Sunday, August 22, 2010

French Onion Soup and Blackberry Pie

I had a big landmark in my art career this week: my boys went back to school! First there was the mad rush to get all the school supplies together. Then I thought I was going to have big blocks of time to get things done, but somehow a lot of time was consumed doing paperwork. Somewhere in the middle Tommie’s cast came off, his broken arm mended. This week I’m going to park my bottom in my cool art studio and get weaving! Yippee!

I guess I did get a lot of art done this week too. Mostly I worked on my whimsical bird piece. I had been struggling with how to translate my tree sketch into a wire and felt object. The big issue was creating tapered tree branches that were thin at the ends of the curly branches and thick at the base near the trunk. I started with a thin wire core that I bent and wrapped for the curly ends. As I moved from the curly ends to the stout base, I increased the thickness by incorporating some really nice felt wool fabric that I got from Kathey Gibson on a trip to Michigan. I cut it into triangles, pointy ends facing the thin tips, and kept wrapping the branches with these filler pieces to bulk them up. I then used thick strips of the felt to wrap the tree trunk and create the general tree shape I wanted. Finally, I just needle felted on top of the crude trunk to smooth it into the shape and color I wanted. I’m delighted with how it turned out! I’ve propped it together to see how it looks, and next week I’ll “nail” it all down on the woven background.

With all my successes on the stove last week, starting with fresh yummy bruschetta and ending with sumac dyeing, I decided to continue the trend. This week I had tomatoes, tomatillos and cilantro, so of course it was time to make salsa. I also decided it was time to bring out my collection of frozen onion skins. I collect the brown outer layers every time I break into an onion for cooking and store them in a bag in the freezer. This week I got frustrated with the disordered state of the freezer and decided to organize it a bit. I came across the onion skins and decided there were enough for the dye pot, so out they came to make a little space. I cooked them for an hour, steeped them over night, strained the skins the next day, then warmed it back up so it would be cozy for my fleece. Every project is an experiment for me, so I threw in three different kinds of fleece, all white, to see what would happen. I left the fleece in the pot overnight and was surprised and pleased when I saw the three very different caramel colors. I also saw that there was enough color in the pot to try again, so I threw in some more fleece. The materials that spent two nights in the pot were darker still—what a surprise! Next time I need to work with ‘time in the dye pot’ as a variable. This is obvious in hindsight but it never occurred to me until I saw the results of the experiment.

I have a lot on my plate these days, such as the Fourth Street Art Fair coming up on Labor Day weekend. I’m also doing a workshop for teachers in Danville, Indiana, in early October. Last time we made ornaments, but not everyone who wanted to come could make it so we scheduled a second session in October. I proposed that we could make felted hearts or turtles, and we’re likely going with the turtles. I’ve been making demonstration turtles parts so that I can show the pieces in stages—kind of like a cooking show where they have the beautiful torte already baked to pull out at the end. This turtle is more whimsical than my previous ones, when I was trying for accuracy. I like how my prototype came together, and I like his tilted head and the quizzical look that gives him. It’s kind of like the look I get from Jim when I ask him when he’s going to clean the bathroom.

And speaking of my sweet husband, this week’s pie was made from the last of the season blackberries. Mmmmmm…

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

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