Saturday, April 30, 2011

Under the weather…

I was sick…which means I completed less than I had hoped this week. I even missed Zumba for two days. The good news is that even when you’re sick you can still needle felt. I spent a big chunk of time creating aggressive writing pens for my BPP commission piece, and I had a pretty good time doing it. I was again reminded that there is nothing to watch on daytime television. Oh, and if being sick wasn’t enough, it rained much of the week. I feel as if we’ve been soggy for months, even though it’s only been a couple of weeks. I slogged through my soggy days, though, and I diligently finished the hand for the piece and its big yellow letters. By late in the week I started assembling the piece. The exciting part was when I could see that it was really coming together. The finishing touches involved needle felted the logo onto the background in cursive text, followed by attaching the 3D yellow BPP letters I made last week. They were connected using wires that allow the letters to float over the piece. The finishing bit was attaching the aggressive pens and the writing hand. The final piece is very dimensional, so I decided to make a movie of the piece that captures the topography. A flat photograph is just too flat! When my health started to return I delivered it to the BPP to warm reviews. Check it out in its new home sometime!

The skies on Saturday morning broke clear and blue. I woke to sunshine and knew it was time to make our first trip to the Farmer’s market this year. I thought that if I could find rhubarb there would be a pie in my future. Sadly, though, I had to settle for a nice breakfast and a flat of vegetable seedlings that Tommie wanted to plant in his garden. To my surprise, Tommie volunteered to read one page from the book “James and the Giant Peach” as part of the library’s project to read the whole book over a span of four hours using hundreds of local readers. He did a great job and made his parents proud. I’m looking forward to reliving the experience when it’s broadcast (and rebroadcast on CATS).

In the afternoon we stopped in at the Sahara Mart wine tasting event. Jim drove, I sampled and he took tasting notes. If the wine had some special characteristic I let him take a tiny sip, but not too much. I ended up trying 24 different wines! It really only amounted to a glass or so, with a sadly large amount thrown away. Jim decided that I must have looked knowledgeable at the table of a French wine importer, because he pulled out a bottle of Chateau neuf du Pape from underneath the table for me to try. Yum! We ended up picking up a few extra bottles for the wine cellar. That made Jim happy. Two of them even came from Slovakia, which made me happy. One was a Muskat Moravsky 2007 Reserve, a white wine that I really liked. We’ll have it with a mild fish under a garlic topping sometime soon. The second was called Frankovska Modra (2003), which was an earthy red wine. I think it will be nice with spicy food that has some strong character. We vegetarians don’t get the benefits of having wine with grilled meats. I’m secretly hoping that some of my Czech or Slovak relatives will add a comment or two if they’ve tried the wines before and have an opinion. About the wines, that is. I’ll let everyone know when the wines move from the cellar to the table and I can try them with food.

That’s about it for the week. I’m remembering my father’s birthday today. His birthday flowers, the magnolias, are finished, but I saw the first poppies on First Street, smelled the first wisteria of the season, and tomorrow is our biennial spring egg hunt. It would be the Easter egg hunt, but candy goes on sale big time after Easter, so I buy it up in bulk and the boys stuff hundreds of recycled plastic eggs for the hunt. Now we just need one more day of blue sky and dry soil! Think good thoughts for us!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Ratatouille is the first to leave the sinking ship

I began this week reveling in the late stages of completing my major art pieces, "Summer Harvest" and "Ratatouille." My photographer, Tom Bertolacini, came over to take photographs for my portfolio. He sets up all his fancy lights and gets out his fancy camera and takes some really nice pictures. Even better, though, is the fact that I brought the pieces upstairs when he was done! That’s important because two major storms passed through Bloomington on Friday. The second one woke us up around midnight when the tornado sirens went off. We trundled two sleepy boys into the basement studio, with blankets and pillows, and they lay down there. Fortunately, we got to see the window well filled up with water and watch the water start to pour in. By that time the tornado sirens were off and Jim ran out to scoop water out of the well. Then he used the push broom to sweep water out of the veranda and direct it into Celerin Pond which drains into Drummond Creek. That kept a lot of water out of the house, but enough came in to the storage room that I had to jump into defense mode. I cleared the wall storage units and rolled up the carpets in my art studio to let everything dry out. Nothing was damaged, but it kept us up until 3:30. Saturday we did a little drainage remodeling around the veranda and resolved to remove the stone patio that channels the water toward the house. Ah, spring in Indiana—I love it! I just love some parts more than others. A post script here—I could do without the ant invasions too.

This week I began weaving away on my BPP (Bloomington Playwrights Project) commission piece. The structural challenge was incorporating one key aspect of their logo, which is the “turning pages” at the bottom right hand corner on all their promotional stuff. Chad asked if I could somehow incorporate that feature into the piece. I imagined a strategy that I thought might work, but this week I did the experiment. Basically I wove three weavings, and into each of the first wefts I incorporated some used baling wire wrapped with yarn which also continued up the right side of the weaving. I then wove the rest of the weaving. I was able to create a tiered set of weavings and stretched them out on the frame. I snipped away the support strings on the corners and molded the wires outward to create the turning pages. During my travels I’ve been poking at the BPP logo letters. I’ve enjoyed working on crisp edges that don’t have the organic feel that my felted vegetables had. While I like doing natural things, the freshness of doing something new is welcome. To make the letters I used an old wool army blanket that belonged to Jim’s father. I cut six layers out for each letter and stitched them together. I needle felted my tumeric-dyed fleece on top of the blanket letters. Because I want to the letters appear to be suspended in front of the weaving I also incorporated baling wire into the back of the letters to create the look of floating letters. Overall, I feel really good about the progress I made on the piece, and next week I’ll should launch on to the cursive text of their logo, ‘Where theatre is born’. The piece will feature a hand holding a pen, which I’ve already completed and think it looks really good.

I’m sure I did other things this week—I’m a little short on sleep, which doesn’t help my memory. I do remember lunch with my sweetie this Thursday at Malibu Grill. I had the farmed perch from Bell’s in Muncie Indiana, which were really tasty. I had no idea that there were perch in Indiana—I’ve only enjoyed the perch from the great lakes. Jim made kluski for dinner last night, and it was especially good. Even so, after all the wetness and woe I had this week you’d think I might deserve another pie! My friend Wendy got one…but I think that she made that one herself...

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Ratatouille Arrives!

Finally—‘Ratatouille’ is complete! I’m delighted with how it turned out. I even feel as if I’ve taken the first step toward being a grandma by carrying around pictures of the completed piece and showing the people who have watched me along the way. I received so much support and encouragement as I felted tomato slices, eggplants, zucchini and herb leaves into existence over the past few months that I felt I needed to share the finished product. It has been fun to watch their responses to seeing the finished piece. The people who actually saw the size of the tomatoes have the best sense of the overall magnitude of the finished piece, which is huge 5' X 2 1/2 '—the tomatoes are the size of dinner plates. Even though I like the tomatoes, my favorite part of the piece is the basil leaves. I feel like they really enhance the cohesiveness of the piece, and I just like how they turned out. I can almost smell the piece!

Did I say I was pleased with how it turned out? That’s true, but I am sooo ready to move beyond creating vegetables. At the end of the week I devoted big blocks of time to my next piece, a signature piece for the Bloomington Playwright’s Project. If you’ve seen their aggressive writing tools on the attack you know the basic design. In my version the background is purple and the BPP letters are a bright yellow. That means I spent some time digging through my yarn boxes to find just the colors I needed. I was on a spring and birth mind set (their motto is "where theater is born") and so I chose a purple that reminds me of the Johnny Jump-Up violets in the lawn, mixed in with their shockingly bright yellow dandelion friends. I bought the yellow fleece at the Fiber Arts show from Donna Jo Copeland last November. It was dyed with tumeric to produce a brilliant, almost neon yellow, which is amazing considering that it comes from a natural dye. The yellow letters have a crispness that I’m enjoying, especially after focusing on organic vegetable shapes for the past few months. And weaving, finally weaving, in my art studio has been a delight. While I enjoy needle felting, there’s a certain rhythm to weaving that I’ve missed. The piece will feature a hand, which I’ve completed, holding an angry pen, ready to create a great play. I just need to adjust the length of the wrist, and make the pen.

The fact that it’s officially spring means the dandelions are commandeering the local lawns. I had the boys out collecting dandelion heads for dyeing later this summer. I even spent fifteen minutes this morning mowing down the yellow flowers in the strip of lawn between the sidewalk and road. I should have enough for a good dye pot. I’ve got to replenish some of my color stocks, which also led me to the big Fiber Event in Greencastle this past Friday. It’s one of the highlights of my year. I went with my friend Ruth, which made for a delightful trip. We chitty chatted the whole time, making it feel as if we made it there in ten minutes. I had a wonderful conversation with a weaver and natural material dyer from Nashville who sold fair traded spun banana silk yarn—that will probably make it’s way into a scarf this fall. We talked about some of her recent adventures in dyeing, and she showed me some yarn and fleece that she had dyed with wild rose clippings using iron mordant. It got me eyeing the wild rose in our back yard that I don’t really like because it scratches the whole family as they bring bikes through the gate into the back yard. We talked about using invasive plants for dyeing, which made me wonder about using euonymous as a green dye. That evil vine has taken over big parts of the back garden beds, and it’s heading for a major haircut this summer. I’ll do some experiments with added alum and varying conditions, but I’m sure I’ll find a use for any material that survives the dye pot.

The last bit of news from the week has to do with one of my favorite foods—pie! A rhubarb pie appeared yesterday morning. Although it came from frozen rhubarb because no fresh stalks could be found, it tasted great and the crust came out as a crumbly delight. Yippee! I’ll have pie and espresso for breakfast after Zumba all week!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Monday, April 11, 2011

Summertime tomatoes, sliced and ready

Last week was nothing short of hot in Bloomington, so I knew it was clearly time for tomatoes. The little red fruits just filled my world. I poked and created slice after slice of juicy summertime heaven at every meeting and event I attended, and all day when the boys were in school. My payoff, sadly, wasn’t a fresh tomato sandwich. It was even better! I finished off the last of the tomatoes, and indeed the last of my vegetables, for my ‘Ratatouille’ piece! I can’t tell you how good that feels after months of felting giant carrots, onions, and beets (for the Summer Harvest companion piece) followed by eggplant, onions, herbs, zucchinis and tomatoes for the Ratatouille piece. What a giant relief to have all the pieces (and backgrounds) in my art studio.

My week in tomato town started with buying and slicing open a selection of Roma tomatoes as models. Most artists can’t get away with slicing open their models to get a look at the internal structures, but happily I can. What struck me when I examined the tomatoes was how variable the tomatoes are with respect to the internal chambers. I assumed they would all have the same developmental program that produced the same chamber structure. Then to make the seeds I was looking for some muted earthy yellow color. Fortunately, I came across fleece that I had dyed this summer with goldenrod flowers collected in Michigan. I did one batch with just the flowers and a second with alum added. The former gave a more muted yellow that was perfect for my seeds. I’m always delighted when something I can’t imagine finding a home for turns out to be just the right color for a future project. I needle felted the seeds in place after the tomato slice took shape, then I gave them a light blanket of the slimy tomato chamber material and then felted more seeds on top. I felt the technique gave a sense of depth to the seeds within the seed chamber that I really liked.

Of course finishing the components means it’s time to assemble components onto the weaving background. I stayed up fairly late last night, enjoying the cool of the basement art studio over the stuffy upstairs bedrooms after an eighty-degree day. I decided to put together ‘Summer Harvest’ first. I really like it! I just feels soooo good to have it assembled after months of creating small pieces and working through the doubt of whether it will all work out. I even found a use for the orange thread from Jim’s youth, which he used to tie spawn bags to catch trout. Everything finds a use in my house! As the piece came together we broke out a bottle of wine to celebrate. Now I just need to decide on the exact component layout for ‘Ratatouille’ and assemble that piece.

Everything else in my world took a back seat to art last week, but I did get out a little. The opening reception for “The Art of Re-Use” in celebration of Earth Day in Columbus, IN organized by Marilyn Brackney, was Thursday evening at Hotel Indigo. I left all three boys home and drove over with Cappi Phillips. The trip seemed like it only took ten minutes because we laughed and giggled just about the whole way. The reception was well attended, and I even ran into one of the judges from the first Déjà Vu show. She also happened to have bought a Winter Birches piece. Now she’s doing amazing encaustic pieces. I’ve been oohing and aahhing over the technique ever since we saw a demonstration of the art form at Wonderlab.

Over the weekend the whole crew went out to the African American Dance Company’s spring performance, which was excellent. I loved seeing such immense talent in all the different body shapes and ethnic backgrounds. Some of the movements seemed almost snake-like to me, which got into my head. I tried to think and move like a snake when I was doing Zumba the next day. We also managed to get out to the Sunday matinee performance of Miles Away at the Bloomington Playwrights Project – a date with hubby! The acting was intense and at the end I just sat in sort of a stunned silence for a bit to pull myself back into my own reality. The characters and plot were far removed from what I experience day-to-day, but I felt completely embraced in the experience because of the incredible acting. Thanks to Chad for assembling an amazing out of body experience. Go see it!

This will be another big week—completing ‘Ratatouille’ will certainly be an early major project. I’m a little nervous about it still, but I’m optimistic about the final product. I also noticed, ahem, that our rhubarb was starting to poke up in the garden. Hmmm, let’s see…spring, rhubarb…could a pie be far behind? Check back next week!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thyme for Tomatoes

I had my felting needles flying this week as I worked toward completing my two big commission pieces. I continued on my herb mission by creating small thyme leaves, using the fleece I carded together last week. I’m always really busy, but this week I had to make a little thyme for myself. When I had the leaves made, I snipped little 2-4 inch lengths of thin wire that I wrapped with yarn to make the veins for the leaves. When it came to making the stems, I panicked a little when I discovered that I lacked just the right yellowy green yarn. I looked through all my light spring greens, olives and medium green boxes with no success. I was humming and hawing about what to do because I knew thyme was running out. Then the angelic choir sang when I walked around the art studio and saw just the right color material sitting atop my giant pile of yet-to-be-sorted yarns. I guess I need a brief bit of background here (no thyme like the present). When new yarns come into the house they first spend at least two days in the freezer to kill any potential pests or eggs. Then to go into a big pile in the art studio to be sorted into my rows of plastic storage bins. That happens when the pile reaches a critical height and spills over into the walkway, or when the boys need money for the latest toy and they offer to sort yarns for money. Anyway, I finished the three thyme sprigs this week and launched on the tomatoes. I carded together the fleece I need for the fleshy parts of the tomatoes and the seeds. That’s next week’s project, along with doing my business taxes. I’ll hand off the forms to my turbo-taxin’ husband who will put it all together.

The rest of the week mostly involved the usual running around town to support my family. But everywhere I went I was on thyme! I have a piece (Birch at Rocky Point) hanging in Columbus, Indiana at the recycled art show to celebrate Earth Day. Marilyn Brackney organizes the show, and the opening reception is this Thursday from 5 – 7 pm at the Hotel Indigo. I look forward hanging out and chitty-chattying with my recycled artist friends like Cappi Phillips and Chris Gustin.

On the home front, this morning Jacob decided to make scones for breakfast, which I encouraged. He served them in the lovely platter Tommie made in clay class at the Ivy Tech-John Walron Arts Center. Jacob also participated in Crazy Day at his school. He wore his pants inside out (the zipper was a special challenge) and gelled his hair. Actually, his personal stylist Tommie did most of the coiffing. The whole thing was for a fundraiser for Riley Children’s hospital. Now it’s Saturday afternoon but I feel like I’m ahead of the curve. The laundry is done and carried upstairs, two loaves of bread are baked for the week, and a new batch of tomato sauce is ready for pizzas and other Italian dishes.


Until next, uhm, thyme…

Martina Celerin