Monday, October 31, 2016

Shifting gears, again…

I’ll share the fabulous conclusion of this year’s Pippin saga below, but my mind is already re-focused on the first of the holiday shows.  The Artisan Guild show at the Convention Center sets up Friday morning.  The fiber, glass and clay guilds come together under one roof, and I’m very excited about participating.  I’ve been working feverishly at advancing two huge new bodies of work that I’ll show this season.  First, I’m pretty excited about the felted tiles I’ve been working on.  

The inspiration for the tiles really comes from visiting the Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.  In my family I’m the really big tomato fan, so fall is the conclusion to my season of my tomato sandwiches.  When I arrive at the farmer’s market I casually conduct a surveillance loop around the market to pick out my one perfect tomato for the week.  My selection has to big, red, ripe and juicy, but not especially pretty.  I love the idea of having one big fat slice of tomato in my sandwich - as thick as the bread slices.  The reality of my weekly search explains the inspiration for the new felted pieces.  I’m trying to capture the essence of that one, big special thing recognized as essential to your life.  For my family, the week the first ripe snap peas appear in boxes on tables is a good example.   
At the Farmer’s Market you suddenly see the rich, green color and the memory about how much you love them kicks in.  We buy a box and eat them raw at the market.  Then we usually buy a couple more boxes and put them in a big bowl at the center of the table to munch on.  Taking an important part of your life and framing it for the wall to help you remember it is important to me.  Of course as soon as I start making one type of vegetable I’m inspired to begin making another.  I have a few big pieces where comfortable combinations of vegetables come together to shape the whole.  I also love the idea of being able to piece together a favorite dish by combining tiles.  You might create a salsa art piece combining tomato, onion and jalapeno tiles.  Or you might think of borscht by mixing beets, onion slices and garlic.  The tiles are like a visual recipe.  Of course some of the tiles do speak volumes standing alone.  There is something seductive about a pile of cherries, which my brain would immediately commit to inclusion in a pie. 

My second new body of work is the collection of felted vessels I’ve been making.  The genesis of these vessels, along with pictures of my first attempts, are featured in earlier blogs.  I now have a collection of felted vessels that I have begun to package to display at the show.  It has been a lot of fun to explore how different materials behave and combine to create new surface textures.  Merino noils, the very short waste merino I picked up several years ago from Sheep Street felts incredibly quickly, but the short fibers result in a bumpy texture.  What I like about the merino is that the finished product is very rigid.  The merino top, which is the longest merino fibers, felts quickly but results in a softer vessel.  If the vessel were created on a larger scale I can imagine that it might collapse in on itself.  I also did some experimenting with some spun horsetail hair.  It has a fascinating texture that I incorporated into one of the vessels.  The contrast of the coarseness of horsetail hair with the soft, fine merino is striking in both texture and color.  I’ve done some additional embellishing on a few of the vessels, adding cute little felted balls to supply even more character and make them more whimsical. 

Another chapter of my life closed this week to make room for my holiday art fair season.  The final production of Pippin was presented on Saturday night and yesterday morning we did the set teardown.  The costumes were divvied up for washing and the parents hauled them away.  The armor and the props were collected, organized and put to bed for now.  Monday morning it all seemed like a dream.  For now, I’m delighted with the amazing number of parents and SOS kids that came together to deconstruct the show—the stage and costume studio were beehives of activity.  The entire set was broken down and put away within three hours.  Thank you again to Gwen, Chris and Nancy and all of the parents and students that made this an amazing experience.  I will forever cherish the memories.   

Right now, though, my calendar shows me that I have a workshop in Crawfordsville on Saturday, November 12 to teach about weaving with reclaimed and recycled materials--please do sign up!  You may contact Jessica Madsen for more details.  The workshops will be capped at 10 people, so signing up sooner is better.  At last check we were at five participants.

And finally, the last Pippin performance also coincided with the end of the first trimester of high school for Jacob, who came through stressed but successful.  Tommie is on autopilot, carving through his curriculum as junior.  Coming up sometime in the near future will be a second degree black belt test for the two boys, who have just about completed their weapons training for their cross-training requirement.  We’ve managed to stay on track with Taekwondo training, voice lessons and hip-hop dance training, but we’re now transitioning into the late fall schedule of boy activities.  This week Jacob and I are looking forward to seeing Sweeney Todd at Ivy Tech, while Tommie and I are excited to be at the home opener for IU men's basketball.  Basically, we just buckling our seat belts until Thanksgiving vacation, because it will be a crazy, busy ride with lots of laughs and pie along the way. Oh, and Jim tried to hide it between loaves of bread, but an apple pie emerged from the oven yesterday morning while I was away breaking down the show!  Best.dessert.this.week!!

Until next week

Martina Celerin

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Corner of the Sky…

What a week!  It has been a whirlwind of activity around our house.  Everyone in the family stepped up to make the house presentable for Grandma and Tim, Jim’s brother.  I must say it is awfully nice to have the entire house clean at one time, rather than attacking the neediest room each week.  The main focus of their visit was to see Pippin, but I’ll save those stories for later.

After the house started to shine, I did manage to squeeze in more needle felting.  I’m very excited about the felted tiles I’m creating featuring vegetables and fruit.  Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are healthy to eat, but mine are especially high in fiber.  Ha ha ha!  This week I focused on peas.  When I was sitting outside the room where the boys were having their voice lesson I was positioned underneath a large commissioned piece that featured pea vines on a trellis, which made for a wonderful creative connection.  I worked, listened to singing and looked up at my artistic history.  When I thought about the fancy wine we planned to drink with Tim, I got to thinking about grapes so I had to make a few of those to feature on tiles.  And of course you can never have enough tomatoes, so I made more thick slices that show off the delicate seeds and internal structure. 

Saturday night featured the opening performance of Pippin!  It was fabulous to share the event with my family around me in the center of the sixth row—best seats in the house!  I just got to take it all in.  The kids were amazing!  They sang and performed their hearts out and the audience loved it.  The costumes really pulled it all together—I must say I’m really proud of my designs, and I’m incredibly grateful to all the people who transformed them into costumes, especially Nancy Riggert.  It was fun to see some of the parents who contributed to the costuming after the show, and they got to see how their efforts fit into the big picture.  They were in awe of the entire performance.  I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as a group.  I’m grateful to Gwen Witten and Chris Miller for giving me this opportunity.  It’s just the biggest canvas I’ve ever worked on, and it’s so much fun to see it all come together. 

Next, a little parental gloating is in order.  Tommie and Jacob were fabulous!  The transformation that Tommie undergoes when he is onstage is phenomenal, to the point that people don’t recognize him.  He does appear different visually underneath grey hair and behind a beard, but his body movements, gesturing and voice characteristics are completely fabricated and distinct from his day-to-day persona.   And, if you want to see them live - the next performance is this Saturday Oct 22, 7pm - and here is the link to the tickets!
I wish my grandfather, a bass in the Czech opera, could have seen him in action.  Jacob shone too—he was a glowing, performing ball of energy.  He embraces the stage, but his stage persona is a caricature of how we see him at home.  He was a confident magician, a dynamic circus performer, and always in command of his art.  My little pumpkins!

We had a wonderful visit with Grandma and Tim.  We shared lots of stories and laughs over meals and a trip to the Farmer’s market on Saturday morning.  We found hot chocolate and coffee for everyone—including me!  Marina made me a special, off the menu, decaffeinated coffee that made me very happy.  At the market we sampled a variety of dainties for breakfast and found enough vegetables for the week. The biggest news from the gastronomic adventures was that there was pie.  It was an amazing blueberry/strawberry creation using fruit from our trip to Andrews Produce on Topsail Island back in May.  It came after the almond encrusted walleyes the crew caught in July and a nice bottle of wine, so we had an excellent meal.  And I got pie for breakfast over the next few days!  Today I finished the last slice, though.  I’m beginning the next countdown to the next pie—I wonder what and when it will be?

Until next week

Martina Celerin

Monday, October 10, 2016

The felting continues!

I have been trying to balance my art creation time between wet and needle felting projects.  After the boys are off to school each morning I transform the kitchen into a wet felting studio.  The height of the central island is perfect for keeping my back happy as I work.  I have been playing more with colors as I create vessels that are dimensional and textured.  It has been a lot of fun to explore little experiments using merino top with different colors and exterior patterns.  I’m learning about how the wet felting technique itself affects the outcome.
For example, if I do the entire felting and fulling process on the resist (a balloon), I can encourage the fibers closest to the balloon to migrate to the surface.  I realized this because when I use two colors of fleece I can get the lower fleece to peek through the upper layer.  If I do the fulling without the resist, the process happens more quickly but I don’t get as many inner fibers peeking through the surface layer.  I have some more ideas on how to create new textures on the surface and I’ll experiment with those this week.  I feel like I’m on a fun working vacation by taking a break from my weaving. 

I have spent a lot of time creating tiles that will act as backdrops for my new my individual felted fruits and vegetables tiles.  In this project I have benefitted from the fabulous advertising job that Cardinal Stage Company does in town.  They use corrugated plastic yard signs to get the word out about their shows, but unfortunately the material is not recyclable.   
I have found lots of uses for them in costume and prop creation for Pippin, but now I’m using them as a rigid support for the black felt background for my small tile pieces.  This week I focused on creating turnips, oranges, and jalapenos to feature on the tiles.  My collection of felted pieces is steadily growing, so I should a nice collection by November 4th.  That’s the opening date for the Artisan’s Guild show at the Convention Center, which runs Friday from 5 to 9 and Saturday from 9 to 5 on November 4th and 5th. 

Saturday proved to be a wonderful day for a morning visit to the farmer’s market.  The weather was cool, crisp and amazing.  Marina at le Petit Café served us hot cocoa and mocha to warm us up until we got into the sun, but soon we were focused on the abundance of fall vegetables.  We will have family visiting each of the next two weekends for Pippin and I’m planning to make a big pot of vegetarian chili and freeze it in meal size units.  I’ll be sneaking in a lot of yummy vegetables—red peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash—and may be even sweet potatoes.  I love to have meals in the freezer!  They are also perfect for family evenings when everyone is exhausted and no one is excited about making dinner.  It is good to have something ready to pull out.  The last word of the week goes for a pie report.  I finished the last slice of the apple pie on Friday and no replacement appeared on Saturday!  I didn’t see any raspberries Saturday at the market, and I guess it’s too soon for another apple pie.  Grandma and Tim are visiting this weekend and I’m sure they’re going to want a pie.  I can’t wait to see what happens!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Making mini Martinas…

I’m wearing three hats this week!  The first is my needle felting hat.  I had so much fun last fall creating the needle felted vegetable and fruit collage pieces that I decided to scale down to make individual felted pieces.  Each fruit and vegetable really is its own mini artwork full of visual information, detail and interest.  Some are symmetrical, others are not, and often the subject brings vibrant colors.  I’m now thinking about my fruits and vegetables as small tiles that can be combined for display.   
The project fits with my fall life because Saturday mornings revolve around trips to the farmer’s market—yesterday was a three-bag haul, with lettuce, apples, garlic, peppers and more.  There is such a bounty of the harvest on display in rich, warm fall colors.  The vegetable haul mirrors the social experience, seeing lots of friends and regulars.  Marina at Le Petit Café becomes a regular fall connection with special hot chocolate and coffees for the family, and Maria from Piccoli Dolci often provides a special treat.  The man who sells us jam and jellies knows that our teenage boys eat through whatever we buy (and hence will be back).  The farmer who saved a huge bag of onion skins for me thought I was a little crazy, but they proved to be the perfect source for the dye to create an accurate onion skin color.  The whole Saturday morning adventure just fits so well with my art. 

My second hat is a wet felting hat. Not that I’m felting hats!  I had a fabulous experience a couple of weeks ago in Fredericksburg, starting with a workshop by Pamela MacGregor and continuing with Elizabeth Woodford, that started me thinking about wet felting vessels.  I’m now playing with different fibers and experimenting with new techniques.  I really want to be able to create textures and then embed objects into my vessels, much like my weavings where I create underground scenes. That way you’re encasing memories and stories in the vessels.  At this point, though, I need to sort out the techniques first.  That’s about the time when my science background kicks in.  I started by creating flat felt circles and embedded various yarns (synthetics, wools, sisal and felt balls).  I learned a lot from my first piece and launched into creating a few simple vessels.

My third hat is maintaining and tweaking costumes for Pippin costumes and props.  The big performance at Bloomington High School South starting October 15th and running for two more weeks on Saturday nights.  You can order tickets here. The costumes themselves are finished, but those darn kids keep growing!  Final adjustments are in order so the costumes fit perfectly on the night of the performance.  Watching the rehearsals over the summer has been revealing, because socks slowly appear as legs grow longer while the pants do not.  Come see Tommie, who is Charlemagne in the first two performances (October 15 and 22), while Jacob is a magician in all of the shows.  I’m looking forward to seeing the visual spectacle as my art pieces dance around the stage!  Oh, and I’ve heard that the kids might sing too :)

The big news in my workshop world is that I'll be doing another workshop - next month - in Crawfordsville, IN.  If you are interested in participating, please contact the event organizer, Jessica Madsen at  It will be a one day workshop on Saturday November 12, from 9:30am - 5:50pm.

 And on the family front, we’ve been taking in some theater of late. Last Friday we saw BPP’s ‘30 Days of Mourning’ that featured Steve Scott (aka the boy’s taekwondo instructor) Paul Kuhne (an amazing actor and friend) and Aubrey Seader (a fabulous actress and Sounds of South alumna).  It was amazing!  The interactions were believable, intense, and powerful.  The actors embraced the roles such that you were immersed in the situation and rooting for the characters.  On Friday night we saw Cardinal’s performance of Baskerville.  What a fun production!  The staging was phenomenal.  They brought the Hound to life, even if it didn’t end well for the sheep in the performance or the spectral hound who attacked the Baskerville clan.  The pacing was fast and the costume changes constant, which made for a very entertaining evening.  I love having two such strong theater companies in our town.  As I started to write this on Saturday, I wasn’t sure there was going to be a pie for the report.  Fortunately, Jim found some gold rush apples at the farmer’s market.  He got up early to make a pie this morning!  It looks great, but I won’t know for sure until dinner tonight.  I’ll provide a report when I can.

Until next week

Martina Celerin