Sunday, August 15, 2010

Always dye with a white shirt on...

This week was brutally hot in southern Indiana, but in the cool morning I pulled out my big dye pot, fired up the stove and tossed in my fresh Michigan sumac for a good boil. The brew had an impressive deep red color. After I filtered the fine particles I threw in some fleece, and to my great delight, out came a beautiful earthy red color. Of course, as I was pulling the fleece out of the pot, I managed to splash some on the white shirt I was wearing. Curses! I quickly grabbed my planet-saving eco-friendly dish soap and went after the stain. To my surprise, the stain turned a pretty blue-green. Thanks to my valuable but little-used scientific background, I recognized that the red color was probably pH dependent. My artist side thought: hey, what a cool color! My scientist came back out and dumped a bunch of baking soda into my scarlet dye pot. I made a glorious volcano (art can be fun!) that barely stayed in the pot, and when it settled down I added more to neutralize all the acid. I read that sumac is rich in vitamin C, which is an organic acid, and that’s what I think I was neutralizing with the baking soda. The native Indians used to make a lemonade-like sumac drink in the winter to get the vitamin C. The red dye itself has to be a pH indicator, so raising the pH brought me to a different color in the dye pot. In went more fleece, and this time I got a pretty sea foam color. And happily, once both are affixed to wool they are colourfast. Love science; love art!

I also started a new piece this week based on one of the sketches I did in Michigan. It’s a very happy piece centered around a whimsical bird in a tree that I felt I needed to start. I needle felted the bird and wove the background, two enterprises I really enjoy. I pulled out some wire I got from the Restore here in Bloomington that supports Habitat for Humanity. I bent the wire into shapes and wrapped each with yarn to meet my color requirements. As I was doing it I realized how much the branches looked like the tree I created for the Lotus festival. Then I realized the shapes of the branches really came from the ornaments I used to make. After I thought about that, I was reminded that they really came from the swirly patterns I used to put on ceramics I painted at the Latest Glaze. My boys and I used to go there to feed our artistic side when they were younger, and I made serving bowls for the family that we still use. It’s fascinating to me to trace progressions in my work to see how artistic ideas came together, tracking back through my mental forest to find the breadcrumbs I left along the way. Luckily there are no crumb-eating-critters allowed in my brain or it wouldn’t be so much fun.

While the oppressive heat of summer is in full force, the season is winding down with school starting next week. Tommie’s current passion is practicing CPR on the butterflies that cross his path (catch, photograph and release). He has a powerpoint presentation with all the butterflies identified and short audio clips identifying them for a slideshow. His cast comes off Tuesday, which I think he’s ready for. It’s the countdown to the Fourth Street Art Festival over the Labor Day weekend, and preparations are in full swing. I made a last attempt to capture a little of summer with my husband Jim, who wanted to make a bruschetta sauce. He and Tommie went to the farmer’s market on Saturday and picked up a big batch of heirloom and grape tomatoes to complement the stack of romas we got from the CSA. A head of garlic came home too, as did a bunch of basil. Oregano came from the backyard garden and some ‘soft’ white wine came from Oliver Winery to make the whole thing a local affair. We had some on baguette slices (from the Bakehouse, of course!) last night with cream havarti or pepper jack cheese, complemented by corn on the cob and local new potatoes. Yum! Everything was great, including the ripe red August watermelon we had for dessert. I guess summer is OK after all. Enjoy the bounty local bounty while it lasts!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

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