Sunday, July 24, 2011

From stinky to sublime in my stockpot heaven

I dealt with the last of my stinky dye pots this week. The lichens I carved off the maple tree felled in my neighbor’s yard was the stinkiest. It also gave the best and most intense color. I thought I should try a second dip using some merino wool, with the hopes that I could create scarves in the beautiful golden-caramelly color from the lichens. Unfortunately, the colors were less intense the second time around. I’m going to keep an eye out for lichens on any fallen branches I encounter and see if I can repeat the experiment. My second dye pot contained oak bark, which gave a soft yellow-brown. I know it will be useful, I just don’t know what for yet! I also think that when the weather cools down a bit I’ll probably try a little more dyeing on merino using maple bark for use in my fall scarf collection.

Our vegetable garden production is booming. I’ve had the first tomato, and I see three-inch zucchinis on the vine. Of course the farmer’s market has far more, and sooner, but these are ours. Technically, Tommie planted them, and occasionally remembers to water them, but they end up on my burgers (the tomatoes) or in my cooking (the zucchini). Thoughts of green things growing on vines inspired me to create a new piece that incorporates peas. A long time ago I did a piece called ‘Pea and Friend’ with a pea vine and a ladybug on the plant. That was before I used needle felting, and now I think I could create a much richer and detailed piece by felting the leaves and peas. I pulled out some of the green fleece I bought at this year’s Fiber Event in Greencastle and carded it together with a few other lighter greens from my stores. I also discovered the extreme upper capacity for my carder! I still remember the words of advice about not overloading it from my friend Ulla. Of course without a demonstration one can’t know what that means. I just kept adding until I had a dense mat of beautiful green carpeting the drum. I had to get out a big screwdriver and do some serious lifting, rolling and ripping to get the fleece off the drum. It all turned out OK, with two big rolags of pea green fleece. The carding inspired me to weave the green canvas for the piece using my crunch green yarns, so now I’m ready to launch into making peas, pods, leaves, vines – and those cute little tendrils!

Saturday of this week was family day, and we packed in a lot of activities despite the heat. We started off at the farmer’s market, buying a big batch of heirloom and roma tomatoes for homemade bruschetta. We also picked up some fresh basil, garlic, and what turned out to be very spicy onions. My eyes watered until I remembered my protective gear (swim gogggles - what a sight!) and finished the chopping. We chopped, peeled, mixed and simmered in a ‘food only’ stockpot until we had a giant batch that ultimately filled around 20 glass jars. This has to last through the winter, but we’re going to test one bottle tonight with our traditional flatbread meal that consumes most of one of the jars of bruschetta.

After our morning farmer’s market stop we went to our secret creek bed that is littered with geodes and other treasures. Searching down in the cool, shady watercourse was a good way to spend a couple of hours. We collected rocks with holes in them, crinoids, rusty metal objects, and anything else that might look good in a weaving someday. I’m thinking about creating a piece with dirt and sky, as I have done before, but focusing on the lost bits and pieces and rusty things that turn up when you dig in the garden. I’ll probably nestle a tulip bulb underground and show the flower above. The concept is a little hard to describe, but I’m trying to capture the idea of the optimist planting bulbs in the fall for spring beauty. She breaks into the soil that has all the history and stored memories that you find when you dig a little bit. It’s always there, and the history precedes you—your world is intertwined with the people who worked the soil before you. In the end, though, you just remember the pretty tulip you see in the spring.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Monday, July 18, 2011

Today I gave lemons to life.

It took me a couple of days to re-settle in Bloomington after my supremely successful trip to Madison, but I did get back to creating new art this week. I started working on the piece “When Life Gives You Lemons”. I was poking on lemons all the way to Madison and back, after having carded some beautiful lemony-yellow fleece I dyed. Since then I’ve been poking at lemons everywhere I’ve gone. This week I wove the background for the lemon piece. I incorporated tints of my pure lemon yellow as well as some fresh green that represents the leaves one gets every so often. I laid out all the lemons I have created so far and quickly came to the realization that life needed to give me some more lemons—I’m only about halfway there. I e-mailed my friends at Sheep Street to see if they had some yellow fleece I could use to save me some further dyeing, but I was patiently informed that sheep don’t come in yellow. I don’t think I phrased the question very well! I guess it’s back to the dye pot for me.

