Saturday, March 28, 2009

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

What a hectic week! I’m trying to get ready for two shows and the deadlines are approaching. The “Inch by Inch, Row by Row” show will hang in the Showers Building on March 31st, just in time for the outdoor Farmers Market. That’s our morning breakfast spot in the summer, which translates into a scone or muffin and juice at the picnic tables next to the market. When you can’t get the kids out of the house, the appeal of a fresh, big cookie usually does the trick. Back to the show—it turns out that art and deadlines don’t always mix well. I was hurrying to finish the last pieces because Tom the Photographer (Tom Bertolaccini) was coming at 10 a.m. Thursday to photograph my most recent work. I’ve been up early frantically finishing the hands and the bean plant you see in the picture. I also finished the signature piece (Inch by Inch, Row by Row) in time to be photographed, along with ‘Sangria’, ‘Fresh Fruit,’ ‘Beach Treasures’, ‘Lawn Flowers’ and a tropical fish piece for the Fort Wayne show called ‘Tropical Paradise’. All of Tom the Photographer’s new images will appear soon on my website, thanks to Tom the Web Guy (Tom Hume). None of these should be confused with Tom my son, Tom my father-in-law, or any other of the Toms who keep me going.

The spring theme also permeated the other corners of my life. I soaked and planted a bunch of peas in between the tulips in a bed in the back yard. I bought 100 red tulips (aka deer food) late last fall, and my supportive spouse distributed them around the gardens. There are 50 untouched tulips leaping up from a bed just behind the house that (shhhh) will be taken over by vegetables later in the spring. We also made a family trip to Mays greenhouse last weekend and came home with three fruit trees to bring spring color to the back yard. We got two cherry trees so they could cross-pollinate (I hope that doesn’t keep us up at night) and one peach tree so the HOA (husband of artist) can make me pies this summer. Life is good.

Some of the garden beds will also get a makeover, thanks to Tom the Photographer and his truck, who also delivered two yards of mulch to the driveway. The HOA thinks it’s headed for the center garden in the back yard that he painstakingly reclaimed last fall, but some is definitely going to cover the front yard plots I’ve been babying along the last year or two. Next week will have a little yard time built in when the HOA is at work.

I did reward myself a little for completing all the pieces on time. I made my first trip to Yarn in a Basket on South Walnut to check it out. It’s been around for a while, but I haven’t put it on my local rounds until now. My best find was a really funky pair of socks made in Vermont out of used t-shirts. They’re incredibly colorful and intentionally mismatched. I’d rather be obviously mismatched once a wash cycle than subtly mismatched most of the time like the HOA, but that’s a personal taste. I also got the good news that I was accepted at the Art Fair on the Square in downtown Madison Wisconsin this year. This will be our first big family road trip based on art, and now we have to start bringing all the travel details together. It will be an adventure!

Until next week…

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gentle Hands

This week’s highlight was a trip to see Grandma and Grandpa in Kawkawlin, Michigan. When we left home there were no signs of green on trees, but the willows were starting to come to life. We drove through warm weather, knowing that spring would come to Bloomington soon. With the transition to spring, my mind has been developing a spring piece that shows two cupped hands planting a seedling. The long drive was the perfect time to needle felt the two hands. It took a lot of detailed sculpting, but the work has benefits: I get to travel with naked models and nobody seems to care. After two long drives the basic shapes are complete for ‘The Offering’, and now I just have to add the skin and incorporate the hands into the weaving.

We did have some exciting adventures in Michigan. One afternoon we drove to the Midland Center for the Arts where they have a big exhibit on lizards and snakes. The layout was great, with plenty of spacing to comfortably view the big glass cases and very realistic exhibits. I think the most memorable was a huge monitor lizard stalking around its habitat. A brightly colored chameleon swiveled its eyes independently for us, which was very cool, and we saw some beautifully disguised lizards hanging upside down alongside vines of similar diameter. It was all very neat and a wonderful afternoon with Grandma and my family. Of course now I have to make another lizard piece!

My dark side did come through on the trip. I had heard my father-in-law talking about the secret M-30 store. This is a big supply and surplus store in the middle of the Michigan woods. I find a lot of my treasures at places like that, so of course I had to get there, secret or not. The location was so secret that we spent a morning searching M-30 north of M-61 with no success. It wasn’t until we got to West Branch and decided it was time for lunch did we figure out the problem. Over a pleasant lunch at The Willow restaurant, with carrot soup at the start and fresh cookies at the end of the meal, did we realize that the M-30 supply store wasn’t on M-30. It’s on the nearby and parallel-running M-33. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s actually called the M-33 supply store. Like good fishermen, most artists wouldn’t divulge their secret spots, but for you…

The drive back home from Michigan to Indiana was colder, but we got back just in time for spring. The landscape went from brown and black (and dirty white snow piles) to displays of subtle reds and greens as the trees started to bud. In suburban Bloomington the forsythias were bursting into yellow, another sure sign of spring. On our first full day back the boys and I rode our bikes to Bryan Park, past the first magnolia trees with blooms and the first cherry blossoms. On the way back we stopped in to see George and Annemarie Springer, our neighbors and the keepers of ‘Chunker’, our huge, aggressive goldfish who outgrew his tank. Chunker lives a contended life in George’s backyard pond, so the story has a happy ending that didn’t involve porcelain.

Back in the art studio I’ve been pulling out my rich brown yarns to create the earth for spring weavings. That makes me think about getting into the yard to plant my precious saved Marigold seeds. I’m hoping to get out my birthday present—a new leaf blower to help clear the garden beds without raking out or stepping on my little garden babies. It’s time to clean the yard and paint the trellises to get ready for spring!

Until next week…

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tropical Paradise

This week’s post will be a little short as I hurry around to prepare for a visit to see Grandma and Grandpa. The big art news of the week was the completion of a several pieces for a show I’ll do at the end of this month in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the Orchard Gallery. The title of the show is “Tropical Paradise”, and I’ll share space with my friend and Bloomington mosaic artist Cappi Phillips. I’ll show several new pieces, such as my new and improved ‘Fishes’ Frolic’. I tried a variation a while ago but wasn’t happy with the size of the fish in the piece. Now I have some larger colorful specimens under the waves. The piece is just waiting for a few bubbles (glass balls) that will be contributed by Mike Bell, local glassblower extraordinaire. I also just completed a piece called ‘Beach Treasures’ that incorporated shells and other treasures from our trip last year to North Carolina (see my Feb 28th blog entry!).

We’ve also had a calmer week after the near fire last weekend. I acted as junior electrician for Wayne Young, who is an excellent electrician and all around good person. He fixed our lights, checked out the fluorescent light ballasts in the house, and looked all around before giving us a good bill of health. I guess that’s what you call it—he put my mind at ease and taught me a bit about the wiring. He even drew a diagram explaining the cryptic wiring for some indoor lights we have.

Last, a highlight of the week has been the flowers. My husband brought home some glads one day for the table. Then my son Tommie picked me a bouquet of spring flowers, mostly yellow eranthus and purple crocuses from the yard. Then the surprise of the week was the bright yellow iris reticulata that started to peek up and flower. They’re just gorgeous. As usual, there’s a story behind them. After my loving spouse had bought and distributed an unusually large number of new bulbs and plants to remodel one of our garden beds, I saw a great deal on some dwarf irises that I really like. Luckily, with only a little grumbling, he planted all the late bulbs (50 irises) I came across. And now they’re coming up! It’s going to be a good season.

Until next week…

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Yellow, yellow, everywhere...

This week I’m thinking about the bright yellows of spring. Our garden has a glorious show of yellow eranthus (winter aconite) on display. The blooms spill over into the lawn but we don’t mind. The first daffodil shoots are finally poking up in our garden and that means the whole town is about to burst into yellow and white. When that show is over and the lawns become lush and green, up will pop a sea of yellow dandelions. Many fail to appreciate these resilient bloomers, but not me—I’m ready to pop off their little heads and use them for dyeing projects. Last year we cleared our yard of blooms and supplemented with a few more from Bryan Park down the road. This yielded a beautiful soft yellow that went into the ornament project, bringing back little yellow puffs of summer well into the winter season. And off I go into a reverie, thinking about weaving long-stem dandelions into crowns with my grandmother from Prague and beachcombing for treasures on Lake Huron, and learning to dye with onion skins. She was a special friend to me, a very classy person and her take on life was far ahead of her time.

This week’s art project is a dandelion display. The flower heads are yarn pom-poms and the stems and veins are made from wire that retired from a career in electrical fencing to focus on art. The leaves are needle felted in place and patterned on a picture from a library book to ensure anatomical accuracy. That’s the downside to having a degree in plant biology I suppose. Anyway, the piece is intended for one of two upcoming shows I’m doing titled: “Inch by Inch and Row by Row”, taken from The Garden Song by David Mallett. The “Inch by Inch” show will be hung in the Showers building downtown on April 1st. This is your official invitation to stop in and see the pieces.

It was also an exciting week for other reasons. The excitement started Thursday morning when I was in the shower, right next to where I broke through the wall to melt the frozen pipes (see January 17 th blog entry). I started to smell smoke, which led to a 911 call, which turned into five fire trucks, an ambulance and a police car sitting in front of the house while the muscular guys in heavy coats carrying axes came running up the stairs to check out me and my shower. I should have thought of that when I was single! They quickly found a fluorescent light ballast that had shorted out, disconnected it, and off they went. Everybody got to school a little late and the HEPA filter got a workout to clear the smell. The real highlight, though, was when I was standing on the front lawn chatting with the fire chief who admired our one-of-a-kind mosaic shutters! They were made by Cappi Phillips, a local mosaic artist and good friend. Before the smoke spiced up my shower, I was getting ready to pick her up and head off to the Heritage Quilt Show with another wonderful Bloomington artist, Dawn Adams. We had a great morning together, and I really admired the quilts of Carol Taylor. I especially liked the leaf patterns in vibrant colors, which got me thinking about—you guessed it—a leaf piece!

Until next week…