Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fashioning a new world for me…

My really big news this week is that I will take my oath on Thursday to become a United States Citizen.  My life guides my art, which means I’ve been working on a piece that tells the story of my path to citizenship.  It features a hand and a trowel digging a hole into the earth.  A seedling waits nearby to be planted, and the piece will be called ‘A Home of my Own’. 

This week I completed needle felting the hand and the handle for the trowel, as well as the background weaving for the piece.  As I work, I feel like I’m celebrating the process that will culminate with my whole family together at the swearing in ceremony.  I can’t wait!

I’m late in writing the blog this week because my weekend was jam-packed.
 Sunday evening brought the 2012 Trashion-Refashion show.  Jacob and I participated as both designers and models this year.  Tommie handed out programs and Jim was a ticket taker, so the whole family contributed to the show.  The event began at noon when Jacob and I went to the Hair Academy to have them make our hair as stylish as our outfits.  Jacob got a fauxhawk and mine was transformed into an ocean creature/goddess.  I didn’t have as much hair to work with as I used to, but the stylist brought together some interesting effects to complement my outfit.  I was sworn to secrecy on the designs we created so it would be a surprise for everyone, but now I can reveal that Jacob’s outfit was called Dragon Master and mine was Seafoam. 
My top was one of my Re-Shirts that I’d made partially out of one of Jim’s old dress shirts that didn’t find it’s way back to the closet one day.  He didn’t miss it so it became mine!  The front features one of my block print pieces I made last fall.
 The pants were a pair of jeans I cut holes in and then spray-painted to seal the fabric and prevent fraying.  I got a lot of compliments on them, and I could have sold them off my body that night.  I bought a pair of crazy high-heeled pumps with glitter heels from Opportunity House for the event.  When it was my turn on stage I worked the runway—Heidi Klum would have been delighted!
 Overall, the show was a big hit with the large, enthusiastic crowd. 
All the outfits were awesome.  The evening featured a ‘Trashionoff’, which might sound like a dingy Russian diplomat, but it just described a competition between Town versus Gown artists.  The Townies had Miah Michaelson as their model, while the Academics had Sylvia McNair.  They were really dressed up to the max from a pile of, literally, junk and a few repurposed bits of fabric and materials.  Miah and Sylvia were such good sports about the whole thing. I was volunteered to create a trophy for the winner - another secret revealed!

The next two big events on my calendar are the Brain Extravaganza launch party and Jacob’s Hip-hop Showcase at Panache Dance Studio, both on Saturday.  The Brain event will bring together all the finished brain pieces in one place for a brief public showing from 12 to 2 p.m. on Saturday.  My brain will make its way to the Wells Library for an extended period beginning early next week.  Before the public Brain display there will be a photo shoot with artists and brains with an eye toward the possibility of a book about the project.  I won’t have much time to revel in the completion of the project, though - Jacob’s hip-hop showcase begins at 2 at Panache, with an encore Sunday afternoon.  

Finally, we’re getting in to planting and Farmer’s market season.  We made a trip to Mays Greenhouse to find some flowers to spruce up our gardens for summer.  I buy them, Jim plants them.  What a great deal!  On the way to the Farmer’s market we found hot chocolate at Le Petit CafĂ© (truly excellent!) and breakfast at Sweet Claire’s booth.  At the Farmer’s market we found lettuce, strawberries, asparagus, cucumbers, onions and rhubarb.  Hmmm, rhubarb.  Is it time for a pie yet?

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Newsflash: Moss grows on wheelbarrow!

OK, so maybe it's not actually moss...This week I decided it was time to start working on some of my commissions. One features a three-dimensional path through the woods on a large-scale format. The tree branches will need leaf clumps to project out of the piece, so a couple of weeks ago I started crocheting some yarns together to see if I could produce the effect I wanted. The initial result was disappointing, which convinced me I needed to dye some mohair boucle a deeper shade of green for the leaves. Around a month ago I ordered some big loop mohair boucle from Sheep Street in Morgantown for the project. A few weeks ago I picked it up, but I’ve been waiting for a block of time in my schedule to pull out my dye pots and experiment with it. Fortunately, I have several big stainless steel dye pots in storage. My father-in-law envisioned them for traditional salmon boil dinners, but they never got much use. They’re perfect for me—thanks Grandpa! The day’s success was some gorgeous greens that will be perfect for the commission piece. I was also feeling very experimental, so I decided to try dyeing with some fur scraps and old fur clothing I got from Marilyn Brackney a couple of weeks ago to share with Cappi Phillips. I took what I thought was a reasonable amount, throwing in the white and light brown fur pieces into the dye pot to fulfill my grand vision of fluffy green fur pieces to use in the ground cover adjacent to the trail. Unfortunately, I learned that when you boil animal skin it turns into a globby mess. Only a few small pieces survived the process. My inner scientist reminded me that every experiment is useful, even the failures. She thinks that will help rationalize having to clean up the mess, but she’s wrong. I just focus on the intense green boucles and some other wool that I threw in as a ‘what the heck’ kind of test. I always find a use for everything.

My other major art project involved an intense effort on completing the grassy blades for my ‘Sunrise over Goose Pond’ piece. I attached them to the background and I’m close to calling the piece done – I think that a wandering, half awake salamander looking for his “morning joe,” unaware of the distant hooded crane, will be the finishing touch.

The mail carrier has been my friend this week. When I think of our mail carriers, I fondly remember a family story involving a very young Jacob. We were sitting at the dinner table having an animated conversation about something. We asked him, with enthusiasm, “What do birds eat?” He shouted out “mail carriers!” Of course we all broke up laughing. Anyway, the mail carriers escaped the birds of prey to bring me a letter from Homeland Security inviting me to take my citizenship oath in about two weeks. As soon as I finished my citizenship test (did I mention I got a perfect score?!) I decided on a vision for a weaving I wanted to make. The piece will be called ‘A Home of my Own’. It’s really about my journey toward citizenship in this country with my wonderful extended family and the loving community I live in. It will feature a hand holding a trowel, digging a hole in a patch of garden soil. Adjacent to the hole will be a small seedling, ready to be transplanted.

The snail mail carriers weren’t the only ones on my side this week. My e-mail brought me the news that the Loring Park Art Fair in Minneapolis had chosen me to be a featured artist this year! I had to scramble to put together some text describing my work and my history, but that’s all in place. I’m really honored to be selected, and I’m looking forward to the trip out there this August.

The big local event on my horizon is the Trashion-Refashion show this Sunday at the Buskirk-Chumley theater. It is presented by the Center for Sustainable Living and Discardia, and it starts at 7 p.m. It’s all very hush-hush, but I’ll let you in on a secret—I’ve created a trophy for the show. I’ve been sworn to secrecy about the design, but next week I’ll post a picture. I also created some fashion for the show, which I will model this year. My son Jacob has an outfit that he designed and will model, and Tommie has volunteered to hand out programs at the event. Jim will chauffeur and applaud, and so it will be a family event. We had our first rehearsals this week and I know it’s going to be a lot of fun. I hope to see you there!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The turtles and ponds on the road to citizenship…

Last week I spent as much time in my art studio making art as I could. A few times my mind jumped back to the brain project and what I had to complete that day, only to remember quickly that I was done! As I mentioned last week, I first had to reclaim my space. My boys and their friends do a lot of projects in my studio. Their materials had spilled way over into my usual space. Things just got dumped and dumped again. When my space was organized I first wove the background to a turtle piece that I’ve been envisioning. It speaks to how I’ve been feeling as the seasons change—I’m ready to stick my head out from inside my shell. All around me the spring creatures are crawling, flying and hopping, making the world seem more alive. I did a dimensional crochet to build up the ground so that it now sticks forward about six inches. That’s the surface upon which the turtle will eventually sit, peeking out from under a canopy of ash leaves. I have a soft spot for ash trees right now because of the damage they are suffering across the Midwest at the teeth of the emerald ash borer. I will eventually attach the compound leaves to the weaving to shelter my turtle, which I’ve decided will be an ornate box turtle. The pattern on their shells is quite variable, which gives me a lot of flexibility to create a design that is both satisfying to me and true to nature. Fortunately for me, the boys have had several basketball adventures to local parks to play, in between taekwondo and hip-hop classes, so I’ve had plenty of time to sit and poke at my turtle.

Working on my turtle also led me into thoughts about ponds and the life that springs up around them in the spring. I pulled out my spring yellow yarns and started working on the background for a piece I want to call Sunrise at Goose pond. I don’t know why, exactly, it just felt like the right name. I want to capture the marshy wetness, the vibrant green colors and the deep, rich almost black mud with grasses growing out of it. In the distance will be the beginnings of a sunrise, with a bright yellowness cracking open the dark night sky.

Friday was a big day for me. I went to bed early to get a good night’s sleep, skipped my Zumba class to feel well rested, and drove north to Indianapolis with Jim. I had my official interview for citizenship, complete with a US civics test. I was armed with all sorts of useful knowledge about the US government, my state representatives, the Supreme Court and the Constitution. I’m delighted to report that not only did I get a perfect score on the test, my friendly examiner just stopped asking questions when I had enough to pass the test and thanked me for studying! He recommended me for approval after about fifteen minutes. All that stands between me and voting is final approval and taking the oath in a month or two. I just can’t wear jeans or flip-flops—I think I can manage that. I also learned this morning that when you pass your citizenship test you get a pie! It’s peach! If I had known that I would have applied years ago!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 1, 2012

My BRAIN is done—it’s time to weave!

I’m done! I’m done! The BRAIN is finally finished! By Friday afternoon there was nothing left to do but pack up my art toys and go home. I glued, attached, tweaked and finally vacuumed, but only on the euphoric side. I intentionally left all the dust, glue strings and webbiness on the depressive side. I think of it as artistic patina. The emotions associated with completion are truly mixed. Packed in with all my other responsibilities, the brain project made for an intense and enjoyable few months. I feel like I’ve made some new friends and spent quality time with old ones. The most important thing for me was the experience itself, which changed my perspective on life. You become a product of your sum total of experiences, whatever they are, and I plan to translate some of the ideas that grew out of the conversations into new art pieces.

At the end of the project I cleaned up my bench and brought my toys home. I was very pleased with how the brain turned out, but cleaning up for me is always connected with starting something new. I guess that’s just part of my upbringing. Friday night I disappeared into my art studio, warped a loom and started a new weaving. That felt great after months away from my art studio. Part of my enthusiasm came from the good news that I had been accepted into two big summer art fairs: The Art Fair on the Square in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Loring Park show in Minneapolis Minnesota. The Madison show is truly one of my favorites, right up there with Fourth Street. I have a fantastic time in Madison, where the patrons are wonderful and enthusiastic. We even get to stay with our friends Wendy and Duane in their remote country retreat near Hollandale. After a long day at the fair Jim whisks me away to their house, past the two ferocious guard dogs. They take great care of me with nice dinners at the end of the day and coffee in the morning, but I suspect they might be playing during the day while I’m working. Loring Park will be new for me this year. It will be a little farther than we’ve traveled for a show, but the whole family stays together and we have a good time.

Every big celebration needs a pie.

On Saturday morning, Jim put together a pie from the last frozen apples from the fall season. Yum! The pie is great (it’s my breakfast, with espresso, for a few days), but the best news is that we’re eating the last freezer fruit means we’re ready to enter the spring rhubarb and berry season. More pies are in my future!

All is well.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin