Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cincinnati is a great place for fiber artists!

I’m sorry I was so slow in writing my blog this week, but I’ve been catching up from my big trip to Ohio. I did a three-day workshop for a group of terrific and supportive group of fiber artists in Cincinnati over the weekend. That means that much of my early week was spent making sure everything was in order for the event. I color-coded my bags of materials so I knew which stuff went with each day. To be sure I had the best possible selection of materials I even made one last circuit of the thrift shops and recycled materials outlets like the recycle center. Since this was my longest trip away from my family I also made a trip to the grocery store to make sure they’d be able to eat reasonably well without me. Then I packed up my trusty Matrix that always seems to fit everything—it’s just incredible that way—and told Victoria (aka the Garmin) where I wanted to go. She led me through a gorgeous countryside of changing leaves, light traffic, and blue skies. I even surprised my hosts by showing up a little bit early.

The first evening I gave a talk to the group to introduce my art and myself. I brought copies of the talk on two separate flash drives, just because I like to be prepared, and the technology didn’t let me down. I was delighted to have lots of smiling and nodding faces in the audience during the talk and lots of questions at the end. Later I went to the home of my host, Gun-Marie, who is just the most wonderful, colorful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable person. I wish she lived closer! The following morning the group launched into ‘day one’ of the workshop: weaving with reclaimed and recycled materials. I built fourteen nail looms for the class so each person had a high-quality loom. I dumped out bags of materials such as leather strips, feathers, rocks, sticks, seashells, flax roving, lanyards, and a bunch of conventional yarns. I felt that I was able to push the individuals beyond their comfort zone in a really good way. I got one person who always weaves in straight lines with purple yarn doing undulating, uneven weaves using earth tones. I felt that they all just took the opportunity to explore aspects of their art and creative selves that they haven’t yet tapped into. I kept them moving too—every hour I made them get up and stretch. I’ve learned plenty of good stretches from Zumba and Jazzercise so I was ready for them. I also made them get up and wander around to see what their peers were doing, which I think was also a fabulous source of inspiration.

The second day brought new challenges, but we kept on having a good time. We embellished the weavings using techniques such as dimensional crochet and wrapping to make structures like trees and branches. I even took them outside to do some wet felting on another gorgeous day. We set up tables and had trays of warm soapy water to make small balls and noodles that could be incorporated into the pieces. The building we were in stands on a hill overlooking a valley covered with deciduous trees that all seemed to be changing colors. It’s about as close as fiber artists get to the plein air experience. That evening I got to visit a few of the studios that are part of a complex in an old schoolhouse converted into artist spaces. About thirty artists have studios there, and it was wonderful to wander around the different artists zones. On one stop I walked in and saw a jacket on display and knew I had to have it. I asked the Charlotte the artist if I could try it on, and when it fit, I informed her that it was mine—and how much was I paying her for it! Luckily for me she purchased it at a Goodwill store for eight dollars so I got a great deal.

The third day of the workshop covered needle felting. We poked till the cows came home! Actually, till about four o’clock, but I’m sure the cows were ready for happy hour and had begun to head for home. We started off making needle felted ornaments, but then I got them needle felting embellishments onto their weavings. Everyone seemed to have a grand time as we poked away and discussed various structures that they could make. I had some more really nice conversations with Gun-Marie, and I enjoyed hearing stories about her family. She was born in Sweden and emigrated to Venezuela, but with the current political regime it was time to move again. I could bond with her on that front because of my life upheavals caused by political crises in Eastern Europe. She has a wonderful family with four kids, including a daughter who is a gifted artist with training as a biologist. Our lives have a lot of parallels. The entire group of people just opened themselves up and I feel like I made a lot of new friends. I was very pleased and proud that they were willing to experiment and not be constrained by their own techniques and habits. The group included Teresa, an experienced needle felter who does amazing sculptural pieces, and in some ways it feels a little strange to try to teach someone so experienced. I feel like we were able to develop some new ideas and places she might take her art, so I’m hoping she got something valuable out of the experience.

The whole story ends happily, too, because at four I loaded up the car and headed for home. I zipped back to Bloomington to a wonderful dinner of kluski and a bottle of wine (an amarone—they did missed me!). There was even apple pie in the fridge! Now I have to transition quickly to scarf mode, because the holiday art fairs are speeding up rapidly. More about that next time!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

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