wall piece where the background is needle felted instead of woven, and this seems like the perfect compromise.  I’m actually getting excited about it!  The woven part has a lot of movement that really is consistent with water.  The sky will be felted, allowing it to be smooth and softer by contrast.  I’m hoping to add some felted and dimensional clouds to the piece.  I’m excited about trying to pull it all together. 

The new piece will feature a dock.  I’ve stretched the woven part into the frame and I’ve layered on to a mock-up of the wooden structure.  This helps me get the scale right and the paper pieces are a good template for cutting the boards.  
 I’m creating the wooden parts out of the last of Grandpa’s army blanket pieces.  To make them look like sun-bleached wood I’ve been needle felting grey-white wool onto the shaped blanket pieces.  I was pleasantly surprised during the process as the olive green blanket crept through to the surface to make kind of a greeny-brown color.  The color just clicks for me as a good dock material.

And so to back up a little and share some family stories - we spent a few wonderful days visiting with family in Michigan.  Scott and Cathy Drummond flew in from California, Tim and Bobi Drummond came in from New Mexico, and Haley and the new baby Arya from New Mexico were there when we arrived.  Arya is walking with confidence and quite an independent thinker.  Scott introduced the boys to a new game called Boxcars.  They’ve been enjoying that ever since.   
We enjoyed a nice walk through the Bay City craft fair with Aunt Lois, and the boys enjoyed archery and badminton.  They also drove around on Miss Daisy, Grandma’s golf cart, which Arya found very entertaining.  Meal times were big and busy, especially the night we had pizza on the patio with family friends the Gibsons (Ben and Kathey) from next door.  The weather was beautiful—cool with low humidity and very few bugs. 

The drive back from Michigan was a great time for me to felt some tomatoes.  I’m going to revisit a piece I made a few years back called ‘Homegrown Tomatoes’.  It featured sixty-seven individual tomatoes of all varieties, shapes and sizes.  I really liked that piece, and while sixty-seven sounds overwhelming, it isn’t so bad if they’re done a few at a time every few weeks.  I giggled as I placed some of my felted tomatoes on the garden tomato plants in the back yard.  I took a picture and posted it on Facebook.  It seems that I have both skeptical and gullible friends!

Yesterday I did Art Fair on the Square here in Bloomington, which is a delightful regional show.  I decided to do it with my Re-Shirts rather than my large-woven wall pieces.  My shirts were very well received, with lots of people excited about the style and the fact that they were made from reclaimed and recycled fabrics.  I’m pleased to report that many of them went off to new homes.  I also enjoyed watching people’s faces when they realized that I do the three dimensional wall pieces they’ve seen elsewhere.  “Oh, that’s you!” was a phrase I heard many times.  I also had to assure many people that I was not moving away from doing wall pieces, and that making my art clothing was my hobby.   
From a practical artist perspective, I was thrilled that we were packed up and driving home within a half an hour of the show ending.  That’s an absolute, all time record that will never happen with the wall pieces!  At home I was treated to a celebratory dinner of flatbread.  We had cheese treasures from Williams cheese factory in Pinconning Michigan, including beer cheddar spread, along with Bruschetta and aged Gouda from Trader Joe’s that we picked up on the drive home from Michigan.  A bottle of Red Silk shiraz from Australia topped it all off.  This morning I woke up to the smell of baking pie.  It made for a very decadent Sunday lunch with a second cup of coffee!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin