Saturday, July 30, 2016

Friends in the Garden

It’s finished!  My large commissioned piece is complete.  If you’re a blog regular you know that I’ve been working on the components for a large garden piece for some time.  The last friend to join the garden was a female yellow warbler that I created this past week in Michigan.  More on that trip later.  This particular piece was a challenge for me because I had to figure out how to make new flowers and creatures.  One of the special parts is the dragonfly that is hovering just above and barely in the weaving itself.  It’s a special guardian.  
 I made the wings out of the lace from the dress that Heather wore the day Dan proposed.  I was delighted when they stopped by yesterday to pick up the weaving—I felt really good about how the piece came together for them. The piece was ultimately so intricate and three-dimensional that I felt I needed to make a movie that I posted to Youtube to help reveal its character.  The link is below:

When the piece left the studio last night I briefly considered taking a day off.  That’s when I remembered that I was commissioned at the show in Madison to create a willow tree by a shore, very similar to the piece that found a home there.  A person came by on the second day of the show eager to buy the piece, only to discover that the willow was gone.  I love willows and feel a special bond with them.  There is a Czech expression that if you have troubles you should talk to the old willow.  The political turmoil in this country is such that I’m looking forward to chatting with my new willow.

And as promised last week, I’m posting some images of the finished armor for the chorus members of Pippin, as well as the armor for Charlemagne, Pippin’s father and Pippin’s half brother Louis.  Huge thank you to Nancy and Alice, and all of the other worker bees that made this come together!!
 I still need to engineer and attach the strap mechanisms so that it is an easy on-easy off costume change for the soldiers.  I’ve been collecting black plastic clips from old backpacks and fanny packs and the like.  I have about forty and I need at least seventy for the performance.  I’d be delighted to receive more donations of these if you should come across some no longer in use. 

We made a quick decision to do one more trip to Michigan this summer.  We hauled the boat, which makes the trip a bit longer, but it was soooo worth it!  Jim and Tommie were able to get the boat on the bay three times, and I accompanied them on the second venture.  
It was an amazing early morning boat ride out on Tuesday out to the Pinconning bar on Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron.  The sun was shining and a gentle breeze moved us along and the humidity was delightful compared with southern Indiana.   
We fished into the early afternoon and Jim and I caught walleyes steadily until there were fifteen in the boat.  While we trolled, Tommie focused on catching perch, which are Grandma’s favorite.  He was able to contribute seven to the fish fry.  
 And oh, was it a fish fry!  Fresh bread, sweet potato waffle fries, Grandma’s cole slaw and potato salad made it a meal to remember.  For desserts, Grandma made some delightful chocolate/cherry/almond no-bake cookies that went well with a glass of wine.  Sadly, though, there still was no pie.  We did collect transparent apples in Michigan in Grandma’s orchard, found a few ripe volunteer blackberries in our garden, and bought a big basket of peaches at the farmer’s market this morning.  There just has to be a pie soon, right!?!?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, July 24, 2016

My Cerulean Warbler Searches for Pie

I have been working full-on to complete my commission piece, punctuated with a few ventures to Sounds of South to keep my costuming project moving forward.  The weaving features an intricate garden scene.  The background is now completed.  It is a lush flower and vegetable garden full of vibrant colors and blooms.  Now I’m working on finishing two songbirds for the weaving intended to be focal points.  They are both warblers and beautiful songbirds, although that decision complicated the piece.  The first warbler I finished is a cerulean warbler.  Cerulean describes the beautiful blue color of the bird, which has a rich song to match.  When I studied the warbler I learned that only the male sings.  That’s perfect, I thought, so I named him Dan.  The problem arose when I realized that I needed to find a female warbler with a beautiful voice too.  My choice of a female Magnolia warbler, based on her colors and feather patterns, failed the biological accuracy test when it turned out she doesn’t sing.  Only a few of the female warblers actually sing so my choices were limited.  Curses!  Shouldn’t all warblers sing?  After an exhaustive image search I settled on a the stunning female yellow warbler.   
Her coloration will bring a warm glow to the piece.  In addition to the birds, I’m having a lot of fun with the composition because there are a lot of family heirlooms incorporated into the piece.  I hope it is both aesthetically appealing and meaningful to the commissioners.  I promise to post a picture of the finished piece after it appears in its new home. 

On the costuming front, the Pippin costumes are moving along beautifully.  Nancy Riggert and Alice Lindeman have been busy bees, especially for creating, assembling and painting the armor for the war scene.  Did I mention that there seventy kids in the production?  That means seventy chest plates, helmets and swords.  I am incredibly grateful to them for their hard work while I was off wearing my art fair hat.
  I designed the armor patterns, but Nancy and Alice and other parents traced and cut the chest plates out of reclaimed insulation foam and carpet under pad.  The complementary shields are cut out of craft foam - leftovers from last year's production of Beauty and the Beast.  The pieces are glued together and painted with silver paint.  They also enhanced the shadows of the three dimensional armor features with black sharpie and added rivets that we created from the filters of Keurig coffee units.  Thanks Dawn Adams for collecting and thanks Dale for drinking much of the coffee. 
For some variety, we’re also using the grey caps from pharmaceutical bottles donated by Cook Pharmica to the Materials for the Arts program at the Recycle Center.  Next week I’ll post a picture of the riveted variety, but for now just admire the shining armor! And the sword blades are done – seventy, cut from recycled corrugated plastic - thanks Bill!! If you want to see the final production in all its glory, Pippin will be presented on the final three Saturdays in October. 

On the home front, Jacob is finally got to have his ‘friends’ birthday party yesterday.  He invited fifteen of his closest teenager friends—OMG!  Jim and I hid downstairs in the art studio until the pizza came.  When it was finally quiet we come up to survey the damage—the house was still intact—and they were outside playing a marshmallow-throwing game – all good.  I think my reward for going through the process of cleaning the house and preparing for the party should be a pie – just sayin’

Until next week, or sometime soon,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Blueberry Season

This week I made a huge scientific breakthrough by employing my degree in plant sciences.  I grafted a blueberry branch onto Bergenia rosettes—hahaha! Just kidding.  On my recent long drives (more on that later) I have been needle felting blueberry leaves.  When I was settled back into my art studio I finished the blueberry leaf structures.  I embellished them with veins and created berry clusters from felt balls that I overdyed with icing colorant gels to get the deep blue.   
Yesterday I combined all the leaves and berries onto branches that I made from floral wire wrapped with eight different yarns to match the color of the bark on a blueberry bush.  Ta da!  The berry branch is done!  This just a small piece for a large commission I’m working on that is nearing completion.  I promise to post pictures of the composition after the piece is delivered. 

In another revealing admission, I do spend a lot of summer hours as a passenger in a car.  Most recently I made the trek to Madison, Wisconsin for the Art Fair on the Square.  I had a very successful adventure overall.  The weather in Madison was cool and comfortable and the people were terrific, as usual.  They are an eclectic mix of personalities and I had a lot of rewarding and thoughtful conversations.  One of the most satisfying aspects of my career is when I sit on the perch outside my booth and watch people’s faces light up when they first see the art.  Their happy responses alone are rewarding.  One young couple that has been coming to my booth for three years finally decided to buy a piece—they couldn’t stop talking about a willow piece and had to bring it home with them. 

The last time I blogged I described finishing three new pieces.  Two of them (Tired Tree and Heirloom Tomatoes) found new homes in in Madison, as did several others.  Before we left for Madison I was able to finish two more pieces called ‘Car-nation’ and ‘My Sweet Peas’.  'Car-nation' is a weaving that explores our obsession with cars and the latest shiny thing.  I see a lot of old cars, forgotten and rusting as memories, in countryside yards and car part lots.  I decided to create a piece that featured all sorts of old car components buried underground and have a beautiful flower emerge from the rust and decay.  The carnation works as a flower for me because I’m especially connected to them—my Ph.D. research involved a pathogen of carnations, Microbotryum violaceum.  As I weaved and felted, the line from the song American Pie ‘pink carnation and a pickup truck’ kept cycling through my mind.  That’s how I knew what color the carnation had to be.    

As usual, a highlight of our Madison adventures is the hospitality and surroundings we find in Hollandale, Wisconsin with our friends Wendy and Duane.  Not only do they host us, which is wonderful, they make us happy by contributing to the success of the fair—it’s like having family to visit.  Wendy baked an amazing chocolate cake for Jacob’s birthday and made a triple batch of pancakes to feed the boys on Sunday morning as I was off setting up with Jim.  Duane grilled some wonderful salmon to go with pesto and salad for a celebratory dinner after Saturday’s show.  On our last morning there, Jim (my hero) faced mortal danger (OK, he scratched his legs up pretty good) and entered the wild patch to collect enough raspberries for a pie.  He and Wendy picked a few red and blackberries on Sunday before the rain set in, and even a few yellow raspberries.  I had no idea that yellow raspberries existed!  The Sunday berry pick wasn’t even close to enough for a pie, so Jim set off into the wild undergrowth to finish off the picking.  It was a wonderfully flavorful pie, but I finished the last slice yesterday along with a nice cup of espresso.  Sigh.

Now we’re back home.  It’s good to be home.  Based on my extensive art studio research, I have concluded that it is blueberry season!  Good news, Jim—they come in baskets at the farmer’s market and don’t have thorns! 

Until next week, or sometime soon,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Work, work, work…

I’m back from the Des Moines Arts Festival and it was wonderful—it never lets me down.  It isn’t just the community of art appreciators and collectors (over three hundred thousand people attend)—they are pretty amazing—it’s the show’s philosophy, organizers and hundreds of volunteers.  The Festival organizers are highly thoughtful, efficient and professional.  Everything runs smoothly.  The art fair dovetails with events in the adjacent parks, bringing fireworks, concerts and even outdoor yoga to the long weekend.  Grand Funk Railroad headlined the Saturday show, bringing an American Band to our town.  The volunteers are constantly on the job, bringing by water and snacks, squeegeeing the streets after a rain, or just asking if there were things they could do to help.  The set-up window is long enough that we can leisurely put together the booth.  I arrived to my two rented 500 pound weights in place.  They lie on either side of my booth space so I can tie my art down to big rocks with handles and keep everything from shifting around too much.

I passed over a very nice part of our trip to talk about the festival, and that was a night spent with Ute, David and Simon in Iowa City.  Ute is a friend of Jim from graduate school and they put together a nice salmon dinner for us on Wednesday night.  It makes the trip so much nicer to spread it out and see friends.  Thursday breakfast brought fruits (white currants, strawberries, and plums), rolls, and home made black currant chutney.  Yum!  The best part was that Ute sent me home with a jar.  She even visited us at the fair on Saturday with a friend so we got to chat a little bit more. 

One of the most popular pieces at Des Moines was my willow piece.  There’s always enough breeze to keep the leafed branches swaying a little.  The movement draws in a lot of people to see the drama of the piece.  Many people admired the it, and a few even came back to show friends the piece after it sold and were disappointed.  When the dust settled, four pieces had found new homes.  For me, selling pieces has a few stages of realizations.  First there is a very happy sensation to sell the piece, then it’s a little sad, and then:  oh crap!  The reality of the next show looming on the horizon sets in.  In this case its Madison, WI (Art Fair on the Square) and I need more pieces!  That’s the mental space where I am right now—work, work, work!  I do pride myself on being organized and prepared, though.  Just for such a contingency I had several pieces in various stages of completion when I arrived home.  I’ve been up early and working late to complete three new pieces to take to Madison. 

The first piece that I finally brought together is called ‘My Roots’ I have been pushing the piece along, continually discovering that I needed a few more vegetables to fill in a space or round out my vision.  If you haven’t been following the blog, it is a statement piece about root vegetables that tell the story of my roots.  Some of them, such as sweet potatoes, are a very recent addition to our family food repertoire.  I didn’t grow up eating them.  Others I can’t remember not eating, such as kohlrabi.  Radishes, of course, were the first root vegetable seeds that we planted with the boys.  Yellow onion, especially the skin, is my favorite natural dye to work with because my grandmother first told me about using them to dye Easter eggs. 

The next piece to be finalized is called ‘Heirloom Tomatoes’.  I did the weaving of the ground months ago and incorporated all sorts of objects that families pass down, which is part of a family’s history.  Sometimes objects mean something to only one person.  For example, I have my grandfather’s stage make-up set as a treasured keepsake.  He was a bass in the Czech opera, and the make-up case was passed to him from his uncle.  While that’s not in my weaving, I do have objects such as fishing lures that are an important part of my husband’s family.  The weaving includes an old rusty lure with hooks filed down that used to belong to my husband’s grandfather.  The sewing bobbin in the piece reminds me of my great grandmother the seamstress.  Actually, the origin of the composition began when I discovered a tailor’s circular knife at the Recycle Center.  I wondered what it’s story was (the boys thought it was an old pizza cutter).  I knew it belonged in my piece.  Another item in the background is a hair curler.  My family went to an estate sale in our neighborhood and discovered the tools of the trade in a hairdresser’s estate.  One of the extensive collections for sale involved hair curlers.  I told the daughter that I planned to use them in a weaving.  That got me thinking about Fonzie from Happy Days and his famous comb, along with my childhood combs.  The piece also features objects that were essential but are now obsolete, such as film spool winders and a skeleton key.  In my ‘Heirloom Tomato’ piece, the plant is an heirloom because it springs up from its family history, not that the variety is truly an heirloom in the eyes of a gardener. 

My third piece is called 'Tired Tree'.  As a kid I always dreamed of lazy summer days as I imagined them from books.  I wanted a swing on a tree that traveled out over the water from which I could leap into a cool lake.  The best I could do now is to create that experience for myself.  I also enjoyed the unexpected materials that surprised me as perfect for the piece.  I created the tire from a small section of core material used to create the piping on the edge of furniture.  I wrapped it with black yarn and glued three rows of shoelaces to create the tire tread.  A very thin shoelace forms the lip of the inside tire rim.  If only I could be five inches tall, ever so briefly—I’d have a great time on my swing!

The drive home from Des Moines was long, bringing us home late Monday night.  We did find a delightful restaurant in Crawfordsville, Indiana, called the Barefoot Burger.  What a fun place!  We’ll be back after the next show on the road.  The sad part of weekend art fairs is missing the Saturday farmer’s market in Bloomington.  What ever could I do to get a much-deserved pie?  Fortunately, in a stroke of husbandly brilliance, Jim brought me to the Tuesday afternoon Farmer’s Market.  Lo and behold they still had tart cherries!  Three boxes of late-season ripe tart cherries and the wheels were in motion.  Jim pulled out his pitting tool (thanks Grandma!) and by morning we had a pie.  Of course there were several pie filling units in the freezer, but I thought I might not get one in season this year.  Hooray!  Now the bad news—I finished my last slice of pie this morning.  It was an amazing tart pie, but now its just a distant memory.  I wonder what the next farmer’s market will bring?  Which berries are blue and tasty in a pie?    

Until next week, or sometime soon,

Martina Celerin