Sunday, February 21, 2016

Seventy Degrees and Summer Beckons!

After a heavy focus on making costumes, this week I launched back into making pieces for the summer art fair circuit.  Yesterday the thermometer reached seventy and the day was sunny.  Eranthis, snowdrops and crocuses started flowering across the yard, filling it up with fresh colors.  The weather seduced my mind with thoughts of summer, so off I went to make some summer birches by a stony lake shore.  I picked up some florist wire remnants and have been wrapping them with yarn from alpacas that I buy at the summer farmer’s market.   
My friend Cathy Crosson of RedRosa farm raises alpacas and sells a yarn, spun from a particular color of charcoal grey alpaca that work well for me.  The wrapped wires contribute the narrow diameter branches of the birches, and I can bend them as I like to make natural tree pieces that hold their shape.  I wove the background for the piece about a month ago, but other responsibilities prevented me from advancing the piece.  I stretched out the weaving in one of the oak frames that Thom Bertolacini builds for me, so now I’m ready to build forward the background using a dimensional crochet technique.  When everything is in place I’ll attach the birch trees and start listening for the waves splashing up on the rocky shore. 

Friday marked a milestone in my other major focus, making circus costumes for the current Sounds of South members in the upcoming production of ‘Pippin’.  I’ll share a few individual pictures, but I think the image I like best shows the two racks jam packed and bursting with purples, blues and greens.  I even threw in some black, silver and white for good measure.  That was a good stopping point for my costuming, which allowed me to go back to creating weavings.  I’ll use the next month to focus on making art to travel to summer fairs.  
 I also need to develop pieces for a fall exhibit I’m working on titled ‘Treasures from the Earth’.  In April I’ll go back to Bloomington South and making circus costumes after the freshmen class has been selected and measured.  I’ll continue collecting used clothing in the color palette for the show until then to draw on for the new costumes. 

Speaking of costumes, yesterday I delivered twelve mannequins (a big thank you to Deb Christiansen from IU!) to the Blue LineGallery.  These will support my costumes from last fall’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ production.  
 The gallery will host a joint exhibit with a fashion designer that will take you behind the scenes a little bit.  I’ll share my rough sketches for the costumes so people can see the thought process that connects the conception with costume building and leads to the final, wearable product.  Jim Andrews is curating the exhibit so I’m looking forward to getting a list from him describing which characters he would like to include.  I know he’s partial to the grater, the whisk and the potato mashers.  Mark your calendars and come out on March 4th for the opening reception, although the show will be up for a couple of months. 

In travel news, I’m packing for a workshop in Memphis,Tennessee next weekend.  I do know that my three big boxes with fifteen looms and mountains of colorful yarn have arrived.  That helps give me confidence that everything will go smoothly when I get there.  I’m looking forward to the explosion of color when they come out.  I just need to remember to pack my Swiss army knife in my suitcase and not my carry on when I travel!  
 I probably won’t be able to write a blog next weekend, but I should have lots of news and pictures when I write again on March 5th.   On the home front, Jim surprised me with a cherry pie on Saturday morning.  Hooray, my favorite!  I think he knew that.  We definitely need to pack more fresh farmer’s market cherries into the freezer for the cold months.  I’m going to have to muddle through on blueberry and raspberry pies until May.  

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Fall Stew is Finished!

It feels great when I can bring a piece to completion, especially when I have been plugging away for so long to make each of the components.  My vegetable piece has finally come together and I love-love-love how it looks!  The warm wool evokes comforting feelings that mirror the intent of the composition—a fall stew as warm comfort food.  As I look at all the vegetables I’m still trying to decide which is my favorite.  I’m sure when the piece hangs on the wall in my booth I’ll hear lots of personal stories about vegetables and cooking that will just add to my delight in the final composition. 

Finishing one piece built around needle felting means that I need to start another to fill my sit-and-wait times between the boys’ activities.  Now I’m crocheting leaf clumps to fill a forest canopy.  I combine a lot of the crispy bright green yarns I dyed last summer with some commercial yarns that fill out the color story I want to create.  I typically crochet six or eight strands of yarn together into random clumps.  I find it amusing when people sitting near me key in on what I’m doing.  The furrowed brows and puzzled looks precede the first questions, which boil down to “What are you doing”?  My words rarely dispel the puzzled looks, so I whip out my phone and show a weaving with a fully leafed out tree.  Then they connect to the activity and I get the drawn out “Oohhhhh”! 

Thinking of tree pieces with leaf clumps, I made a video a couple of months ago showing my current exhibit hanging at the Bloomington Bagel Company at the Shoppes.  I posted it on Facebook and got a lot of interest.  I recently checked back in because a lot of people were sharing the video.  I was pleasantly shocked to see that I have over forty thousand views!  Here is a link if you haven’t seen it yet and want to contribute to my swelling pride.  People all over the world have been viewing it, which leaves me amazed by the technology that connects us.  I can imagine someone in their jammies and fuzzy bunny slippers, sipping a coffee in Bulgaria checking out my weavings in the bagel shop here in Bloomington, Indiana. 

Right now my main focus is on two upcoming events that needed timely intervention.  First, my fiber world primarily involves costume design and creation for next year’s performance of Pippin by Sounds of South.  I’m focusing on the chorus costumes and the theme is vintage circus.  My color palate is purple, blue and green, not tints or shades, just the pure colors.  I’m being a little fussy on that because I want the colors to be strong but tight.  The neutrals are black and silver.  They will contrast with the principals, whom I’ll dress in strong bright reds so they pop out against the sixty-five or so kids in the chorus.  In my mind the design is perfect—I just hope it will translate to the stage!   
Anyway, the project is coming along beautifully.  I have all of the costumes for boys who are current members and all of the girl’s costumes up through “L” in the alphabet.  My sewing and sounding board faeries, mainly Nancy Riggert and Misty Hayes, have been terrific and fun to work with.  Of course the spring auditions for next year’s members haven’t taken place, though, so Gwen is likely to bring along another fifteen or so kids who’ll need chorus costumes.  I’m setting that thought aside and trying to focus on my accomplishments.  To give you an idea what I’m doing, here are a few pictures of the completed costumes for the female members.

The wild card in my work schedule is travel to put on workshops.  I have two finalized events this year and two more in the works.  Next up is Memphis in about ten days, which means I need to construct some new looms for the participants.  Last summer we cleaned out the shed and I rediscovered wood that had been stored there.  I found tomato plant stakes, wood from the huppah when my friend Sonia got married in the back yard, and slats from the walk-in cellar door cover that Grandpa assembled to keep water out of the basement.  I’m all about recycling materials, and each of those pieces have good karma.  The same holds for the 1x2s I picked up from the Re-store to support Habitat for Humanity in town.  I chopped them all up and sanded the wood to make looms that I’ll ship to Memphis on Monday.  The screws that hold the L-brackets together are all recycled so it’s a mismatch of colors that’s fun to look at—it reminds me of a crazy quilt.

There’s not much more to add, other than the fact that there’s still no pie.  I think Jim knows I bought a bunch of Valentine’s day chocolate and didn’t want to have a sugar overload today.  Sometimes I just can’t fathom what he’s thinking, but if makes a nice dinner I suppose I can wait another few days for a pie.  Not silently, mind you, but I’ll pull through.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Basket Full of Veggies!

Melt some butter and get out the garlic press—this week I have been making what I’m confident are the last two vegetables for my "Fall Stew" piece.  Yes, it has been a long, drawn-out process, but the slow process of making all the vegetables means I get to savor each contribution.  I got to thinking about Amy Hamilton from the Core Farms CSA.  We used to travel to Musgrave Orchard each week to pick up our basket of summer vegetables before our schedule just became to erratic to be able to plan on receiving vegetables each week.  Now we rely on the Bloomington Community Farmer’s Market.  Anyway, I remember how much she enjoyed describing the different characteristics of each garlic variety they grew.  
 I learned that there were many varieties and that they were either soft or hard necked, which helped guide my design.  I prefer the hard neck varieties over the grocery-story soft neck versions.  The hard neck garlic heads don’t store as well, but they are more flavorful and complex, just like a nice red wine.  They feature a single row of toes around a central core, as opposed to the jumbled toes of the soft neck variety.  I made three heads by first making small felted balls.  I stuffed small clumps of sheep’s wool that I got from Gale Hale (but I think she got it from Nancy Kreuger).  Last summer I invested a huge amount of time washing and cleaning and now I’m able to use the beautiful white fleece.  I stuff clumps into Grandma’s old nylons (the ones with holes) and tie knots off between the clumps.  A trip through the washer and dryer and a snip next to each clump releases a soft felted ball about an inch in diameter.  I needle felted the balls into toes and shaped them into the garlic head.  I’m really pleased with how they turned out!

My final choice for vegetable to fill the last space on the piece was inspired by a birthday party I went to last week.  My friend Cinny had her sixtieth birthday party at her home in Brown County, and Dawn Adams gave me a tour of the property.  I was struck by the sea of purple turnip tops that act as a cover crop to retain soil and nutrients.  The richly colored tops were shielded a tiny bit of green that survived the ravages of the cold snap we had in early January.  I couldn’t see the white bottoms, but I knew they were there, drawing from the deep tap roots that stabilized the soil.  I’m always up for a sign from the universe, so when I needed my own cover crop to fill in the last space in my weaving I knew it had to be turnips!  I can’t tell you how happy I will be attach my bushel basket of vegetables to the weaving and call it done!

The other project that has been keeping me busy for most of the week was working on costumes for Sounds of South.  This was my first full week of going into the costume studio every day.  With the help of my sewing and glueing faeries, Nancy Riggert and Misti Hays, we have made great strides on the boy’s vintage circus costumes.  As of Friday I have designed twenty of the twenty-five male costumes in the current SOS group.  I fully understand that there will be a new crop of freshman joining in the spring, but for now I’m looking forward to celebrating the complete set of the male costumes by the end of the coming week.  I should even have made a pretty good dent in the girl’s costumes too.  I’ll post the images of some of my favorite costumes next time.

It has been a good week, but I ran out of pie around midweek and have gone three days now without pie.  I think I need Werner Herzog to narrate a documentary on my pie struggles.  On the bright side, we’re one trimester away from a summer vacation!  

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Monday, February 1, 2016

Parsnips, Pie and ISSMA Gold

This week’s vegetable is parsnip.  At least that’s the felted vegetable I’m making for my piece in progress called ‘Fall Stew’.  I grew up with parsnips as a big part of our diet.  It’s a key ingredient in svíčková omáčka.  Every family makes it a little differently.  My father always prepared it with a meat roast surrounded by carrots, onions, parsnips and celeriac.  The key spices are peppercorns, bay leaves and juniper berries.  We used to collect the juniper berries, illegally I’m sure, at the Pinery Provincial Park during summertime visits.  That kept us in dried berries through the year.  After baking, the ingredients were combined with sour cream and milk and pureed.  This was an event where he always wore an apron because he managed to splatter the omáčka everywhere.  The sauce was then poured back over the meat and big knedlicky (big dumplings).  There was lots of sour cream to make it good and a little vinegar for flavor.  The carrots and parsnips were important to add a sweetness.  Many families have different versions, but that’s the basic recipe. 

As I was making the parsnips, which I always tried to sneak into my fall stew, I realized that most people aren’t familiar with the shape.  People around me who watch as I needle felt ask if I’m making albino carrots.  They’re probably the same people who can’t tell a loon from a duck.  It doesn’t matter, though—I know what they are. Next I’ll add to the composition a little garlic as my next ‘vegetable.'  You can’t really have a stew without garlic, can you?

I have a lot of art fairs on my summer schedule that I’m excited about doing.  That means I need to hide away in my studio and weave.  I always forget how much I enjoy weaving!  My frame maker, Tom Bertolacini, has been busy as well. He is a woodworker and photographer who lives out in Greene County and makes my frames from locally sourced oak.  He has been busy making seventeen new frames for me that he delivered on Friday.  I know I’m getting off track a little, but that was an incredibly busy day.  I have been going into South to work on the costumes for Pippin on Mondays and Fridays.  This particular Friday, the 29th, is exactly one month since my birthday.  I had lost track of that, but as it turns out, my husband and the SOS director (Gwen Witten) hadn’t.  As I was coming out of the costume studio into the big choir room to measure one of the girls for a skirt waistband, the spotlight fell on me and Gwen announced that it was my birthday!  Four big boxes of cookies came into the room from Baked in Bloomington, still warm and full of wafty smells to share with the room. It’s pretty amazing to have sixty-five vocally gifted kids singing happy birthday to you in perfect tune, all staring at you and smiling.  It was a little overwhelming.  My son Tommie was among the 65, but my husband and younger son Jacob walked in to be part of the experience.  I even got a present—a Kuerig coffee machine that will stay in the costume studio.  What a perfect gift and a wonderful surprise! It’s almost as good as the Bahamas!  Almost. 

Saturday turned out to be pretty intense too.  Both boys participated in the ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Association) voice competition.  Jacob was in Division 2 and Tommie in Division 1, and both received gold medals.  Tommie will be competing in the state competition on February 20th.  I’m so incredibly proud of them!  They are both gifted in many many ways. They sang with confidence and poise and passion.  When I sat in the audience and they opened their mouths and this beautiful sound came out of their mouths I had a moment of ‘who is this kid?’  We went from there to a 60th birthday party for a friend of mine who lives on a beautiful property in Brown County.  I saw an impressive field of turnips planted for ground cover, which got me thinking about Fall Stew again.  Sunday was my actual birthday party, with conch fritters, baked salmon and boca negra, a delightful flourless cake from Julia Childs.  

 Oh, and so much happened that I almost forgot to mention that it was a pie week!  Blueberry, yum!  I still have blueberry pie and chocolate cake in the fridge.  My life is complete.  At least for the moment.  I’ll probably want another pie by Wednesday.  

Until next week,

Martina Celerin