Saturday, March 26, 2016

Growing My Roots…

My attention this week has been on my latest weaving project called ‘My Roots.’  The green background gradient is finished, and I was very excited this morning to get out my trowel and plant all my felted root vegetables onto their new home.  I love how they look together, and I’m relishing the little radishes I created this week.  I needle felted the red body and wet felted some white merino top into very thin, tapering tubes for the tap roots.  To the surprise and concern of my husband, I duct taped a bamboo sushi mat to the kitchen counter to support the project.  The bamboo reeds of the mat give me the roughness to create the agitation I need to make a thin, felted surface skin on the fleece that looks wonderful as a radish tap root. 

When I saw my piece laid out, I realized I still need to put on my farmer’s hat and grow a few more vegetables to fill in the last little gap in the piece.  
 I’ll probably make some turnips, which I’ve been fascinated with since I saw a big winter crop grown for ground cover at my friend Cinny’s house at her birthday party.  I just love that little dab of purple color in the ring around the top of the white root.  With most of the foliage gone from the cold weather they are probably producing the anthocyanin pigment to protect that precious carbohydrate rich tuber.  It just makes me want to pull out my slow cooker!  The purple makes me feel happy, though, because it reminds me of fond memories of a walk with Dawn Adams when she introduced me to the turnip field.  That was back when IU was playing basketball.  Sorry for the tangent, but if you don’t know, the Indiana men’s team lost in the Sweet Sixteen last night to end a great season of basketball. 

This time of year I’m usually trying to juggle preparations for all of my project responsibilities that won’t come to fruition until the summer or fall.  One of them is a workshop I’ll do at the Artful Dimensions gallery in Fredericksburg, Virginia in early June.  I have now completed the fifteen looms and a set of shuttles we’ll use, which is a fulfilling milestone.  In my artwork I love to use reclaimed and recycled materials, which is a philosophy I try to extend to other arenas in my life.  This week I repurposed some yardsticks into three footstick shuttles.  I use a drum sander attachment on my drill press, which is my favorite power tool.  My family gave it to me years go for Mother’s day.  Second to pie, that’s a pretty special gift!  I also picked up a broken blind with wooden slats that will also find their true purpose after sanding into weaving batons.  As the weather gets warmer I’m looking forward to sitting outside and creating a little sawdust on the back porch instead of downstairs.  That’s my version of plein air art. 

Of course the boys are involved in lots of activities that keep me running.  Jacob has been doing hip hop for about four years now and is a member of the dance troupe called the Jaywalkerz.  The group is now led by Tiffany Pham, and they have been working hard on a new routine which they will perform on April 1 with the Hip Hop ConnXion-Indiana at the Buskirk-Chumley.  The doors opens at 7, show starts at 8, purchase tickets online at: and come see it if you’re in town!  Oh, and last week’s raspberry pie is gone.  It was especially appealing to the boys, so my breakfast pie didn’t last past Tuesday.  I can’t wait to see what kind will appear tomorrow—right Jim?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, March 20, 2016

One Potato, Two Potato…

Three potato more.  I’ve been making potatoes!  Needle felting sweet potatoes, Yukon gold, and redskins pretty much filled up my week. We spent the first part of spring break in Michigan, which gave me hours to needle felt along the drives to and fro.  I’m assembling components for my weaving ‘My Roots’, so I’ve been thinking about all the root vegetables that are part of my life.  
 Sweet potatoes are back in our life after a long hiatus.  They left our diet when the boys came along, but as they have gotten older, new flavors are creeping past their selective palates.  A couple of years ago, baked sweet potatoes finally made the cut.  Now sweet potatoes are a pretty consistent part of our dinners, including when we go out to our favorite restaurant, the Owlery.  Sweet potato fries are the side of choice, and hands down they have the best fries in town. 

From an artistic perspective, I’m still pretty excited about figuring out how to do potato skin surfaces.  The secret is something I picked up from a video series about Mark Rothko’s strategy of layering translucent paint colors to create glowing effects.  I have embraced that concept in my medium to make lifelike potato surfaces using dyed fleece.  The sweet potato under color is fleece dyed with onion skins and the over layer is a hot chocolate brown that I bought a few years ago at The Fiber Event in Greencastle.  Together the fleece combinations produce an effect that I’m very happy with to replicate the skins of root vegetables.

Speaking of Michigan, we had a wonderful visit with Grandma.  We also got to spend some time with Ben and Kathey Gibson and Great Aunt Lois.  At Grandma’s house the rules are always a little different, especially with our diet.  The boys get delightful things such as ice cream and whipped cream on their cereal for breakfast.  We tried on a new tradition for happy hour by baking some of cousin Martha’s very southern crispy cheese snaps to enjoy with a glass of wine.  They were very good, but when I make them again I’ll need to add a Czech twist and include a little garlic. 

While in Michigan we did our usual rounds to stores where we bulk up on supplies.  We stopped at Williams Cheese Factory in Linwood, aka ‘The Cow’ to stock up on cheeses and spreads.  We visited Northwood’s Outlet to stock up on things I don’t know I need yet, but look as if they could be useful in a weaving.  The Cat’s Meow is also on my rounds, where I get my big pink bag to fill for seven dollars.  I secured a big load of pre-costumes for the incoming freshmen in Sounds of South to make their circus costumes.  Overall, the visit was intended to be low key, but my health didn’t get the memo.  I left Bloomington with a runny nose and came home with pneumonia.  Fortunately, I think I’m back on the mend, although I’m supposed to take it easy.  The Indiana basketball games were my only source of excitement this weekend, and last night’s defeat of Kentucky was truly awesome!

Finally, I think Jim felt sorry for me and made a delightful raspberry pie on Saturday morning.  I just had some for my breakfast, along with an espresso.  I’m ready to face the world again! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Saturday, March 12, 2016

I’ve Got Parsnips!

Traveling has been a big part of my world these days.  When I have to sit and wait in the airport, or travel as a passenger in a car, I have a need to keep producing art.  I really enjoy the process of needle felting, which is especially portable and well-suited to my waiting times.  Lately I’ve spent most of my time creating needle felted vegetables.  My current harvest will be incorporated into a piece called “My Roots”, which will be full of root vegetables.  The piece is really an offshoot of my “Fall Stew” piece.  I had so much fun making the vegetables for that piece I decided to develop a new composition that could feature only my felted roots. 

I need to step back for a little context.  The “My Roots” composition speaks to the intersection of three major parts of my life.  First, I’m preparing for a November exhibit entitled:  “From the Earth”.  I’m developing a family of weavings ideas for the project, and “My Roots” fits in perfectly.  Second, the piece speaks to my transplantation to Bloomington.  I was born in the Czech Republic and raised in Canada, but now Bloomington feels like home—my roots are really here now.  Third, much like the “Fall Stew” piece, it brings back such fond memories of my experiences at the local Farmer’s Market.  Autumn brings the bountiful harvest of roots that have been hidden and developing all summer.  Now the root vegetables are all laid out in rows on tables for anyone to buy.  I like the veggies, but I love looking at all the colors and variations on display. Plus I get to slip them into our fall meals. 

For the weaving background underneath my lovely colorful roots I need a green gradient background.  That’s coming along, encouraged by the emerging greens of spring.  Our first daffodils are complementing the crocuses and snowdrops in the yard, and poke up through the brown leaves as rich green foliage before the yellow flowers bloom.  Greens aren’t on the trees yet, but the world is coming back to life around me, and I’m channeling the rich colors into my art again.   

Of course my art life has many other demands that take me away from weaving.  This time of year means business taxes need to be completed.  I sit at the computer and sift through my year’s receipts, translating dollars into tallied categories in a big spreadsheet.  It’s a huge project that I’m delighted to have behind me now.  My costume work for Pippin is on hold for March while I get my life back on track, but April will find me back fitting the new Sounds of South members for their circus chorus costumes.   
This week I also spent some time making looms for my next workshop on June 6-7 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, at the Artful Dimensions Gallery.  Finding wood and brackets for the looms gave me the perfect excuse to visit the new Re-Storelocation in Bloomington.  They moved to a bigger site that, helpfully, is closer to me!  I found some paint covered 1x2s that are perfect for looms.  Of course the patina got me thinking about their previous life, because I get a lot of satisfaction knowing the histories of all the materials in the pieces I create.  Oh, and I even picked up a cheesy Hawaiian shirt that will be perfect for the Jimmy Buffet scene in Pippin!  You never know when you’re going to find just the right wacky thing you need. 

Finally, I managed to space out my cherry pie breakfasts all the way until yesterday morning.  I’m prompted to write my blog because yes, again, I’m without pie for breakfast.  Like a cat who knows there is fresh fish in the fridge, I KNOW there are bags of pie filling in the freezer.  Soon it will be the summer Farmer’s Market, with fresh rhubarb and strawberries for pies.  We can’t let local berries go to waste! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Monday, March 7, 2016

Travelling Carrots

I had wonderful adventures in Tennessee and Mississippi last week.  My trip started off a little rocky with winter weather messing up my flights.  I ended up spending some quality time in the Detroit air port waiting to fly into Memphis.  To make matters worse, I had been routed to Minneapolis and was walking down the entryway to the plane when I heard my name faintly called, rescuing me from a few more unwanted hours in transit.  The good news was that I decided to see about checking in my needle felting materials on the TSA sites before I left and learned that they were acceptable as part of my carry-on stash, along with with some snacks.  I sat in Detroit and poking away at carrots.  There’s always a bright side and my progress was good, although I suppose I got a few interested looks.

At the end of my expedition I found the welcoming arms of the the Memphis Guild of Handloom Weavers.  They had invited me to do a workshop for their group and fourteen people signed up.  That’s a good size and they comprised an incredibly enthusiastic bunch with varied experiences.  
 Some had been doing tapestry weaving for years, while others were learning to distinguish the warp and weft.  We all held hands and worked through the process together.  I was well supplied with yarns and materials for inclusion into the weavings.  I had shipped three big boxes of supplies, plus I jam-packed a checked suitcase full of more recycled weaving materials.  Off we went!

I always start my workshops with a little history of who I am and how I got to the point of my fiber art career.  It’s fun to watch people’s faces when they hear about my path to my fiber artist career.  I have a Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario in the Plant Sciences department doing molecular genetics.  
 I enjoy trying to convince people that creating fiber art and planning a genetic screen are both very creative processes that depend heavily on planning, creative thinking and problem solving. 

I’ve done a lot of workshops, and I always enjoy traveling to meet new people and put them on.  In part, I think that’s because I don’t do cookie-cutter workshops.  I don’t want everyone to have the same object to compare at the end.  Each person is encouraged to delve into their own creative abilities and create something that truly reflects them.  
 Some people come to workshops with a photo, and one in particular this time brought a beautiful image from a trip to China.  The colors of orangey-red branches on a tree that I think was in the birch family stood in the foreground with fabulous teal blue water and shore in the background.  In the mid ground there were reticulated white branches, which came together in a beautiful composition.  That’s what she wanted to emulate, and she did!  
 I’m looking forward to getting an image of the completed piece.  Another person traveled a fair distance to attend the workshop and must have woven all night in the hotel room to create the art that came together over the weekend.  She had a very clear vision of where she was going with her piece.  Others very very happy to just do samplers and experience all of the varied techniques that I introduce and explore using the mountain of materials and colors available for their compositions. 

In so many ways my workshops prove to be a starting point for the participants.  I give them permission to be creative without all the rules and structure they have embraced in the past.  It’s a lot of fun to look at the weavings and watch how tight and rigid and consistent the first few rows appear.  The emerging rows tell a temporal story, with the highest rows revealing the most relaxed and undulating structures.   
The emerging artwork parallels my relationship with the participants as we become more relaxed with each other and are able to share our experiences.  I feel that I come home with mountains of new ideas.  It’s hard to say goodbye to all of my new friends. 

I need to mention my side excursion that accompanied my trip to Memphis, which was a visit with relatives in Oxford Mississippi.  They told me that their house was only an hour or so from Memphis, and they volunteered to host me for a couple of days outside of the workshop.  It was so much fun to see all of the places and people connected with the family stories I’ve heard over the years.  Now when Martha talks about the basketball arena and her seats I’ll know exactly where she is.  When they talk about McEwen’s restaurant downtown I can remember our table, which is right in the middle of the website picture.  We stopped into Martha’s daughter’s store, Amy Head Cosmetics, and I had a wonderful visit with the store manager.  She turned out to be a fiber artist and we bonded immediately. 

When I got home I hit the ground running on my suspended projects in Bloomington.  Friday was the opening reception at the Blueline Gallery for a subset of my Beauty and the Beast costumes.  They were paired with sketches of fashion from the fifties, which was beautiful artwork from the grandmother of the owners of Blueline.  The exhibit is called Fashion and Fantasy.  It was great fun to revisit with all of my costumes. 
 Distance does make the heart grow fonder, and I haven’t seen them since November.  I love the way that Jim Andrews has curated the exhibit—there is a flow and a logic to the interactions and a color story so it feels very natural.  The exhibit will be up until April 29th and there will be a second reception on the first Friday in April.  Come visit if you’re in town. 

While it was wonderful to visit with family and to make new friends, there’s no place like home.  I found a bouquet of roses and a delightful fish dinner with wine when I got home, and I relished sleeping in my own bed.  Best of all, on Saturday morning a tart cherry pie appeared!  I’m going to have to travel more often! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin