Saturday, March 28, 2015

Two Dogs and an Art Fair

--> It has been a busy, full week culminating in big celebrations.  First and foremost, I finished my latest commission and delivered it to its happy home.  I put a sneak peak of a section on Facebook earlier this week.  Now here’s the full view.  I really did almost nothing else over the past few weeks to get this piece done on time.  It traveled with me to Michigan where I stretched it out.  Grandma’s cats, Yahzee and Callie, looked on skeptically as an unwelcome object invaded their space.   The leaf clumps for the canopy were made as I traveled to and from Tuscon, including during the layovers in the Dallas airport.  Thankfully, crochet hooks are allowed on airplanes these days.  
 I had a lot of the components completed before spring break but not the dogs.  I had taken multiple pictures of them and created a collage so I felt ready to build them from scratch by needle felting.  I felt an added pressure because the dogs were not purebred.  I wanted them to be as true to their appearance as possible to make them familiar to their owners, both by their looks and their gestures.  I spent a lot of time crafting the faces to be happy and enthusiastic.  I was pleased with how they turned out.  On Friday morning I delivered the piece to the new owner, just in time for the spouse’s birthday.  They both loved it, which made me happy. 

Other bright news came my way at the end of the week.  I was accepted into the Madison Art Fair!  It is one of my favorite summer shows to do.  I love the people of Madison that come out to support art.  Their general enthusiasm and financial support make it extremely rewarding for artists to participate.  Another big bonus is visiting with Wendy and Duane and staying out on their farm far from the city.  It is located in beautiful rolling farmland outside Hollandale, making for a beautiful drive back and forth to the show each day.  It’s going to be a lot of fun! 

Friday also marked my return to costume creation at Sounds of South.  We have eighteen freshmen joining the group, which means thirty-six new costumes to complete.  As if my life isn’t busy enough!  The project is moving forward nicely - the new kids all came to an orientation meeting Monday.  With the help of Nancy Riggert and my son Jacob, we fitted them for their costume bases for villagers, and measured them all for the kitchen utensil costumes.  On Friday we had all of the hands of the Sounds of South current members busily working on cutting and seam-ripping and gluing the normal clothing into what will be eighteenth-century eastern European/French peasant costumes.  I feel great about the progress.  At the welcoming meeting Gwen introduced the incoming parents to the concept of the craft nights that we are having every Monday.  They seem enthusiastic about participating, and I’m looking forward to big group of worker bees on Monday nights. 

I also managed fit in sketching the Beast’s three different looks as we drove home from Michigan.  In my vision, the beast first appears to Belle wearing a menacing cloak with a raised collar.  In the library scene, he starts to relax a bit, and he will wear a in Bohemian style shirt.  Finally, in the formal dinner scene he will sport a regal dinner jacket featuring lots of glitter and gold.  I just hope that the ultimate reality is as good as the vision in my head. 

On the home front there were a few highlights as well.  Jacob, in between Taekwondo, Jiu-jitsu and hip hop practice, sparred for the first time as a black belt challenger as his friend Seth tested for black belt.  While in Michigan, Grandma made me a delightful apple pie with some secret ingredients.  
 It had white Pinconning cheese in the filling and whole cream somehow drizzled onto the crust.  Just as I was experiencing pie withdrawal upon returning to Bloomington, Jim made me a delightful tart cherry pie shortly after we came home.  I have been enjoying pie and espresso all week, but now I have none.  Great sadness.  The next pie watch begins now. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

From summer back to spring!

Last week I packed up my warm weather clothes and hopped on a plane.  I was commissioned to hold a fiber arts workshop in Tuscon, Arizona.  I left a foot of snow on the ground with a hopeful suitcase full of shorts and light clothes to match predicted highs in the mid eighties.  And Tuscon came through!  I had a fabulous time at the workshop, and the beautiful high desert setting didn’t disappoint either.  I’ve never been to a climate like that before—it’s so distinct from anyplace I’ve ever been.  I’ve seen cacti in New Mexico, but never stands of saguaros and dense fields of cacti.  There were even saguaros in the medians of the highways!  I was amazed!
 I found it fascinating that there were no trees or bushes taller than about fifteen feet.  Somehow that makes the sky look even bigger.   The days were wonderfully warm in the mid eighties every day.  Even better, the group of seven people in the workshop were just an enthusiastic bunch, bringing varied backgrounds and experiences. 
  Some had done extensive workshops in tapestry and were used to being very rigid and structured and exacting.  I tried to push them out of their comfort zone and into creating organic shapes with non-conventional materials.  They mixed different weights and types of yarns and it was interesting to watch them evolve and grow into their more relaxed and reflective creations.   
Others had never woven in their lives, so the idea of creating fabric from yarn was novel and exciting.  They were all ready to try new things and take on challenges.  That made it even more rewarding for me.  When I teach workshops I never begin with a preconceived notion of what the art should look like at the end.  I never hold paint by number workshops—I try to be very much open as to how the process develops.  
 Every hour or so I introduce a new technique, approach or combination that people may incorporate or explore as well.  Every couple of hours we have a stretching fest where I get all of the participants to stand up and move their bodies [I’m thinking of you, Darrelyn]!  
 The participants and I then walk around to see how others are interpreting the new techniques.  By the end of the workshop the people are creating their own applications and sharing what they developed with their cohorts.  They all seemed happy with what they accomplished.   
Overall, I’m delighted with how everything turned out. 

I have to thank my hosts for the five days stay, Lura and Jill.  Oh my gosh they were just so perfect!   
We had such a wonderful time.  I’m so incredibly grateful to them for hosting me.  They were everything from tour guides to wine stewards and baristas.  They came with two wonderful dogs, Teddy and Romie, who took me for walks through the neighborhood each evening.  I discovered amazing rock hounding, learned the names of mountains and plants, and was able to pepper them with questions about the flora and fauna.
Lura is a fabulous gardener and she always had a thoughtful answer to my questions about what I observed.  She is also a production weaver and creates baby blankets and chenille scarves and shawls.  Jill spins exceedingly fine yarn.  I think her favorite is silk and wool that she uses to create lacework.  They work with local cotton growers and are a resource for the processed cotton products in a rainbow of natural colors.  They are both retired nurses that saw the light and are now both fiber people, which gave us a lot to talk about.  Plus, they’re just a lot of fun—we laughed a lot. 

There is a funny story about how the workshop came to be.  About two years ago Wendy, one of the workshop participants, saw my work on Pinterest and contacted me about visiting Tuscon to do the workshop.  The cogs turned slowly but effectively.  Roxanne, the workshop coordinator, brought the whole trip together.  I’m very grateful to both of them for making this all work out.  I came home with a brain full of textures, colors and ideas.  I’m not exactly sure how that will translate into my own work but somehow I know it will.  I’ve already been hearing from my friends that I’ll be needle felting cacti and using toothpicks for spines.  Everyone has an idea for me.   
I came home to a wonderful family with open arms and lots of hugs.  Plus the house was clean—OMG!  It was terrific to see my family.  On Friday I launched back into SOS (Sounds of South) costumes and I just about completed the Le Fou jacket.  This is a costume I sketched on a piece of scrap paper as I watched the boys do Taekwondo before I left.  
 It would be done now if the rainy Friday didn’t prevent me from spray painting the buttons I needed.  Oh, and on the way home I did some sketching for still more costumes.  I need to accommodate the new additions to SOS that auditioned into the group while I was gone.  Things are moving along well on the costumes in progress over the past few weeks, such as completing Babette’s feather duster gloves.   
We riveted the napkin ring waistband closures and laced up the last of the village boy’s shirts.  And no blog would be complete without mentioning the pie status, especially on international pie day (3.14.15).  Sadly, the closest I came was cold, leftover pizza pie with my coffee this morning.  Ugh!  The fruit fairy really needs to visit soon. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Planting Flowers!

This week we are in the middle of a February deep freeze.  A fresh blanket of snow fell on the foot or so that we already have, but that just increased my determination to plant some flowers.  No, I haven’t completely lost my marbles.  I’ve been working on one of the commissions that features a fence with a bicycle propped up against it.  Behind the fence is a garden of summer flowers along a flagstone path, and creating summer colors is what has helps get me through the cold weather. 
 If you’ve read my posts regularly you know that I don’t post an image of the completed piece until the commissioner has had ad chance to see it, but I will post a sneak peak of the view looking down at the flowers to remind you that summer is coming.  I’m planning to ship the piece to Canada on Tuesday, where I’m sure they will appreciate an early peek at summer. 

As one piece comes together I’m usually well along on the next commissioned piece.  I have all of the tree trunks in hand and the background is woven for the next piece in line.  I’m making branches for the trees as well as leaf clumps to fill in the canopy.  
 The background weaving already contains elements of the treetops, but I’ll build it forward with crocheted leaf clumps.  When I have all the pieces assembled I’ll start putting it all together.  I promised completion of the project by the end of March so I feel like I’m in good shape. 

These days I’ve been splitting my time almost evenly between commission work and creating costumes for the Sounds of South production of Beauty and the Beast.  This week on Friday I got closure on one section of the costume making. 
  With the invaluable help of my dedicated team of costume makers (students, parents and parents of former students!) we now have all of the shirts and vests for the male villagers completed.  I decided to mark the occasion with a costume parade in the SOS classroom to see them all side-by-side.  Some of the students and I hung the outfits along the back closet.   

This also allows me (and Nancy Riggert, my right hand in this process) to evaluate how the costumes work with each other, as well as how they all look from a distance.  We stood back and decided which costumes needed a little more embellishment or fabric love.  We’re pretty happy, but there might be some more changes once we see them on stage on the set and under the lights.  Thanks Becky DeLong for that good advice.   
The pants are still a work in progress, but they’re almost complete—Geni Schermer is on the job!  We picked out full-length pants in the show’s color palette of orange, teal and plum.  The SOS kids have cut them off at the appropriate length and now Geni is hemming them and introducing elastic into the calf bands.  Nancy’s friend Noni has made the ties for the bottoms of the knickers.  The goal is to create the feel of an old French fairy tale.  I think we’re pretty close, but I’m sure some of my Slavic roots crept into the costumes.  I’ll settle for an old European fairy tale look. 

My life isn’t destined to be all winter fun.  I’m delighted to be packing up my suitcases this week and flying out to Tuscon, Arizona for a five-day trip/three-day workshop for their fiber guild. The weather forecast is for the temperatures in the eighties!  I’m very much looking forward to the trip, and in anticipation of the workshop I’ve already shipped two big boxes of stuff (yarn, fleece and looms, plus show and tell items).  It will be a packed three days of fiber fun where I get to share my passion for what I do.  I do seem to have a lot of friends who will be stowing themselves into my suitcases, though, so there might be some extra costs for baggage.

Oh, and I discovered a blueberry pie this week—mmmm!  It didn’t have the rich and subtle flavors of the last pie, which has sparked much discussion about blueberry growth, varieties and the best time of season to harvest.  This is such a serious problem that I think we should run some more tests!  Or compare blueberries with cherries or raspberries! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin