Sunday, July 29, 2012

Home from Michigan…

We returned late last night from a weeklong adventure in Michigan visiting with family.  It was a bit of a family reunion, which means Grandma had a full house.  Jim’s brother Tim, his daughter Haley, and her husband Kris were in town for the week.  The boys didn’t remember Haley well and hadn’t met Kris, but the boys took to them right away.  They taught Kris how to play Yu-gi-oh and he taught them how to play blackjack using chocolate coins from St. Laurent Brothers in Bay City.  Jim, Kris and Tommie went fishing one afternoon and ended up getting soaked, but no one seemed to care.  They came back with plenty of stories and a few rock bass.   
Of course when I went out on the bay before the rains came I was able to bring back dinner.  We were doing a lot of fishing and not a lot of catching, so I used my handy iphone to check the fishing reports.  I used the intelligence to direct Jim and the Lila Mae to the hot spot where I promptly caught two dandy walleyes that made a fine dinner.  When the whole family had arrived we had a big fish fry using a bunch of walleyes we had caught in June and frozen (I do remember catching most of those fish too, now that I think about it).  I’m getting pretty good at this fishing thing!  

On our way to Michigan, with relatives from New Mexico on the way, we thought it would be nice to stop in to the farmer’s market and pick up some Midwestern gold to share with our relatives.  That meant corn on the cob and local peaches, which Jim translated into a delightful pie.  He was listening!  Along the way I got a call from Tom my photographer and frame-maker, who couldn’t get oak for frames that were straight enough to satisfy him.  We were able to stop in to Sequin Lumber in Bay City and pick up a bunch of straight, cut-to-order red oak that was kiln dried, so Tom should be back in business soon.  I look out for all my peeps! 

With some time to reflect after the trip, it seems to me that lately my trips are defined by the vegetables I make along the way.  On the way to Madison I made mushrooms; coming home I made carrots.  On the way to Michigan I made cucumber slices, while on the return trip I made onions.  I was intent on completing a piece called ‘Eat your Veggies’ that I want to take to Minneapolis for the Loring Park Art Fair this coming weekend.   
That meant I spent a lot of time in Michigan poking veggies as well, making sliced tomatoes (with seeds) and some snow peas.  I laid out the veggies I had one the piece and it’s clear I’m really close—I really just need one and a half more onions and I’ll be there.  I’ve posted the near-complete piece so you can see how it’s coming together.  The good news is that I have a couple of taekwondo classes this week where I’ll have a chance to finish poking and finish up the work.  I just hope Minneapolisonians like their veggies! 

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Madison sizzles…

Last week was a blur as I frantically prepared for my (fingers crossed!) annual trip to Madison, Wisconsin.  That’s where you would find the Art Fair on the Square and a base of exceptionally knowledgeable, fun and enthusiastic art buyers.  I pushed hard to finish one last piece I’m calling ‘Riding Into the Sunset’.  I’ve been moving that piece along for the past couple of weeks and wanted to take it with me to Madison.  I had laid out the green yarns for the grassy area at the base of the weaving and the gradient to a setting sun in the distance.  I envisioned a winding path through the gradient that flowed from a tangerine orange to a crisp lemon yellow at the top.  When I had the background under control I delved into my container of bangles that I’ve collected at various places around town, including Opportunity House.  I used those as the basic structure to created my bicycle wheels, which I then wrapped with silver cording.  I also used silver yarn that I got from an overstock sale on Etsy (thanks Marilyn Brackney for the heads-up!).  To create the tires I’ve been collecting black shoelaces of different thicknesses.  That let me create different types of tires, ranging from thin racing tires to thick off-roading tires.  Together they just roll off into the sunset. 

When Thursday morning came, the whole family packed up and we headed out to Hollandale, Wisconsin.  Deep in the rolling hills of southern Wisconsin, next to the headwaters of the Pecatonica River, we found our friend and host Wendy.  Duane was off at a business trip in Texas, but we were greeted enthusiastically (although with some suspicion) by Jamie and Buddy, the fierce guard dogs.  Along the way we stopped in Champaign, Illinois at Papa Del’s pizza and took three pies on the trip for dinner.  They weren’t as good as the pizza in the restaurant, but they were well received after the long drive from Bloomington.  We sat around and chitty-chatted longer than we should have, then headed for bed to get ready for set-up the next day.  I had been following the weather forecasts with predicted highs over 100 degrees with chances of thunderstorms each weekend day.  Fortunately, the forecast missed the mark and set-up wasn’t too bad with a pleasant breeze under overcast skies.  After fortifying ourselves with frozen yogurt we set up the show without a hitch and headed back to Hollandale.  When I arrived Saturday morning, the crowds were already there an hour early.  They might have been trained to visit the farmer’s market there, or they might have been planning to beat the heat, but the crowds showed up in big numbers.  Better still, I had a lot of fun talking to the show regulars who seem happy to visit with me and talk about my art.   
They tell me about the pieces from last year that they remember and comment on the new pieces—I feel like I’m developing friendships there and the art fair is when we have a chance to catch up.  Some of the new favorites this year included Solitude, which features a bicycle leaning up against a maple tree, and my new turtle piece.  The bad news was that on Sunday the thermometer shot up and the oppressive heat took a lot out of the fairgoers.  I could feel myself fading a little as the temperature approached 100 degrees.  I decided to put some ice in a ziplock back (actually three nested bags) and slip it under my hat to cool my head.  Within five minutes I was feeling spry and chipper.  I’m going to have to remember that trick! 

While we traveled to Wisconsin for the show, it was wonderful to spend time with Wendy and Duane out away from everything.  Wendy made us delicious shish kabobs using fresh marlin and vegetables, which turned out very well.  I really loved the barbecued onion from the grill.  She followed that up with an amazing chocolate cheesecake with a layer of ganache on top—yum!  A nice meal with a glass of wine, followed by something tasty and chocolatey just can’t be beat!  Alas, good things must come to an end, and Monday morning we packed up and drove back home to Bloomington.  It’s good to be back in my cool art studio, but I’m back in frantic mode to create more art for the rest of the summer shows!  It’s a good problem to have.  There’s only one thing that would speed me along, and it has something to do with ripe, juicy yellow-orange summer fruit and a crust.  I’m thinking of a number between three and four—any guesses, Jim?

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Channeling the Cool of Canada…

This past week the brutal summer heat finally broke in Bloomington.  After a week or so over 100 degrees, and as high as 106, we’re finally back down to normal summertime temperatures.  The best news for me was that my art studio was the coolest part of the house (in the basement next to the air conditioner) so I could work comfortably with my boys nearby.  I even had cold toes and needed my slippers!  As I thought about escaping the heat I began channeling cool Canadian lakes.  Of course I’m an American now, having spent my first Fourth of July as a citizen, but that doesn’t keep me from thinking about Canada.  It’s the only time of the year that I really miss my former home as I think about trips to Pinery Provincial Park and the shores of Lake Huron.  This thinking carried me through my ‘Father and Son’ piece, which features a mature birch tree and a sapling overlooking a cool lake.  It makes me think of the beautiful relationship and bond that’s developing between Jim and the boys, but that’s another blog post.  One of the new elements from this weaving is that the water has more sparkle, thanks to some silver cording I found at a yard sale a couple of weeks ago.  The three ply silver cord was too thick for incorporating into my canvas, but I was able to unravel it easily and use a single ply among the blue yarns to bring life to the water.  It contributes a brightness than I’ve ever used.  I found a lot of treasures at that yard sale, including some white lace, fabric scraps and a pink sweater that will translate nicely into sweater petals for fall shows.  To finish off the piece I combed through my rock collection and incorporated materials that had colors that work well with the piece.  I’m especially fond of horn coral for this kind of weaving because it has a large surface area that makes it easy to attach firmly.  I also like the texture it provides—it blends into the grassy lake shore better than smooth rocks. 

My other art news involves commissions and travel.  I’m ready to launch on my next big commission piece, due by the end of September.  I’m anxious to get started on a piece that’s tentatively called ‘Life’s Path’, which is a huge (45 by 25 inches) landscape orientation piece.  The path will be the focus through a forest background and the piece will present some new structural challenges for me.  I already have the frame, thanks to Tom Bertolacini, my frame-maker, so I’m ready to begin.  Traveling is also weighing on my consciousness.  My out-of-town summer art fair schedule begins this week.  I’ll travel to Madison, Wisconson, for the Art Fair on the Square this weekend—stop in if you’re in the area.  It’s supposed to be very hot for Madison (approaching 100 degrees), but it’s my best show of the year so I’m looking forward to it.  It’s also a chance to catch up with friends Wendy and Duane (and their dogs and new barn) outside of town in the quiet, cool countryside. 

The family news of the week was Jacob’s tenth birthday—hooray!  He kept a countdown of days to the big event, and he made himself some ‘happy birthday’ posters on the door next to his bed that he covered up so he could be surprised on the actual day.  We had a great day, beginning with a chocolate chip cookie cake and buttercream frosting for breakfast.  Yum!  We biked around town, visited the library and had lunch at the Village Deli.  Jacob had more decadent food when he ordered the strawberry shortcake.  I backed off my motherly responsibilities for a healthy diet, at least until dinner.  It was also the first day out of the hundred-degree range, so it was incredibly nice to be out biking and visiting the town.  I have a lot of friends that can bike in hot weather, but it isn’t me!  Here’s hoping we have a summer full of berries, bike rides and cool weather!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

The big news from my week involves completion of my large-format commission piece.  YIPPEE! When I thought I was finished, I realized that the beige sides of my base were fighting visually with the path when the piece was viewed from side angles.  I asked my second set of eyes, my son Tommie, what he thought.  He looked at me because he knew the right answer and also what I wanted to hear.  He finally said yep, it needs the green.  I went back and needle felted the blue-green understory on the sides and that’s really what it needed.  It now sits in my living room awaiting the big move to its new owner.  Anyone who comes to visit, like our neighbor Katy, gets to visit with it for a while.  Katy noticed that if you sit on the floor and look up into the trees you feel like you are deep in the forest.  And it’s true! 

With the Madison show, Art Fair on the Square looming, I’ve been working hard to bring together some new pieces in the next two weeks.  I was scanning through some of the sketches I made last summer in Michigan and I found one I really liked.  We’ve been having some crazy heat here in Bloomington, with several days in a row over one hundred degrees.  That was probably the trigger that made me start channeling cool Canadian lakes.   
Which reminds me—happy Canada Day!  I may be an American citizen, but I can still channel all my good memories from Canada.  Anyway, I showed the sketch to my family for approval and to get a name for the piece.  It features a mature birch and a sapling next to a lake.  Jacob thought it should be called “Father and Son,” a name that stuck with me.  Jim suggested I avoid “Son of a Birch,” which eleven-year-old Tommie found surprisingly hilarious.  I spent some time yesterday creating the branches for the trees.  This story goes back to Katy again, who brought us some candy flowers on wire stems from her trip to Rome.  Not her last one, the one before that—Katy travels a lot.   
After we ate the candies I wrapped the wires in a charcoal-colored alpaca fur for the small branches.  The alpaca comes from Cathy Crosson, who raises alpaca on a farm just outside of Bloomington.  I saw her at the farmer’s market yesterday, and she just started dyeing the alpaca yarn.  She had the most wonderful blue that happens to match our front door, our car and my bathing suit.  Can you tell I like it?  I’m going to use it for the sky in another piece I’m planning that will be called “Flower Parade.”  

The really big news came last night, when we finally got some rain around three in the morning.  There was lots of thunder and lighting to go with it, but not much in the way of damaging winds.  There was enough water to get the creek flowing next to our driveway.  This morning all that was left was wet ground and a puddle in the driveway, which thankfully the paper delivery person missed.  I think all of our flowers are happy again.  
 On a sad note, my blueberry pie from last week is gone already.  With two boys who like fruit pies they don’t last long.  On the bright side, we bought way too many peaches to eat at the farmer’s market yesterday, thinking that they could go into the freezer for pies in the future.  But now I’m thinking, hmmm, the first peach pie of the summer!  The mornings are cool enough to use the oven, aren’t they Jim?

Until next week…

Martina Celerin