Speaking of dyeing, I return to my soak pots. I’m afraid I might have left the materials soaking a little longer than they should have. On the bright side, I did end up with some interesting colors. First, I poured the stink-pot contents into my stainless steel dyeing pots and boiled them for about an hour. I wasn’t popular with my family when that happened because I created a heck of a stink in the kitchen. However, the process did yield a deeply intense liqueur for dyeing. I let the materials steep overnight on the veranda before I poured off the solid material and strained out the goo. I then plunked in some freshly washed white fleece and heated it to boiling again when no one was around. It was just a little stinky the second time, but I didn’t mind because I knew art was happening. The fleece next steeped on the veranda overnight. The maple bark gave me a warm caramel colored fleece. The Osage orange, which I thought was yellow, turned out to yield a more intense taupe. I definitely want to try the Osage orange in a three-day soak instead of three weeks to see what happens. Right now I have no idea what I’ll use it for, but I know that when I use it the color will be exactly what I need! I’m good that way.

I’m excited about a few events coming up in the near future. There will be a show at the By Hand Gallery celebrating thirty-five years of the Fourth Street Festival. Each committee member will contribute one piece to the show. I think it will be nice to see all our work together, which will be a reminder of all the expertise and experiences we bring to the show.

This Saturday will be the Farmer’s Market weekend when the heirloom tomatoes will be ripe for this summer’s bruschetta. We made some awesome batches last year that didn’t survive the winter so we need to replenish on a bigger scale. We did make a few nice finds there this week, including Tommie’s favorite lettuce—baby romaine. The lettuce person also had a few native leaves, including violets. I had no idea that violets were edible and reasonably tasty, but I’m planning on harvesting a few leaves for our next salad. I also bought a big basket of peaches and convinced Jim to make me a celebratory pie. It was the perfect dessert after a flatbread dinner last night! My crew is falling back into its summer routine, with bike rides in the morning and pool time in the afternoon. I’ll get some water time, but I’ll be poking away at lemons too so I can finish my piece and get on to the next one.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I’m settling in at home after a truly delightful trip to Madison Wisconsin. The people I met at the art fair there are just so… Bloomingtonian! That’s the best compliment I can give. They really appreciate art, and fiber art specifically. An enthusiastic crowd turned out this weekend and made the whole trip worthwhile. Twelve of my pieces found happy homes in Wisconsin, which made take down substantially easier. It was almost a sad sight to see the few pieces that didn’t sell nestled in one half of a big plastic tub. That definitely sounds wonderful now, but on the way back the realization that my next show (the Fourth Street Festival here in Bloomington) is less than two months away! I have to get my creative juices moving and start weaving like the wind.

I guess I’m getting a little ahead of myself. In the last hours before we loaded the U-haul and drove off to Madison I desperately worked to finish my ‘Summer Salad’ piece. I’ve been really excited about this piece as new elements came together at the very end. I was poking away at tomato slices until the afternoon before we left. It wasn’t until that evening that my world slowed down enough so that I could attach the vegetables. A day or two earlier I still had a rectangular hole that I struggled to fill until I decided that button mushrooms were the missing piece I needed. I really like them, and I’m proud of how the whole piece came together. The composition feels like it has movement, which makes me happy too. Jim thought it was the most attractive piece in the booth and was sure it would sell quickly. A lot of people showed a strong, immediate connection to the piece when they saw it, which was fun to watch. At the end of the show, however, with more bare wall than art in the booth, ‘Summer Salad’ was still there! I’m secretly pleased, though, that the piece will be available for display for Fourth Street—I really wasn’t ready to give it up. Plus, I really want to show it off to my peeps here in town.

I had lots of wonderful interactions with fair goers this year. One woman saw my ‘Vine Ripened Tomatoes’ from last year and really wanted it. She said she regretted not buying it all year, and luckily it didn’t sell during the year. She was delighted to be able to buy it this year. Another couple came in and clearly wanted a piece. The wife couldn’t decide which to get, so the husband sent her out of the booth and picked out the piece he was sure she really wanted. It was just an incredibly confident thing to do. They ended up with ‘The Harvest’, one of my recent pieces with a hand pulling a carrot from the earth. Another couple was looking for a wedding gift for their niece. She was an Indiana University grad with a job in a local food co-op, and they chose my ‘Best Friends Forever’ piece. It features a carrot, onion and beet in an earthy background. I think they were delighted by the name and theme of the piece, which seemed to be a perfect match for the occasion.

While I was off selling art, Jim and the boys were exploring rural Wisconsin with Wendy and Duane, our hosts for the weekend. They were just terrific, making us a wonderful grilled salmon dinner with garlic scape pesto—very garlicky and tasty! The meal was followed up with a dark chocolate bread pudding. The pudding was superb warm and tasty cold the next day. Their help and care made everything about the show easy and fun. I even made a new friend in Buddy, the large white guard dog at the front of the house. And while I was busy during the show, in the morning before I got to explore a little bit of the countryside with my boys. One stop was for lunch at the Viking CafĂ© in Blanchardville. Everybody found something they liked and we all left happy. And the boys used their drink straws wrappers to channel the true Viking spirit.

Thanks Wisconsin, Madison, Wendy and Duane, Buddy and Jamie, puppy friend of Buddy! I hope to see you all again next year.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Madison, here I come!

I’m gearing up to travel again, this time to one of my favorite art fair destinations—Madison, Wisconsin. The fairgoer have diverse and eclectic interests, and my friends Wendy and Duane take great care of us while we’re there at their beautiful home well outside Madison. Preparations this year have been a little more challenging than usual, however. I spent a lot of time this week repairing the damage to my canopy walls. I ordered a repair kit from Creative Energies, although I quickly used the entire kit. I started calling around town to find repair tape specific for vinyl. J.L. Waters downtown came through for me and saved my tushie. Two more rolls of tape and I should be watertight again.

In the wake of my Columbus disaster I decided that I needed to keep making new art as I worked in repair and recovery mode. I’m excited that I’m close to finishing my ‘Summer Salad’ piece, although I think it might become ‘Summer Veggies.’ I’ve been poking away at little green onions to finish the piece. I knew I was on the right karmic track with my art when, on Wednesday, I drove to Musgrave Orchard to pick up this week’s CSA vegetables. I arrived a little early and I was poking away at my onions when Andy drove up with a big bushel basket of freshly picked green onions! I still need to make a few more, but I’m sure the piece will come together before Madison. In my near future I’m also thinking about making a ‘Lemons to Lemonade’ piece. It will have whole lemons and sliced wedges presented at various angles. After Columbus, it’s my answer to the old adage, ‘When life gives you lemons…”. On the other hand, you could take my friend Miah’s suggestion, “When life gives you lemons, just return them for some nice jewelry.”

As I prepare for Madison, I have a secret project cooking just outside of the veranda. I collected maple bark, lichens from a fallen tree, oak bark pieces and was given osage orange shavings. Each material went into its own big covered pail to steep in warm water. The pigments are extracted over a few weeks, and right now the maple bark has the richest colors. It’s good, stinky, messy science fun that will translate into some uniquely dyed fleece. It’s fun to think that when I get back from Madison I’ll have some buckets of natural dyes to experiment with.

Finally, now that summer is here, the CSA has injected its vegetables into my life. I’ve been getting weekly infusions of greens and onions, more than we could possibly eat in a week. This is my time of the year to make freezer meals for the long, cold months of winter. Over the past couple of weeks I managed to make huge batches of three kinds of soups with greens to freeze away. I made ‘Lois Soup’ with mixed greens and veggie sausage and a lentil soup with greens. On Saturday I made a nice sweet potato corn and kale chowder. I got the idea for this at the Unitarian Universalist art Fair last December. They have a lunch kitchen window open, and while I was trying to decide what I wanted, my friend Julie Lawson told me about the soup that she had made. It sounded warm and comforting and just perfect. I remember enjoying it so much! As I was trying to decide what kind of soup to make with the kale I had, I thought of that experience. And whom do you think I ran into at the farmer’s market, right after I after I walked past some sweet potatoes? To make a long story more compact, Julie sent me the recipe and I have another big stockpot full of soup ready for the freezer!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin