Sunday, January 30, 2011

The art world reclaims me.

By some combination of reasonable weather and administrative fortitude, the school system managed to string together five full days of school this week. For me, that’s like waving a red flag in front of my internal artist. I was able to move along all my major projects this week. First, I finished the background weaving for my large format weaving and tied it off from the loom. I stretched it out on the frame that my personal wood craftsman Tom Bertolacini made for me and stitched it to the oak members. It looks perfect! Then I laid out the completed veggies: three beets, four carrots and one of the onions. The veggies still needed rootlets, so I started wrapping onion rootlets in my waiting times. I have a nice wooden bowl full of them, enough to garnish a big salad. The rootlets that I’ve attached to the onions looked very nice, which meant I could spend a little quality making onion leaves. I picked yarns that formed a gradient from pale to rich green and started wrapping some reclaimed macramé yarn. The finished leaves are more like tubes, the kind of thing a chef chops up for a pretty garnish on an elegant dish. I can finally see the light at the end of the row of vegetables. Of course the real challenge has been to keep the garden rabbits from eating them while I slept at night.

Another project whose deadline is approaching involves putting together a dress for the Trashionista show. I started out with a fabulous idea that involved legs from Barbie dolls. I did a lot of Barbie collecting last year. Then I fed my inner demons by ripping off their little legs! Jim found it all a little creepy, but it was all in the name of high fashion. Given all the icky things models really have to do to succeed I didn’t think I was that bad. As the dress came together, though, I decided that it was just going to be too heavy. I quickly switched to the plan I developed for a second dress. I’ve been collecting dryer sheets, one of my signature recycled fabrics, for a year now. I got out the ironing board to smooth them out and prepare them for painting and glitter application. I’d give you more details, but I know Versace is a troll on my blog. I made the mistake of laying them out on the kitchen island as a surface to add some puffy fabric paint. I added my designs, only to discover that the paint takes three days to dry fully. That’s not consistent with having two boys who need regular feeding and a place to dump all their school stuff. The living room carpet is now covered in handcrafted designer fabric tiles. OK, so they’re really just painted dryer sheets. On the bright side, the people who really appreciate fashion have very broad tolerance for new fabrics. Either that or they can’t tell painted dryer sheets from dyed silk squares. By Monday I should have all the materials for one Trashionista dress, some assembly required. While I have my seamstress hat on I’ll probably mend some of Tommie’s pants with torn out knees. Nothing like two boys to keep your life in perspective.

That covers most of the highlights from the week. I did give my ArtsWork presentation to a small but enthusiastic group of artists in transition on Tuesday. I described my own metamorphosis from scientist to artist, which I really enjoyed. Part of the charm is being able to see how much I’ve grown over the past few years. Each new technique or endeavor, whether it’s needle felting animals, creating wet felted scarves, or print cards of my pieces has been a new part of the adventure. I still feel like I’m a newbie in the art world, though. There’s so much to learn!

That means it’s time to get back to chugging along, making more art, and looking forward to springtime. I am so ready for a change in the weather—it’s like I’m still living on Ontario, with the snowiest December and January that most Bloomingtonians can remember. It’s been so cold that Jim and Tommie even went ice fishing yesterday, being so desperate to get out and do something. It was a mild day and nobody fell through the ice, which made the trip a success for me. On the other hand, the best we’ll do for fresh fish tonight is salmon from Kroger.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Two day school weeks

Help! The boys spent more time at home this week than they did in school. Monday brought the Martin Luther King Jr. day holiday and Tuesday was an in-service day. That brought on the usual parade of breadsticks, pizza and popcorn-snurfing kids over for play dates to fill the hours. That made me a little less productive, but I was able to keep my art projects moving forward. Luckily, in my house MLK day is also a pie holiday. The boys and I bought nine big apples, three each of ambrosia, pink lady and Sonias. I gave Jim my best ‘I need a pie very badly’ look. It worked! I had a nice week of pie and espresso for breakfast after a week of intense 6:30 am Zumba classes (thanks Liz and Cera!).

In art news, my big commission piece took a few steps forward as I worked on weaving the sky. I also started cranking on the carrots and beets during the week, which I can work on just about anywhere. The four carrots are done, and I must say that they look delightful. My completed beets needed leaves, which was an evening job this week. It was very cold several nights, and that meant fires in the fireplace. I sat in front of the flames and embers to keep my fingers warm as I worked. When the fire started to die down I called out ‘krb!’, which translates into fireplace in Czech. That brought a well-trained Jim in the living room to poke at the wood and get the fire stoked up again so I could focus. To make the leaf veins for each leaf I use somewhere between six and twelve cut remnant copper wires. Beet leaf veins require a lovely deep purple yarn, which I was lucky enough to have through a typically unusual twist of fate. When the boys were very small I ordered a few toys from an educational catalog. It also offered remnant yarn lots for sale and I bought a bunch. One of the first yarns I received was, I thought, a really awful color that I would never be able to use. Of course I didn’t know I’d have beet veins in my future. I wrapped my copper wires to create the veins, attached them to last week’s leaves and connected the leaves to the beets. Another vegetable done! Next it’s on to the onions.

Another big milestone this week for the giant veggie piece was receiving the frame. My friend and woodworker Tom Bertolacini made and delivered one of the oak frames and it looks great! My greatest concern was that it needed to be sturdy enough to support the large weaving. I’ve had problems in the past with frame-members bowing under the strain of the horizontal pieces. But Tom’s frame is made of thick oak with three central support bars. I have great confidence that it’s going to support the piece with ease.

The boys did manage to get back to school on Wednesday, even though a big storm was looming on the Wundermap. That gave me some time to have a delightful chat with my aunt and uncle, Maruska and Martin, in Pisek (in the Czech Republic). I haven’t spoken with Martin in over three years, and then the hour-long call cost me a lot of money. This time we talked using Skype and I took advantage of the internet. It’s great to be able to see each other as you speak and really connect with them. After this talk, and my Skype conversations with my aunt and uncle Mila and Pepik, and my cousins Renata and Milan in Prague over the holidays, I really have a warm and fuzzy feeling to be part of my bigger Czech family.

On Thursday the big snow hit. Of course school was called off and the boys were excited to have yet another day at home. Friday was back to school, and Saturday meant getting back into our routine with Taekwondo in the morning, a play date in the afternoon, and kluski for dinner. And next week my life gets even busier. Monday are more arts organization meetings, Tuesday at 5:30pm I’ll give a presentation at City Hall in the ArtsWorks series entitled, “Transitioning into an Art Career” and the big story about me in the Home and Lifestyles magazine should appear at the end of this week. And there are still giant onions to create!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dirt, Snow and Contemporary Dance

I started off the week with a big head of steam for working on my commissions. My big accomplishment was to finish off the dirt for the big format piece. In a five-foot-wide weaving that was a big challenge. I didn’t have a big enough baton to keep the shed open and carry the yarns through for the top layer, which left me wondering—what do I have that’s wood, thin and about a yard long—hmmm—a meter stick! For you Americans, that’s a yardstick, only better. I got out my big belt sander and created a pointy-ended stake worthy of an Anne Rice vampire. That let me create the top dirt level with ease. With that milestone passed I pulled out my box of sky blue yarns. I arranged them from lightest to darkest and made my selections for creating the sky. It’s coming along! About then the weather snowed on my parade. We had an extended snowfall that closed schools for two days. I love the snow, but no school means I had an unanticipated full house. Jacob’s friend Claire and came over for much of the first day, which means much running and screeching. We ended up at the precipitous hills of Bryan Park with sleds and a big thermos of hot cocoa. After a triple batch of breadsticks at home for lunch we declared it an excellent snow day. I’ve already forgotten what happened the second snow day, but it involved many kids, Beyblade duels, and other exciting stuff. Exciting for me was the chance to get out my new drum carder and whip up some beet leaf fleece. I pulled out five different green fleeces, some of which I dyed and some I purchased at the fleece fair in Greencastle last spring. I carded them all together into a deep rich green worthy of a more delectable vegetable. I started poking and poking, and by the end of the week I had thirteen fine beet leaves. Next week I hope to start wrapping copper wire with wine-purple yarn in order to create the veins for the leaves. And speaking of leaves, I began leafing out the carrot stems I created last week. I attached them to the carrots, so now I have my first completed vegetable for the piece. As school resumed I was able to finish my five ornamental balls that I’ve been working on for a few weeks now. I still have to attach the gold loops to hang them, but I think they look delightful assembled in a wooden bowl.

Before and after the big snow I did get to work in a few social events. Early in the week I had a nice lunch with my friends Dawn and Cappi at Lennies. I had my special order lunch, which places my favorite marinated red onions on top of their classic portabella mushroom sandwich. It was really good to just sit and chat with them. We hadn't done that in a while...and we were past due. And by Friday night we had enough energy left over to go out to the Contemporary Master’s Dance performance at IU’s Ruth N. Halls Theater. This was the boy’s first outing to a modern dance event so I wasn’t sure how it would go over. I promised - no tutus - and IU delivered - whew! Although the first piece was a very long, slow moving piece with lots of subtle body movements. I think the boys were ready to go home by the time it was over. Not good. But by the time they got to a piece called “Oil” they were hooked. It drew you in with oil barons, beach creatures, kids and an oil spill. They used long flowing sheets of black material to create oil-covered waves in a very effective design. Later they also had an unconventional performance called "Hand Dance," where the bodies were blacked out and all the movement was created by ten hands. The show-stopper was a piece lit only by a strobe light, which captured the dancer in mid-air over the entirety of the piece. It made him appear to be flying through the air, or gliding several feet off the ground. By the end the boys were hooked. It’s all part of my secret plan to expose them to all sorts of cultural events before they believe that the ‘Gummy Bear Song’ is the apex of modern culture. Only time will tell if I’ve succeeded.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Attacked by flying pens and falling dirt.

The whirlwind of holiday activities lessened and the boys went back to school this week. That let me get right back into the art studio and weave like the wind! A big focus this week was my large format commissioned piece. I got out my weaving equivalent of the big shovels and heaped some of dirt and stones into the piece. Now you might imagine that weaving a five-foot wide by three-foot high piece while sitting on the ground would force me to hold up my arms up all day, and you’d be right. In a minor cosmic convergence, my Zumba instructors decided it was time to bring out some new moves that focused on arm strength. It feels like I just flew in from Chicago, and boy are my arms ever tired! I do see the results, though—I’m becoming the new Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Midwest. I just need a couple of rocket launchers and some determined liquid-metal androids to chase me around town. Instead I’ve got baling wire that I’m wrapping to create the carrot stems. I’m using a green wool yarn that I dyed the last time my dye pots were out, bringing back nice memories of summer activities. I still have to leaf them out, but everything seems to be coming together nicely.

In between weaving, wrapping and generally getting buffed up I worked in a few other projects and activities this week. I have a commission to make five round ornamental pieces. I’ve been literally poking away all week in my spare time to move them forward. I also took a little time for catching up this week, doing a little housework and traveling to Indianapolis for lunch with my friend Erin. We worked together in Mimi Zolan’s lab a few years back, and we were both pregnant with our first children together. We were reminiscing about maneuvering ourselves around in restaurants at a time when turning sideways didn’t help you get past obstacles. We had a good chuckle about that. I then met up with Chad, the artistic director at the Bloomington Playwright’s Project to talk about a commission they’d like me to do for them. I’m pretty excited about creating a signature piece for the BPP based on their logo, but the project has to wait until I’ve finished with the other commissions in progress. I have to create some evil flying pens before tax day in April. Somehow that seems fitting.

That covers the big news. I’ll close with a proud moment from the week. I’ve managed to lose fifteen pounds doing Zumba over the past few months. Some of my favorite pants are falling off me, and some of my exercise pants won’t stay up any more. I forced myself to go shopping this week to upgrade my image a little. The BloomZum owners wanted a ‘before’ and ‘after’ set of pictures to show how well the program worked for me. I’ll share the ‘after’ photo here. It has been a lot of fun, and I’ve made new friends along the way.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holiday week 2, the sequel...

What a full week! The holiday season is winding down, with only one houseguest left. Grandma and Aunt Lois flew home on Monday, and Vojta heads back to LA tomorrow afternoon. We tried to fatten him up a little on Kluski, flatbread, salmon and American beer and chocolate, but it’s hard to see the effects. He and I drove out to Sheep Street this week to bond a little and pick up my new drum carder. I’ve been borrowing the Spinner’s and Weaver’s Guild carder, but it’s clear I needed my own when I got into my big-format commission piece. It was a win-win situation: he got to take a lot of pictures of the Indiana countryside for his picture-hungry grandfather Pepik, and I got my shiny new carder with all its teeth. We shared a nice conversation in Czech on the way. I’ll christen the carder with some carrot orange fleece—I can’t wait to get carding! I even managed to sneak down to my art studio a few mornings and evenings when the world was quiet and do some weaving. I laid down my browns yarns and did some serious dirt creation to grow carrots and beets. Oh, and I enlisted Tommie to help with a big year-end yarn organization project. His brother got a Beyblade for Christmas, and he wanted one too. To earn a little extra cash he offered to organize a giant bag of mixed yarns. I couldn’t imagine when I’d get around to organizing it, so I beyond delighted to have the help. It feels great to start the New Year off with an organized art studio.

Wednesday was a big day in our house, since it was my birthday! I turned 35, again. I got a nice pan-seared tuna dinner with a spinach salad and a special bottle of wine. And since I got to pick the kind of cake for dessert, which is a family tradition. I chose—you guessed it—pie! Jim made a delightful apple pie for me from frozen Mutsu apples we got at the farmer’s market last summer. Yum! He’s really got the oil crust recipe down. I’ve had a slice of pie and an espresso for breakfast the last couple of days after Zumba. Life is good! The only down side was that the photographer for the Herald Times was scheduled to stop by Thursday morning to take a few pictures. That meant a lot of cleaning and picking up after a big dinner and wine—we should have planned that out better. In the end, just about all the pictures Pete the photographer took were taken in the art studio and the surrounding storage areas. All that work cleaning in the kitchen, living room and dining room were misdirected, although we do have a clean house. On the bright side, Jacob did ask if Pete would take some pictures in his newly cleaned up room. We got a family portrait, including Shadow the hamster, on Jacob’s bed at the end of the shoot. The article and pictures should appear in the February Home and Living magazine that is published by the Herald-Times newspaper, so watch your mailboxes. In my case, I’ll watch the puddle at the end of the driveway where our delivery person aims every time it rains.

The last stories I can think to tell involve Vojta, our 20-year-old cousin and guest from Prague via Los Angeles. We had pleasant Skype conversations with grandparents Pepik and Mila, and later Renata (his mom), this week. They all wanted to know what we’d be doing for New Year’s Eve. In our house New Year’s Eve usually means going to bed early. They were shocked! Shocked I say! Renata said they stayed out to seven a.m. last year, yikes! If there’s any reward to being, um, 35, it’s that you can go to bed early if you want to. Renata said that that Vojta was expecting fireworks, and he injected ‘giant fireworks’. I magnanimously offered him a sparker. Heck, I’d have given him two if he’d asked. Instead, for fireworks we went to the IU women’s basketball game against Northwestern. Unlike the last men’s game, when we sat so high up that the little oxygen masks dropped down during emergencies, we got to sit in the third row near center court. It was like we were in the game. The finish was intense, with IU pulling out a hard-fought and well-earned win. We even won a free Buccettos pizza in a give-away at the game, so a good time was had by all.

That’s enough for 2010, I suppose. Vojta flies back to LA today and the boys head back to school tomorrow. The Christmas tree ornaments went back into storage today and the tree hits the recycle truck on Monday morning. And then I become an artist again!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin