Saturday, November 17, 2018

Virtual Weaving

My first project of the week, before I launched into an intensive engagement with the computer, was to complete a free standing dove sculpture that I wrote about last week.  I’ve been making whimsical, colorful birds and one of my Facebook friends asked if I had ever made a dove.  Hmm... I could do that, I thought!  I pulled out my white fleeces and white yarns with the idea that I could layer white on white, making the slight color differences the focus of attention.  I love working with white on white, but when I came up with the idea for the design on the wings I knew I had my composition.  I think it’s vibrant without having any color. 

The project that took the most time this week was assembling an application for the call for a public art piece in the Zionsville Town Hall.  I would like to move in the direction of creating more large installation pieces.  For the application I first had to assemble a complete resume.  I don’t think I realized everything I have done over the years.  I had forgotten about many of the public art commissions, talks, and special projects in addition to all the art fairs, workshop and costuming on top of the hundreds of dimensional weavings I’ve created and sold.  It’s been quite a ride!  I even had a laugh out loud moment when I was searching my computer for images related to one of my recent pieces called “Pie Fruit.” 
The screen was filled with just a partial list of all the pie images that have appeared in my blog – and I still could scroll through another screen-full! And that doesn’t account for all the pies that have come my way.  It reminds me of what a sweet husband I have. 

My concept for the Zionsville proposal was to channel what I imagine their Farmers’ Market must be like and how that is like a Town Hall for meeting people and exchanging ideas.  I used our farmer’s market as a reference point, because my family and I go almost every Saturday that we’re home.  It’s a comforting ritual to engage the changing colors, smells and people we encounter each week as spring turns to summer then fall.  We usually come home with more produce than we expected, but we always run into friends that we haven’t seen in a while for a quick chat and connection.  I went through collections of images, some of which I had forgotten about, and it was nice to see strong pieces I had made years ago.  Because there is always a spark of an event or an experience that is the starting point for each of my weavings, I got to think about the family stories that went into piece.  As I make each piece there is a dialog that goes on between the piece and me.  The composition and process is interactive.  The stories have been in the back of my mind and it was nice to relive them as I produced descriptions for pieces I featured in the application. 

And - if you are interested in seeing a selection of my work in a group exhibit that focuses on food, I’m excited to announce that I will be participating in an exhibit at the Garfield Park Arts Center in December called“Palate: An Appetite for Art.”  The opening reception is on December 7th from 6-8 p.m. and the show will be up until Dec 29th. 

This week I played a little more with dyeing using a very unconventional approach.  A couple of weeks ago, after I did my first dye bath with black walnuts, I still had plenty of dye.  I decided to over-dye some intense red cotton yarn - of which I probably have far more than I’ll ever need.  As I was washing the yarn, which I always do before I plunk it in the dye bath, I noticed that it was bleeding a lot of dye.  I thought—hmmm—what could I do with that red?  I finished the overdyeing project and I did get a really pretty deeper muted red, but this week I decided to try and tap into the concept of transferring the dye color.  I wound a large skein of red and just put it into the dye pot and let it boil for an hour.  Lo and behold the dye pot was almost black because of all the dye that leached from the yarn.  I pulled the source yarn out and, because I didn’t have any alum, I threw in some aluminum foil and half a cup of vinegar with the thought that some might leach out and behave like a mordant.  
Of course the scientist in me wishes I had done a controlled experiment [similar pot, no aluminum foil and vinegar] but the fiber artist in my said:  “who cares, I just want the dyed wool!” I grabbed about a half a pound of fleece, washed it, and put it in the pot to boil and let it steep overnight.  The next day I pulled it out and wow, what an amazing red!  And yes, it is fixed to the fleece.  I’m very pleased with how the experiment turned out.

Last, after a long run of wonderful raspberry pies that culminated with a pumpkin spice apple pie when the berries ran out, there will be no fresh pie this weekend.  I sure do hope I can make it until the Thanksgiving pies kick in!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, November 11, 2018

What happened to autumn?

The first snows fell this week, bringing a cold and calming sense of closure to my summer art season.  Now I will transition into my winter hibernation mode of creation in my art studio.  I completed the last of my scheduled events by running a workshop on felting techniques for my local guild.  While I really love traveling to workshops, where I can meet new people and enjoy different parts of the country, it was nice to just melt back into my home after the workshop, knowing that I could sleep in my own bed last night. 
Yesterday’s workshop featured an enthusiastic bunch of felters, from absolute beginners to highly skilled fiber artists.  We focused on creating birds, from vibrantly colorful birds of whimsy to highly detailed and accurate creations.  It was such fun to see the excitement and intensity brought to the workshop, which, like the birds themselves, was manifest in the diversity of the personalities and styles present.  I have great fun teaching, and I always come away with lots of new ideas and a renewed drive to create my own art.  
The next question is always ‘When is the next workshop’, and I’ve been communicating with artists in Canada, Alabama and Florida, so I’ll let you know when there are firm dates. 

We’re coming to the end of an era this coming week, with Jacob expected to get his driving license on Thursday.  Then he can drive himself to each of his activities.  For now, though, I still get to sit and watch him, even if he is behind the wheel there and back as a student driver.  
Lately he has been doing Muay Thai kickboxing, which leaves me time to work on willow leaves for my next piece in the migration series.  When I was in California for a conference at Asilomar many years ago I took a side trip to a site where monarch butterflies congregate for a rest on their migration to Mexico.  I imagined what the trees must look like when the butterflies land en masse—the intricate wings clustered together must have looked like draped flower petals.  I decided to create a weaving to show the scene that I imagined I would have seen.  
I have the green gradient background woven and stretched out in a frame, and the cascading willow leaves will drape forward from the background.  I have also created the butterfly wing blanks, so now I need to embellish them with the monarch patterns.  The good news is that I learned a lot from my costume design experience creating checkered men’s suits from plain and striped materials and drawing in the patterns I imagined.  I experimented with different kinds of art markers and I’ve settled in some that work really well on fabric.  Imagining all the butterflies I’ll need for the weaving means there is a lot of drawing patterns in my future!

I also did some puttering this week with natural dyeing.  I have to say it was a lot of fun to share my fleeces in the the bird workshop, where I shared my black walnut, avocado, onion skin and maple bark dyed fleeces.  My latest experiment wasn’t yet dry, though, so it stayed home.  Last weekend, after the Spinners and Weaver’s guild show at the Convention Center, I noticed a spruce tree that had dropped a carpet of pine cones—so I knew what I had to do!  The next day Jacob and I went out and collected what turned out to be 156 pine cones, because that’s how many fit into my dye pot. 
I did my usual technique of boiling them for an hour followed by an overnight steep.  I strained out the woody solids the next day.  I reheated the dye pot and added a pound of freshly washed fleece, boiled that mixture for an hour and let it steep overnight.  I pulled out a yummy beige caramel that resembles the color of eggplant flesh after it has been salted for about an hour.  I don’t know what I need it for yet, but I know that everything will find its purpose. 

Finally, yes, it was a pie week.  Plus, there’s a video showing how it was made!  Several people have asked for Jim’s pie crust recipe, in part because it uses oil instead of butter or shortening - that makes it a little healthier, and I’m sticking with that answer because I love pie.  Jacob was a wizard at filming and editing the video to make it clean and sharp.  The pie was a pumpkin spiced apple creation, which was an awesome treat after our celebratory dinner! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Things are Humming Along!

Birds are flying in and out of my life right now.  I participated in the annual Spinners and Weavers Guild show at the Bloomington Convention Center over the weekend, and I displayed my new whimsical birds and bird-themed weavings created over the summer.  Two of the whimsical birds found their forever homes and I was commissioned to create two more.  They seemed to make a lot of fair-goers very happy, so I’m calling that project a success.  My latest bird piece is ongoing, however, and I devoted a substantial block of time this week to creating a hummingbird.  I’m imagining a full sized weaving featuring three clusters of flowers from a trumpet vine, where the compound leaves cascade forward from the woven background.  I was pretty excited when I created the trumpet flowers about a month ago, and they have patiently waited for a hummingbird to come along to pass some pollen from bloom to bloom.  
The change in weather (and the end of my role in costuming) allowed me the time to bring the hummingbird to life.  I’m pretty excited about the composition as a whole, and I can’t wait to assemble it. 

The end of one project brings another, and I need to set aside my birds for a few days to focus on my upcoming workshop this weekend here in Bloomington.  It has been a long time since I was able to hold a workshop where I can sleep in my own bed!  It will take place on Saturday from 9-4 at the St. Thomas Lutheran Church on Third Street.  If you are interested, there are still three slots open—let me know and I’ll connect you with the organizer.  The workshop focuses on needle felting techniques, and we will create – yup – birds!  
They can be any kind of bird your heart desires, from representational to whimsical, from drab to colorful, and from small to large.  I plan to have a great time, with lots of laughter, enthusiasm, and transfer of information and ideas. 

This week I continued on my quest to create a fun dye pot using natural materials.  Avocado shells and nuts were the featured material, which my son Jacob has been collecting for me.  He likes to make avocado toast for breakfast, and he slips the unwanted materials in a big ziplock bag in the freezer for me.  I scoured the web for tips on how to dye with avocados and I found two important details for creating a nice pinky-brown wool.  The first is to carefully wash the materials to remove any remaining avocado flesh, and the second is to raise the pH of the solution.  I added a half a cup of baking soda to my four gallons of dye and boiled my freshly washed wool for an hour.  
The pot steeped overnight and I pulled the fleece out the next day.  The rainy weather slowed the drying process, but now I have an almost dry wool.  I’ll add it to my stash of wools in the category of ‘this will be just perfect for something, I just don’t know what yet’ in my vast fiber storage area. 

The week ended with a delightful celebratory dinner after the show, where Jim made ginger glazed salmon with fresh ginger from the farmer’s market.  Steamed broccoli and jasmine rice completed the meal, and a beautiful and delicious raspberry pie followed for dessert.  Add a glass of celebratory wine and it’s clear that life is good.  Full, but very good.    

Until next week,

--> Martina Celerin