Sunday, May 15, 2016

Birches and White Pines

My blogs often tell the stories of the piece work I do when my life gets busy—which is most of the time.  Last week I was making kohlrabi, but I’m often making roots, fruits, animals, vegetables, hands, or tree clumps that comprise my bigger pieces.  The cerebral part of the process comes when I get the chance to assemble the pieces and arrange them in an art piece.  I usually need a big window of time when I can internalize this creative part of the process.  Deciding what works where and why is a very personal, reflective process.  I need silence in the art studio, free of fretting about upcoming deadlines and the routine of transporting boys to their activities for a long block of time.  It’s the time when I connect at my deepest level of consciousness with each piece.  I need to mull over the tentative composition and color balance in a critical way.  This week that happened for a new piece that features birches by a lake. 

Of course my week is also filled with small blocks of studio and travel time when I can work on the labor intensive parts of my craft.  One of those involved warping a loom for my next commission piece.  I picked out the yarns I’ll use for that piece last week and had a chance to do some weaving.  I love my weaving time, because it allows me to let my mind wander over the recent events in my world.  This was especially true this week because I’m weaving a structured fence and it felt like my hands were working independent of my brain.  I looked down and thought wow, look how much I’ve made!  I find that it helps to keep a piece of paper and pencil beside me when I’m weaving to make lists of problems to solve should they intrude in my weaving process.  That lets me clear my mind and quickly return my focus to more mental wandering. 

I also did have an artistic epiphany this week amidst my birches.  For the past several years I have yearned to create three-dimensional evergreen trees, but I’ve never felt that I could capture the structures to my satisfaction.  I’ve reveled in creating deciduous trees—birches, maples, sycamores and oaks—but not the pines of my childhood.  When I was young we used to take our family vacation at the Pinery Provincial Park in Ontario.  We’d stay at Pinedale hotel just outside the park and spend all day and into the evening on the beach.  The dune system on that part of Lake Huron is stabilized by eastern White Pines, which are a favorite of mine because the needles are long, soft and elegant.  They were planted there in the sixties in a misguided attempt to stabilize the fragile oak savannah ecosystem.  Anyway, I was staring at the large roll of thin, rigid aviation wire that Ben Gibson gave me last summer.  I realized that if I wrapped long fiber chenille around it that it might look like a pine bough.  Fortunately, our old wooden fence in the back yard has toppled over, making it easy to access our neighbor’s eastern white pine so I snipped a small branch (Eileen, I hope you’re not reading this!  Or if you are, I hope that was OK!).  I took it down to my art studio and dug around in my yarns to find that if I combined four different colors and textures together it resembled the bark of the pine branch.  I made some prototypes and I think I’m off to the races. 

In family news, the school year is drawing to an end.  Last week was Jacob’s spring concert at Jackson Creek Middle School and this week was Tommie’s at Bloomington High School South.  The auditoriums were packed with families and friends waiting for their little pumpkins to shine in the light.  And shine they did!  Now we’re crossing days off the calendar to the end of the school year.  The last event of the week was Second Saturday Soup.  Our generous neighbors open up their house and make three big pots of soup and invite friends and colleagues to the event.  Jim always tries to bake something for the dinner.  This week I found two more bags of chopped apple pie filling hiding in the back corner of the lowest shelf in the freezer.  These really are the last of the farmer’s market Mutzu apples from last summer.  It was a big hit—but it was completely consumed.  Which is great, but it meant that I didn’t get a slice for breakfast.  What’s a pie princess to do? 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother’s Day means pie!

This week I excitedly laid out all the vegetables for the ‘My Roots’ composition, thinking I had enough vegetables to fill the piece.  I was mentally ready to stitch it all together, but dang if it didn’t still have an empty spot!  That sent me back into my art studio with my fingers digging deep into my boxes of yarns and fleece.  I settled on making one more kind of root vegetable that speaks to my childhood—kohlrabi.  I remember finding peeled and chunked-up pieces in the fridge quite often and eating it after school like pieces of apple, although I don’t remember anyone ever cooking with it.   
To get started on making my own kohlrabi, I sorted through my big bin of green fleece and pulled out about six shades and tints of green that I thought looked as if they could come together to create the coloration of the skin.  I used my drum carder and blended my choices together into a green that I was happy with.  The kohlrabi bulb typically has a light green color with petioles that come straight up from the bulb.  I decided to do a little wet felting to create those structures.  I used my kohlrabi green fleece to needle felt everything together and viola—kohlrabi!  Now I think I need to make five more bulbs and I’ll have enough root vegetables for my piece. 

This week I also launched into my commission piece that will involve creating a trellis to stand in front of a garden fence.  I’m envisioning the fence to be made of weather-worn wood, much like the one that surrounds our back yard.  I went out and took a few pictures so I could capture all of the colors hidden in the aged wood and returned to my stash of yarns.  I dug through my gray and sand and light olive bins and pulled out everything that was even close to the colors I envisioned.  I warped a loom and now I’m looking forward to weaving this week. 

I haven’t completely abandoned my efforts for the Sounds of South production of Pippin this fall.  One side project that I did was playing with graphics that we might use to support the production as T-shirts and posters.  In designing the imagery, I thought a lot about the story line.  It’s basically a coming of age story where the principal character is guided by the lead player who wears a black top hat.  
 Our setting will be a vintage circus decked out in royal colors that represent precious stones.  I’m using sapphire blue, emerald green and amethyst purple for the chorus costumes.  Pippin is the son of the king who rebels against his tyrant father and ultimately chooses his love interest to be Catherine, a member of the circus troupe.  He decides that a simpler life with her and her son is closest to his heart.  Some how that seems appropriate on this Mother’s Day.

Speaking of that, I’d like to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all today!  I got a beautiful bouquet of flowers yesterday from my boys, and I woke up to the smell of pie baking in the oven.  It turned out to be a mutsu pie from last summer’s fruit.  It made a fine breakfast as a fresh-from-the oven warm treat.   
Last week I delighted in a strawberry-rhubarb pie made from Nancy Riggert’s rhubarb and farmer’s market strawberries.  That was nice, but only lasted until about Wednesday, since the boys seemed to like it a lot too.  For me, life is good when you get two different fresh pies in one week!  I hope you find whatever makes your life special on Mother’s day today.

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Transition time…

As the calendar page turns over into May, I’m turning from creating Pippin costumes back to making fiber art in my studio.  I did get a lot accomplished this month in the costume realm.  One of the main characters in Pippin is the sassy grandmother Berthe.  She encourages Pippin to embrace the pleasures of life.  For her I created a Victorian style dress, because on the outside she must maintain a prim and proper fa├žade for the world.  Her dress is black lace with red fringed satin dress underneath that speaks to her deeper, flirtatious nature.  I’m trying to let the red flames of her passion shine through the black surface restraint of her expected societal edifice. 

This week I also launched into the penultimate lead costume on my list, which is King Charlemagne.  Although royalty tends to wear blue, he is a war-mongering king so I really wanted him to have a flowing deep red cloak that speaks to the volumes of blood shed in his name.  One of the reasons his costume is among the last completed is that I’ve been waiting for the right fabric to appear.  Because all of my costumes are made from reclaimed and recycled materials, I spend a lot of time collecting treasures from sources such as the Recycle Center and local resale shops.  I get a few more materials as donations from parents.  I’ve been waiting patiently for the King’s fabric to appear.  Last week it fell into my lap in the form of a used curtain from the Materials for the Arts program at the Recycle Center.   
There wasn’t quite enough width to the fabric for the King’s outfit, so I went digging in my bin of brocade scraps until I came across a piece of fabric that I bought at the Junk in the Trunk sale a couple of years ago.  I claimed it then as the perfect drape of backdrop fabric for the treasure chest scene in one of the operas within an opera in ‘Phantom of the Opera’.  Although there was a little too much green in the fabric itself, I was able to cut strips that contained predominantly red and gold.  I added still more trim scraps from curtains and bed skirts and beads from a broken necklace.  I will make it still more regal by trimming it with fur from hoods and collars of coats that I wasn’t able to use for last year for wolves in ‘Beauty and the Beast’.  I’m still hunting for the perfect chest medallion, but I know that will appear.  The King’s ensemble is now pieced together and needs to be glued and sewn into one unit. 

With the Pippin costume project at a stable stopping point I moved back in my art studio.  I’m now working on three pieces.  One is a shore scene that will feature birches leaning over the water, which I’ve been needle felting onto the weaving foreground.  To spice things up we even had a tornado siren go off a couple of nights ago so the family joined me in the art studio.  It was the perfect opportunity to do a little evening poking as we listed to WFIU on the hand-crank radio for updates.  We still had power, but you can never be too prepared for an emergency!  I also finished needle felting the last of the white radishes I need for ‘My Roots’, a weaving that features root vegetables that we buy at the farmer’s market.  Soon I’ll be laying out everything together for assembly, although this time I’m the only fiber art faerie to attach it into one ensemble!  Finally, I’m launching into a commission piece that will feature birds, flowers and vegetables in a garden.  I’m really looking forward to creating this special piece. 

On the home front, Tommie and Sounds of South went off to compete in the ISSMA competition this weekend, and everything seemed to go very well.  I had to settle for treats from the farmer’s market from Maria yesterday for breakfast, since I ate the last of my blueberry pie Friday.  Jim did pick up strawberries at the farmer’s market, and Nancy Riggert is supposed to harvest rhubarb for two pies, so fingers crossed—that it will smell like spring pie in the house very soon! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin