Sunday, September 26, 2010

From Frog Toes to Fall Cooking

My week started off with frog toes. I needed eighteen fresh ones for my red-eyed tree frog piece. Fortunately, I had lots of art-in-the-community meetings this week, plus my usual afternoon slots watching the boys do Tae Kwon Do at Monroe County Martial Arts. I started off by cutting copper wire pieces create the toe structure, then I searched out just the right shade of peachy pink for the sticky orbs. A little wrapping here, a little poking there, and before I knew it the little toes emerged. They’re so cute! They even get cuter when they’re attached to the red-eyed tree frog. The whole project was made all the more satisfying because I had a support section at MCMA that watched the whole thing come together and encouraged me at every step of the process. Except for poking the frog eyes, anyway. The frog is done—Oh happy day! Soon it will be hopping into the fern background before snuggling down in protective packaging for the trip to Ohio.

I also hung a show at the Bellevue Gallery at the Bloomington Playwright’s Project (BPP) front foyer. This fall exhibit is called “Reduce, Reuse and Re-weave.” It's part of this year's Aware-fest: A Greener World and happily, I was the recipient of a BPP/BEAD (Bloomington Entertainment and Arts Districts) grant to create the show. The exhibit is actually spread out over two venues, the BPP and the downtown Bloomington Bagel Company (BBC). I spent my time at the BPP today and on October 1st I’ll set up the rest of the exhibit at the BBC. The opening night reception will be on Friday, October 1st from 5-8 pm—please come! I can’t promise a lot of excitement, but I will bring some nice bruschetta from Trader Joe’s and a fresh baguette from The Bakehouse to contribute to the finger food spread.

My new art endeavor for the week center around a dimensional forest piece that features a secluded walk. I started with some dark brown yarns that I’ve been using to wrap around a core of shoelaces, used packing cords and old lanyards to create the tree trunks and reclaimed copper wire to create the tree branches. For the trees in the background, I’ve been mixing in some lighter brown yarns together to create the illusion of depth. With plenty of meeting this week I had ample time multitask and crochet leaf clumps using my suite of freshly dyed green yarns from last week. The piece construction has been moving right along in hopes of having it ready to hang at the BBC location on October 1st. I finished the woven background a few weeks ago and the piece has hung on my art studio wall in a place where I could see it every day. Sometimes the composition takes a while to develop, and seeing the unfinished background stimulates my ideas about which direction to take the piece.

We had a noticeable weather change this week with summer temperatures in the mid nineties giving way to the first hints of cooler fall weather. That got me into a baking mood; today I whipped out fresh bread, peanut butter cookies, and a big batch of peppered salmon using loads of peppers from the morning’s Farmer’s Market adventure. A lot of that will go into the freezer. I even planned out a recipe for pumpkin and red pepper fall soup to make soon. And so the choice becomes cook, felt, or weave, which should I do first!?

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Frogs, pockets and soup...

My big project of the week was to finish the home for my red-eyed tree frog. I thought I had finished all the fern leaflets I could possibly want. I made a huge pile and started attaching them on to the veins to create fern fronds for him to hide in. Unfortunately, when the more I attached the smaller the pile got, and soon I was left with one unfinished vein. Back to the art studio I went, cut up eighty more leaflets out of brass flashing and started to wrap them. Happily, I had plenty of the yarn stock that I dyed for the project. It would have been a nightmare to have to try to match the colors. I love the colors I get when I dye, but it isn’t an exact art and I just don’t think I could re-create the same colors. I attached all the completed fern fronds to my woven green background and all is good in my world. Now I’m working on completing the frog. This is a fun needle-felting project with a lot of detail work, but there are some limitations. For example, I do a lot of work at the Monroe County Martial Arts school and at art-related meetings I attend. I’m just now putting in the eyes of the frog, but I’ve learned that most people are a little freaked out by the repetitive poking with the needle around the eyes. In my mind it makes no difference which part of the animal I’m working on, whether it’s the skin, eye or tail, but I can see why that might be a little hard to watch. So I slip down into my art studio when the kids are in school for those parts. I wear black leather and put on creepy music to set the mood, too. Not really! I’m just kidding!

In addition to the usual constraints on my time this week, a new project fell into my lap. The schools are having a fundraiser that I think is just fabulous. Instead of getting friends and relatives (and parents) to buy stuff they probably don’t need to send some proceeds back the school, last year they started running a read-a-thon. You pledge money for pages read, and the kids go to town reading whatever chapter books interest them. The competitive aspect gets a lot of people reading more, which is great. To kick off the events, though, they have a style show where kids dress up as their favorite literature character. Jacob decided he wanted to participate as a Yu-Gi-Oh duelist (sounds like a Japanese alcohol-free beer). That meant he needed a slick white jacket with pockets for one hundred dueling decks on the inside. Kind of like the shirts where illicit street vendors open up their coats and try to sell you knock-off watches. I leapt into action and repurposed one of Jim’s old dress shirts (I hope he’s not reading this!). The pockets had to hold the decks, so I did some fancy darting to create 12 pockets for decks. He filled them up, put it on and added his duelist arm gear and voila! He was ready to go. The best news is that I persuaded him that it would also be a great Halloween costume. That’s like feeding two birds with one loaf of bread.

