Monday, March 28, 2011

My animal self emerges among the herbs

This weekend I think I proved the axiom, paraphrased here, that one may not simultaneously create art and blog about it. And being a Mom only makes things more complicated! The theme of the week has been leaves, as everything around me seems to be leafing out as spring comes on. As I sat in the living room working on basil leaves, I was surprised to see that our lilac bush is leafing out. It seems undeterred by the recent cold snap and ready to embrace spring. Me too! To create my basil leaves I picked out about eight different green fleeces. I carded them into a match for the verdant color of my herb models from Bloomingfoods. My basil green is a rich, bright, crunchy spring-like green. I finished my giant basil leaves earlier this weekend, and yesterday I added the veins to complete that aspect of the project. Earlier in the week I had gone to my green boxes to create the right green for thyme, another component in my ‘Ratatouille’ piece. Thyme green is a deeper, richer green with more olive tones in it. Maybe even hints of pine needles. I can see that I’m not going to meet my goal of completing the two giant commission pieces by April first, but they should come together sometime during April. Art just doesn’t understand timelines.

My life was complicated and enriched by my cultural calendar for the weekend. Jacob took the family to see the IU’s spring ballet “New York, New York” on Friday night. We all enjoyed the three pieces, although perhaps not equally. I was particularly enamored with the first piece (Cloven Hooves), which I found to be the most cerebral. It’s really a statement about society and how we follow along in our roles, while somehow deep within us are bubbling animal instincts. They periodically surface and interject themselves in our otherwise socially constrained lives. It was well done by incredibly athletic dancers. The performance was really a fusion of ballet and modern dance, with animal interpretations slipped into the movements. It inspired me to release a little of my inner athletic and animal self. I did a two-hour Zumba marathon, taught in fifteen minute blocks by the eight instructors who teach at BloomZum. It was a wonderful sweat-fest. After watching the ballet, followed by two hours of my kids doing Taekwondo Saturday morning, participating in the Zumba had me thinking about the different styles of movement. The martial arts are very aggressive, with punching, kicking and kind of a classical macho feel. The ballet dancers are so graceful and elegant in their precise and practiced movements. And then came the Zumba dances, filled with real people and real sweat and salsa dances filled with an in-your-face sexuality. That took me back to the first ballet, with the animal instincts just taking over in the movements. What a day! After all that, I still had the energy to go out Saturday night with my friend Ruth to the Trashionista Fashion Show. That was fun to watch, although I really had hoped to contribute a dress made of Barbie doll legs this year. The sheer weight of the creation stood in the way of true fashion and sank the piece. I’ll be back next year, assuming Project Runway doesn’t call me first.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Eggplant, Zucchini and Rhubarb Pie

Actually, I’m surrounded by zucchini and eggplant art. I ate the rhubarb pie. More on that later. The big news of the week was the completion of vegetable chunks for my large format ‘Ratatouille’ piece. I turned my attention to the giant hand that will pull a giant carrot from the ground in my ‘From the Garden’ piece. I’m not sure that’s the final name, but it’s the companion piece to ‘Ratatouille.’ I spent considerable time adding a layer of skin to the hand as we traveled to and from Michigan over the boy’s spring break. I’ll start creating the herbs and fleshing out the tomato slices this week, which means the light at the end of the tunnel is in view. I just have to work around the mountain of vegetables in my art studio.

The weather this week has just been beautiful. The boys decided to till and weed their garden bed, and I ordered three yards of hardwood mulch for Jim to use on the flower beds. That’s the grand metaphor explaining why our marriage works so well—I buy the mulch and he spreads it. As of today, the front yard is pretty well under control, but there’s still a big pile of mulch in the driveway. The warm weather even lured us out to May’s Greenhouse this afternoon. We ended up buying some lettuce, onions and a few pansies to brighten up the garden. Tommie and Jacob leaped into action and planted everything in their garden space. I have the salad spinner standing by and a new bottle of Ken’s Light Ceasar salad dressing in the fridge. Grow little leaves, grow!

The other big news of the week was our trip to Michigan last weekend to visit Jim’s mom. Grandma still had snow on the ground, ice on the patio and a frozen river behind the house, so we got to re-live winter. We stayed inside and had a delightful time. We ate too much good food and laughed for all we were worth. We rented a van and brought back a bunch of treasures she wanted to get rid of, including a tattered blanket from great grandma Drummond. I opened it up to discover a huge piece of wool batting in a gauze cotton cover. It’s perfect! I don’t know what its perfect for, but I’m certain it will be great. And it fits my motto: recycled wool is good, free wool is even better! The best news from the trip was that Jim made a rhubarb pie. By some odd coincidence, Monday the 14th was national ‘pi’ day, as in the ratio of the circumference to the diameter of a circle. Could I help it if Jim thought it was national ‘pie’ day? Pie, as in, here’s two pounds of rhubarb, my sweet husband! (Think ‘mulch’ here, hee hee hee)! It was delightful! I wonder if he’ll get suspicious when I tell him about national pie day?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Monday, March 14, 2011

The first veggies of spring: eggplants and zucchini

It’s been a full week of vegetable creation, yet again. This is probably how Mother Nature got her start. My specialties were eggplant and zucchini, and I was focused on getting the surfaces just right. To complete the eggplant cubes I first stitched a felt surface on to the wool cubes I created last week. I used white and purple material to create a foundation for the deep purple carded fleece I created.
One of the joys of creating vegetables out of wool, at least to a former scientist, is the ability to look at the core structure with fresh eyes. I’ve sliced up a lot of vegetables in my day, and I funneled a lot of zucchini into summer sweet bread. But this time I really paid attention to the smallest details. I noticed that the eggplant has a thin green gradient at the periphery. This might be because it’s a young plant, so I’ll have to buy a few more mature eggplants to check. The eggplant model from Bloomingfoods eventually made its way into a delightful eggplant and quinoa stew. I’ll definitely need more eggplant recipes! The green transitions into a heterogeneous brown color, which almost looks like a cream cappuccino that isn’t fully mixed. I managed to capture the colors I needed using wools that I dyed last summer using natural materials. I remember having such a great time cutting flowers and other plant parts and experimenting with the dyeing conditions, but I never thought I’d be able to use the fairly drab colors I got in return. Now I’m really looking forward this summer!
I made progress on the zucchini from last week as well. I created a series of circle and half moon shapes, and of course I had to translate these into realistic zucchini colors. The sliced edges are kind of a minty green gradient, which quickly transitions into the buttery, creamy ring that people associate with zucchini. The center circle is a less dense, fibrous material that has more of a grey-beige translucent appearance. It’s all those subtle color zones in the middle that warn you off when you reach for a slice to eat, thinking it’s a tasty cucumber.
The thoughts of subtle greens have me thinking about spring in Bloomington. December started off with a couple of unusually heavy snowfalls. It was nice to have a white Christmas, but it feels like winter has been here forever with the cold snap in early March. Everyone in my family is chomping at the bit to welcome spring. I’ve given up trusting the robins to tell me it’s spring, since they seem to stay put most of the winter in Bloomington. You wouldn’t catch those robins out in Ontario in February! My favorite harbinger of spring is the purple iris reticulate that you’ll find along the walkway to our house. I’m including a picture of a sweet little one that made me smile.
Looking ahead, my ‘Small Squares’ display is still up in Fort Wayne. The Trashion-Refashion Show is coming up in a couple of weeks. I’ll be in the audience, even though I won’t have any dresses on display. I was very excited about a cool idea I had to make a dress out of Barbie doll legs. I collected and collected, and I had my boys ripping legs off of dolls for money. Unfortunately, the legs made the dress too heavy and I had to abandon the effort. This year I’ll just enjoy the show as a patron of the arts. I’ve seen some of the images of the work and I think it’s going to be incredibly interesting and diverse.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The secret to slicing onions

I have the skinny on everything this week. First, it was the week of the onion rings, which I completed by adding the skins. I poked at them all week long without any tears, except when I jammed the felting needle into my finger. Ow! I also added the skin to my tomatoes. There’s still a huge amount of detail work needed to complete them. I have to get all the internal structure right and get the seeds in place, so I’m sure I’ll stop in at Bloomingfoods to pick up a few models. Finally, my epiphany of the week: after hours and hours of felting while the boys were at school taking their ISTEP tests, I’ve concluded that there is absolutely nothing on daytime TV worth watching.

My sense of being locked in the house was amplified this week by the near constant rains. A lake forms in our back yard (Celerin Lake), which is drained through the fence into a small tributary (Drummond Creek) when the rains are heavy. Both sump pumps in the basement were cranking water out to the road. Water even started leaking up through the crack in my art studio floor. I’ve come to accept this as ‘the devil I know’. Instead of trying to repair it and have water come in through some other crack, I just keep a towel system over it that I change regularly. That will dry up soon and stay dry for most of the year, so it’s just another charm to living in our house.

I did give myself permission to leave the house for two trips into the soggy spring. My highlight was going to the Heritage Quilt Show on Thursday. As usual, I really enjoyed seeing all the quilts. Seeing the creative designs and new color combinations always inspires me. My only disappointment this year stemmed from the drop in non-traditional patterns. I’m especially drawn to the free form quilts. During my travels in town I met with Chad, the artistic director for the Bloomington Playwrights Project. He’s going to take over running the Art Fair on the Square, a one-day show in downtown Bloomington. I stopped doing the show a few years ago, but I know Chad is a creative juggernaut and a marketing machine. I feel like it’s going to be well worth participating again this year.

The last thing on my mind is how pleased I am with my new drum carder. I used to borrow the Spinner’s and Weaver’s Guild carder, but I reached the point where I just needed my own. It’s an expensive tool, so I debated buying it for a long time. I just felt I was being extravagant by wanting to have my own. But as I was cranking out mounds of eggplant purple fleece last night, I realized how much I appreciated having it. I don’t know how I could have completed my giant ratatouille piece without it. And it’s fun to use.

What else is there to say, except for the obvious? When’s the next pie? And what kind will it be?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin