Sunday, February 28, 2010

Entering the Fourth Dimension

The big event from my week was the Trashionista show. I’ve been so excited all week to see how my dimensional fashion creations would look on the runway. Both of the scheduled rehearsals were lost to the snowy weather, but Saturday the big day finally arrived. There was an afternoon rehearsal at the convention center. The backdrop for the show was very cool and professional. They used a crinkled metal meshwork and played different colored lights over it that changed as the music changed. It had a mesmerizing effect on my two young assistants who came to help or play Yu-Gi-Oh, whichever seemed like more fun at the time. For my gowns, the coordinator picked out the tallest models. I was armed with my clear duct tape for hem adjustment if needed, but everything fit beautifully. The professional models were just that, and they brought the gowns to life. When I designed the River Rapids I was imagining turbulent waters rushing over rocks. I included design elements such as hanging beaded strings that cascaded over the blue dress and black swirls. I was really pleased with the movement of the piece, and I thought I heard a little gasp from the audience when the dress came out. My inner fashion diva has really good hearing, and that’s how she remembers it! In conversations after the show, everyone seemed to like the translucent shawls made of dryer sheets. For me, that was the crowning element for the recycling aspect of the show, to create a wearable and attractive piece from material that everyone discards without a thought.

My world isn’t just about art and design, though, no matter how new and exciting it is to me. My two boys were real troopers through both the rehearsal and the show. When the focus was elsewhere they held Yu-Gi-Oh duels, which let me concentrate on the fashion. During the show, my son Jacob took my fancy-new-Christmas-present camera in hand to document the events. He was guided by his composition consultant, his brother Tommie. They homed in on different aspects of the show and captured some nice images from heights and angles that professional photographers feared to access. By the end of the evening I had 160 images to sift through. Jacob was also quite partial to the Blue Sky soda served at the show, since sodas aren’t part of our home routine. After a long evening of four dimensional art, where three dimensional creations are brought to life with movement, we all came home and crashed.

My art world, of course, kept moving along last week too. My life has felt full with much going on, more than I can describe here. I’ve felt as if I’ve had to sit still and keep an eye on a lot of things, blending into different worlds at will, so I felt it was appropriate to be working on my chameleon piece. He will be sitting on some fern fronds, which means I had a lot of frond leaflets to make. I spent a lot of time cutting brass flashing, purchased at the secret M33 supply store in Michigan. After this project, it seems that I’ll have to make a pilgrimage there this summer to replenish my stock. I found a really nice rich green to finish the leaves from the batch of yarns I dyed last week. After I wrapped the leaflets I started attaching them to a couple of the fronds, which turned out well. I have a few more to do and then I can literally flesh out my chameleon this week. I’ve sent my inner fashion diva off for a long nap to improve her disposition, but I’m sure she’ll roar to life when she has some new ideas. I promise that you’ll be the first to hear about it!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Eye of newt, wing of butterfly, and petal of flower…

I cooked up a real witches brew of artistic fun this week. First, I stopped in at Wonderlab to see the finished butterfly piece and I think it looks great. Paula Grez, the volunteer who helped so much and took pictures of the project as it came together sent me an image that I’ll share. I’m still waiting for the glue to completely dry, which I expect will take a month or so, and then we’ll give the piece a waterproof seal. The plan is to hang it on the outbuilding so it will be visible from the B-line trail. We’re going to do an experiment to see whether it will attract a giant pixilated bird!

I also finished my ‘Transplant’ piece last week, even though it isn’t really done (hmmm…). I came up with a strategy to make a pretty red cactus dahlia flower for the plant itself. I started by cutting lengths of my precious copper wire from a roll and wrapping them with red yarn until I had a charming little pile. I made a small red felt ball for the center and started attaching the petals to make the corolla. I’ll admit that in the back of my mind I had doubts that it would work, but with great confidence I leaped ahead and glued all the petals on before I turned it over to look. Wow, it worked—what a relief! It matched what I was envisioning, and that pleased me. Brimming with confidence I forged ahead to make the little rootlets for the overgrown root ball of the transplantee. Had a little too much 20-20-20 fertilizer and auxin (a root stimulating hormone) at the greenhouse, didn’tcha little one? Welcome to my garden of Indiana clay and overhanging trees! Anyway, I assembled the whole thing together on the weaving. I still want to add a few things to the soil for a more realistic look, so I picked out some broken terra cotta, a rusty beer cap, nails and a small geode from my extensive collection of soil artifacts. I couldn’t quite convince myself to add them permanently to the piece—I need to be in the right mood to make that happen. So now I’m on pause with the piece as it hangs in my art studio in a place where I can’t help looking at it as I work. After I decide which pieces really work and which start to bug me after a while I’ll whip out my hot glue gun to make it permanent, but I have to be in the right mood.

