Sunday, May 31, 2009

Beach week!

I’m a little late in posting this week, but yesterday was a travel day. We spent a wonderful week on the beach in Corolla, North Carolina, at the north end of the outer banks. Normally I would have spent the transit time needle-felting ornaments for the holiday season, but the airlines frown on traveling with sharp objects. I have learned to pack my faithful Swiss Army Knife in the checked bags, but they still enjoyed running my purse through the X-ray machine multiple times. I think the culprit was the drill bits I bought in Michigan and forgot about, but who knows. I like to be prepared, so you never know what you’ll find in my purse.

This year we flew into Norfolk, Virginia, which shortened the drive to Corolla considerably. We arrived in time to catch some beach time, although high tide limited the shell collecting efforts. That wouldn’t be a problem for most people, but I’m always on the lookout for weaving materials and high tide doesn’t leave much room for collecting on the beach. We quickly settled into a routine of beach time in the morning, back to the house for lunch, off for an adventure like golfing or hiking, an ice cream stop, and then back to the beach either before or after dinner. Fresh fish shops abound, and you can’t beat fresh flounder. The HOA (Husband of Artist) and eSOA (elder Son of Artist) went on a fishing adventure on the sound and came back with Bluefish and Spanish mackerel. These were good, but not as good as the flounder. A week on the coast does highlight the one and only failing of our fair town, Bloomington Indiana—there’s just no great seafood to be found. We’re still glad to be back.

It’s hard to pick highlights from a trip with many. I love watching the lines of pelicans skim effortlessly over the surf and the dolphins popping in and out. Low tide brings all kinds of interesting critters, such as puffer fish, sea cucumbers, Jellyfish, sand dollars (OK, really sand quarters or so) and the very cool devil’s purses. They’re the egg casings from the manta rays that cruise the coast. Shells are everywhere, and of course they get picked over for compatibility with weavings. The sand crabs pop in and out of the sand to keep an eye on us, and the little birds that run in and out of the surf set a good example for the kids. Everybody is on board to make it a good trip.

On our last day we drove south to Hatteras Island. The Pea Island national wildlife refuge is home to an amazing collection of birds, and we even saw a banded water snake on the way. We ran into two very gracious volunteer bird watchers there, Pat and Neal Moore. Neal set up a telescope at Cubbie height, and he spent some quality time looking out over the wetlands and sketching in his new sketchbook. I was very proud. The Moores recommended the Dolphin Den restaurant, which served up some great tuna steak sandwiches. Next stop was the old Cape Hatteras lighthouse, which we checked out but declined to climb. We reached the top of the Currituck lighthouse last year, and the creaky open staircase wasn’t a good match for the HOA. It’s amazing to read that they moved the Hatteras lighthouse a half mile inland when the ocean threatened to eat the adjacent shoreline, then moved it back to the original site years later. That must have been quite a feat and something to witness.
All good things must end, and now we’re firmly back on Southern Indiana clay. The anti-deer spray seems to have discouraged our primary local nemeses from eating the remaining lilies that are about to bloom. That was a real bonus when we pulled in the driveway. The Tradescantia is also coming into bloom, but the peonies and irises are fading. I’m hoping that there are still a few strawberries around, and that a blueberry pie is in my near future. Let the summer begin!

Until next week…

Friday, May 22, 2009

Gold Fish in a Blue Ocean

It’s finished! “Gold Fish in a Blue Ocean” is at Wonderlab to hang for the rest of May and the month of June. It has been a long swim (see the April 25, March 2 and March 16 entries), but the school of gold fish has been united. The fish really are gold, with every last scale a piece of jewelry, beads, button or coin—some are real and some are pirate booty that washed ashore. They’re attached with white glue, which is kid friendly, and the final fishes are coated with two thick layers of polyurethane to help hold it all together. The can says ‘fast drying’, but that was just to get me to buy it. So even though the piece was scheduled to arrive at Wonderlab on the 20th it took an extra day.

The piece itself is quite a mosaic. The weaving is built from ties, socks, lanyards, and cords in a pattern that only a kid could create. The gold fish protrude mightily from the piece, with big eyes built from a small black bead on a big white button. I struggled with how I was going to attach the two, wondering what kind of glue might be best, when I realized that, well, they’re buttons, and I can sew them! I grow as a fiber artist every week. The other big structural issue was the problem of gluing the stretcher frame that holds the woven background to the seashell-encrusted frame that Tom Berolaccini made and the kids decorated. All the wood screws I had were too big or too small, so off to Bloomington Hardware I went early one morning. I had to get to the store, find the right screws, and drive to the Creek-Love classroom (where the weaving was made) in time for their musical performance day. My younger star performer, who is a teacher at heart, demonstrated and explained his Tae Kwon Do forms to the class in lieu of a musical performance. Others did amazing things on the piano, violin, harmonica, drums and guitars, among other instruments. We celebrated with ice cream after school that day, just as we celebrated the performance of the ‘six of spades’ in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in the Binford music room the day before. I recommend investing in Jiffy Treet and the Chocolate Moose as my kids get older.

This was also a full week on the working artist front. Last weekend was the Broadripple art fair, which started out rainy and cold on Saturday. The people were damp and grumbly and it wasn’t much of a day to sell art. Sunday’s weather was just the opposite, with sunny, warmer weather bringing out the beaming art fair participants. I always have delightful and unexpected conversations, such as one with a man who used to work beside felting machines. The temperature around the machines was 106° and he lasted one week. It’s amazing to me to think about the thousands of needles at work on the wool, in contrast to me with a single needle working on art projects. My dandelion piece sold on Sunday (see the March 7 post). Many admired the piece, but some offered me a trowel. I’m sure they’re the people with the monoculture lawns that get watered every night.

The Spinners and Weaver’s guild art auction was this week too. I came home with a huge box of yarn for not a lot of money. I mercilessly put all the yarns in the freezer to kill off any unwanted little bugs that might try to invade my art studio. I also ended up bidding against Ulla for an enormous kit to create a Rya weaving. We sat on opposite sides of the room and kept bidding up the price. Finally I hollered her that I just wanted the yarn! She said she just wanted the fabrics, so a bargain was struck. We split the bid and the materials and everyone was happy. Now I have a box full of fabulous wool in a rainbow of colors. She got an enormous box of materials I would have recycled. But that’s how the world works, isn’t it!

Until next week…

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Tree Woman Emerges...

This is the weekend of the Broad Ripple Art Fair in Indianapolis. My booth is waiting for us, packed with the new pieces of the season. Set-up was a little different this year—my photographer, frame-maker and friend Tom Berolaccini rode shotgun in the van and helped me set up. Friday was a beautiful day to set up, warm and dry with little spurts of sun through overcast skies and good company along the way. Tom’s son Mark is visiting from Louisville, and Mark helped Tom make the stretcher frame for the ‘Gold Fish in a Blue Ocean’ piece I’ve been describing over the past few weeks. That piece is nearing completion—I had my last session with the kids this week. They glued more gold scales on the fish, and now I’m ready to assemble the whole thing by attaching the fish to the blue background at different angles and gluing the shell-encrusted outer frame to the stretcher frame. It has been a fun project with the Creek-Love classroom and my younger son Cubbie.

I also made a lot of progress on the ‘Tree Woman’ piece I sketched in the April 25th posting. The pictures show the finished background, which has a gradient of blues to create the sky. I used a sumac weave to create the green grass, then used a dimensional crocheting technique to build it up even further. I need this to establish the roots of the tree trunk and body form. I’ve included a scan of the body, which came out a little flattened because my two-dimensional scanner isn’t so good at capturing my three-dimensional pieces. It’s kind of like looking up at someone lying naked in the bottom of a glass-bottomed boat. I still need to finish the head and arms that reach up, and I need to detail the feet a little more. But I really like how she’s coming, and I’m especially fond of her belly button.

The week wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. About three weeks ago I found a pill bug in my basement art studio. They’re the cute little bugs with a lot of legs and a grey shell that curl up into a ball when your kids try to pick them up. I opened the only window in my studio to let him out, but the window didn’t seal shut when I closed it. When the torrential rains came Wednesday, you guessed it; a lot of water came straight into my workspace. I was out at a Fourth Street meeting, the HoA (husband of artist) was off a Tae Kwon Do class, and the boys were playing with a friend as water coursed through my window and onto the carpeted floor. If there was a bright side, I’ve been through this before and knew what to do. It was a long, frustrating evening, but my little piece of the world is drying out. Someday, someday I need a ground-level art studio! I suppose then I’ll have to worry about falling tree branches and tornadoes.

I hope to see you at Broad Ripple, in the field (shocking pink signs), booth 69!

Until next week…

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Greens of Spring

Someone once told me that in order to really appreciate Indiana, you had to appreciate all the subtle shades of brown. But if you want to appreciate springtime in Indiana, you really have to appreciate all her shades of green. The progression began almost two months ago, which we noticed on our trip to Michigan over spring break. We left Bloomington guarded by skeletons of brown trees, spent a few days in Kawkawlin, and came back to the soft, timid greens of earliest spring. Her arrival isn’t like stepping into a new world of color, like Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz. It’s a gradual process that most stop following until the whole spectrum of greens is on full display. All the textures, colors and variations are enough to keep an artist busy for a lifetime!

Maybe you’ve guessed that it’s been a green week for me. I’ve been thinking about the ‘Tree Woman’ commission piece and working on her leaves (see the sketch in the April 25 post). To begin I got out my big storage containers of green yarn and my crochet hook. That scared the leafy green colors and set them quivering, which is how I create the effect of a breeze (OK, OK, I’m just kidding!). To get the textured effect and colors I wanted I mixed three green yarns. Two of these I bought but one I created—you never know what you’ll find in my artwork! Here’s the story of a yarn’s mid-life crisis:

The yarn was raised as a pretty blue bouclĂ© with a wonderful texture. She had every advantage in life and was well cared for, but no one really loved her. Even the person that cared for her most knew she wasn’t happy, and that a great career in the arts, admired by many, was her true destiny. I happened to be attending the Spinners and Weaver’s guild annual auction, one of my favorite events, elbows out and bidding on yarns in the midst of the shrewd and seasoned local fiber artisans. The auctioneer was Cheryl Johnson, a local spinner, and she was desperate to help her blue friend. “Martina, you need this yarn!” she implored, but I think she knew the yarn needed me. Blue just isn’t a color I work with a lot, so I grudgingly bid a dollar and brought home the blue bouclĂ©. After puzzling over what I would do with it, I got out my yellow RIT dye and over-dyed it. Out came a magnificent, lush green (the upper right yarn in the panel of three yarns). She quickly made friends with the other greens and is heading for a dual career in the arts and home decorating. There’s always a happy ending when people bring fiber into their homes.

I have truly enjoyed the greens of spring this year, scootering or biking in to school with my boys and watching the lush foliage emerge. The highlight of this particular week, though, was going on a fishing trip in our canoe with the HoA (husband of artist) and elder son (aka the fishing machine, Tommie). I really enjoy paddling in the canoe—maybe it’s the repetitive nature of the paddle strokes that remind me of weaving. It was a beautiful evening on Tuesday, in between days of heavy rains. The water was glassy but not flat, and the partly cloudy skies let enough sun light in to see the glory of the lake and all the surrounding greens. I caught the first AND biggest fish, which usually wins you small sums of money in fishing bets in our family, but I haven’t seen the financial reward as of yet. I did enjoy the fish fry, with 25 modestly sized crappies (OK, there were a lot of small ones). But they were tasty! Especially with some heavy bread, some French fries and a bottle of Pilsner Urquel. Now that’s a fish fry!

Until next week…

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Celandine Poppies and Spring Eggs

Completion! This week I finished a commissioned piece I’ve been working on for months. It has a fern background and Celandine (wood) poppies growing through. These are two of the truly hardy plants in our backyard, necessitating constant vigilance, trimming and plucking to keep them in check. I had finished the fern background and I needed to create the yellow poppies, so I stepped into the back yard and snipped a model bouquet. They immediately cheered up my art studio and set me to the task. I started with scraps of thin, plastic-coated wire that I shaped into petals. The flowers were needle felted onto the wire frames, ironed flat, then wrinkled into shape. The wire nicely holds the shape. The pistils are made from wire wrapped with green wool and touched up by needle felting. I think they’re really pretty in a vase.

In the Creek-Love classroom we took the next step on our Gold Fish in the Blue Ocean piece. We finished gluing seashells onto the frame, and the kids have sorted tons of gold beads and jewelry pieces to make the gold fish. At home I’ve finished sculpting the fish by bulking them up with cellulclay in anticipation of gluing on the gold scales. Now I’m excited about seeing the final project—it’s been two years in the making. It started when my older son Tommie was in the second grade and is continuing as Jacob moves through the first grade. The weaving phase was the most time consuming as we slowly built up the giant background, but now we’re rapidly approaching completion.

The last big project of the week has been gearing up for our annual spring egg hunt, assuming it doesn’t rain. So far we’re looking good on the weather, but of course you never really know in the spring in Indiana. We’ve invited 19 kids and have a twenty-gallon tub filled with packed eggs. We save the plastic shells from year to year and the kids take home the booty inside. Last year we geared up for the event but it rained every weekend in season, and suddenly it was 90 degrees. Melting chocolate candy is not what you want to have a bunch of screaming kids handling while running around your house. We did have to discard most of the contents of the eggs from last year—Whoppers go bad, it turns out, as do a lot of other rich chocolate dainties. The gladiolus corms were dehydrated but apparently OK, so they got their own spot in the garden after an overnight soak. I guess it kept the kids from thinking they were candy and accidentally eating them. After the hunt the HoA (husband of artist) will have a suite of cupcakes for the annual ‘Cupcake Picnic’. As of now we’ve checked off all the key requirements for a successful kid party: Chocolate? Check! High-sugar products? Check! Chance to run around and scream? Check! Time limit so wired kids go home before the house is destroyed! Check! Check Check! We’re ready!

Until next week…