Sunday, December 30, 2018

Birthday blogging

The Christmas season is full of festivities, including family in the house, theater and the good food of the season.  Somewhere in there I squeeze in a little art making.  I bounce around between projects to keep all of my projects moving forward.  I pulled out my weaving-in-progress that features keys in the background and started imagining what the bird cage would look like.  I stretched and sketched--the background weaving was stretched into a frame and I sketched the bird cage that will emerge in the foreground.
  Then I could measure out the wire pieces that will make up the cage and the door.  I also started to make the swirly shapes that will adorn the structure.  But then when I have all of the components designed and cut, I can’t just leave it in a pile and so I started to put together.  Its not finished – but I really like the look of it so far.  The cage, with an open door, will also feature a summer tanager, suggested by Cinny Schrodt.  The orange red of the bird should really pop against the brassy key background and the black cage foreground. 

My down-time breaks over the holidays have also given me time to keep poking at my Mexican sunflower petals.  My pile is getting bigger, but I still have a lot to go.  I won’t count because I think I’m still on the uphill slope of the hundred petal target, but it’s good to see my bowl getting fuller. 

My ongoing dyeing projects took a turn to coffee browns this week.  I’m an avid coffee drinker, specifically morning espressos to balance out my breakfast pie slices.  About a year ago I discovered that my blood pressure was elevated, so I decided to deal with it through diet.  I cut out caffeine and took the salt shaker off the table.  
I’m happy to report that my blood pressure is back to normal, which means I can drink more coffee than I used to, albeit decaffeinated.  Jim now makes me two double espressos almost every day.  That’s a lot of ground beans that usually feed the compost pile.  I decided to redirect the flow into a bag that I keep in the freezer until I had enough grounds to try dyeing with them.  I put the month’s worth of grounds in the dye pot and boiled it for an hour, making the house smell wonderful.  After steeping overnight I then strained the brew through giant filters intended to be used to filter oil, which worked well.  I put in some freshly washed fleece, brought it to a boil, and left it to steep overnight in the glory of the second-hand coffee.  It turned out to be a lovely maple syrup brown color—it’s a good thing I love Midwestern browns! 

The Christmas season brought us first Tommie (although we had to go pick him up), who baked a huge batch of cookies with Shaunacee, his accomplice in baking.  She knew the secret length of baking time to make the diablo cookies perfect—this was the peak year for those delights.  Grandma and great aunt Lois came next, flying in from Michigan for Christmas.  They helped eat the cookies and put together a jigsaw puzzle.  Christmas gifts brought lots of surprises—Jacob got authentic lederhosen and the turntable he has been pining for.  
Lois got a beautiful bracelet and watch that she eagerly showed off when she got home to Michigan.  I got a beautiful bowl made by Marcy Neiditz that I think might be destined for display rather than use.  
But most important we had a lot of laughing and silliness in the house.  We all went to Cardinal’s Beauty and the Beast on boxing day, and the performance was delightful as usual.  The pie fairy really came through too, bringing a Raspberry pie for Christmas dinner and a tart cherry pie for my birthday yesterday!  
I even had slices from two different pies on one day!  Let’s just continue that trend into the new year, shall we?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Finding the Perfect Colors

Art has taken a backseat this week, with most of my time spent preparing for the holidays and receiving Christmas travelers.  I did manage to squeeze in some art, though.  I moved forward with two pieces in my migration series, one that features koi and the second Mexican sunflowers—I’ll explain more about them below.  The two projects intersected in an interesting way when I sought the perfect fleece for the reddish-orange sunflowers.  Digging through my collection failed to produce anything close to the perfect color.  
I pulled out a lipstick red merino and several varieties of orange in the same color family that I picked up at the Fiber Event in Greencastle a few years ago.  I cranked them through my handy drum carder in just the right ratio and came up with what I think is the perfect orangey-red for my Mexican sunflowers.  The epiphany came later, when I was felting my koi, that I had exactly the reddish-orange color to create the koi I had been imagining.  I love it when my worlds intersect!

Creating the koi this time of year brings back a lot of my childhood.  Czech tradition dictates carp for Christmas eve dinner, and it turns out that koi are actually domesticated carp.  I certainly don’t plan to eat my koi—we’ll probably substitute salmon for our family Christmas dinner in Bloomington.  I am pleased with how the shapes of the koi are coming together.  I’m imagining that in the finished product, one koi with be black and white with reddish-orange spots, similar to the Doitsu or Sanke koi.  The second will be a yellowy-orange, similar to a Kawarimono or Kohaku.  I can’t wait to see how they turn out!

Of course there is also an interesting story to the origin for the perfect yellowy-orange koi that I envisioned.  As it turns out, a couple of weeks ago I was working on a piece that features brass keys.  I was trying to decide on a warp material, and before I picked out the gold lamé I tried overdyeing some nylon warp that I had on hand.  According to the web, food colorings will dye nylon.  I picked up some icing colorant that was supposed to be a nice gold, which would have been a good match for my keys.  
Unfortunately, the nylon went from beige to a soft pink that wasn’t useful.  The nylon apparently selectively pulled out the reddish colors from the dye.  Of course that left a big pot full of dye, so I tossed in a big handful of washed white fleece, and lo and behold, out popped the perfect orange-yellow color I wanted for my koi!  I cranked it through the drum carder and now I have all of the fleeces and colors chosen, so everything is in place to bring the weaving components together after Christmas into the final composition. 

When my life gets busy, it gets really busy, though.  I was really excited to get a commission to make six 8x8 inch tiles featuring creatures and flowers.  That should be both fun and satisfying to make.  I got the call on Wednesday during lunch on my long drive to Oberlin to pick up Tommie for the Christmas break.  It was wonderful to have his girlfriend Shaunacee along on the long drive.  
We nabbed Tommie, his bike, and a giant suitcase of clothes and put him in charge of the six-hour drive home.  Thursday we decorated the tree and Friday we spent the whole day baking cookies.  We seem to be cramming all the family traditions into a few days, but I’m still happy to just be doing them.  Jacob finished school on Friday, which means the pace should slow down a little.  
Grandma and Great Aunt Lois arrive this evening, which means we’ll have a full house with all the people I love.  And Jim let it slip that there would be a raspberry pie for Christmas dinner! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Colorful Fish in a Drab Pond

I love it when a project comes together! I feel like I’m on the home stretch to completing my pond piece.  A couple of weeks (and blogs) ago I made a set of felted rocks of mottled greens and brown that would feel right at home on a river bottom.  I’m very pleased with how they turned out.  This was lily pad week, and the flat lily pad leaves will define the surface of the water, shading the spawning koi.  I dug into one of my bins of green fleece and pulled out several greens that I thought I could blend into a realistic lily pad color.  I got to cranking with my handy drum carder and produced a color I’m very happy with.  
The next step was to bend some used baling wire into lily pad shapes and connected stems for support.  The base of the lily pads lies behind the actual weaving and allow the lily pad to extend forward and above the fish.  That leaves the fish to complete.  Fortunately, Jacob needed a haircut on Friday, which gave me a chance to start needle felting them.  Of course I get strange looks at places like the barbershop, but that’s never stopped me.  The real challenge is to take a stationary, felted fish and present it as a living fish under the water.  
I want the art piece to capture a snapshot of the movement of the fish, so I’m building curves into the bodies that I’ll build on as the fish come together.  I anticipate using bright orange, black and white colors to make two fish that really stand out against he somewhat drab colors of the underwater scene. 

This week I launched into some of my Christmas shopping, and I found myself scouring Big Lots for some silly gifts.  I noticed they had a big bottle of turmeric for 99 cents!  Don’t they know how valuable that is for dyeing?  
Of course I bought a jar, but I didn’t anticipate using it this week.  I’m also working on a weaving that will feature Mexican sunflowers, and I calculated that I need around 100 petals for my composition.  That will be a tedious task, but it also means I need to create the green pedicels that display the leaves.  I pulled out my box of felted balls for the starting substrate, but I only had teal balls in hand.  Rather than creating a bunch more I tried overdyeing with turmeric.  A quick online search gave me the skeleton for a procedure.  
I created a paste with two tablespoons of turmeric, to which I added a half cup of vinegar and two quarts of water in a dye pot and set it to boil.  I popped in my wetted teal felt balls, and within five minutes they were a beautiful green!  It was so successful I went straight to my store of teal yarn skeins and used the yellow dye in the turmeric to convert them to a very attractive and useful green.  Let’s just say that in the end I used up the entire jar of turmeric and have five skeins of cotton and wool yarns. 

This time of year is also when I start to hear about the applications I made for art fairs.  My first show will be the Ridgeland Art Fair in Mississippi in early April.  I’m excited to trek down there and be able to stay with family.  
I have also finalized a trip to the Garage Sale Art Fair in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Saturday February 24th.  It will be a fun girls adventure because I’m going with Dawn Adams.  If you’re going to be near either of those places, mark your calendars—I’d love to see you!  I’ll update my blog and website as the rest of my art fair applications are juried. 

This week was a big milestone as my sweetie-pie turned sixty.  He didn’t want a big to-do, so we just had a crackers and cheese dinner in front of the fire with a nice bottle of wine (thanks Steve and Linda Scott!).  
Yes, there was pie—thank you Gwen Witten for her famous derby pie, which was just delightful.  It goes well with wine.  Who knew?  And thank you Cindy Creek, for asking Jim when there would be another fruit pie.  That’s exactly what I was wondering!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin