Sunday, December 27, 2015

Winter tomatoes and holiday treats

Today brought a wonderful day of relaxation after a fast-paced few days with family for Christmas.  I needle felted tomato slices as I watched old movies on TV.  I needed the break after the intense week of preparation, cooking, family activities and ultimately cleanup.  A lot had to happen before Grandma and Aunt Lois came on Wednesday afternoon.  The boys and I prepared eight different dough varieties to make multiple tins of cookies.  They included traditional Czech linecky kolacky (with black current jam, of course), a delightfully intense frosted lemon cookie, and a concoction Jacob cooked up that involved peanuts, peanut butter, and dark chocolate assembled in three layers.  Everything came out well this year and we delivered and shared many treats with family and friends.  On Christmas Eve morning I assembled the other family baking tradition, which is a stollen for Christmas morning breakfast.  My dough is filled with rum and orange juice soaked currants and raisins, nuts and candied fruit that we make ourselves.  The filling is either marzipan that I make or rum-soaked sweet cherries.  When everything cools I glaze them with a butter and powdered sugar frosting.  Both varieties very successful and well received for Christmas and Boxing day breakfast. 

I got a little carried away with the delightful foods!  I wanted to mention that I was fortunate enough to have previously blended the red wool for the tomatoes.  I was able to go straight to my stores and pull out the fleece that I needed for my slices.  I also have special wool that I use for tomato seeds.  I dyed the material using bark from a fallen giant maple tree branch at Grandma’s house.  It just made the absolutely perfect color for the seeds.  After attaching them I usually layer a bit of the dark red fleece over them to make it look like the seeds are embedded in the internal chambers of the tomato.  These are part of the cast of vegetables that will make up a larger piece I’m working on, Fall Stew.  I have the carrots completed so I’ll be moving on to snap peas and red-skinned potatoes next. 

The highlight of the holiday entertainment season was a trip out to see Cardinal Stage Company’s performance of Mary Poppins.  Grandma buys the family tickets and the whole crew goes.  Mary Poppins is a hugely ambitious challenge, but Cardinal rose to meet and exceed the standard.  Mary flew, kites flew, the children flew, and Bert walked up a wall.  The performance was great, especially the woman who played Mary, Elaine Cotter.  She was sweet but completely in control of every situation.  The two children she managed were terrific young actors as well.  The sets really stole the show, though.  The attention to detail and complexity of the rollaway pieces were truly amazing.  The structures reminded me of the fold out children’s books where whole buildings and animals pop up from the page.  At every turn there were structures that introduced something unpredictable and captivating.  The whole thing will be lodged in my brain for a long time.  Thank you David Higgins!

The days with Grandma brought some fine meals and good times.  Jim put together some wonderful dinners, including a raspberry pie for dessert that has become a Christmas tradition.  Grandma has fond memories from when she was a girl of raspberry pie from the farm on New Year’s Day.  Because of the stollen, there are even a few pie slices left over for breakfast the next couple of days!  A little pie, a little espresso and I’ll be back in the art studio with a smile on my face.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Art and Merry Making Collide in the Holidays

I carved out some time this week to get some work done in my studio while the boys were still in school and the full pressure of the holiday crunch had yet to set in.  My focus was on a willow piece, and I made wonderful progress on needle felting tree trunks.  I wrapped wires to create the branches using a mottled fleece combination of slate brown and cream colors.  The background is now also complete, which features a water structure that I created by crocheting together about twenty different yarns.  I like to use some silvery-sparkly threads to get the glistening effect of the midday sun on the water.  I crocheted a green peninsula into the piece to serve as a base for my willow on its own little patch of land.  Sometimes I feel this way about my more outlandish ideas, like I’m out on my own little peninsula trying to make things work out!  I have attached the willow to the background, but I still have to attach the dangling branches that will flesh out the tree.  The last touch will be to add some weathered rocks that we collected last summer from Topsail Island in North Carolina. 
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Dawn Adams and I went to see the latest exhibits at the Indiana University art museum.  One exhibit (Grand Allusions) was by an emeritus faculty names Robert Barnes.  These were large-scale narrative pieces perhaps four feet square each and loaded with visual information.  I was simply enchanted by the works.  The one striking feature that connected many individual pieces was the use of a brilliant red color.  Earlier in the week Dawn had invited me to go to a noon talk at the art museum where the speaker discussed the idea of amulets created from natural materials, which inspired me to re-imagine my own earth pieces and design a new composition (Amulets for the Earth) for my ‘From the Earth’ exhibition for next year.  But as I sat and listened I kept looking at the artwork around me and was drawn back into the brilliant reds hanging around me.  The color had been haunting me to the point where it had to come out in some form.  I interrupted my willow piece to do something crafty, kind of like eating some salty potato chips when you know you should be eating salad—there was an immediate craving I had to satisfy.  Because I’m also focused on the Christmas season I made two wreaths.  The first included the ‘Barnes’ red, while the second one blazes with it.  Now that I’ve finished the second one I’ll get back to my willow. 

The big family project for the week is home decoration for Christmas.  The boys are hugely enthusiastic to tackle this, having already put a tree and lights around their room.  They put on jingly elf garb, played Christmas carols and started decorating.  The tree was the target for yesterday.  They put up all the ornaments collected over the years, so it’s fun for me to pull them out and remember the stories around them.  Next on the agenda is cookie baking for the boys and stollen for me (yes, spellchecker, I mean stollen—I’d wrest an umlaut from you too if I could, Microsoft!). 
 Grandma tells me every year that she doesn’t care if the house is clean or if anything else is on the menu, but we must have stollen (two kinds) for Christmas morning breakfast.  As I sat and enjoyed my Sunday morning espresso (thanks Jim!) and read the newspaper, I came across a big image of my work from the Convention Center exhibit (thanks Herald Times!).  The only thing that was missing was pie.  I hear raspberry goes well with the holidays!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Four Exhibits and a Slice of Tomato

As we approach the Christmas season, winter seems to be holding back on the snow and cold.  That’s fine with me!  It keeps me in the spirit to keep working on my fall vegetables.  This week I kept after the tomatoes.  I’ve been investing my time into the detail work to keep my late summer fruits from looking like red flying saucers.  The obliging weather also means that I’ve been able to putty, sand and paint eight more frames for this winter’s weaving projects.  The early frame effort reminds me of the Czech expression udelat si strýček.  It translates roughly to ‘make your uncle', but really means something more like squirreling away resources now that you know you’ll need in the future.  

 I’ll be prepared when my compositions become finalized.  I’m tentatively calling my next exhibit ‘From the Earth’, which will feature subterranean views or materials that are the result of the earth.  I want my themes to capture finding home and comfort from the earth, including burrows.  The color palette will draw from my extensive collection of earthy tones and the bright colors of produce.  This will be a big change from my most recent blues and greens of water and trees. 

Speaking of my plan to saturate Bloomington with my art, on Monday I will hang my next exhibition at the downtown Bloomington BagelCompany.  That will make four currently showing in Bloomington, including the group show that is currently hanging at the Convention Center.  These pieces will be different, though, as I share my foray into another medium.  I’ll be presenting sketches from our family vacation in North Carolina this past summer.   

I packed only paper and pencil crayons so I wouldn’t be drawn into my usual fiber art pieces.  It was very freeing to have limited resources to create art.  It sounds strange, but the basic drawings don’t rely on my extensive boxes of well organized and plentiful yarns and strings that fill my art studio.  Last month I framed all of the pieces and yesterday I printed the information labels. 

I think that as much as showing the art I’m looking forward to hearing the reaction to this very different body of work.  I remember when I was involved in Jill Bolte-Taylor’s Brain Extravaganza project, people said that they were able to recognize a my bipolar brain before they knew I was participating.  It is fascinating to me to think my aesthetic is in my art, even when I’m not using my primary medium.  The show will be up until February or so.  Some of the pieces are marked ‘not for sale‘ are pieces I am giving my sewing faeries for all their amazing work in bringing the Beauty and the Beast stage performance to fruition. 

Another fun adventure from last week involved my field trip with Dawn Adams up to the Peeler Art Center at DePauw in Greencastle.  We took in two exhibits.  One was by Nathalie Miebach and it was an interesting fusion of sculptural fiber art that spoke to science, nature and art.  More specifically, it explored a scientific perspective on the natural world built up by weaving and incorporating small objects.  In most cases they were an interesting, non sequiter combination of bright happy colorful sculptural pieces unified by forces such as the destructive effects of storms.  The most important aspect to me was the level of intricate detail and diverse objects brought together to create a body of work.  This is something I try to do in my own work when I create fusion pieces such as the platter of vegetables that came together to tell a bigger story.  The artist used a lot of small objects and repetitive shapes to create a body of work.  I found it interesting that the art kept the viewer moving around the piece to take in all the different perspectives on the work. 

The other exhibit we saw was Guerilla Girls.  It’s an exhibit that speaks to the unfairness and underrepresentation of female artists in major galleries in the world.  One of the stunning statistics that was presented was that only two percent of artists in major galleries are female, where 70% of the art presented depicts females.  What’s also interesting is that little has changed over the past generation even with the emergence of some terrific female artists. 

In additiont to the art, Dawn and I made a completely unexpected but major find at the gallery.  We met a faculty member in sculpture there, Lori Miles, and we discussed a potential collaboration between her students and the Fourth Street Festival. The project would involve installations of student’s sculptural pieces on Dunn Street as a new and interactive art exhibition.  It would benefit show patrons as an unexpected art experience and Lori‘s students to have access to an audience of forty thousand art fair patrons who could engage the artists during the show. 

And last, of course it is family story time.  Friday was Jim’s birthday.  Jim requested a chocolate cheesecake, so of course I took it to another level and created a dark chocolate ganache topped cheesecake.  It was delightful.  During the creation process I did make too much of the crumble bottom.  I wasn’t about to throw that away, so I created multilayered peanut butter treats with a dark chocolate upper crust.  Basically, they’re what Reese’s cups should taste like.  On the music scene, both boys had their winter concert this week, so we had some nice evenings out.  One more week of school and it’s on to family and Christmas over the break!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

More Fall Stew

I’m still working on my Fall Stew composition.  This week I made a lot of progress on the carrots and tomatoes.  I’ve also created he wool bases for the peas and potatoes.  I also stretched out my willow piece this week.  I completed the base for the water, but now I need to add the surface of the water, the peninsula, and add the willow to the composition.  It feels like I should be farther along, but I just haven’t had quite as much sit and wait time as I expected this week due to the hustle and bustle of preparations for winter festivities.   
I had to do some simple, less creative tasks such as repairing Frosty’s costume ahead of the Winter Concert by Sounds of South.  Frosty’s Velcro seal, which in Czech we’d call a dry zipper, was matted with the fuzzy fabric from his costume.  Frosty definitely needed a little love to keep him from melting, so I replaced the Velcro with a substantial, big-toothed zipper.  It’s fabulous having my own costume studio, packed with everything I need to fix things up as needed.  Monday the 7th is the performance, so come by to see it if you’re in the area.  I’ve heard the Hallelujah chorus in rehearsals and it’s amazing!

Speaking of Frosty and the holiday spirit, we’ve started to decorate our house.  Tommie initiated the festivities by converting the dining room into a winter wonderland by cutting out snowflakes to hang from the ceiling.  I gave him the usual praises because they were indeed far superior to the ones he did as a little kid.  Now he’s reached the point where they are beautifully elaborate—
he says it’s like practical geometry to him (go school!).  He’s even enticed me into participation.  I love love love cutting shapes out of folded paper to enjoy my surprise at the transformation.  This afternoon the Exacto knives come out for a little more detail, so let’s hope that a trip to the hospital isn’t in the offing. 

