Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday week: Art takes a back seat to family and food.

The week has been packed fuller than Santa’s sleigh. I’ll try to hit the highlights, but so much is happening that it’s hard to stop and write much. The biggest news is that the house filled up. Vojta came last week from the Czech Republic via Los Angeles where he’s learning English in a Kaplan school. Grandma and Aunt Lois came on Wednesday in time for dinner, so people are now sleeping on all three levels of the house. That means lots of baking, cooking, eating and generally enjoying each other’s company. I finished my two varieties of stollen for Christmas breakfast, which is traditional. Jim suggested that we try to spread out eating some of the goodies, so we cut one loaf for Christmas Eve breakfast and one for Christmas morning. Brilliant! With all the other goodies, including rumballs, ice cream, and brownies, we’re on holiday eating overload. Thank goodness for Zumba on Monday!

Even with all the family events, my art projects are slowly advancing. I have a commission to make five ornaments, and I’ve managed to finish three of the bases. For my two large commission pieces, I made all the beet root parts and I’m working through a second large carrot. I expect to see giant rabbits peering in through the windows any time now. I packed away all my scarves for the year and transformed my art studio into a bedroom for Aunt Lois. All my art toys, such as looms and tools, are hidden behind a blue curtain…nothing to see here! If I wake up in the middle of the night and listen carefully, though, I can hear them calling to me. Next week will bring a major house clean-up and art studio reclamation project before I launch back into work full time.

Everything else in my life is kind of a blur. Let’s see. We had a big snowfall, and grandma went out and shoveled the sidewalk, driveway and path to the house. If the grass were showing she’d be trying to cut that, too. I had a great Skype conversation with a subset of my family in the Czech Republic. It was good to see their faces and talk as if there were no distance between us. I remember wanting to call my grandmother in Prague, but at two dollars a minute my father wouldn’t let me. It seems like that wasn’t so long ago, back in the late seventies. Thursday we went to the Cardinal Stage Company’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol’, by Dickens. That was truly amazing. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it for different reasons. Grandma was touched by the songs, saying it brought back wonderful memories. Lois popped up and gave them a standing ovation at the end. Vojta thought the English accents were amusing. I just love going to the theatre, where I can be transported to a different world. We’re very fortunate in Bloomington to have vibrant theatre groups with high caliber actors. A big cheer and thanks to them!

Christmas dinner was salmon, scalloped potatoes, broccoli and Lois’ famous cranberry salad. Everyone was so full we opted to skip the chocolate pecan pie. That will be dessert for lunch today, after a modest bowl of soup. The boys stayed in their jammies until dinner, building their Legos and Megablock construction projects. They did take a break for lunch and about an hour off for playing with remote-controlled cars. They basically kept themselves busy all day so the grown-ups could have pleasant conversation. My big score at Christmas was a tool kit from Vojta—it’s as though he knows me! I think it’s going to become my art fair traveling toolkit. As well as a lovely bottle of Amarone from my be saved for a nice, quiet evening.

It’s just been a wonderful holiday week for us, and I hope you and your family have found some holiday cheer with your family.

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Santa makes her deliveries!

My art season ran long last week as I finished up all the scarf commissions I had accumulated from late season art shows. I made quite a few red and purple scarves with black ruffled edges, depleting the southern Indiana stocks of merino in those colors in the process. I felt like the UPS delivery person at Christmas, calling up patrons and arranging for drop-offs. This picture may look like me rollerskating with my family, but I’m sure I was just out on a scarf delivery mission. One person was so delighted when she saw the scarf that it ceased to be a Christmas present for her granddaughter. Another friend picked out a scarf and sent her husband to buy it for her as a Christmas present. He said he’d grown tired of getting a blank look when his wife opened his presents, and he knew this was going to be a success.

I made some giant strides forward on my huge commission piece. It’s a five by 2-and-a-half foot weaving, so this week I hand-made a five by three foot loom. I was just about to hammer in all the nails needed to warp the piece, but then I heard the voice of my sweet husband in my ear: “Drill pilot holes! You’ll be happier if you do!” So I did! All the nails went in nice and straight, just like a row of carrots coming up. With a nail every quarter of an inch, well, you do the math—that’s a lot of holes and nails. But I was glad I did it. And I’m not just saying that so he’ll make me coffee and pie! I then warped the loom and it’s ready to receive the weft. After a quick trip out to Sheep Street to pick up all the dirt brown yarns I could find I feel ready to launch on the weaving. I also picked up all the merino roving I could for scarves next year (be prepared, I say). Oh, and I found some really amazing spun silk, which is the waste from weaving Saris. I’ve seen various examples in different yarn shops, but this was so stunning I couldn’t possibly leave it. I ended up buying a couple of skeins. This too will go into scarves next season.

With the holiday season comes family, and that’s a good thing. The first visit started earlier than I would have chosen, when my thoughtful Czech cousin arranged for a 5 a.m. flight to bring her son into Indianapolis. He’s learning English in Los Angeles, and he’ll spend a couple of weeks with us. I consider this his ‘polishing’ phase, where he learns real Midwestern axioms and pronunciation. Actually, I was really delighted to pick up Vojta and bring him home, even if I had to get up at 3:30 a.m. On the bright side, when I got home there was warm blueberry pie and a batch of homemade Kluski ready for dinner that night. And an espresso! The boys were delighted to meet Vojta and show him around the house. The next day he pushed them around in the shopping cart at the grocery store. They had so much fun I couldn’t tell who was the bigger kid. And...if that wasn't enough, my rusty Czech is getting a welcome workout.

The rest of the news is all about getting ready for the holidays. I’m making marzipan for my holiday Stollen. I’m taking over a tradition from Jim’s grandmother, who bought Stollen from the local grocery store for Christmas morning breakfast. I thought that was just the place to buy into a family institution, but of course I had to make my own. Mine is full of dried currants, dried cherries, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, rum, butter, lots of sugar, and it’s all baked into a yeast-risen dough and covered with buttery icing. Yum! More preparations are underway to prepare the house for Grandma and Aunt Lois’ arrival on Wednesday. I’m converting the art studio into a bedroom for Lois, and I’ve got to turn the jungle room into an extra guest bedroom. A full house at the holidays is a very good thing, though. This is especially true if there are good things to eat and lots of laughter. I’ll do my part!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Monday, December 13, 2010

‘Tis the Season!

I just don’t know which one it is yet! I concluded my fall art fair season this week by throwing myself into wet felting. I finished all six scarf commissions (and one very elegant black shawl) this week. At that point I declared it the holiday season! Things slow down a bit in my art studio, except for wrapping presents. I did manage to make a big carrot and another beet for my giant commission piece, so I felt good about that. This is a project I’ll keep moving forward as I sit in meetings and waiting for the boys at taekwondo. Plus I’ve been buying up all the chocolate-y earth tone yarns I can find on my shopping adventures. Between presents and work I’m a one-woman economic stimulator.

Toward the end of the week I had a nice interview with Lee Hadley. He writes a weekly column for the Bloomington Herald Times and now the accompanying H & L (Home and Living) magazine. He’s also a TKD parent, so I see him regularly. I do so much poking at critters, hands and vegetables that I’m bound to draw attention. He came to interview and we ended up having a delightful conversation. We both came away absolutely certain that we couldn’t live anywhere except Bloomington, Indiana. It’s such a wonderful town. Bloomingtonians are so supportive of creative people and the arts. It’s an open-minded and nurturing community of people and I just feel so at home here. The interview gave me a chance to reflect on how far I’ve come over the years as an artist. I’m still experimenting with new ideas, processes and directions for my career, but my confidence in being able to turn what I visualize into art has never been stronger.

The Christmas season marks the beginning of an important family time for us as well. The official kick-off is December 11th, Jim’s birthday. It’s also our day to get a Christmas tree, but I’ll come to that event in turn. The first thing Saturday I baked a flourless chocolate cake while the boys were off at TKD. They did the class and sparring sessions, so I had plenty of time to create a chocophile’s delight. Fortunately, Jim-the-chocophile also got a delivery of brownies from his mom the night before, but unfortunately he overdosed a little. He shared them with the family, but I think he must have snuck a bonus piece or two... After pizza and cake for lunch, we all went roller skating. Jacob was eager to go again after learning how last week. He took his share of spills and bumps, but now he zips around the track like a pro. I haven’t been skating since I was a teenager, but it’s just like riding a bike. After a few loops I was having a great time, dancing with Jacob to the music as we skated in the flashing lights of the disco ball. Suddenly I had big blonde hair again! Tommie and Jim were out for their first try at roller skating. Fortunately, Tommie is made of rubber. He started out creeping along the rails and taking quite a few falls. If there’s a word that described him yesterday, though, it was determination. After three hours he was skating the entire loop without falling. Jim picked it up pretty fast, I’m sure because he did plenty of ice skating as a Michigan kid. He did take a nasty fall when he was helping Tommie. And so with his pre-injured shoulder, birthday tummy rumblings and badly bruised hip, he looked a little sad in the rain as we went to get our Christmas tree. Luckily, the boys and I were eager and enthusiastic, and so we took over and brought home a nice tree. Yesterday we trimmed it, put up some decorations outside, and got a load of candy to decorate the traditional candy house. We were settled in before the big snow hit us. On top of everything else I managed to make a huge pot of pumpkin-red pepper soup to keep us going through the winter. On to Christmas!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Winter!

My big achievement for the week was finishing my “Baby Carrots” commission piece. I’m delighted to have them off to their new home. I wanted to have it completed before the Unitarian Universalist Art Fair this weekend, and fortunately everything came together for me. The ‘UU’ show marks the end of my art fair season. It’s also a really fun time for me because so many of my Fourth Street Festival friends also do the show. When the times are quiet we chitty-chatty, laugh a lot and catch up on each other’s lives. The weather cooperated on that front on Friday, and then Saturday the weather created a fine holiday atmosphere by giving us four inches of fresh snow. It was great for the boys, who spent the day making snow forts, snowmen and other snow-based stuff. But back to the show—there was good news and bad news. The good news was that on Friday the show was packed with people who must have known the weather forecast, the bad news was that the crowds seemed to be down a little on Saturday, perhaps due to the snow. But, the good news was that for both days they were in the mood to buy scarves. And boy did I have the scarves! I had been felting like a fiend when I had free time all through the late fall, replacing the pieces I sold at other shows. As a bonus, I got ten unsold scarves back from the Holly Market in Michigan. I thought that meant I was prepared for the show this weekend. Wrong! I sold 21 scarves, which was most of my inventory, plus six new commission pieces. Black ruffled edges on red and purple merino was hot this season—I’d better alert Heidi Klum. The only scarves that didn’t sell well were the ones I created in autumn colors for earlier shows. Now I’m secretly looking forward to seeing someone wearing one of my scarves around town to complete the circle!

The end of my holiday art season also means I’m ready to burrow into my art studio for the winter and weave. I have my silent space heater and a hallway full of unsorted yarns so I’m ready! The best news, though, is that I have a big commission for two giant weavings and I’m excited to get started. They’re each five by two and a half feet. I’ll have to get my frame maker, Tom Bertolacinni busy making frames for me. I’ve done the sketches and consulted with my patrons, and one of the piece designs has been approved. The first piece will be a cross section through the soil showing carrots, beets and onions. There’s also a hand harvesting one of the carrots, so I’ll have to pay my hand model overtime (luckily it’s me!). The composition is a riff on pieces that I’ve made in the past, although the large size and diversity of content makes it a new challenge. I started by felting the first big beet at the ‘UU’ show during the two o’clock lull. Beets are kind of a conundrum for me—I love how they look, I love the color and texture, and I love dyeing with them, but I just don’t enjoy eating them. I’ve tried all the ways I can find to cook them but it just doesn’t help. By the time I got started on a big carrot for the piece I was starting to feel a little like Alice in Wonderland. I couldn’t tell if the veggies were getting bigger or I was getting smaller.

The end of another successful art fair was marked by a celebratory dinner—I’m very fortunate to be appreciated by my family. Jim made a ginger and balsamic vinegar glaze in an orange reduction to put on fresh steelhead trout. I made a stir-fry of local snow peas (thanks, Bloomingfoods!) and sliced, toasted almonds that was crunchy and fresh tasting. I just love how the peas turn a rich, bright green as you start to stir-fry them. Add a nice bottle of Ripasso and top it off with Lindt black currant chocolate and you have a fine end to a successful art fair season! The only thing that was missing was a pie!

Maybe next week…

Martina Celerin