Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thanksgiving week…

This week was filled with planning, exploring and travel as we visited Michigan for Thanksgiving.  I was mentally developing my body of work that features creatures that migrate for an exhibit to open August second.  One of the fun things about creating a body of work is that I can take time to explore and understand the animals and their movements, which led me to the realization that only Monarch butterflies migrate.  I especially connected with them as frosts killed off our annuals, including the Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia) that Jim tried to grow from seeds this year.  Unfortunately, the deer ravaged the plants.  Even after spraying to deter them, the deer adeptly munched off all the budding flowers before they blossomed.  
From my perspective, Mexican sunflowers have beautiful orange flower heads and monarchs love them, which makes them a perfect fit for my migration series.  I’m imagining a piece where Monarchs are dancing above and landing on the puffy yellow centers of the sunflowers.  I’m thinking about a landing site here in the Midwest that is almost a replica of their wintering place in Mexico.

In my family, fish are never far from my reality, and that got me thinking about fish that migrate.  And that led me to an interesting new felting technique.  I was imagining the one-way trip up rivers that most salmonoids make.  I want to create a piece where I’m looking through the cold flowing water to the smooth, mossy rocks on the bottom where salmon lay eggs.  
The constant flowing water polishes the surfaces, and the slippery bacteria on the rocks give them a unified, mottled appearance.  I already have a technique to felt balls to create rocks without a lot of effort by stuffing yarn and other wool scraps into old nylons and sending them through the washer and dryer.  I still needed to work through the painstaking task of felting fleece directly on the surface to create the look I want for the rocks on the river bottom.  I decided instead to try tacking the dyed fleece layers on the surface of my felt balls and repeating the machine felting process.  It worked swimmingly!  I’ll expand this strategy to complete my collection of river rocks.  After that, I’m looking forward to needle felting the salmon. 
Fortunately, Jacob is teaching and training at MCMA at least twice a week, so I’ll have ample time to sit and poke. 

With the drive to Michigan I had plenty of time to do transportable handwork.  We drove to Grandma’s in Kawkawlin on Tuesday, and then Jacob and I drove the loop to Oberlin to pick up Tommie on Wednesday.  We settled in for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with Lois and Grandma on Thursday.  It was good to have us all together.  I’m discovering that as the kids and family gets older, life just gets more complicated, making it harder to bring everyone together.  It just feels all the better when it does come together.  It was relaxing to catch up and hug.  
The best part of this American Thanksgiving holiday is that it’s so late in November that it isn’t far from the Christmas holidays.  Oh, and there was pie.  Grandma surprised me with a raspberry-cherry pie.  She had to go to three different stores to get fruit for the filling she wanted.  I’m tickled and honored that she went to all that trouble for me.  It feels good to be part of such a loving, caring family. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Virtual Weaving

My first project of the week, before I launched into an intensive engagement with the computer, was to complete a free standing dove sculpture that I wrote about last week.  I’ve been making whimsical, colorful birds and one of my Facebook friends asked if I had ever made a dove.  Hmm... I could do that, I thought!  I pulled out my white fleeces and white yarns with the idea that I could layer white on white, making the slight color differences the focus of attention.  I love working with white on white, but when I came up with the idea for the design on the wings I knew I had my composition.  I think it’s vibrant without having any color. 

The project that took the most time this week was assembling an application for the call for a public art piece in the Zionsville Town Hall.  I would like to move in the direction of creating more large installation pieces.  For the application I first had to assemble a complete resume.  I don’t think I realized everything I have done over the years.  I had forgotten about many of the public art commissions, talks, and special projects in addition to all the art fairs, workshop and costuming on top of the hundreds of dimensional weavings I’ve created and sold.  It’s been quite a ride!  I even had a laugh out loud moment when I was searching my computer for images related to one of my recent pieces called “Pie Fruit.” 
The screen was filled with just a partial list of all the pie images that have appeared in my blog – and I still could scroll through another screen-full! And that doesn’t account for all the pies that have come my way.  It reminds me of what a sweet husband I have. 

My concept for the Zionsville proposal was to channel what I imagine their Farmers’ Market must be like and how that is like a Town Hall for meeting people and exchanging ideas.  I used our farmer’s market as a reference point, because my family and I go almost every Saturday that we’re home.  It’s a comforting ritual to engage the changing colors, smells and people we encounter each week as spring turns to summer then fall.  We usually come home with more produce than we expected, but we always run into friends that we haven’t seen in a while for a quick chat and connection.  I went through collections of images, some of which I had forgotten about, and it was nice to see strong pieces I had made years ago.  Because there is always a spark of an event or an experience that is the starting point for each of my weavings, I got to think about the family stories that went into piece.  As I make each piece there is a dialog that goes on between the piece and me.  The composition and process is interactive.  The stories have been in the back of my mind and it was nice to relive them as I produced descriptions for pieces I featured in the application. 

And - if you are interested in seeing a selection of my work in a group exhibit that focuses on food, I’m excited to announce that I will be participating in an exhibit at the Garfield Park Arts Center in December called“Palate: An Appetite for Art.”  The opening reception is on December 7th from 6-8 p.m. and the show will be up until Dec 29th. 

This week I played a little more with dyeing using a very unconventional approach.  A couple of weeks ago, after I did my first dye bath with black walnuts, I still had plenty of dye.  I decided to over-dye some intense red cotton yarn - of which I probably have far more than I’ll ever need.  As I was washing the yarn, which I always do before I plunk it in the dye bath, I noticed that it was bleeding a lot of dye.  I thought—hmmm—what could I do with that red?  I finished the overdyeing project and I did get a really pretty deeper muted red, but this week I decided to try and tap into the concept of transferring the dye color.  I wound a large skein of red and just put it into the dye pot and let it boil for an hour.  Lo and behold the dye pot was almost black because of all the dye that leached from the yarn.  I pulled the source yarn out and, because I didn’t have any alum, I threw in some aluminum foil and half a cup of vinegar with the thought that some might leach out and behave like a mordant.  
Of course the scientist in me wishes I had done a controlled experiment [similar pot, no aluminum foil and vinegar] but the fiber artist in my said:  “who cares, I just want the dyed wool!” I grabbed about a half a pound of fleece, washed it, and put it in the pot to boil and let it steep overnight.  The next day I pulled it out and wow, what an amazing red!  And yes, it is fixed to the fleece.  I’m very pleased with how the experiment turned out.

Last, after a long run of wonderful raspberry pies that culminated with a pumpkin spice apple pie when the berries ran out, there will be no fresh pie this weekend.  I sure do hope I can make it until the Thanksgiving pies kick in!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, November 11, 2018

What happened to autumn?

The first snows fell this week, bringing a cold and calming sense of closure to my summer art season.  Now I will transition into my winter hibernation mode of creation in my art studio.  I completed the last of my scheduled events by running a workshop on felting techniques for my local guild.  While I really love traveling to workshops, where I can meet new people and enjoy different parts of the country, it was nice to just melt back into my home after the workshop, knowing that I could sleep in my own bed last night. 
Yesterday’s workshop featured an enthusiastic bunch of felters, from absolute beginners to highly skilled fiber artists.  We focused on creating birds, from vibrantly colorful birds of whimsy to highly detailed and accurate creations.  It was such fun to see the excitement and intensity brought to the workshop, which, like the birds themselves, was manifest in the diversity of the personalities and styles present.  I have great fun teaching, and I always come away with lots of new ideas and a renewed drive to create my own art.  
The next question is always ‘When is the next workshop’, and I’ve been communicating with artists in Canada, Alabama and Florida, so I’ll let you know when there are firm dates. 

We’re coming to the end of an era this coming week, with Jacob expected to get his driving license on Thursday.  Then he can drive himself to each of his activities.  For now, though, I still get to sit and watch him, even if he is behind the wheel there and back as a student driver.  
Lately he has been doing Muay Thai kickboxing, which leaves me time to work on willow leaves for my next piece in the migration series.  When I was in California for a conference at Asilomar many years ago I took a side trip to a site where monarch butterflies congregate for a rest on their migration to Mexico.  I imagined what the trees must look like when the butterflies land en masse—the intricate wings clustered together must have looked like draped flower petals.  I decided to create a weaving to show the scene that I imagined I would have seen.  
I have the green gradient background woven and stretched out in a frame, and the cascading willow leaves will drape forward from the background.  I have also created the butterfly wing blanks, so now I need to embellish them with the monarch patterns.  The good news is that I learned a lot from my costume design experience creating checkered men’s suits from plain and striped materials and drawing in the patterns I imagined.  I experimented with different kinds of art markers and I’ve settled in some that work really well on fabric.  Imagining all the butterflies I’ll need for the weaving means there is a lot of drawing patterns in my future!

I also did some puttering this week with natural dyeing.  I have to say it was a lot of fun to share my fleeces in the the bird workshop, where I shared my black walnut, avocado, onion skin and maple bark dyed fleeces.  My latest experiment wasn’t yet dry, though, so it stayed home.  Last weekend, after the Spinners and Weaver’s guild show at the Convention Center, I noticed a spruce tree that had dropped a carpet of pine cones—so I knew what I had to do!  The next day Jacob and I went out and collected what turned out to be 156 pine cones, because that’s how many fit into my dye pot. 
I did my usual technique of boiling them for an hour followed by an overnight steep.  I strained out the woody solids the next day.  I reheated the dye pot and added a pound of freshly washed fleece, boiled that mixture for an hour and let it steep overnight.  I pulled out a yummy beige caramel that resembles the color of eggplant flesh after it has been salted for about an hour.  I don’t know what I need it for yet, but I know that everything will find its purpose. 

Finally, yes, it was a pie week.  Plus, there’s a video showing how it was made!  Several people have asked for Jim’s pie crust recipe, in part because it uses oil instead of butter or shortening - that makes it a little healthier, and I’m sticking with that answer because I love pie.  Jacob was a wizard at filming and editing the video to make it clean and sharp.  The pie was a pumpkin spiced apple creation, which was an awesome treat after our celebratory dinner! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin