Saturday, July 25, 2009

Riverbeds and Arugula

This week I’m descending into the green riverbeds of Monroe County. Last week I was dyeing a suite of verdant yarns that have already found themselves in my weavings. I constructed the base of one piece using a sumac weave that lets the weaving grow off the loom. It creates a realistic base for the single tree that will stand in the foreground. I wrapped the tree branches, needle felted the tree trunk and attached branches onto the trunk. As I laid out the background weave I used my trusty black sharpie and drew the outline of the piece on the warp. Then I started weaving, using a set of deep teals I blended to create the predominant colors of the weaving. I documented my progress with a picture and decided it was time for a break. The boys were ready to go for a bike ride, so we loaded the bikes on the rack, filled the water bottles and headed for the old rail trail and started our adventure. We stayed in the shade canopy and traversed the Clear Creek trail, a most pleasant eight mile trip.

That evening I got back to weaving and by the next night I had the piece finished. I’m really enjoying creating my most recent pieces with tree and water themes, and I’m pleased with how they have turned out. I stretched out the weaving and this evening I’m incorporating it into a dark brown frame. To finish the piece I’ll worked on needle felting trees onto the distant shore. I’ll also expanded the river into the foreground using sparkly silvers and a lot of strong contrasting blues to achieve movement in the water and give still more depth to the piece. To finish it off I’ll added some rocks I collected from Lake Monroe last year. My secret is to scour the creek beds entering the lake for small rocks that have a small hole eroded through the rock so I can discreetly secure them to the weaving with thread. I spend hours combing the creek beds and evading the copperheads for just the right rocks, and I must say that my collection of rocks with holes is extensive. Of course when that fails I have a secret back-up plan: my drill press!

To complete the foliage I also need to crochet leaves using the materials I dyed last week. I love it when just the right color for a piece I’m working on turns up, even if it comes about by accident. If you try enough color variations on enough materials you’ll find what you need. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

The other news of the week involves my latest breakthrough soup. I get all sorts of new greens from the CSA group each Wednesday, and this week it was arugula. I think I used the green arugula (and not my green yarn) in the Tuscan white bean and arugula soup I made on Thursday, which was very tasty. One sprinkles it with grated, aged Parmesean cheese from Bloomingfoods and it tastes terrific! It’s amazing what you can find on the internet—recipes to consume just about anything. Late in the week I dropped off one of my last abstract weaving to Wonderlab for their silent auction. Of course the boys quickly disappeared into the building as I chatted. I ended up doing my default activity, which is creating ornaments for the upcoming holiday art shows. I had a striking mohair teal that I picked up at the Hoosier Hills Fiber Festival in Franklin, IN a few weeks ago. It’s such a strong, rich color that I had to incorporate it into a project. Later I dropped off some soup to one of my enablers, Mary at the recycle center. She gave me some organic soybeans that went into the soup, so I made sure Mary got to try it. I think that’s what recycling means. Anyway, the soup made Mary—and me—very happy.

Until next week…

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Greens of Summer...

This week I’m back in the art studio and weaving like an artist who sold all the pieces she intended for a gallery show in two weeks. I’m still excited about finishing the ‘river’ piece I wrote about in last week’s blog, but I was short on the right green materials. So out came the dye pots, including the new ones I bought at the Monroe County Historical Society garage sale. Out came the RIT dye (from Indianapolis!) and a pile of materials that I brought home from the Spinners and Weavers Guild auction. Sometimes the wools call out to me, like a high-pitched sound only a dog can hear. Other times the Guild members taunt me when a lot comes up that nobody wants. Martinnnnaaaaa—don’t you need this pretty blue yarn? So of course I buy them all. I pulled out deep blue cottons, golden corn silk and teal boucle wool, some green and yellow dye, my dye pots and I leaped right in! OK, not into the dye pots, but 14 skeins of yarns went into the pots. The process is long and involved, so life went on in between. I got started dyeing, and then the boys and I went to the library to claim their prize for completing 25 books this summer (insert proud mom smile here in your imagination). They each brought home a nice chapter book, which hopefully will be #26. We came home to move the yarns along in the process, then off to Bloomingfoods. We bulked up on fresh fruits and vegetables, and Tommie had to bring home the gnarly carrots he found. We were then off for a bike ride to burn off some summer energy, then on to pick up the CSA vegetables for the week. The greens from the CSA went into chowder that was mostly corn, kale and sweet potatoes, but it also had the vegetable stock I made from the freezer-burned green beans, turnips and other unused delicacies from last summer. I can only slip so many green beans past the HoA (Husband of Artist) before he gets suspicious.
The hectic-running-around pretty much sums up the events of the short week after our return from Madison. I’m still basking in the afterglow of my successes. We drove in to the driveway to see some beautiful flaming orange, yellow and red glads that had just opened, along with a few unopened burgundy racemes that were on the verge of opening. I planned to cut them for a nice welcome-home bouquet the next morning. But during the night the terrors of the town struck. No, it’s not adolescents out of control with scissors, it’s just deer fattened up on flowers. Those rascals mowed the glads down to the quick! If only the HoA were so good with the lawn! Only one bud of burgundy glad survived the nocturnal carnage, and that’s in a vase in the kitchen with a few zinnias. I guess our garden is just a nice buffet, timed to keep the deer happy all summer. Sometimes karma just spills out into the yard.

Until next week…

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Wow, what fabulous weekend in Madison! The end of last week was crazy as I was trying to finish pieces for the show and pack at the same time. I finished my ‘water’ pieces with the blue yarn combinations that I really liked (and wrote about last week). They now have new homes in Wisconsin. I’m planning to expand on the technique and visit a river theme that introduces an old maple tree hanging over a river. I sketched the scene I’m imagining, with grassy, weedy banks and a rocky streambed. I dug into my dark brown box and found a beautiful deep coffee color wool. Then I dug into my yarns and found three that I blended to approximate the color and texture of the trunk. I’ve started wrapping wires with these to create the branches and I’ll start crocheting leaves for the trees soon. I’m scheduled to do a show at the By Hand Gallery here in Bloomington in early August that explores fibers and Nature so I have to get busy again!

Anyway, back to the Madison Art Fair on the Square adventure. I rented a 15-passenger van, cleared out my pieces from local galleries, packed up the family and set out Thursday afternoon. The major complication was the fact that it was my seven-year-old’s birthday, but we took candles for the trip, had presents in a restaurant and a pool party at the hotel. The Webkinz were a big hit, and the picture of the bike in the basement kept him excited the whole trip. I was worried about the forecast for an 80% chance of showers or thundershowers during set-up, but instead we drove through the rain and had a perfectly clear, cool evening to set up. The boys rode their scooters on the paved walkways around the state capitol while the HoA (husband of artist) and our friends and hosts Wendy and Duane helped with set-up. We packed it up late Friday and headed to their country house well after dark, led on by the unflappable Victoria (our fearless Garmin set with a British accent). She’s more patient with the HoA’s driving than I am, but we got there safe and sound.

The deluge came in people on Saturday morning. The show officially started at nine, but the traffic started much earlier—I sold my first piece at 8:30. I heard that the crowd was around a quarter million people, which is hard to imagine until you see the crowds. I decided that the people in Madison were a lot like their counterparts in Bloomington—warm, friendly and eclectic. I didn’t get to sit in my chair too much because the crowds were too thick and my booth was too full, but that was terrific. I had so many delightful conversations and compliments that I felt a little taken aback and honored to be there. At one point on Saturday I was visited by a very nice group of people from a company called Epic, which is located in Verona, WI. Many people in the expedition sported identical red shirts, and I sincerely hope that they made it back to the mother ship. I was very pleasantly surprised when the leader of the group started pointing out pieces that she wanted to buy for their headquarters, which included “Breakfast in Bed”, my piece with the mama robin feeding her babies in the nest. That piece took first prize in the Tree City Art Competition a couple of years back, and it always evokes special emotions for me as a mom.
After a beautiful weekend of cool, sunny weather I’m back in my art studio, inspired and ready to weave. Many thanks to Wendy and Duane, who took such good care of us while we were there, including feeding us grilled salmon, raspberry pie from the garden, and wonderful Wisconsin beer. I still have the comical sight in my mind of driving the quarter mile down their driveway into the wilds of Nature and seeing the two old dogs sleeping in front of the house as a family of six rabbits bounced around them in the yard. What undoubtedly used to be a ferocious chase scene is now one of mutual acceptance and peace, so I guess there’s hope for the world.

Until next week…

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cool Lakes and Hot Soup

This week has been for finishing projects and starting new ones. I completed my piece from last week featuring birches standing next to a northern lake. I’m delighted at how it turned out. To me the water looks cool and inviting, and it came together so well I’m going to start on another water piece. I’m already combing through the blue yarns again.

This is also a preparation week. Next Saturday I’ll be showing my work at the Art Fair on the Square in Madison Wisconsin. I asked a lot of my friends about the show, and everyone seems to think it’s a great show. The sentiment was best summed up by Chris Busch, who urged me to “TAKE EVERYTHING”. I’m planning on taking pieces currently on display at the Wandering Turtle in Bloomington and Gallery by the Green in Nashville in case three-dimensional fiber art turns out to be popular in Madison. I also rented a full size van for the trip, which has to haul my booth, all the art, and the whole family support crew. This is our first art show far from home and we’re hoping it will be a big adventure for everyone. The HoA (Husband of Artist) has booked hotel rooms along the way with big breakfasts and indoor pools to help break up the travel. Happily, he learned that indoor pools are essential after booking us a nice hotel with a pool in Canada in the winter. We all took our bathing suits and ended up with sad faces staring at the frozen outdoor pool.

Last Saturday I did a workshop at McCormick’s Creek State Park, and one of the participants offered me some snake skins from her collection. They’re naturally shed and I’m big into recycling so it seemed like a good idea. When I saw them I was really surprised—some were as long as nine feet and they had beautiful patterns. They might end up on frames or they might end up in the weaving, but I’m sure I’ll find a home for them.

Speaking of making use of everything, I made a new and tasty soup this week. We got a lot of greens from the CSA group (community supported agriculture), and we don’t eat them green. They did go nicely into a fresh soup with sweet potatoes and quinoa that had freshly crumbled feta cheese on top. The melting feta made for an unusual taste and texture combination with the soup. This week Hungarian dumpling soup is back on the menu because I got a nice head of cabbage in our basket. I love summer!

I know I’m straying from art a little, but Tuesday I cycled with my boys to Blu Boy in Bloomington. They have the most delightful treats, especially after you’ve exercised a bit. One boy had ice cream, another had a cupcake, and I had the most amazing vanilla cheesecake. I’m sure it’s the best I’ve ever had. The boys did have to get past eating big treats with little tiny desert forks and spoons (savoring treats is something we’re still working on). On our way out we picked up three chocolate dainties to go, and that topped off the visit. Blu Boy is definitely one of Bloomington’s hidden treasures.

Until next week…