Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gold Fish in a Blue Ocean

The fish are swimming through my head this week. I’ve been working on a weaving project in the Creek-Love multiage classroom at Roger’s school this week. We recently completed a huge blue weaving of the ocean using recycled materials. I scoured the Recycle Center and Opportunity House for all things blue, black and weavable, and what I came up with were ties, socks, lanyards, and cords. Perfect! The kids, a little at a time, created the ocean. Then I made a compatible frame out of the recovered stretcher frames from Pygmalion’s. Of course we jazzed it up a little by gluing seashells on the face of the frame, another good class project. The kids also sketched the fish they wanted for their weaving. This meant that not only did I have to create fish out of recycled stuff, I had to meet the demanding specifications of six to eight year olds. Did I say I love a challenge?

Luckily, a school of fish appeared in my kitchen this week. I started out with soft foam from the recycle center and a pair of scissors. I’m sure this is how all the great master sculptors got their start—limestone is way overrated. Then I took thin blue Styrofoam trays—the kind that fish really come on from the store—and cut those into tails and fins that could be glued on to the fish. The whole thing turned out to be a little too soft and absorbent to paint, but the art teacher at Rogers—Jan Barnes—really helped me out. She suggested that I try using celluclay, which is finely ground paper and water. It filled in the crevices and dried to a rock-hard surface and my fish were swimming again. They’ll soon be painted and ready for release into the ocean. It’s kind of like the animal rescue missions that take in wounded animals, nurse them back to health and then release them into the wild.

If you think you’d like to see the piece when it’s done, it scheduled for display at Wonderlab from May 20 to June 30th, planned to coincide with the new water table opening. ‘Gold Fish in a Blue Ocean’ will then swim over to the John Waldron Arts Center to hang for July and August before taking up a more permanent residence in the Creek-Love classroom, the first grade home of my son Cubbie.

In other news, I dragged my scientist husband out of the lab for lunch on Friday. It was going on 80 degrees and we ate at the picnic table in the Third Street Park. It turns out we couldn’t park in our usual secret spot behind the police station and had to settle for a street spot almost a block away. Oh the horrors of the city! In any case the afternoon was the setting for an artistic epiphany (aka piffy). I’ve been trying to come up with a design for a commission piece that fuses a woman and a tree. Nothing worked for me—the face always detracts from the design. Then I was looking up at the trees as the started to bud out and realized my tree woman should be looking up! Her arms grow into the branches, her elegant neck is exposed and she reaches for the skies. It empowers her and has a feel that I really like. I’ll start that soon, but tomorrow (Sunday the 26th of April) is the Luna festival in the Showers building. I’ll be showing some of my work (and more is along the staircase leading upstairs). My friend Bonnie Gordon-Lucas will be there too, so we’ll have fun no matter what.

Until next week…

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wood Poppies

Spring is here, and it’s the week of the commission piece. This week I’ve been working on a green fern piece with wood (Celandine) poppies to add a splash of color. My projects always seem to involve a mixture of local or recycled materials, Bloomington landmarks and my own personal history. The recycled material this time is the brass flashing that seals doors to the outside. I cut this into fern leaflets that I wrap with green yarn to achieve the rigid structure I need to grow the ferns out of the frame. The brass comes from the ever-reliable Kleindorfers’ hardware store, one of the best-kept secrets among three dimensional fiber artists. The wood poppies have special meaning for me as they have taken over our backyard gardens. Shortly after I moved into the big gray house (now yellow!) with my husband, every time one of us spotted a wood poppy flower and said ‘wood poppy’ we had to kiss each other. It works like tapping your water glass at a wedding, only you’re less likely to break a glass or spill water.

The warmer weather of last week was also great for letting me move ahead with finishing frames. The magic temperature for a lot of the paints and stains I use is 50F, and we easily passed that last week. Tom Bertolacini is a local friend who makes my unfinished frames. He does an amazing job with mitering beautiful joints and drilling the rows of holes I need to display my pieces. I putty any imperfections, sand them into submission, and finish them on the veranda. Finishing means painting or staining and sealing, depending on the piece. It isn’t my favorite part of the process but I work hard at making them look nice.

I’ve also been out and about town this week. I met up with Amy Hamilton of Musgrave Orchard and Core Farms CSA fame. She had on her big muddy boots and was happy to be outside planting. The vegetables that will appear in big wicker baskets this summer are popping out of their seed coats and reaching for the sky. That means big Russian Black tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and apples. Plus all the zucchini we can eat, give away or compost. Amy is the only person I know who was happy for the rainy weather of the last weeks to get her seeds germinating. I also went with my son Jacob’s class (the Creek-Love room at Rogers Elementary) to the Indiana University Art Museum and Lilly library. The Art museum was an inspiration for me, especially seeing some of the patterns in the African art exhibit. I made some sketches and I’m sure some of the themes will end up in ornaments for the holiday season. The weather was fabulous and the kids were energized so I got my weekly dose of shrieking. The passing IU students looked a little confused, but that’s pretty normal. The highlight, though, was that I got to enjoy a rare lunch with my son Cubbie on my lap.

Until next week

Saturday, April 11, 2009

One more week of winter!

This week was a transition week. I finished writing a grant proposal to BEAD (the Bloomington Entertaining and Arts District) to expand advertising for the Fourth Street Festival into larger markets. The goal is to bring more people to Bloomington to the Festival, which translates into more hotel occupancy, restaurant business and other sales for the community. I also finished my monthly quota for holiday ornaments (10 for April). Those are handy to work on anywhere, so I'm usually poking (needle felting) while the boys are doing their Tae Kwon Do practice under the watchful eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Scott at Monroe County Martial Arts. From there I transitioned back into making a commissioned piece called Winter Birches. This has been an extraordinarily popular piece, with strong card sales and interest since it was first made three years ago. I still make similar pieces on commission, so that was the goal for this week. The unseasonably cold weather provided just the right backdrop for the transition from winter to spring. That meant I didn't feel badly about working on a snowy piece this week.

The construction of Winter Birches is always an event. First I lay out the fifty or so required yarns as a gradient of color.
The feel of the piece is a cold serenity comprising black and white, but it really has a range of purples, greens, browns and grays. I've posted a picture so you can get an idea about what this means. Construction of the birches themselves is an adventure in recycled art itself. I wrap shoelaces, cord and old packing string in a special white yarn that has brown and beige strings hanging out. There are a few secret finishing touches, but well, they're secret! It gives me an inner pride to look at it, knowing all that's inside--kind of like watching your child at play.

The last transition for the week was unexpected and less welcome. I developed a kidney infection, which I first tried to overcome by drinking lots of water. I drank so much that the city people came by to see if we had a broken line in the house. OK, I'm kidding about that one, but my skin did start to dry out from all the hand washing. The situation got worse and worse until I got to the doctor and onto antibiotics. The good news is that I'm feeling better. The bad news is that I'll miss the Fleece Fair in Greencastle this weekend. That's very sad. I'll save some money, but I'll miss out on all the cool things I didn't know that I needed.

In the yard I'm still waiting for the newly planted cherry and peach trees to pop out of the bud stage. C'mon, c'mon! The tulips that are closest to the house are opening into purple, yellow, and red displays. The antlered grounds crew neatly cuts the rest back to the ground. On the road my show at the Shower's building looks lovely. Stop in and see 'Inch by Inch and Row by Row' while you're at the Farmer's Market this month!

Until next week…

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Pulitzer Prize for practical writing goes to…

This week my artistic side has taken a back seat to my business persona. What she’s doing back there, well, I don’t know, but I’m sure she’s dreaming up some new pieces. It is spring, though, so you never know. I put on my Fourth Street Festival hat this week and, along with Cappi Phillips and Dawn Adams, put together a presentation for the City Elders to try to expand the festival layout. The goal is to expand along the remaining segment of Fourth Street toward the University, and to capture a little of Dunn. We met with the Chief of police and the Fire Chief, as well as the person in charge of Engineering for the city. The committee members did a lot of legwork before the meeting and I think our plan was well received. Then it was off to lunch to celebrate with Cappi and Dawn to Samira for their excellent lunch buffet. We took advantage of the nice weather and strolled through some of the art venues. I picked up my ‘Tomatoes’ piece from the Wandering Turtle for the ‘Inch by Inch and Row by Row’ show in the Showers building atrium, meant to coincide with the opening of the Farmer’s Market. We also admired the new abstract pieces at Gallery North. It’s nice work, but it’s a little weak on the abstract fiber art in my estimation.

The other big projects this week all involve writing. I wrote a grant proposal to the BCAC (Bloomington City Arts Commission) to request support for our proposed Children’s booth project. Last year we had a great time creating the Community Tree. Amy Brier carved a limestone trunk for us and I made branches and leaves. Throughout the year I collected materials that children could use to decorate the leaves. We got some great pieces that ranged from painted leaves to mosaic pieces with glued-on materials in all colors and styles. It was great fun, and the piece now stands in the Showers building. This year we’re going to create a huge Community BEAD (Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District) mosaic in four pieces. I also put together a press release to announce the show I’m doing with Cappi Phillips in Fort Wayne. To fill in the gaps I was needle-felting ornaments for the upcoming holiday season—I finished number 25 this week! They’re rather time intensive to make, so I have a target of ten each month to get ready for the winter season.

On a last note, we’re well into the spring bloom in the yard. The deer food—oops, I mean tulips—that are in protected areas near the house are just opening (hooray!). The rest are munched down the ground. The darn critters come right into the back yard and graze through the gardens. I’m also watching a huge tangle of foliage emerge that will soon send up a purple trial balloon for the rest of the garden to see if it’s really spring. OK, it’s actually just an allium with a big flower, but that’s the way it seems.

Until next week…