Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I want to ride my bicycle!

The story of my winter has been creating commissioned pieces.  The next in line features a bicycle propped up against a fence in front of a flower garden.  Last week I completed the fence and this week I finished the bicycle and painted the fence!  Painting is exciting in the winter because it means we finally had a brief window above fifty degrees that allowed me to coat my popsicle sticks.  I was delighted to get that done because the forecast for the next ten days is for miserably cold winter weather with ice pellets mixed in for good measure.  On the bike itself, I always feel a little extra pressure to get the shape and proportions of the bicycle just right.  
 I showed the very first bicycle I made to Jeanne Smith, the owner of Bikesmiths in town.  I’m sure she tried to not to hurt my feelings as she gently critiqued the angles and proportions of my bike.  Ever since I have tried hard to treat my bikes like my biological organisms and get the details just right. This was also my first red bicycle, which is what the commissioner wanted.  I’m delighted to be pushed out of my black bicycle norm.  I guess I flash back to the bicycles in Amsterdam from my visit twenty years ago—I remember the bikes were always painted black.  I discovered that red just makes me feel cheerful and happy and I really like it.  I promised to have this commission to the owner by mid-March and I feel like I'm on track for that deadline. 

The next commission I promised to deliver by the end of March, so I’m feeling a little pressure to keep moving on that piece as well.  The piece features a forest path with two dogs waiting for their keepers in the foreground.  I’m very pleased with how the sketch turned out and I’m looking forward to creating the piece, which features a lot of trees.  That means that where ever I have gone I’ve been needle felting tree trunks.  Or unicorn horns, or whatever people see when they view the unfinished trunks as I poke away to shape them.  
 Oh, and when the warmer spell hit I also took that opportunity to do some more dyeing, because my stores of green yarns were seriously dwindling.  From the sketch you can see that various shades of greens are essential to the composition.  I got a great start on weaving the background yesterday afternoon when we had a snow day for the local school system.   
That gave me time and space to work in the art studio as the boys entertained themselves upstairs in the afternoon.  The morning was filled with boy-made pancakes, Apples to Apples, and the movie ‘The Boxtrolls”.  Then the boys invented a game that involved rubber balls, metal bowls, rubber bands and doing push-ups.  That’s all I need to know!  It gave me several uninterrupted hours with my loom, space heater and classical music as they played upstairs.  They even transitioned into making dinner for the family.  
 That turned out to be artisan macaroni and cheese by Jacob and three different versions of blizzard cake balls by Tommie.  The evening ended with a fire in the fireplace and a delightful glass of wine.  Hooray!  I hope I can be as successful today with a second snow day. 

On the family front, the big news is that both boys won gold medals at the ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Association) vocal competition.  I’m so proud of them!  An apple pie did appear just after I wrote the last blog, which means it’s been gone for over a week.  
 Fortunately the espresso has been available each morning, which pairs nicely with the ‘Oblivion’ cake from the Bakehouse.  That’s a flourless chocolate cake with a wonderful chocolate ganache layer on top.  We had a guest over for dinner and didn’t have time to bake anything ourselves.  The Bakehouse only had large cakes left when I got there in the afternoon, but that turned into a positive because the cake is awesome and I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast.  I think I have my new favorite local cake from a bakery since the departure of Angel B’s!  I’m thinking it will last until Wednesday, at which time I’ll be ready to switch back to pie again.  Maybe a midwinter cherry pie?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Back to the Studio!

I’ve said this before, but it’s been another busy two weeks!  I have three major work fronts that I need to pop in and out of:  finishing commissions, making costumes for Beauty and the Beast, and keeping my family happy.  Of course the family includes me, so making sure more pie appears is a priority. 

On the commission front, two pieces are moving along.  One features a white picket fence with a bicycle propped up against it.  The weather has been very cold, but the warm breaks we had allowed me to bring out Grandpa’s belt sander.  I set up on the veranda with the sun shining and the temperature in the mid-forties and donned my facemask and safety glasses.  I plunked myself into a comfy chair and sanded popsicle sticks to make fence slats, a process I love.  It brings back memories of the time I learned to count.   
My teachers, Mrs. Kirk and Mrs. Logan had bundles of popsicle sticks that were supposedly in bundles of ten, fifty or one hundred sticks.  I was fascinated by the bundle of one hundred because it didn’t look to me like it could have that many sticks.  I started to count it and she gave me the teacher’s “No, no no!  We just pretend there’s one hundred sticks in there”.  I remember my certainty that there couldn’t be one hundred and I was very frustrated that I wasn’t allowed to count them.  It just wasn’t right!  I was a good kid who did what I was told, but as soon as I couldn’t trust that there were one hundred sticks in the ‘hundred’ bundle I started to question how many there really were in the fifty bundle.  Perhaps that’s what turned my life toward science at an early age.   
Anyway, I’m forgetting the commission!  I do love the color, texture and size of popsicle sticks.  As I sat sanding the end of sticks to form a pointy end I counted them and put them into piles of exactly ten or fifty sticks.  And I basked in the satisfaction of knowing how many stick were in each pile!  I made enough for the fence commission but the weather was so nice that I made enough for another commission that won’t be completed until the end of April.  It also features a fence so I bundled a stockpile of forty fence slats.  On my current work Ive glued them into a gate that will open on wire hinges strong enough to bear the weight.  
 It looks like it might be a while until I can get outside again to paint the wood so that part of the project is on hold.  I did finish weaving the background, using my dimensional crochet technique to build forward the foreground.  The weaving is stretched out on its frame so I’m ready to start planting the flowers once the painted fence is attached. 

At Bloomington High School South I’ve had lots of help from the students in the choir programs, both Sounds of South and the mixed choirs.  Together we’ve moved a lot of the costume projects forward.  It’s been amazing and heartwarming to see the enthusiasm of the students.  As soon as they come into the classroom they ask if I have anything for them to do, and my answer is always “of course”!  
 I feel good about introducing many of them to potential life skills, such as seam ripping and sewing on snaps and poppers.  Most have done very little sewing and the outcomes can be unexpected, but it all works out in the end.  The most fun is when I can get a student working on is or her own costume so they can connect with their contribution.   
Nancy and I have been working in parallel cutting and pinning lace, ribbon and trim to what we’re referring to as base costumes.  We have scrounged a lot of outfits that need to be embellished to look like village people from the eighteen hundreds.  We’re just about finished with the women’s racks of clothing.   
The process is thoroughly organized such that a person can pull out a list of things that need to be completed on each remaining costume.  The volunteer then checks off whatever tasks they have completed and returns the costume to the rack.  I’m imagining that the process will take a couple of months to complete.  With Nancy’s keen oversight this should roll right along until it’s done. 

On the home front, Jacob made his first homemade pancakes last Saturday morning, which turned out very nicely.  The dark news:  it’s day 17 and still. no. pie.  I’m holding out on healthy food, espresso and wine, but I not sure if life still has meaning.  I saw what looked like a crust in the refrigerator this morning and a bag of frozen fruit, but then it just sat there.  Cautiously optimistic, I move forward with my life!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin