Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Finding stars on the beach

We’re just back from an amazing trip to the outer banks in North Carolina—what a wonderful week we had!  We stayed in Ocean Sands, which is just south of Corolla.  The house we rented had beautiful views of the ocean, with decks that let us sit outside and sip coffee or wine.   
Depending on where you looked, you could watch pelicans cruise the ocean swells or fly over the beach, dolphins patrolling the surf’s edge, or people collecting shells up and down the beach.  I didn’t take any art projects to work on, but I did have lots of time for relaxing and developing ideas for art pieces.  I even did a little sketching on the beach.  As usual, I spent a lot of time beach combing and collecting.  This year as different in that we found lots of horseshoe crab shells on the beach, including a few enormous ones, our first-ever sea stars, and a huge amount of driftwood.   
I also came home with a delightful collection of shells with holes worn in them for weavings.  Sadly, the sea stars didn’t travel as nicely, so don’t look for them in my pieces.  

On our drive from Norfolk to Corolla, we usually stop in at one of the farmer’s markets along the way to stock up on some fruit and veggies for the week.  We decided to visit Miller’s this year, identified by its ice cream churned with a tractor engine.  The ice cream was OK, but the produce was exceptionally fresh.  We ended up with a watermelon (crisp and tasty), a big bag of peaches (eaten within the first day or so), blueberries (which became a breakfast pie on the third and fourth days), 
new potatoes (great boiled with fresh fish), and a bunch of vegetables and lettuce for a salad.  I knew then we were off to a good start.  We stopped in at Carawan’s for seafood and headed home with two pounds of fresh tilefish for dinner.  What a treat!  Even Jacob really liked it, which is saying something.  We also bought black sea bass and sea trout from Carawan’s on this trip, which was also excellent.   
Tommie wanted to try the soft shell crabs this year, which we did.  One has to be pretty trusting to believe that the whole body is edible, but it turns out to be true.  We deep fried them and ate them all.  Jacob preferred the legs while Tommie liked the bodies.  That turned out to be a good trade.  Everybody got something they liked, and we all enjoyed the crabs.  

We spend a lot of time on the beach on our vacation, but we also go off on other adventures.  The boys have been asking to try go-karting for some time, and this year was the first that Jacob was tall enough to go.  Jacob decided at the end that he’d prefer to drive Miss Daisy (Grandma’s golf cart that she uses for watering flowers). 
 We got in a few rounds of mini golf, where the winner buys the ice cream.  Tommie won one day and Jacob and Jim tied the other.  Jim still bought the ice cream, though.  Oh, and we also finally got to try the Titanic at Logan’s.  You get to choose six scoops of ice cream and four toppings.  With hot fudge, peanuts, marshmallow sauce and the chocolate that solidifies on the ice cream it was an ice cream and chocolate lover’s dream.  Four spoons and five minutes later we had sunk the Titanic.  
 On Thursday, Jim and Tommie went thirty miles out on the ocean aboard the Country Girl and fished the reefs for tilefish and black sea bass.  Luckily, the weather cooperated and they came home with a big mess of fish for more lunches and dinners.  We even slipped about seven pounds of filets into our carry-on cooler.  Our first dinner home was fresh tilefish and another big batch went into the freezer. 

The big event in the surf was boogie boarding, followed by racing back to the house to warm up in the hot tub.  The Atlantic in May isn’t exactly a bath, but it was warm enough for all of us to spend some time frolicking in the surf.  Jacob was the real leader on that adventure, going every chance he could.  He can pick the good waves to ride, and with his small frame he can get right on the board and ride it all the way on to the beach.  When Jim and Tommie were off fishing, I even spent an afternoon boarding with Jacob until I was cold all the way through.  The hot tub fixed me right up, though. 

The big project awaiting me upon our return was to clean up my art studio for the Open Studios Tour next weekend.  I want to send out a big thanks to Sarah Pierce, my neighbor, and Marcy Neiditz for organizing the inaugural event.  The event runs from 10 am to 4 pm Saturday and Sunday, June 2nd and 3rd.  I’m studio number 4 on the tour.  I’ll have all my art on display, from my weavings to Giclee prints to my Re-shirts.  We’ll have cookies and lemonade for weary travelers.  Jacob is keen to start a project that kids can do when they visit, which will involve creating a version of survival bracelets.  I’m hoping to get a good turnout this year, and I’d like to see it become an annual event.  On the home front, I think Jim is just happy that we don’t have to drive somewhere to set it up! 

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Friday, May 18, 2012

Arbor Day for Life’s Trail

I spent most of this week working feverishly on Life’s Trail, my commission piece.  Last week I finished weaving the background, and this week I released the whole piece from the loom.  After I attached the piece to its frame, I started using dimensional crochet to build up the path.  The background features a sumac weave structure, which creates the loops I use as the starting point for crocheting.  Did I mention that it was a huge piece?  I literally went through pounds of sand colored yarn in this phase of the project.  I used up close to 20 skeins of yarn remnants building the path that projects a full twelve inches from the frame.  In order to create the smoothness I wanted for the path I needle felted several yarns in the sand/taupe/beige range.  I’m very pleased with how that turned out. 

The next phase of the project involved creating the trees that stand in the foreground.  Basically the trees are solid wool except for the very core, which begins with used baling wire.  I wrap the wire in a couple of layers of grandpa’s old wool army blankets to keep it cozy when it gets cold.  I then needle felted the bark on the surface using bark-colored wool roving.  To create the branches I began with an assortment of thinner wires from several recycled sources.  Some of the branches contain floral wire, while others come from spiral notebook that I took apart.  Some are just wire remnants from Grandpa’s collection.  To turn them into branches I wrapped them with hand-spun wool that matched the bark roving perfectly.  I feel like those trees and branches could have been my kids, because I took them everywhere with me and kept poking at them until I was satisfied. 

With trees and branches in hand it was Arbor Day.  I planted my big brown trees by needle felting them onto the path.  So far I have three trees finished and I’m making progress on the last one.  I’m very excited about how it looks, especially now that I can get a sense of the depth of the piece.  When the last tree is planted I have the leaf clumps at the ready to attach.  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out! 

On a final art note, this weekend is the soft opening of the Discardia store in the Trained Eye Studio.  It’s on the B-line trail at 615 North Fairview close to 11th Street.  Discardia is a new, cooperative adventure by local artists where all of the items are made from 90% reclaimed and recycled materials.  It’s a project that’s very near and dear to my heart, so I hope you can stop by.  Their full grand opening will happen later in June, so keep an eye open for that as well—it’s a worthwhile adventure that I’d like to see succeed. 

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Monday, May 14, 2012

Progress on Life’s Trail leads to: Rhubarb Pie!…

This week I wove like crazy!  I’m in the process of creating the woven base for a big commission, which is an evolution from my ‘After the Rain’ piece that features a path receding into a green forest canopy.  The title still isn’t finalized, but it’s going to be something like:  “Life’s Trail.”  The base incorporates a lot of background structure I’ll need to build from, so some of it looks finished while other parts are just the base.  I’ll use a dimensional crochet technique to bring the earthen trail forward, then I’ll attach features such as my tree trunks, leaf clumps in the canopy, and a few forest-floor objects scattered along the trail.  Something that’s new for me is the huge size for this kind of piece, which will be 50” by 35” in a portrait frame.  I’ve made some big pieces, but not where I’ve tried so ambitiously to create depth in a forest setting. 

As I was finishing weaving the background, I’ve also been crocheting leaf clumps in parallel.  I now have a nice collection that will extend the forest canopy forward.  The giant tree trunks are also a work in progress.  I’ve been carrying those around with me, mostly to the boy’s Taekwondo classes and Bryan Park while the boys play tennis.  They’re bigger structures than I usually work on in public, so they’ve been generating a lot of interest and speculation as to their identity.  They have been confused for elephant trunks, deer antlers, unicorn horns, a water buffalo horn, and an animal tail.  Don’t worry—I’m sure they’ll look much more tree-like when the branches are attached!  I’m hoping that will happen this coming week. 

The beautiful weather this week has allowed me to get a bunch of outside projects done.  The humidity was low enough earlier in the week that I was finally able to seal all the frames I stained last week.  Unfortunately, they sat outside for a week when Monroe County set a record for a high pollen count.  When I got back to them there was a thick layer of pollen on them.  That had to go before I could seal.  On the other hand, I got to spend quality time on the veranda looking into the back garden.  The flowers there are just amazing, with irises, peonies, allium and bleeding hearts all blooming.  It isn’t as well kept as the front garden, which is looking delightful as well.  I really wish that this week was the Bloomington Open Studios tour that will take place the first weekend in June.  The flowers in the walkway would be so great!  Jim has been digging, cutting, planting and making the whole location lovely. 

As I’ve been plowing ahead on my commission piece, I did sneak in one other project.  I completed the “Bike Race” piece I described last week.  It’s the one that came to me at about two thirty in the morning.  This week I introduced the weaving into the frame and fixed all the pieces at the depths I wanted and I’m calling it done.  I think I’m going to change the name, though.  At our neighborhood’s Second Saturday Soup gathering, Bob Flynn mentioned my Facebook post about a bike parade piece.  That struck me as a much nicer name, so now it’s “Bike Parade.”

 The week wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention my Mother’s Day.  I woke up to espresso, the newspaper and a bouquet of red roses dappled with fleabane sitting at my breakfast spot.  Jim was putting together the traditional rhubarb pie.  He was fretting a little about using the giant pie pan that Jan Arbogast made for us.   It takes almost three pounds of rhubarb to fill it (I say Hooray!!!).  I had the first pie installment with whipped cream after lunch.  Tommie and Jim had some as well, while Jacob settled for a small bowl of ice cream.  Each boy gave me a wonderful hand-made card.  What I really needed was to spend some quiet time weaving and working in my art studio.  Jim and the boys split wood and went to play tennis with a friend, so everything worked out perfectly!  It was a delightful day and week. 

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bikes, beaches and strawberry shortcake…

My spring has been incredibly hectic on all fronts.  As I finished my Brain Extravaganza piece and completed the citizenship process, this week I found myself with five art pieces in various stages of progress.  That’s way more than I usually have, which left me with a frazzled feeling, as if I have the lids off too many boxes.  I needed to close a few so I got to work.  First off I finished assembling the piece called ‘A Home of My Own’.  This reveals a little about how I view my citizenship process, so it’s a pretty personal piece.  Then I completed my beach piece.  I originally planned to include a bonfire in the foreground, but then I heard about the motorcycle that washed up on a Canadian beach.  It was carried across the pacific from the Japanese tsunami, which seems incredible.  That story triggered memories of my childhood and my love for walking along beaches to see what would wash up.  I really liked collecting driftwood.   
The shapes can be as unique as clouds, so I would hold them in my hands and wonder what they were.  I remember using them to build little houses for the ladybugs on the beach!  Anyway, I pulled out my big box full of driftwood specimens and little bits of wood I save for weavings.  My piece now has a little structure in case any ladybugs come flying by, perhaps after a fire at home.  I also added some beach grasses, aka feathers and thin yarns as well as seashells.  To keep the shells in scale I needed some really teeny tiny ones.  Fortunately I have a few in my collection.  

The other big art news is that the art-idea fairy visited me one night around 2:30 am and left me with the vision I needed to complete a bicycle piece that has been on hold.  About three months ago I made a dozen bicycle wheels out of used bangles, with the vision of using them in a piece.  I just couldn’t find a composition I liked until the inspiration came to me that night.  The next morning I wove like crazy because I wanted to see the piece go to completion.  I finished weaving the background, which is a series of gradients that transition from one color to the next.  I developed that technique a little in “Sunrise at Goose Pond,” and it’s a very satisfying weaving experience.  
 I really have to pay attention to the colors and be thinking ahead about the transitions.  When I had the background completed, I laid down the bicycle wheels and some colorful felted balls to represent the pack of cyclists.  I’m really delighted with how it looks, and I’ll stretch it out in a frame in the next few days.  I still need to have the wheels and felted balls projecting forward form the surface at various heights.  I also need to finish sealing the frames, which means the humidity has to drop a bit.  I would like summer to go away just briefly so we could revisit spring!

In family news, Saturday morning brought us to the farmer’s market.  Jacob rode his bike with his friend Claire, so Tommie, Jim and I went for the hot chocolate at Le Petit CafĂ© and something tasty at Sweet Claire’s.  Along the way, I exercised my new powers as a registered voter to sign a few petitions.  Do you feel the world changing?  Then we discovered the bounty of strawberries on display and brought home three quarts.  One we ate the first day, and the next two went into strawberry shortcake.  I cut up the strawberries, Jim baked the biscuits and the family feasted on the breakfast of champions.  I wonder if they’ll have more strawberries next time?

Until next week…

Martina Celerin

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beaches, brains and rhubarb pie…

Art news leads off my hectic week.  I’ve been working hard on my ‘Home of My Own’ piece.  I created the trowel, the peat pot and the leaves, which completes essentially all of the components for the piece.  I just need to attach them all together.  I’m still poking at the salamander for the ‘Goose Pond’ piece, and I’m still crafting my box turtle for another piece.  Both should be finished soon.  That got me thinking about all of the craziness I’ve been involved in lately, including art projects, brain displays, my citizenship process and other family projects.  Injected into all the usual mayhem are the periodic countdowns from my family reminding me that the school year is coming to a close!   
Soon we’ll be heading to North Carolina for a calming family vacation.  Of course that meant I needed to launch into a beach piece!  And when you need to make a piece, you just need to make the piece, no matter what else is on your agenda.   
On the bright side, the whole process has been very relaxing.  I’m still torn about putting my original vision into the composition, which featured a bonfire on the beach.  In my world there are two things you can stare at for hours—a bonfire and a large body of water.  Combining the two just seemed like the right thing to do.  Now I’m thinking I might just go for some grasses on the beach and some teeny seashells so I could hear the ocean any time I wanted to.  As I created the background dimensional weave for the piece I decided I really liked how the dunes turned out, and how the piece draws your eyes into the far horizon. 

My art wouldn’t hang on the wall without the frames that Tom Bertolacini makes for me.  This week he dropped off a dozen standard size frames plus the giant frame (did I say giant?) for my commission piece.  I immediately took advantage of some nice morning weather and launched into finishing the frames.  That means puttying, sanding and staining the oak frames.  I managed to get them all to a reasonable stopping point before the afternoon rains set in on today.  My plan is to seal them as soon as we have another low humidity day.  For the big commission, I built the large custom loom I needed and warped it.  I have my sand colored yarns at the ready from my beach piece, and I’ll use them to create a path through some woods. 

This past weekend also featured the big launch party for the Brains Extravaganza.  It was amazing to see all 22 completed brains together in one place.  The morning featured a photo session, but around noon the public came rolling in.  And wow, did they ever!  The place was packed, and fresh visitors just kept feeding in.  I’m told the parking lots were packed all around the venue, which was Bloomington South High School.  Just like some of my art fairs, it was a fun chance for me to see people I just don’t run into over the rest of the year.  There were lots of hugs and laughs, which made for a fun time.  The most sobering part was meeting several people who introduced themselves as afflicted with bipolarism.  They shared some moving comments about the accuracy they found in the piece.   
My brain is now settled in to its next home at the main foyer of the Wells Library on campus.  My inside sources tell me that it has been well received by the library patrons. 

Of course my personal life keeps me hopping, no matter what else is happening.  Jacob had his Hip Hop Showcase at Panache studios with two performances this weekend.  My brain reception went from ten until two on Saturday, at which time we skipped over to Panache for the showcase.  Jim had dropped Jacob off at 1, so he was backstage ready to go.  Jacob did a fine job in his dance debut, as did all the kids in the performance.  Jacob was very focused, involved and enthusiastic.   It was great to see all their hard work come to fruition.   
Thursday was our big day in Indianapolis when I had my swearing in ceremony.  Everything went off without a hitch, and the judge welcomed seventy-one new citizens from all over the world.  I was struck by how many nationalities were represented.  I got hugs and kisses from everybody.  That morning I woke up to the smell of a pie made from farmer’s market rhubarb.  In the afternoon I received a beautiful bouquet of red, white and blue flowers from Grandma.  Thanks everybody!  I’ve been enjoying the flowers and the pie for the past several days. 

Oh, and one last note.  I’m featured in the current issue of Bloom magazine, and I’ll have my ‘Summer Salad’ piece featured in the next issue in the Pammy’s Picks section.  I was also selected to be a featured artist at the Loring Park Art Fair in Minneapolis this August—here’s a link to see what’s happening there.  This week I’ll register to vote AND apply for a passport!  Now I can speak my mind, vote on it, and travel all over the world to tell people about it.  Hooray!

Until next week…

Martina Celerin