Lots of new stuff, or should I say newt stuff, is also beginning my studio. I began my salamanders, skinks and newts piece. That means I truck around a bag with needles and fleece in nice skin tones—that is if you’re an amphibian or a reptile with bright colors that scream a warning to predators. I sit and poke during my boys’ Tae Kwon Do class as I watch and chat, or anyplace else that I have a little time on my hands. Soon I will have summoned the creatures from my fleece pile, just like my kids do with their Yu-Gi-Oh decks when they have a little time on their hands. A lot of that has been happening with the snow days last week, and while they waited during the dress rehearsal for the Trashionista show. That was last night, but I’m going to wait to describe my experience until the whole thing settles in. Basically it was a big crowd, a whole lot of fun and a rewarding experience. I also hung a few pieces in the Indiana Fiber Producers show at the Monroe Bank in Bloomington, with a couple of my big pieces on display right behind the tellers. You can also catch the end of my shows at the two Bloomingfoods locations until the end of the month, or catch the last glimpse of my scarves at the Bloomington Bagel Company. If you buy a warm scarf now I will guarantee up to six more weeks of winter to enjoy it. As for me, I’ll be cozied up in my art studio with my new silent space heater, keeping warm until the snow melts and the flowers start popping up in the yard. I can’t wait!

Until next week...

Martina Celerin

Saturday, February 13, 2010

There’s not much I can’t fix in my dye pot…

Except maybe the snow from this week, at least not until I get a bigger pot. The two snowstorms we had translated into two and a half school days off, with shrieking kids and pizza lunches taking up much of my days. Still, I managed to get a whole lot of art done. The big news from Andrea at Wonderlab is that the giant butterfly is officially finished. I don’t know where they got the extra wine corks, or when they painted them, but Andrea seemed quite happy. I can’t wait to stop by next week to see it! I guess I can arrange a ceremonious return of the corks back to the recycle center. I also took some steps ahead on my ‘Transplanted’ piece, weaving the dirt and the sky and stretching it out in the frame. I think the dirt ball is lovely, as only a gardener would, as is the hole in the earth. I still need to add the overgrown roots and the plant and flower, but the parts of the piece that I wasn’t sure about have come together nicely. If only I could remember where I left the trowel!

Last week I also launched a few other new projects. Beginnings are fun, because you never know how each project will turn out. And there is no Island of Misfit Toys in my world—anything that doesn’t work just goes back in the collection for the next piece. I began my next volunteer project, which is a mobile for the Edible Lotus event that will hang over one of the Edible Lotus tables. I intend to make a barren tree in the fog using my latest favorite material, depleted dryer sheets. That means I’m still collecting if you have any extras. When my husband wanted to know how that was going to look, I just gave him my most mysterious look and told him: “Be surprised”. He had just made me a nice dinner with pan-seared tuna and a spinach salad, so maybe I should have been a little more forthcoming, but I was enjoying the moment.

After a few days of snow, the week turned bright and sunny. We’re back into the deep freeze, but at least it’s going to warm up during the daytime and the days are getting longer. On Thursday it was clearly a day to dye yarn (don’t ask me how I know these things). I got out my very old Nilus leClerc metal swift, appropriately made in Quebec. It’s still totally functional, built from iron and as solid as the Banque du Canada, but it’s also a great antique. It came up for auction at the Spinners and Weaver’s guild annual event and I got into a bidding war over it. It was worth every penny I spent and it’s a treasure in my art studio. Anyway, I pulled out the yarns that King Moonracer couldn’t find a home for (the winged lion that rules the island of misfit toys).

I had some pale mossy greens that weren’t working for me, plus some grey-blues, sandy browns and multicolored greens that had a lot of grey in them that I didn’t appreciate. So out came my green and yellow dyes and now, 13 skeins later, I have a new collection of vibrant greens for my spring green projects. This includes a mint green project that must have been inspired by the crisp air (or maybe it’s just Girl Scout cookie time and the Thin Mints are here). I made the minty green background gradient for a piece that will feature salamanders, skinks and lizards, each featuring those unnaturally vibrant colors and beautiful patterns that tell predators: ‘try having me for lunch and you’ll be very sorry, buddy.’ I know because that’s how I dress sometimes. That also means that if you see me around town this week, at a meeting or waiting for my kids at their Tae Kwon Do class, you’ll probably see me poking away at some amphibians. Don’t be alarmed—no amphibians will be harmed, and it keeps me from starting still more new projects.

Until next week...

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tomatoes, Flowers, and Butterflies...

They all played a big role in my week. This week I finished my ‘Home Grown Tomatoes’ piece. I ultimately made 72 felted tomatoes for the piece, finishing with a couple of branching stems of little cherry tomatoes. They ripen from the plant outward, so there’s always a couple of green ones at the end to keep you from harvesting the whole branch too soon. Maybe the new owners will put the piece on a sunny windowsill to let it ripen. As I finished with the painstaking work of creating the five little petioles for each tomato, I thought about how looking closely allows one to appreciate the intricacies of nature. But with that said, I’m sooo looking forward to munching on the little cherry tomatoes that pop up as volunteers all over our garden each summer. My husband has unwittingly carried out my evil plan to get them spread all through the flower beds as he mulches. He can’t begin to weed them all out, as Grandma insists we should, so I always get plenty of little red delights each summer. I love sending out Tommie with a bowl to harvest a few when we have company—nothing beats a just-picked bowl on the table.

Finishing a piece means a new challenge, and this week the weather began sunny and bright. I was just feeling good about feeling firmly planted in this town, thinking what a great community of people I live in. That meant it was time to start my ‘Transplanted’ piece, with a root-bound flower establishing in a new garden bed. I dug into my chocolaty brown yarn box, and the yarns really did look like milk and dark chocolate on my studio floor. I created the base of the weaving using a sumac weave with 10 different yarns blended together. Just when it felt like there’s no more room to expand the sumac weave, I dug the hole by making an indentation and added a tabby weave with fewer yarns mixed together. I ended up with a wonderful cavity to plant my root ball in, and the dirt didn’t keep slipping back in to fill the hole as I did it!

For the root-bound flower I chose a red cactus dahlia. This is a special flower in our garden, since my husband seems to slip them in all around—it’s kind of a defining flower for us. To create all the colors and textures I needed I envisioned a huge project of blending and carding green fleeces ahead of me, which I wasn’t looking forward to at all. I needed a deep, rich red for the flowers and a good match for the dahlia green leaves. That normally means getting out my antique hand carders from Quebec, with handles made like the old mission style furniture that are beautiful but a pain to work with. I don’t think ‘ergonomic’ is a French word, or maybe it didn’t fit on the boat when they came over to settle Quebec. Your hands get pretty achy after you’ve done a lot of carding. To solve my problem I borrowed the drum carder from the local Spinners and Weavers Guild, which looks very medieval and even a little scary. Then it became a matter of finding the six or eight green fleeces to make the perfect dahlia leaf color and turning the handle! I did run the fleece through twice, but out came exactly the color I wanted to create the felted compound leaves of the dahlia. I think I need one of those—hmmm—when’s Mother’s day?

Finally, yesterday marked the culmination of a community art project at Wonderlab. I did the first installment for ‘The Art and Science of Color’, and we made a pixilated Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. The pixels comprised 3500 wine corks that I’ve been collecting from all over town (Yes, it’s a very happy town!). They were painted yellow, blue or black by Wonderlab volunteers, which was a Herculean project—thanks everybody! I had sketched and painted the butterfly on a four feet square panel that Andrea Oeding had built and prepped (great job, Andrea!). From 1:30 to 4:30 Saturday the kids of Wonderlab and I, along with a lot of help from still more volunteers, glued the corks onto the painting. Paula, one of the Wonderlab volunteers and biology grad student, took some great photos. Wow, what a project! We came out a little short on the black and blue corks, but the butterfly emerged nonetheless. The border of the project was intended to be a dark green, but we intentionally didn’t paint any green corks. The plan was to mix visually blue and yellow corks to get a green effect, but the soft tints we used ended up looking more like a bed of flowers. So now the glues are drying, after which we’ll seal it before it goes on display on the workshop building in the Wonder Garden next to Wonderlab. It should be visible from the B-line trail, which of course will now have to be called the butterfly line trail.

To close, I just want to say that it has been an honor to work with Andrea and all the people at Wonderlab. Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, with the big snowstorm that closed schools on Friday and put us off until Saturday, everybody stayed positive and enthusiastic. And the best news after last week: we’re a little closer to summer!

Until next week…