Sunday, February 27, 2011

Veggies are high in fiber...

I was in major vegetable construction mode this week. I have been working on the big ratatouille piece this week, and I completed all the structural elements needed for the vegetables. I even laid them out on the woven background. To my great relief I see that the design will work! The scale is right and the number of pieces is right. I still need to create the herbs to season it, which means felting some basil leaves and thyme branches to fill it out. For now, I just feel really good about completing all the ingredients. The art construction parallels preparing ratatouille, where the secret to success is sautéing each of the ingredients separately. Combining them as the final step ensures that the veggies retain their crispness and individual flavors.

My plan for creating the vegetables was based on an art piece I saw on a recycled art website. It was a table made out of cardboard, created by cutting and combining circles with increasing diameters to sculpt the 3D shape. For my vegetables I harvested cereal boxes out of the recycle bin and cut out the shapes I wanted. I used these as templates to cut layers out of wool blankets and old sweaters. These were stacked and stitched together to create the vegetable slices and cubes. I’ve needle felted a skin layer to the zucchini slices and have launched into skinning my tomatoes. The last phase is to get the intricate design and color palette right for the interiors. I’ve gone through three different zucchini models from Bloomingfoods, each of which went into a family meal. I carded and created three different colors of fleece for each of the inner colour regions of the zucchini, and so I’m ready to start needle felting the patterns. A ripe red tomato sits frightened in the fridge, ready to be dissected for its internal color and design.

Monday was the Spinners and Weavers Guild meeting. They’re trying something new, which might become an annual event—the paper bag exchange. Each person puts four ounces of a fiber, yarn, wool or roving into a bag. The bags are exchanged, and you have until September to create something out of the material and return it to its original owner. You can add materials as needed, but the base of the piece is the exchanged fiber. I’m excited to see how the person uses the yarn I contributed, and I’m always up for a challenge to see what I can do with the beautiful deep blue-green roving I received. Unfortunately it’s a superwash material so I can’t wet felt with it, but I like the fact that it pushes me out of comfort zone into new creative directions. I’m thinking a needle felted bowl…

In other news of the week I have a new show going up at the Orchard Gallery in Fort Wayne. It’s called Small Squares, and I contributed some of my felted tile pieces. I’m excited to see all the pieces together. The opening is this Friday, and I’ve heard the opening reception is nice. The postcard for the show makes me think it will be quite eclectic. I love Cappi’s mosaic chicken tile.

In local news, after the warm days this week I’ve noticed that the tulips leaves are peeking out. The first snowdrops and eranthus are appearing in the garden beds, which is a sure sign of spring. As the spring comes on I’m hoping there’s a rhubarb pie in my near future. There’s a tradition that we have rhubarb pie on Mother’s day, but I’ve decided that when you’re a princess and a mom you can have pie when you want it. I’m on the lookout!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Red and blue with a white stripe

It was a busy week of good things in Bloomington. First, I received the good news that my t-shirt design for the 35th annual Fourth Street Festival was selected by a close vote of the Fourth Street committee. The image is one of the abstract designs in the series that came from my vacation sketches last May on the Outer Banks. Along with the selection comes some responsibilities, and I have to choose the background color that best suits the design. I’m considering brick, soft yellow or a sky blue. If you like the image, pick up a t-shirt this Labor Day weekend!

Then, my Valentine pie wish came true—a warm cherry pie greeted me when I came back from Zumba on Monday morning. I didn’t even know we had cherries! I’ve had some delightful espresso and pie breakfasts this week. And for Valentine's dinner I baked two heart-shaped pizzas that were demolished in record time.

In the art studio I’ve been on fire. I completed the background for my Ratatouille piece. I posted an image of the piece in progress on Facebook and received a number of comments, including one from my friend Sonia. She thinks it looks rich and red, warm and inviting—and it reminds her of a womb. I even managed to stitch the background onto the second large frame from my personal frame builder and organic egg supplier, Tom Bertolacini. He nailed it again for me and I’m grateful for it. At the same time as I’ve been working on the background I managed to make progress on the foreground. I’ve come up with a way to create the vegetable slices that gives them crisp edges. For a fiber artist, that can be a challenge. I zipped all over town to consignment shops and resale stores picked up all the well-worn wool sweaters I could find. I felted them, then cut and stacked the pieces into multiple layers to make the zucchini and tomato slices and eggplant cubes needed for the design of the piece. I pulled out my long needles and stitched them all together, and I’ll complete them by felting the colors and veggie patterns on the surface. I’m excited because I have the proof-of-concept that my vegetable design will come together for the piece. I’m adding the skin to the first zucchini pieces and I’m pleased with the recycled-sweaters-as-veggie-art concept.

Friday turned out to be the day of six tests for my son Tommie. He and Jacob shared the last one, as they tested for their blue-with-a-white-stripe belts in Taekwondo. It’s the first step on the way to their brown belt, and they’re both doing very well at it. Their friend Jonathan came with us to the test and came out to Bucchetos for pizza with us afterward. That wasn’t the end to the week, though, as Saturday we got up and headed out for a combination bike ride (Tommie) skateboard ride (Jacob) and walk (Jim and I). We spent an hour and a half on the Clear Creek trail seeing the birds and horses along the trail. It was a winner of a trip, as judged by the fact that there were no injuries and Jim remembered to bring a snack for the halfway point.

The conclusion to the week came Saturday evening when we attended the ‘Day of Writing and Art’ at the Lodge downtown. I didn’t really know what it was about, but I was asked to contribute a piece for the show; I chose “Fruit Salad.” A group of local girls were participating in an ArtsWeek program called ‘Women Writing for a Change.’ A group of local artists contributed perhaps 25 art pieces to hang on the wall. As part of a much longer day of activities, a group of girls carefully viewed the pieces and wrote out what the pieces communicated to them. The process is called Ekphrasis, which roughly translates to ‘speak out’, or call an inanimate object by it’s name. We saw a parade of talented girls reading aloud their imagining of what the pieces might mean. The beautiful coda to the event was when the audience members took turns speaking out loud phrases or sentences from the poetry that touched them. It’s just like having a nice dessert after an elegant meal. It’s another reason that Bloomington is so great—I was again exposed to some unexpectedly wonderful art.

And the week finally ended with my sweet husband making a giant bowl of kluski for dinner Saturday night...yum!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seeing red as Valentine’s Day approaches

I’ve been seeing red all week long. Unfortunately, instead of red wine and red boxes of chocolates, it has all been tomato sauce for my Ratatouille piece. I started off with a huge pile of red yarns on my art studio floor and I’ve watched them simmer into the background of the piece. I need to create about thirty vertical inches by five feet wide. So far I’ve managed eighteen inches and burned out every red light receptor I ever had. I have a sudden urge to run down a matador and gore him. On the bright side, I love to weave, so it’s still been great to be in the art studio all week.

Of course ratatouille requires lots of fresh vegetables. I started creating some giant onion slices out of some little felted rectangles I got from my friend Cappi. We think they’re rejected brake pads for some device. Cappi picked up a huge box of them at the recycle center a few years back and they’ve been searching for just the right project ever since. It came to me that by connecting them I could create onion rings. They project is still at a stage where the untrained eye might not see them as onion rings, but I know it’s going to work out. I stitched them together on a skeleton of remnant baling wire scraps. It’s all I can do to keep from crying.

As I’ve zoomed ahead on my second commission piece, I’ve still been working on completing the first piece. I finished the last of the vegetables – the three onions – and with three art-related evening meetings this week I’ve had plenty of time to needle felt the oversize hand I’ll add that’s pulling out the Alice in Wonderland-sized carrot. I’m delighted with how that’s coming along, although I need to lay it out on the piece to make sure the scale is right. The size is based on sketches done on grid paper so it should be good. Still, it has to look good in place or it isn’t right. Tomorrow is the day I finally take a deep breath and lay out all the elements together on the background.

My social schedule this week was overwhelmed by meetings, but Wednesday at noon I did go to the SOFA gallery with Cappi and Dawn to see the current MFA/BFA exhibits. I even managed to avoid getting a ticket this time! I really love going to these events with my artist friends because they can recognize and articulate elements in the work that I can’t. I love being able to compare it to what I see and feel about each piece. Exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the pieces really lets you appreciate your own weaknesses as an artist. We saw one piece that was incredible structured and detailed with orange geometric shapes on a gray background. The crisp shapes were twisted into an extended structure that had a very organic feel. But then the artist put a layer on top that felt like graffiti. I just couldn’t imagine having the strength to invest all the time needed to create the beautiful, detailed work and then cover it with graffiti. Still, it was very powerful. I also got to see some of Sara Nordling’s woven pieces, which I thought were very striking. The most powerful piece had three long horizontal stripes with structures that looked like translucent mushroom gills along the length. The viewer’s eyes just roll back and forth along the gills, bringing a three dimensional aspect to a two dimensional weaving. It was a beautiful, powerful and captivating piece.

That’s probably enough for one week. It will be Valentine’s Day soon, though. What kind of pie is red? Hmmmmm, cherry?

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The ice storm cometh.

Did I say something about linking five straight school days together? That’s not what happened this week. The great ice storm of ’11 started on Monday night and locked out school until Friday. Fortunately Jim is from Michigan, and nothing will stop a Michigan boy from accomplishing his mission. The roads were cleared well enough by Tuesday night that we ventured out to see Blue Man Group at the IU Auditorium. I thought that they were great—a cross between Cirque du Soleil and the old Saturday Night Live. You just didn’t know what they were going to do next. I just love drumming and percussion, and they pounded out a blue streak. On the way home, Jacob wished for the power to go out so we could have some family time, and boy did he ever get his wish! The snowstorm of Monday night turned into the ice storm of Tuesday night, and the combination of high winds and iced trees took out the power for thousands in Monroe County. We readied the candles, flashlights and hand-crank radio and went to bed.

We woke to a cold house Wednesday. We did our best to get by with no heat, lights, or internet connection. It was enjoyable to sit in front of the roaring fire that consumed much of a fallen big apple branch from the back yard and listen as the IU basketball team beat the Golden Gophers of Minnesota. Nobody wanted to get into the frigid beds that night, but luckily, later that night the power came back on! We woke to a partially heated house and resumed our routine, albeit without school. They did manage to hold a second day of school for the week on Friday, so I guess they deserve a little credit.

Sandwiched around trying to stay warm (I don’t do cold well) I did manage to get some art done. My most important accomplishment occurred when my patrons for the two large commission pieces came by to approve the second colored sketch—and they did! It will be called ‘Ratatouille’. I launched into the project by re-warping my big loom, this time with a deep red warp. I started creating some of the fleece colors I will need to create the giant tomato, zucchini and onion slices. Luckily, my nude models are all organic, and they come in little piles in the produce section of Bloomingfoods. To create the zucchini skin, I pulled out my deep green and speckly highlighed fleeces and fed my new drum carder. I’m ready to launch into the second big piece. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though, because I still need to make a giant gardener’s hand to pluck the giant carrot in the first big piece. But it’s all coming together!

In other news, Lee Hadley wrote a delightful piece about my work in the Home and Lifestyles magazine of the Herald Times. I really like his writing style—it’s concise and the verbs really bring the piece to life. He should write more! You can check out the story and the wonderful pictures at the H & L site. The accompanying photos are very flattering, taken by Pete Scheiner, who spent a morning capturing my studio. My son Jacob wanted to have a picture taken in his bedroom with his hamster, Shadow, which Pete graciously did. That turned into our family photo! And everybody looks nice—I really like it. The pictures also show off my new physique, now that I’ve lost 21 pounds—hooray! Thanks Liz and Cera at Bloomzum(ba).

The week culminated in a date this afternoon with my sweetie pie. We went to see the play ‘Kissing Frogs’. It’s a collaborative effort between the Bloomington Playwrights Project and IU Theatre. It was such fun! The staging, music and choreography were creative and professional. We recognized several of the actors from ‘Rent’—they are incredibly talented. The BPP setting allows a much more intimate experience than the traditional, larger venues in town. I’m so glad that Chad is in charge. He’s just doing many fabulous things there, and it’s exciting to witness the rebirth of the Project. Now I’m really excited about doing a commission for them, but it has to wait until I can complete the big commissions in progress. Could we just have school for a whole week? And maybe a pie?

Until next week…

Martina Celerin