Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cool mornings and hot cooking!

Can you feel the seasons change? There’s something about the cool, dry mornings, the last flowers in the garden and the first bright red leaves in the trees that gives it away. The calendar gives it away too: I wrapped up my final summer art show last week at Penrods. I dried out all my outdoor booth materials in the living room and carefully packed them away until the Broadripple show in the spring. The boys and I picked up the last CSA vegetables this Wednesday too. We’ll miss seeing Amy, Andy, Grace and Willa at Musgrave Orchards every week.

Every ending has a new beginning, and it’s time to get ready for the upcoming holiday art fairs. For me, that means the Holiday Market at the Shower’s building, the Fiber Arts show, the recycled art show (Déjà vu, in Columbus, IN) and the Unitarian Universalist art fair (Holiday Art Fair and Bazaar, with the great cookies!). I was wondering what I could make that was new for me to sell at those shows when my eyes fell on my giant pile of waste yarn. I decided to launch into a project I’ve been thinking about for a while, but one that I have resisted to keep focused on finishing weaving for the summer shows. Have I said I liked finding uses for everything? But what could I do with leftover yarn scraps of all colors? You guessed it—holiday wreaths! So with great enthusiasm I went through my sewing basket of thread and pulled out my spools of green, red and white. I used the thread to wrap yarn balls. This is a technique I picked up from Sue Westhues last year. She saw my ornaments from a distance and thought they looked like Temari balls. I had never heard of them so I started looking in books and on the web. It turns out that Temari describes an ancient Japanese craft of wrapping remnants with fine thread, then stitching onto the product. How perfect: pretty thread, meet yarn remnants! I even found a use for the leftover quilt batting Aunt Lois saves for me. She belongs to a quilting bee in Michigan and the batting scraps they generate would otherwise end up in the trash. I make her save them for me, and it gives me a connection to my slightly quirky aunt.

So now I have a bunch of Temari balls in search of a home. Hmmm. I built a wire frame and covered it with remnant cotton cording to make the backbone of a wreath. Then I wrapped the frame with strips of remnant commercial felt. I decided I need 106 Temari balls for each large wreath—wow, that’s a lot! Life would be easier if I wasn’t so good at math. So I made the first 106 and attached them to the frame. I hung it on the front door to get an idea about how it would look, and to me it looks just delightful. The eSoA (elder son of artist) thinks he’d like one in autumn colors—that’s my boy! So soon I’ll pull out the orange, yellow and plum threads from my collection for the fall color wreath.

The new fall wreaths are fun, but of course it’s also time to get back to finishing the projects I’ve put off doing to focus on the summer art fairs. That means putting together an analysis of the Fourth Street Fair from the surveys and writing the final reports. Important, yes; informative, yes; exciting, well, hmmm. I do like statistics! I also have to assemble a grant proposal to the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to help support the Fourth Street next year. Another deadline to meet. Arrrghhh.

So what’s been fun this week? When the world starts to descend on me I launch into cooking mode. The CSA has cleverly and deliberately filled my refrigerator with everything from eggplants to zucchini to cabbages to tomatoes, to, well, you get the idea. I cooked ratatouille, Mexican pepper casserole, Bulgarian pepper pot casserole, Chinese green beans and peanuts, and Garbanzo pepper curry. I’m still planning to make Gujarat baked cabbage, a cool looking Indian dish that I’m hoping will provide a tasty use for the cabbage. I’m also going to make Zucchini Parmesean and caramel pie for the kids. At least they call it caramel pie—I make with my blender and a huge zucchini. Despite the ingredients (not knowing helps) the boys like it and that’s the important thing. I even get help from the HoA, who makes the crust. He seems to like doing that, and me…did I say I like pie?

Until next week…

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mr. Turtle Goes to Indianapolis

I spent last week in serious turtle mode. Where do you find serious turtles? That’s right, I started out at the Monroe County Public Library. I pored over the books with glossy color pictures of Eastern Painted turtles, which I needed to finish my latest weaving (Among the Ferns), but I didn’t meet any really serious turtles. The librarian told me that they’re off at the Library of Congress this time of year. To finish my turtle I needed some specialized fleece, starting with just the right deep olive green. I found some that I bought at the Hoosier Hills Fiber Arts Festival (in Franklin, IN) that worked well. Painted turtles have beautiful, bright red lines, and I matched the color I needed from a lot I picked up at Sheep Street in Morgantown. Last, I needed a natural-looking golden yellow highlight. I was stumped until I remembered my disastrous beet dyeing experience of a few weeks ago (August 15th blog). Who knew that the perfect soft yellow-brown for turtle stripes was in beets, as soon as you got past that deep red color? So this week I poked and poked (and poked) and out popped the turtle. He slipped right into the fern fronds as his new home, but something was missing on the ground. I needed some rocks, and I decided that slag was perfect for the task. Slag is a glassy leftover from the smelting of iron ore, and I picked up mine in Michigan along the Saginaw River. Recycle everything, I say. I’m always delighted when I can take someone’s cast-offs and make something others think is beautiful.

Yesterday the turtle and I headed off to Indianapolis to the Penrod Art Fair. It was a great show—beautiful weather, lots of people, a helpful staff and an elegant garden setting. My booth was set up so the back of the booth was in the shade and the front in the sun, so I get the best of both worlds. The turtle prefers the shade this time of year. A lot of people remembered the frog I had last year and were pleased to meet the turtle (Ms. Frog lives in Wisconsin now). It was nice to meet patrons from previous shows and hear that the pieces they bought are still appreciated. I get pretty attached to my critters and flowers and everything else. It’s good to know they have good homes. Indianapolis shows are also a good chance to catch up with friends and acquaintances that live in that part of Indiana. When the show was over, take down went smoothly this year—no pouring rain, and we got a lot of help from the guys in the golf carts. They zip your stuff to the road when you’re ready to pack up, so we got in and out in just a few minutes when the van got through the queue (definitely not a Czech word—too many vowels). Thanks to all the Penrod Society folks who helped to make it a great show and the IMA for keeping the grounds so beautiful.

Now I just have to figure out what to do this week.

Until next week…

Friday, September 4, 2009

Turtles and Ferns

For a working artist in Bloomington, this is the biggest weekend of the year. The Fourth Street Festival is Saturday and Sunday, and that means two things. I’m frantically working to finish a few new pieces and I’m working to make sure the show appears effortless to the fairgoers. The piece I’m working on is tentatively titled ‘Among the Ferns’ and it features an Eastern Painted turtle. I really like turtles, and I’m the person who stops to help the turtles across the roads when they set out on a quest. Everybody needs a little help when life’s traffic starts speeding all around you. Last weekend I wove the background for the piece, including some dirt. Normally I try to create the reddish brown earth tones that are common in this area (and remind me of chocolate!), but this time I wanted a mossy feel to accompany the ferns. I came up with olive brown earth tones to anchor the ferns. The fern leaflets I need were also started a while back. They’re pretty labor intensive, and it only gets worse if you can do math. I wanted 8 fronds with about 50 leaflets each—that’s a lot of cut copper flashing from my secret supply store in Michigan! This week was I was in a serious wrapping mode, consuming a whole ball of green yarn from my big dyeing project a few weeks back (the “Greens of Summer” blog from July 18th). The turtle was my good-humored travel companion (I’m always poking at him). He’s been taking shape as I watch my kids at their Tae Kwon Do class, or when I’m in the Creek-Love class at Rogers as the kids sort beads, or any place I have a quiet few moments to fill. Don’t worry though—soon I’ll be done and he’ll have some new fronds. When I get a picture he’ll join the painted turtle from “Among the Hostas” and the soft-shelled turtle in the “Summer Pond” sculpture on my website.

The other big draw on my sanity this week is tying up the details for orchestrating the Fourth Street Festival. I have a lot of wonderful friends who have volunteered to facilitate the Children’s booth this year as they create a mosaic art piece. I hope I have enough glue—it’s hard to know how far forty bottles (and 30 leftovers from last year) will go on the project. I’ll also help mark the show layout tonight with chalk on the streets, and that’s a big project. Then I have to set up my booth and put on my artist hat back on. We are extremely fortunate to have Jean Kautt acting as show manager—she organizes and directs the volunteers, distributes artist packets and information. She tells them where to park, where they can find great pizza—whatever they need. Her calm, steady temperament is perfect for interfacing with artists, who are famous for their curmudgeonly independence. They’re the kids who wouldn’t take directions in school in case you want to spot them early. She also loves to use Excel, so we bond on a deep level. With the show in her hands I can go off and set up my booth with confidence that everything will run smoothly. So if you’re in town this week, come by and meet the turtle, visit the Children’s booth, and stop in and say hello!

Until next week…