My last bit of news comes from the dyeing world. I pulled out the last bag of frozen plant material from my summer trip to Michigan. I collected a bunch of purple loosestrife that I had high hopes for. It’s a beautiful flower, but it’s an invasive weed that chokes out native wetland plants. I chopped it up and boiled it like a weed I didn’t much care for, but not much purple came of it. Off to the compost pile it went. On the other hand, it did inspire me to get out my stockpots for soup. I recently stopped by the By Hand gallery and was chatting with Joan, and she offered me the last of this season’s kale from the garden. Luckily, kale is the secret ingredient in “Lois soup”, which comes from Lois Graham, the boys’ fairy godmother in Michigan. Of course to her it’s “Sarah’s soup”. I use chopped up veggie sausages instead of real sausages, but it’s full of kale, beans and spices. A soup by any other name…

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My September 11th

Today is anniversary day—Jim and I were married on September 11, 1999! Two boys and a lot of art later, I’m sooo happy with how things have worked out.

Today was a low-key rainy Saturday, which is what I have needed after a long summer of art fairs. I spent a bit of time today wrapping fern leaves for a commissioned piece featuring a red-eyed tree frog. I finished the woven background a while ago, and I’ve felted the body of the frog in my spare moments over the past few weeks. The frog’s skin should start appearing this week! That left the green yarn I needed for the fern leaves, which meant a dip in my big dye pots. I did some experimenting with overdyeing some wool and wool blend yarns and the final colors were very interesting. The wool showed a lot of variegation, which is just what I was looking for to create plant tissues. Plant leaves normally have a lot of depth and variation of color that often goes unnoticed until you look carefully. To create the fern leaves I wrap brass flashing with the just-right green yarn I dyed, and the flashing came from one of my secret supply stores in Michigan. I’ve got a big salad-sized bowl full of leaflets wrapped and ready to attach to the spine of the fern frond.

The end of the summer art fair seasons means that it’s time to restock my card inventories. I even ran out of card five-packs during the Fourth Street show, which shows how depleted I was. I’ve been traipsing back and forth between the printer (to get the cards) and home (to score and pack the cards) and my local venues to get them restocked. It’s been fun to catch up with friends at places such as Wonderlab, By Hand Gallery and Bloomingfoods when I bring in fresh cards. It’s also nice to get the checks in the mail when the cards sell! It gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling when people buy the cards to share or frame them, especially when they’re familiar with the art pieces they’re based on.

As summer fades and the heat yields to cooler temperatures, it’s time to start thinking about fall traditions. My newest ‘tradition’ is wet-felting merino wool scarves, and I have to get busy on that front. Happily, I’ve been accepted into the Krasl Holly Market (in St. Joseph, MI) this November to show my scarves. I want to send about a dozen pieces, and I want to test out some new design ideas. Rather than having solid or lattice scarves, which was my starting point, I want to experiment with connected ring designs. It may not be a surprise, but I want to incorporate some more dimensional aspects into the designs, such as leaves dangling from the scarves. I also want to work with some more earthy tones, bringing in more browns and golds. I think I’m channeling the drying and fading plants in the garden after a long, hot, dry summer. The cooler air just makes me want to switch from bright greens to Midwest autumn browns. It’s also time to abandon summer-fresh bruschetta and start thinking about chopping up vegetables for fall soups! There’s always something to look forward to, isn’t there!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Record Fourth Street Festival!

Wow, what I weekend I just had! Last week was a blur, with my efforts focused on getting ready for the big Fourth Street Festival of Art and Craft in Bloomington. I stopped weaving and started to focus on getting my card stocks in order and doing my part to make the show run smoothly. Friday evening was the show set-up, so I packed up bluebell (my trusty electric blue Matrix) and headed downtown to help mark the streets and get the 121 artists settled in. Jim unpacked the car and had everything staged by the curb while I worked and the boys played. Set-up went smoothly, and all was ready for Saturday morning. The day dawned very cool and clear, with a temperature somewhere in the mid forties (~7 degrees C). I set up my merino scarf display, which turned out to be a good idea, since I ended up selling a bunch of scarves before the temperatures climbed. Fall only lasted until around noon. When summer came back the scarf sales plummeted. On the bright side, the show drew an estimated 48 thousand visitors this year, an all time record! We bested last year’s number by six thousand. I’m sure pleasant temperatures and sunny days played a big part in the success.

This was a year when everything just went swimmingly! I owe a big thanks to people such as Officer Jeff Aldwine from the Bloomington police department and his cohort of badged wonders. They kept away the non-juried hawkers and unsanctioned buskers and were such a joy to work with. Jean Kautt did a great job again as show manager, sorting out the problems when the porta-potties overflowed and ran short of toilet paper (not in that order). I don’t know if it was the cool weather or the big turnout, but a lot of people did their business at the show.

As always, my support crew came through this year, bringing me a wonderful lunches from the area restaurants. Yum! But the food highlight was the fresh-baked peach pie that greeted me Sunday morning before the show. It was built from eight cups of blemished peaches from the farmer’s market, with several different varieties mixed together, and it was scrumptious.

Of course the show was about art! Several of my pieces found new and happy homes, which always makes me feel good. My new abstract pieces were well received. I was amazed at how many artists recognized that the abstract tiles represented a new body of work for me, and they gave me lots of compliments. Of all the shows I do, the Fourth Street Festival is my favorite for personal reasons too. I get to catch up and chitty-chat with all my friends, fellow parents, other artists and acquaintances from all my Bloomington circles. My husband thinks it’s funny to keep asking me if I had any nice conversations or got any compliments at the show, but it never gets old. Maybe I should be trying to sell more, but the chitty-chat and catch-up aspect of the show is the most important part to me. What’s funny is that while I’m talking to one person, another person I know want to talk to will be waiting in the wings or outside the booth. While that’s happening I usually see other people I know walk by and wave. I just feel so connected here, and that’s what makes the show so wonderful. Or maybe it’s the peach pie! Did I say I like pie?

Until next week…

Martina Celerin