Speaking of geometry, I’m pretty excited to visit an exhibit at the Peeler Art Gallery in DePauw tomorrow with my friend Dawn.  It’s a fiber art exhibit that marries art and science.  There are images of the three-dimensional sculptural work with images online if you’re interested.  Having the freedom to take off on an adventure is one more reminder that I gave myself December off from doing art fairs.  This is allowing me to regenerate and get re-motivated to connect with the art world and create something fresh for myself.

On the family front, Saturday night came with a trip to the IU basketball night with Tommie.  We got sugared up with some Sour Patch Kids candies and yelled for the Hoosiers.  All season IU has had great offense, but last night they discovered the importance of defense.  My fingers are crossed that they remember last night when they play Wisconsin in early January! 
Thankfully, Thursday was a pie day for me.  My deep dish pan was filled with a delightful raspberry pie, which I’m still enjoying for breakfast.  Last for this week, Jacob began expressing his creativity in pancakes again this morning.  We didn’t get a lot of pictures, but we did have some interesting creations to munch on for breakfast. 
He and Tommie are now off creating a candy house base to decorate sometime soon.  It’s a busy time of year!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Painting, pumpkin pie and Pippin

My carpe diem project for today is to paint a new set of frames before the harsh cold days of winter set in.  This past week saw me puttying and sanding frames that Thom Bertolacini made for me.  They’re locally sourced oak frames that he builds and I finish.  I need a stockpile for the new weavings I’ll create this winter, and today is predicted to be the last fifty-degree day for a while.  That’s the critical temperature for success with my frame paint, so I have my afternoon blocked off. 

I also began work on the subjects for my next weaving, which will be ‘Fall Stew’.  I told the family story of Fall Stew in the last blog if you’re interested, but basically it used to be a fall tradition to prepare a medley stew of fall roots and vegetables from the Farmer’s Market.   
I’ve pulling dyed fleece from my extensive collection this week and matched it up with the vegetables I’ve selected.  Now I’ll work on needle felting vegetables in my down time.  The boys have lots of activities that will be helpful, but I have my own ‘welcome to 50’ screening procedure that will give me lots of down time to fill with vegetable felting.  I imagine I’ll have my harvest of roots ready before the Christmas holiday. 

My latest Thanksgiving tradition, started last year, was to sketch costumes for next year’s musical production for Sounds of South.  Next year they’ll do Pippin, which will be set in a circus.  I’m imagining the chorus as an ensemble of vintage-costumed circus performers with a hint of steam punk and Alexander McQueen – a little funky and a little wacky!   
The color palette I’m presently envisioning is emerald, amethyst and sapphire, with silver and black as the neutral colors.  With the caveat that these are just my musings that haven’t been agreed upon with the key players, here’s a peek at a first draft of a small set of costumes as I imagined them on my trip.  If you’re interested in my costuming efforts, I'm sure you’ll see more on the blog and Facebook as the year unfolds. 

On the family front we drove to Michigan for the Thanksgiving holiday.   
We made ginger glazed salmon and a skillet dish that I have yet-to-name with sautéed butternut squash, potatoes, onions, garlic and thyme.  I topped it with some feta cheese and broiled it briefly before serving.  Along with broccoli and cheese sauce, the salad from Aunt Lois, Grandma made pumpkin pies topped with pecans swimming in a brown sugar and butter glaze.  Add family and whipping cream and it was a fine thanksgiving dinner!

Back at home, before I was even awake Sunday morning, scouring the kitchen for coffee, I noticed Tommie in the back yard raking the last of the fall leaves!  How terrific is that!  Could there be any sad news amidst all the sketching, art making and family time? 
If you need a hint, here’s what my pie pan currently looks like.  Something’s missing!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Monday, November 23, 2015

The last enchanted rose petal fell…

I am settling back into my writer’s chair, having just rediscovered my art studio and finding just enough time to write about my life again.  I delighted in an extraordinarily packed summer wherein I traveled to art fairs, fulfilled commissions, and created the costumes for Sounds of South’s Beauty and theBeast.  I had a wonderfully successful art fair season, including winning a ‘Best in Show’ award in Madison, Wisconsin’s Art Fair on the Square.  It’s a huge honor, and it includes an automatic invitation to participate in the 2016 event.  I’m already looking forward to traveling back to Madison!  The real elephant in the room, though, which kept me away from blogging, was my role in creating costumes for Beauty and the Beast.  The whole project came together wonderfully as the summer wound down.  The culmination of the process was opening night, October 17th, when I got to sit in the audience with my hubby and watch the spectacle unfold.  The extraordinarily talented kids, including my son Tommie, really brought the costumes to life and the performance was simply amazing.  I couldn’t help but cry as the story unfolded.  All through the show’s run and beyond the response of the audience has been beyond words.  The entire process, from conceptual design of the costumes to putting the costumes into storage has been incredibly gratifying and unforgettable. 

The end of the run of Beauty and the Beast coincided with the beginning of my fall holiday show season.  That meant that there was little time to regroup before showing my art at the Convention Center.  Now I’m done with shows for the season and I can focus my December on my family and new art creation.  I can re-enter my own little nest, surrounded by boxes and boxes of yarns and collected materials.  I see myself as ‘not too busy’, but my loving spouse might disagree.  I currently have two exhibits hanging and I’m delivering pieces for the third on Monday.  The Bloomington Bagel Company in the Shoppes has ‘Changing Seasons’ and the Convention Center has the group exhibit ‘A Celebration of the Arts’.  The new exhibit will be the Member’s Exhibit of the SDA, the Surface Design Association, at the Blue Line Gallery.  Finally, in mid-December I’ll be sharing my adventures into a different medium by hanging a series of my colored pencil sketches at the Bagel Company on Dunn Street.  The series is called ‘My Summer Vacation’ and features drawings from a trip to Topsail Island in North Carolina this past May.  There will be opening receptions on December 4th for two of the exhibits, so it’s party time!  I’ll give more information in the next blog if you’re interested in attending. 

My major project for November and December is to catch up on all of my business accounting and apply for the next round of summer art fairs.  It’s not very glamorous work, but it’s a necessary task if I want to travel next summer.  I’ll also keep busy doing art during my waiting times when the boys are doing Taekwondo, Brazilian Jiu jitsu, Hip Hop and voice lessons.  I have to keep my hands occupied, so I’ve been needle felting small fruit slices for a new composition.  This past summer I created a piece, ‘Fruit Platter’, that I completed the day before we left for Madison Wisconsin.  We set up the booth and hung the piece, and the very first piece that sold was Fruit Platter.  I feel like I never got to enjoy it, and I never got a quality image of the piece.  I’ve been working on Fruit Platter II, which is now finished and I love this one too!  It is appearing in the Convention Center exhibit and in my application portfolio for summer art fairs. 

The arrival of cooler weather means its time to hunker down and cook chili, soup and lasagna for the freezer.  Everything I do, though, takes me back to art.  I began to recall years passed when we made ‘Fall Stew’ every year by collecting roots from the farmer’s market and cooking them into family dinners.  It sounds very romantic and fulfilling, and it was for a few years.  We made so much of it that it became a bit of a family joke that no one looked forward to.  I missed the nostalgia of it, so to celebrate the memory I’m creating a weaving called ‘Fall Stew’.  It will feature sliced tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, carrots, onions and other roots.  The vegetables will undoubtedly be my handwork project to pass the time during boy activities over the next month or so. 

For those of you who might be concerned that I didn’t get enough pies over the summer break in the blog, rest assured.  I paused during cherry pie season, about the time that Jim put a special pie filling in the freezer for our Mississippi relatives when they came for the Beauty and the Beast performance.  Since then we’ve had tart and sweet cherry, blueberry, peach, rhubarb, rhubarb blueberry, and persimmon pies.  The persimmon version was just a little too intense gastrically, so we won’t be making it again.  My last pie, sadly, was October 24th when we pulled the tart cherry pie filling from the freezer for our guests.  Martha had never had a real cherry pie—I’m sorry, the canned stuff just doesn’t count.  The pie was awesome, but now it’s time for more!  I’m just going to have to suffer through pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving until I can get back on track with the freezer full of fruit pie filling, just waiting to have their pie dreams fulfilled!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Monday, June 22, 2015

Load up the trailer and get on the road!

The reality of the big summer art fairs is foremost on my mind right now.  I put most all of my energies into creating art this week.  It seems as if I was in the studio from the moment I wake up until deep in the night.  I’m making progress and I’m almost ready to take my art to Des Moines!  The first piece that I finished has already traveled extensively with me.  I did the actual background weaving in my studio a few months ago, but I took the weaving to Michigan to stretch it out onto its frame.  At Grandma’s I crocheted the foreground base for the peninsula and the water’s edge.  
 I brought the piece home and needle felted the tree trunks while watching the boys do Taekwondo.  The rocks in the piece are mother stones that we collected last year on Topsail Island in North Carolina.  To complete the tree I used remnant yarn thrums that I got from the Textillery in Bloomington to create the long branches.  The center of the branches is wire that I repurposed by straightening used spiral notebook binders.  Overall, the piece has a lot of history and a lot of travel.  And I’m delighted with how it turned out! 

This week I also worked on my fruit piece, making the apple slices and grapes while watching the boys teach Taekwondo at MCMA and during art-related meetings.  As I laid out the piece, I realized I need at least one more kind of fruit to balance with the dark-purply blueberries.  I’ve settled on plums as the perfect fruit.  I know exactly what I’m looking for, but it’s hard to communicate for me because in Czech there are two different words for plums, depending on the species.  I want to make blumy, which have the right purple and the right shape. 

On the Sounds of South Beauty and the Beast production front, my sewing faeries have been busy assembling my pinned-together costumes, and they look absolutely terrific.  I’m so pleased with the progress.  Lately I’ve re-launched into another character, the Enchantress.  I envision her as a regal, shimmery, silvery-teal goddess-like person.  I want her look to be very distinct from the ball gowns that I have been working on.  The basic dress for the Enchantress was a treasure we found on the road trip to West Lafayette.  Four of the SOS contributors traveled to see the touring performance of Beauty and the Beast.   
We also planned to make it a costume-scrounging trip on the way there and back.  We found the enchantresses dress in a consignment shop in small-town Indiana.  When Nancy and I saw it we just knew that it would work as the base of the costume for the Enchantress.  A couple of months later I was here in Bloomington, visiting My Sister’s Closet, when I found another version of the dress.  It was slightly greener, but almost identical.  I harvested that fabric to extend the first dress to become a full-length gown.  I embellished the basic structure by creating sleeves from the skirt of another gown I scavenged from the Recycle Center – Materials for the Arts.  
 I added some trim to the sleeves from a roll of Christmas ribbon that I picked up last weekend from the Monroe County History Center’s annual fundraiser garage sale.  I need to give a big shout out to them for lending us two mannequins for the year to keep the costume-making process moving forward.  I will reciprocate by lending them my mannequins next year for their sale. 

On the home front it has been a good week for pies.  We missed the farmer’s market for a couple of weeks on our travels, but we returned to cherry season.  We’re looking ahead to a visit by friends from Mississippi who have never had cherry pie beyond the canned version.  They’re coming for one of the Beauty and the Beast performances and we want to give them the real farmer’s market item.  Jim has been busy pitting cherries and freezing filling bags to have on hand.  He even made two different cherry pies since I last blogged a week ago in an attempt to perfect his filling.  Last Monday he made a tart cherry pie that was amazing.  It was also perfect with espresso as breakfast for the next couple of days.  This past Saturday we picked up ten more quarts for winter pies, and Jim tried a sweet cherry pie to compare and work on the filling texture.  He added a few strawberries that were left over, which unfortunately dominated the flavor of the sweet cherries.  I’m not complaining, though!  Maybe we should try it again to see what it’s like without the strawberries!  I feel good knowing that we’ll be ready for pies this winter to bring back memories of the summer’s farmer’s market.  Let’s do the same for blueberries and raspberries!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Summer Fruit

It has been a crazy summer already and we’re just a couple of weeks into it.  The thread that has followed me throughout this year is costume design and creation for Beauty and the Beast.  The Sounds of South group at Bloomington High School South will bring this to the stage this coming October.  During the school year I went into the high school every day to create costumes.  Now I manage to get in once a week or so to keep the process moving forward.  I feel like I’m well beyond the halfway point with many of the tricky costumes done, but there are still plenty to make.  Lately I have been focusing on the ball gowns for the last scene.  I finished pinning together the sixth and final gown just this week.  My sewing faeries have been very busy translating my creations connected by safety pins into gowns held together by stitches and hot glue.  
 I just can’t imagine taking on this humongous project without them—I’m incredibly grateful for every last stitch and connection they have put in place.  Plus, they’re a lot of fun to work with!  This is Alice seam ripping gold trim for the beast’s dinner jacket, which is my next big project. 

My art focus of late has been preparing for the Des Moines Art Festival coming up at the end of June.  We’ve been doing a lot of driving, first to North Carolina and most recently to Michigan.  That means that I have been sitting and needle felting as Jim watches the road and keeps an eye out for hawks.  One of the pieces that I’m working toward completing before the show is a piece that will be entitled ‘Fruit Plate.’   
On the drive to Michigan I completed the kiwis, watermelon, lemons, oranges and cherries.  I have still to make apple slices, grapes, and blueberries.  That translates into a lot more dyeing, felting and assembly.  It is a timely piece for me because it reminds me of the bountiful times at farmer’s markets.  On our trips to North Carolina we stopped in at Farmer’s markets along the way to stock up, and our Bloomington Farmer’s market is still rich with strawberries, lots of cherries, greens and more.   
We bought eight pints of tart cherries for two big pies.  Fire up the oven, Jim!  And we can get more cherries next week!!  

I've also completed a large format commission piece for a hospital in Iowa.  They asked me to create a piece that featured a covered bridge over a river in the forest.  I’m happy to say that this year I’ll be bringing that piece along to deliver it to its happy home. This has taken a lot of my time over the past few months to bring together, which makes completion and delivery even more rewarding.  I’m also working hard to make a few new booth pieces for Des Moines, including three that will feature willows.  Last year was the first time I showed a piece with a willow in an outdoor setting.   I just love the way that hanging branches move when a gentle breeze comes into my booth—it makes them look alive. 

On the family front, we recently returned from the second of our summer vacation trips.  The first is our trip to Topsail Island, NC to celebrate the end of the school year.  The four of us rent a house on the beach for a week where it’s wonderful to have quiet time for all of us together.  We search for fossilized shark’s teeth and ray mouth plates, play in the surf and eat fresh fish.  I don’t take any work with me, but I do permit myself to take some colored pencils and paper.
That way if I have an urge to create I have some materials.  This year the urge was strong!   
I just really enjoyed myself sketching on the beach and the walkway over the dunes to the beach.  This past week we returned from the second trip, this time to Michigan.  Grandma hosted Dave and Martha from Mississippi, Haley and Arya from New Mexico and the four of us, spread throughout her house.  It was a fun time, packed with family adventures.  Nothing too exciting—we went on shopping trips to Wilson’s cheese shop in Linwood, Northwoods Outlet for art supplies in Pinconning, and over to the Oasis in Bay City for the classic perch fry dinner.   
There was a lot of sitting around the kitchen table and sharing stories and laughing.  I do vaguely remember having a few pies along the way, but I’ve forgotten the details.  I do know that there is a bowl of pitted tart cherries in the fridge waiting for a cool morning to turn into a pie.  Please let it be cool tomorrow morning!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Spring season activities!

My spring has been packed with events and challenges.  These have thrown off my usual blogging schedule.  My weekends are now devoted to completing commissions.  I finished my most recent project, which is now happily hanging in its new home.  The commissioners came to my studio, but after reviewing what I had on the walls they decided they wanted a piece that better reflected their own life experiences.  They were drawn to pieces with pathways, fences, flowers and trees.  I created a sketch compatible with the warm honey oak tones they were seeking.  The colors are a bit of a departure from my recent strong contrast pieces.  I’ve been focusing on dark coffee tone tree trunks matched with crisp, bright green leaves.  My goal has been to capture the feel of spring walks in the forest after a rain where the trunks are still damp and the greens present a striking contrast.  This style was a new challenge for me.  I do love the idea of paths that lead off to new places, and the new design featured a path leading through a flower plot along a fence. 
 It’s a secret garden because from the other side of the fence you can’t see the beauty within.  The outsiders never have a clue what’s going on along the other side.  Overall, I’m delighted with how it turned out and the new owners seem pleased.  I’ll mark that project as a spring success. 

My weekdays have been consumed with costume creation for Beauty and the Beast.  Costuming is new, but in addition everything I attempt now is a big change of scale for me.  My wall pieces are small and intimate, but the costumes are grandiose and cartoon-like with solid, in-your-face colors.  I’m happy to report that I have several costumes completed, including the first of the ‘Beast’ outfits.  That piece features a cloak with a removable capelet.  It will be on the beast when he first enters the play.  The intent is to make him look larger-than-life and very much the king of the castle.  The capelet will then snap off and be replaced by a more demure hood for the scene where he frightens the wolves away from Belle in the woods.   
To make the cloak, I rebuilt the base from a coat that was picked up by Melinda Seader last year on a trip out east.  I’ve been making the character bigger than life using a lot of foam and wire to enhance the build of the actor.  The foam fill for the capelet is taken from a yoga mat that I picked up from the Materials for the Arts program.  I’ve also had a lot of fun (which means I’ve been intensely working on) Mrs. Potts.  I needed to make this a relatively light costume.  It’s basic size makes it inherently cumbersome and I didn’t want it to be exceedingly heavy.  The skeleton of the teapot is built from hula-hoops and parts of an old water-cooling system from World Wide Auto.  
 I fleshed that out with synthetic fleece from a comforter donated to Sounds of South that the students took apart.  I upholstered the surface with a sheet from a thrift shop, then I popped on some flowers that were cut out long ago by a parent of one of the students. 

There have been so many helpful and capable people contributing to the project that it’s hard to remember everyone, but every little bit makes a big difference to feeling like the whole thing is coming together.  Along the same lines, I’ve also been working on the Milkmaid, including creating her milk bucket props.  The number of hands that this and every piece is amazing.  The buckets were donated by Oliver Winery to the Recycle Center, collected and cut down to size.  Some of the SOS members spray-painted them brown with paint donated by Bloomington Paint and Wallpaper.  The slats on the outside were donated by multiple sources, including some from Sherwin Williams and some from Grandma’s collection, with the rest contributed by Bloomington Paint and Wallpaper via Nancy Riggert.  Brian Lewis cut them all to size for us.  Some SOS students glued them onto the painted pails and stained the surfaces.  There are a few more steps ahead of us, but I’m hoping to have the final prop completed during the next craft night.  I’m hoping to get bands in place around the slats and holes drilled into the wood to install handles. 

There is much news on the family front.  So much, in fact, that I’m having trouble remembering everything that happened in the past few weeks.  The school year is drawing to a close.  Jacob’s last hiphop class with Jay, who is graduating from IU and moving on to greener pastures, was Friday.  Jay left his JayWalkerz group with a final dance number and a lot of fabulous memories.  My family saw Into the Woods at IU and Pilobolus the week before, so we have had plenty of theatrical fine arts exposure.   
Our summer routine means trips to the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.   
There have only been slim pie-friendly offerings, mostly very thin stalks of rhubarb.  Our freezer stores are almost gone, so Mother Nature better come through pretty soon!  Last, as a marker of how long it has been since I wrote a blog post, I have gotten TWO pies!  One was a fabulous apple-cranberry, and the other a very nice blueberry pie with the last of the summer berries.  
 I even found a delightful apricot-marzipan tart at the farmer’s market at the new pie vendor.  You might think that would keep me from wondering when the next pie would appear.  Hah!  I know there are still apples in the freezer and Mother’s day means rhubarb pie.  I expect to hear the whoosh of the gas lighting in the oven any time now...

Until next week,

Martina Celerin