Sunday, May 18, 2014

May showers bring rhubarb pie for Mother’s Day

The cool May weather has kept me inside most of the time.  Still, I’ve been having such a great time working on my ants.  I borrowed a giant book about ants from Mike Hogan (thanks Mike!) and I spent most of Mother’s Day sitting on the comfy sofa, examining the fine structural details of big-headed ants.  It is important to me to understand how an organism works to begin to understand which features are most relevant and must be included in the sculpture.  After my session with the book I started working on the major worker ant.  I began needle felting the body, adding lobes and structure, cutting away and molding surfaces that aren’t just right, and honing in on the body I want.  I’m working from 2D images to create a 3D structure, so sometimes it's a struggle to wrap my head around how to synthesize the 3D image from the flat picture.  The next phase is to attach the arms and antennae.  I made the anterior limbs, but the second and third pairs were just too big.  Instead of trying to fix those, I just started over on those features.  The good news is that the large legs I made will be “just right” for the larger supermajor caste that is next on my art agenda.  I still need to create the all the facial features too, but I feel really good about my progress.  If I have any concern, it’s that the number of images available for the supermajor and queen big-headed ant are limited.  I also borrowed the genus resource book from the IU library—I hope that’s enough.  E.O. Wilson, I need you!

I have two other big commissions in the background.  One is on hold as I wait for fabric swatches to arrive to personalize the piece.  But I’m enjoying the wait - I  like sitting next to the piece in the art studio and having it keep me company.  As I work, I get to glance up at the path trailing off into the distance.  Sometimes it’s really good to just let a piece sit and ferment for a while before launching into it again with renewed enthusiasm.   
My other project is a large format commission of fall aspen grove.  I spent much of this week in the studio wrapping aspen tree trunks appropriate for the foreground, background and middle distances.  There is a size and tint gradient for the trunks as they recede into the distance that I try to capture in my tree pieces - that takes special care.  As I got deeper into the canopy construction, I realized that I probably won’t have enough of my hand dyed mohair boucle.  That means the dye pots will come out in the next few weeks.   
On the bright side, I did find some perfect yarn at the event when the Monroe County Civic Theater cleared out two of their storage lockers to downsize their years of collected props and raw materials.  Thanks MCCT!  I had fun sifting through your treasures!!

On the family front, we’ve been having delightful family dinners on the newly cleaned-up veranda, even when it was raining.  I did get the traditional rhubarb pie for Mother’s day last Sunday.  
 This year it was mostly rhubarb with a few strawberries mixed in.  The crust (and pie) was unusually good this year!  Should I hope for another while rhubarb season is still here?  Hmmm. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Anticipating Mother’s Day

Each of my art seasons has a very different feel to it.  May is a transition time, when I plan and prepare for my summer art travel season.  I love working outside on the veranda on warm days, skirting fleece and pulling apart the clumps.  The spring weather is glorious; my art studio still has the cold chill of winter.  My art making activities are devoted to commissions, preparing for summer fairs, and thinking about how I’m going to pull together an October exhibit I agreed to do at the Convention Center. 

Right now I have four major projects that I’m trying hard to move along.  First, I was commissioned by Wonderlab to make a suite of bigheaded ants.  They’re installing a major new exhibit in November that features a colony of the striking creatures.  The ants fall into one of three castes, and I’ll make three of the minor workers, a major worker, a supermajor ant as well as a queen.  The ants are only a few millimeters long, but I’ll create ants to scale that range from six to eighteen inches.  This is a fun project, which means it’s moving along nicely.

I have also made great progress on my large format commissioned piece.  This features a stone path through trees in the foreground and background, and I have now completed and installed all the tree branches and trunks.  I’ve made a lot of progress on the stones for the path.  I make these by needle felting wool on to a chunk of Grandpa’s old army blanket that I cut into pieces.  I laid out in the flagstones in a satisfying pattern and needle felted them onto the path, which makes a huge effect on the weaving.  Next I’ll start creating the flowers and explode colors all around the meadow.  I’m hoping the person who commissioned me will send me some of their wedding chuppah to incorporate into the flowers.  It’s a rich purple and will both look great and make the piece more personal. 

My other projects will come together as I can find time.  I’m still moving all of my washed fleece through the tedious process of preparing it for weavings.  I’ve gone through three more bags since I last wrote but I have seven more to go.  Still, I feel like I’m seeing light at the end of the tunnel.   
The latest patch of dry, warm weather helps pull me out of my studio and onto the veranda to work.  I’m also starting a new commission piece that will feature autumn aspens in a large format.  I put in an order for a custom frame with Tom Bertolacini, my frame maker.  I’ll start moving into the details of that piece as my current projects wind down.  As I mentioned above, I agreed to do an exhibition at the Convention Center built around the concept of looking at water.  I felt really good about my exhibit at City Hall and Meadowood that I called ‘Portraits of Trees’.  Launching on a theme and exploring related ideas led me to pieces I would not otherwise have considered and created, some of which are special to me now.  Water is such an integral part of my life that I thought I would try to create pieces based on the beaches, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls that help me relax and rejuvenate.  I still remember conversations with my father about the two ‘elements’ (water and fire) that are so basic and meditative that I could stare at them for hours.  I’ll try to visit some of those places for the October exhibition. 

I’ll close with just a couple of notes from my non-art world.  Tommie and I spent a Saturday cleaning and spiffing up the veranda and now we've been enjoying meals out there - including bread (made by Tommie) and Canadian cheddar-broccoli soup - yum!   
Jim and I made it to our first farmer’s market Saturday.  Tommie was off at his Academic Superbowl event (his group placed third of fifteen teams in his event—hooray)!  Jacob wanted to sleep in, so we left him home.  We got coffee and hot chocolate to help keep us warm on a cold morning (thanks Marina at Le Petit Café!) as we bought strawberries, asparagus, honey, herbs in pots and a few other necessities.   Oh, and Jim made a delightful apple pie from the transparent apples at Grandma’s house, harvested last summer.  
 I’m hoping that Sunday, which is Mother’s day, will bring the traditional rhubarb pie.  I think that as long as I can get Jim back to the farmer’s market to ‘discover’ some rhubarb things will turn out well. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin