Sunday, April 25, 2010

Salamander Chili?

This week has been a needle-felting fiesta. I created enough felted peppers to make a fine chili, and my ‘Salamander Salsa’ is coming together nicely. The pepper piece needs about fifty peppers of all colors—reds, greens, yellows, and oranges. For the composition, I’m channeling a late-summer basket of peppers from our local CSA. I just have to remember not to rub my eyes after I cut them up. To make the basic pepper shape I’ve been wet-felting merino noils, the same technique I used with the kids in the Creek-Love classroom to create felt balls. I’m using a bamboo mat that I picked up at the recycle center to do the rolling, and the soap is an environmentally friendly dish soap that my thoughtful husband picked up for me. I haven’t checked, but I’m sure the seeds are in there! Anyway, to introduce the color I add roving or fleece onto the surface by needle felting. To get the perfect pepper green I use the amazing green fibers that I bought at the Fiber Event in Greencastle—I especially love the mohair that I found because it’s a rich green and very shiny. I use the drum carder borrowed from the Spinners and Weaver’s guild to get just the right color blend. It’s a fun tool to use, but it looks like an instrument of great pain if some part of you got caught in it. The ability to mix and create specific colors lets me create the perfect green for different types of peppers at different stages of development. I’m up to 34, so I’ve still got a few more to go. This is about the stage where I start wondering what in the world I was thinking when I started this project!

My other major project has involves birthing a few more salamanders. I finished my yellow barred salamander and I set off on making the body of a red striped salamander. He’s waiting for me to add his arms and legs, which is the tedious part. You know, when it comes right down to it, salamander bodies look a lot like peppers! I need to start a new project. The only thing that made the poking palatable on Thursday, which was a big needle felting day, was the fact that there was a marathon of ‘Project Runway’ episodes. I just love the creativity that goes into the compositions. I like the fact that the fashion designs incorporate colors, textures, dimensionality movement and personality. I get great ideas for my own art pieces, and they inspire me to greater heights for next year’s Trashionista fashion show. I can’t wait!

On the home front, the boy’s tested for the purple belt with a black stripe. It’s their seventh belt (ten more to go to black belt!). They’re jumping around like frogs in the spring, spinning like tops, and kicking like, well, like they did when they were in the womb. Now I know what they were practicing for! Afterwards we headed down the sidewalk to Jiffy Treet for a little cool and refreshing reward. Jacob and his dad shared the chocolate lovers sundae, a decadent treat with chocolate ice cream, brownies, hot fudge sauce, whipping cream and nuts. I did get the cherry on top. Tommie and I were much more reserved, each getting a small dish of ice cream. At least half of us show some restraint. It was a delightful end to another fine week.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The days are just packed

Could I possibly have packed any more excitement into this week? Should I start with the rhubarb pie? No, I should start with Monday when I loaded up all my art and headed to Indianapolis. I was invited to give a lecture to the Embroidery Guild in Indianapolis. I took my scarves, ornaments, tools, and all my weavings that weren’t hanging somewhere. I even dug out my first exploratory pieces and took one off the wall that I made before I was working artist. The talk was intended to cover my history as an artist and the influences that helped shape me. One of the great things about giving talks like this is that I get to both re-live and observe my evolution as an artist. I’m reminded of how much I enjoy what I do! It’s fun to see the different design and structural landmarks that define different turning points in my career. What made the trip, though, was that my audience was just great! They asked a lot of questions at the end, which is one of my markers for success. It was also nice to see such a range of ages—they clearly have a vibrant and engaged group. To top it all off, the talk coincided with the last of the redbuds and the emergence of the dogwood flowers so the drive was pleasant too.

Tuesday was eighty and sunny, and that brought on a fishing trip to Lake Monroe with my dear husband and son Tommie. Jacob went over to a friend’s house for play and pizza until eight. We zipped over to the Pinegrove launch area after school, put in the canoe, and headed straight to the secret crappie location we discovered last year. The crappies didn’t really cooperate, but we ended up catching all the catfish we could hope for. I tried hard to catch crappies—I really did—but somehow the catfish always seem to find me. We even managed to lose a really big fish that was on for a while before giving us a big splash as it snapped the line and swam away. To be social we invited the fish to come home for a fish fry on Thursday. Fishing aside, though, we had a really nice time paddling on the lake as the sun set.

Wednesday brought a different challenge. It was the day that the Fourth Street Art Fair committee met to review the 450 applicants we had this year, which is a record. I was partial to the fiber category works, some of which were truly stunning. The paintings were also awesome this year—there were lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the committee. We’re a pretty tough crowd, so you’ll have to come to the Fourth Street fair this year and see what we have on display.

Thursday was an eventful day for me in the art studio. I launched into heavy-duty mode to finish my piece for the Edible Lotus fundraiser dinner. Time is getting short so I had to really put some effort into my piece. I had first envisioned a tree in the fog, which evolved into a jeweled tree. I like the symbolism of the tree for community art projects, such as the community tree that I organized two years ago for the Fourth Street children’s booth. In that project, each leaf was an individual art piece created by visitors to the fair, decorated with recycled and recovered materials. The whole Lotus Festival concept reminds me of that tree, because it depends on the contributions of a huge number of volunteers like the tireless Deborah Klein, local paper artist extraordinaire. Anyway, you have to understand that the project has been very stressful for me because of the deadline. Any time you try to convert an idea into a three-dimensional piece you just don’t know when (or whether) it will really come together. Sometimes ideas work better in your head than on the canvas. When you have a deadline that’s a bad thing and it was starting to weigh on me.

The concept for the piece itself is a three-dimensional tree that is intended to hang above a table. It needs to be very light because, like the old joke, if a tree falls on a donor, everybody notices it. To solve the problem I turned to my newest and lightest medium, the recovered dryer sheet. I’ve had people collecting them for me to add to my personal stack. They’re airy and light, and somehow that works with the airiness I intended to circle around the tree itself. I sewed the dryer sheets together and gave them an evening coat of white paint. Then I painted on the tree with fabric paint and acrylic paint straight out of the tube to create the weight of the tree. I like how it turned out—the tree has the look and feel of worn leather and it contrasts nicely with the lightness of the dryer sheets. The swirly branch designs remind me of the patterns in my ornaments, which is something I noticed when I gave the talk. There’s just something very appealing to me about that design, something wholesome about the round swirling patterns. For the jeweled leaves I was inspired by a Monet print we have in our living room that has deep purples and greens, like jewels in the deep blue water. I thought that the richness of the colors somehow matched the richness of the Lotus festival music. I searched my stores of felt scraps for little pieces that I just couldn’t throw away and found some real treasures. I cut and cut and cut some more to create my small leaves, and I managed to dull a pair of my favorite scissors in the process. Luckily, I have three more pairs (always be prepared!). A new pair of scissors will soon appear in the family collection and the boys will be happy. Use ‘em and lose ‘em seems to be their motto. The last step will be to glue the panels onto the wooden supports, and until then I’m holding my breath. If it all comes together I’ll post it on my Facebook page.

Since there’s no rest for the weary mom, Friday was a busy family day. I stopped in to see Jacob’s dinosaur project at school, took the boy’s to their Tae Kwon Do class, brought them back home for a snack and then off we went to the Rogers-Binford school carnival. I baked and decorated a cake for the cakewalk that was quickly claimed as a prize—at least I saw it in someone’s arms shortly after we got there and sat down for pizza. We bought some books, played some games, ate some candy, dyed four lips blue or red with wretched snow cone colors, watched karyoke as we waited to win a big prize at the raffle, and chatted with parents and friends. But that wasn’t enough for one day or week! We packed up and zipped off to the Musical Arts Center to see West Side Story that night. The performance was excellent, as usual, and the boys are now ready for the next theatrical event in town—the Cardinal Stage Company is putting on the ‘Little Shop of Horrors’.

Saturday started off with a trip to the farmer’s market, then the house turned into a madhouse with friends of the boys over. A little gardening got done and a few flowers planted, then the day gave way to dinner featuring warm fresh flatbread with garlic and cheese spread and a nice Argentinian pinot noir. And since fresh rhubarb was on display at the farmer’s market, I used all my secret strategies to get my dear husband to buy rhubarb and bake me a pie this morning! There isn’t much better than warm pie with whipping cream on a Sunday morning with a nice cup of tea! Did I say I like pie? Plus, the best news of all: this week it all starts over again! Only the adventures, pies and type of wine seem to change!

Until next week...

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 11, 2010


If you’ve ever driven through a neighborhood where the lawn was a solid, lush monoculture of well-bred grass seeds, well, that wasn’t our neighborhood, and it certainly wasn’t our lawn. I sometimes wonder if the lush lawn society harbors a certain paranoia that the weeds are watching them. The dandelions would take the lead in filling yards with yellow monitoring devices. After a while they turn into communications devices, spreading seeds to all the neighbor yards. It’s especially hard to infiltrate lawns laced with pesticides and patrolled by curmudgeons with bludgeons, but dandelions are fearless. I’ll admit it—they’ve won me over. I love to see them in lawns. They’re such a pretty yellow, and spring is such a yellow flower season. And they really are determined and fearless, ready to establish and prosper anywhere. Those are admirable qualities in anyone. I took a few pictures this week to show some of my favorite yellow friends to show what I mean.

Of course if you know me at all, you know that what captures my imagination in life ends up in my work. I decided this week to work on a piece called ‘Lawn Flowers’. I’ve done a similar piece that was popular and the composition made me happy, so I decided it was time to re-imagine the dandelion as beauty in the lawn. I pulled out my wonderful crunchy spring green yarns to start. For a moment I wasn’t sure if I should weave or make a salad. I’m envisioning a thick green base, as if you’re looking at the lawn from an angle, with three clumps of dandelions flowering. In a perfect coincidence, I ran into my friend Bonnie Gordon-Lucas at Bloomingfoods this week and had a spontaneous lunch date. The lunch was good, but she was concerned that I should be incorporating some reds and yellows into my green grass. We also bonded on the wonderful spring green colors that you can only see this time of year. If you look closely at the emerging foliage you can see the rich, iridescent greens that seem to darken as the summer goes on. We science geeks know that the leaves start to produce anthocyanin pigments to absorb the intense sunlight of summer, and those “non-green” pigments mask the spring beauty. Enjoy it while you can!

Speaking of yellow, I’ve been working on the fourth salamander for my ‘Salamander Salsa’ piece. Perhaps it’s subconscious, but I decided to make a Barred Tiger Salamander. He’s bright yellow with a black barring pattern, kind of like a tiger, only less orange and feline and more yellow and amphibian. So far I’ve only made the body, so he isn’t much of a threat to run away until I can add his legs. The ones I’ve made are more mobile, so I have to keep a closer eye on them. I don’t dare take them anywhere any more. So now I’m sitting at four-salamander salsa and waiting for two more guests.

The last big news is that this week was the Fiber Event in Greencastle. I carpooled there with Ruth Rives, a sweet friend with firm opinions. She recently started weaving and is really enjoying it. Overall, we had a delightful drive through the country on a warm and sunny spring day. We ended up spending several hours at the fair, longer than we expected, poking around in all the piles of fleece and yarns. I couldn’t wait to get home to start mixing green fleece with the drum carder I borrowed from the Spinners and Weaver’s guild. I’m trying to get just the right dark green for the dandelion foliage. And speaking of pleasant drives through the country, I also went to a reception for the recycled art show hanging the new Hotel Indigo in Columbus Indiana. The show looks great (stop by if your in the neighborhood!) and the reception was nice…thanks, Marilyn. It was followed by a fun visit to the recently re-opened ice cream parlor, Zaharakos. I got to see the massive musical instrument, the Welte orchestrion and sit at the marble bar. It felt like you were in a 1950s movie to see all the little spigots for soda. I had some nice conversations over a grilled cheese sandwich and a fruit cup. I forced myself to try and ignore the most amazing banana split walking past me, as well as all the other old fashioned ice cream treats. The good news is that I have two boys who will accompany me there in the summer to help me decide which to try first.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 4, 2010

How to turn oak into fruitwood...

The weather this week in Bloomington was glorious: the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and the bulbs were bursting. We even topped 80 degrees at the end of the week, warm enough to open doors and windows to let in the spring. After a long, cold winter, what does spring mean around here? Yes, it’s time to start staining frames! I always have a few projects that need temperatures over fifty for paints, sealants or other finishes to work properly. I’m starting to back up on weavings and need frame homes for them. So first I dusted off my power tools and did a little spot sanding. My friend and photographer Tom Bertolocini makes oak frames to my specifications and I stain them to match my weavings. This week I got out a dark oak, a colonial maple and a lighter fruitwood stain. Don’t ask me what fruitwood is. I just know that when I put it on oak frame I get a range of light finishes that work with a lot of my pieces. I can finish a frame and hold it to the piece and decide exactly which finish I like best. It’s sort of like holding up my socks against a pair of pants to see how I like the match. If a certain frame finish really doesn’t work, back out to the veranda it goes and out comes the black spray paint!

I also have some big electronic news from the week. I joined the twenty-first century, aka Facebook. I was amazed at how easy it is to get connected and start talking to people. It’s been good to connect with a lot of people I’ve lost touch with over the years. I must seem to be getting older, because some of my local art buds were shocked that I did it. While it’s great to know what everyone is doing, I can see how someone could spend a lot of time keeping up with her friends, new and old. There’s also kind of a weird voyeuristic aspect to it all. You get to read about things that a person might not tell you, based on your own sensibilities, but they might tell another friend. You’re going where? Are you sure that’s a good idea?

In the salamander world, we now have a party. You can almost see them together in the waiting area at Red Lobster: ‘Salamanders, party of three—your table’s ready’. My latest creation is a cave salamander. It isn’t white, like you might expect from a dweller in the back of the cave. It lives at the openings and it’s a lovely papaya color with tiny black spots. She joins her friends the black spotted and mud salamander. I’m planning on having six salamanders for a salsa, but the weaving might take seven. Six is my favorite number, and six is a lot less salamander creation than seven, so I’m rooting for six but then seven is a better number artistically. They should be ready for the summer art tour, which is going to be a college town circuit. So far I’ll be in Columbus, OH in June, Madison, WI in July and here in Bloomington in September. I hope to see you somewhere this year!

Finally, this is a major flowering season in the yard. My first Facebook post reported the first tulip that burst into color in the yard. It just made me so happy to see it. It was red, of course, and it came up right in the middle of the herb garden. The herbs get their chance to shine later in the year. We’ve got deer candy—oops, I mean tulip buds—appearing all over the yard. The best part is that I’ve forgotten what colors I bought last year. Sometimes I’m like Dory in Finding Nemo for stuff like that. I find that life’s a lot more fun when it’s generally good and you get to keep reliving the best episodes! I’ve also got my bulldog husband out spraying the emerging tender greenery with his own anti-deer blend spray. So far so good! And I’ve done my part, although it isn’t for the flowers. I still hear our local raccoon climbing on the roof in the middle of the night, but now he’s clearly on the outside looking in. I just curl up, my eyes still closed, and smile a big warm smile.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin