Sunday, January 20, 2019

I’m ready for spring flowers!

This week I spent a lot of time on my commissioned series of felted tiles.  I’m happy to report that while all six are in various stages of completion, I did finish one of them!  The zinnia piece came in first, perhaps because I love the bright red flowers and how the colors pop against the black wool background.  The composition is highly dimensional, extending three or four inches from the background.  
I’ve highlighted this aspect with pictures taken from above and below to give several perspectives on the flower design and presentation. 

I also advanced a new piece that represents a new direction for me.  The color story is consistent with the key-based piece I just completed—it’s a brassy gold and black.  This composition features vintage light bulbs, electrical gadgets, light switches and capacitors.  
The idea for the piece has an unusual origin, so you’ll have to indulge me as I go back to the airport to drop off Grandma and Aunt Lois after their Christmas visit.  I didn’t want to leave the area until I was sure they were airborne.  That meant I could skip over to the Goodwill Outlet that is about five miles from the airport.  Nancy Riggert and I have scrounged it for costumes, but I often find odd objects, yarns, and roving that I use in my own weavings.  
I poked around there for an hour or so while I waited, and my scrounging turned up a big pile of vintage capacitors!  I’ll admit that at first I had no idea what they were, but I knew they looked too cool to pass up.  A Google image search revealed what they were, and my mind immediately skipped to thinking about what I could create with them.  I have always been attracted to vintage lighting and old electrical stuff, which made me decide I was like a moth.  Perfect!  I knew I would make a piece featuring vintage wiring and lighting that included an elegant luna moth.  I remember years ago visiting Chris Gustinout in Brown County, where she lives in a beautiful ranch house at the top of a hill.  Right there on the building that houses her large weaving studio was a luna moth.  It was the first I had ever seen live, and it was breathtaking!  I knew I needed to felt one, and that it will fit perfectly into this piece. 

Like every composition I imagine, the materials come from diverse sources and trigger new stories and memories.  When I described the composition to the ever-practical Jim, he seemed concerned about transporting a piece featuring a bunch of vintage lightbulbs.  I suppose he might be right this time, so I came up with including vintage light sockets into the weaving!  I could then remove the light bulbs for safe travel.  I remembered that several years ago I was poking around Ben Gibson’s garage and I had found a few perfect examples (not knowing I would need them, of course).  I needed more, which brought on an epiphany.  I first tried the local independent electronics repair stores without success.  They explained I was twenty years too late—surprisingly, they don’t “keep that kind of stuff around anymore!”  Then I thought of the local salvage company!  They are a scrapyard I’ve visited before that has bins they let me poke through for treasure.  To say the place itself is a little stinky, messy and dusty is an understatement, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of treasure!  
I have to endure the ‘it’s a wacky artist’ glances, but I found what I wanted.  I even snagged a pewter mug for Beauty and the Beast!  I brought my treasures home and washed them thoroughly, which means three rounds with lots of hot, soap water. 

When I was working with the bulbs and sockets I thought that some of the bulbs were about the same size as the old fashioned Christmas bulbs—the actual coppery base should fit in well.  I knew that Nancy was cleaning out her attic and I suspected she might have some old ones, and she did!  She was concerned they might be too plain, but I assured her I had a plan.  I cut them apart and added some dimensional interest to the surface with hot glue before I painted the whole thing a matte black.  I added a thin gold patina to the surface, and I just love how they look.  I’ll launch on the luna moth when I have some downtime between other projects.

As to the weaving itself, I’ve done the layout and I wove the image in a landscape format.  I want all the cords to be running top to bottom in straight lines.  I really like how it looks, but I still need to release it from the loom and stitch it into an oak frame.    

On the home front, I was able to get to all of my exercise classes this week.  My new year’s resolution, which started in December, was to take exercise more seriously.  I already had my E2C group that I work out with regularly.  We do some weight work and calisthenics followed by a half hour of yoga, which is wonderful and the stretching is great.  It enhances my flexibility to bend and reach for things in the art studio.  Still, I knew I needed more cardio.  Last week I attended all three of my friend Darrelyn’s morning Zumba classes to get me moving.  I just love dancing with her - she is just an enthusiastic ball of energy who makes dancing fun—thank you Darrelyn!  I figure I’ll get into better shape AND be able to justify even more pie! 

Until next week,

--> Martina Celerin

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Keys to My Success

I’m continuing on my new year’s plan to finish pieces.  This week I put the final touches on my piece called ‘The Key’.  I have been collecting brass keys for several years, not knowing what I wanted to do with them.  I’m fascinated by their shape and the powers they possess.  The vintage stylized keys that opened jail cells in old movies are a study in contrast, with the curving head or bow of the key and the stark angles of the shank and bit.  
The visual image of each key is so powerful it can evoke memories as easily as opening a door.  As I was cleaning and sorting keys I picked one up labeled ‘Datsun’, which immediately made me think of driving around with my friend Evelyn in her well well-traveled little car.  I don’t know how it held together, but her husband Karel kept it on the road.  Another key was exactly the same shape as the one that opened my father’s veterinary hospital.  Every third weekend I was responsible for feeding the animals at the clinic and cleaning their cages.  I know that each key in my collection has had a rich history on its journey through time to me, from function to collection.   

Keys are also powerful metaphors for opening new directions in our lives.  I remembered the time when I was at what proved to be a major decision point.  I was coloring with crayons on the kitchen floor with Tommie while I nursed Jacob, wondering if I could transition out of science and back into my roots as an artist.  I had invested years in earning my Ph.D. and I was developing a research project as a post-doc, but at that moment art seemed much more immediate and powerful to me.  While there wasn’t a physical key involved, the support I got from Jim was the emotional key I needed to begin a new direction.  In my piece ‘The Key’, the summer tanager is perched tentatively at the open door of the cage looking out.  I can almost sense that the bird is trying to decide which direction to travel and why.  It’s not aggressively flying away, it’s weighing its choices for the future.  I see the piece as a story of possibilities, the freedom to fly in any direction, rather than signaling escape.   

From a technical standpoint, the cage itself is constructed from reclaimed florist’s wire that I wrapped in black yarn.  I worked from a sketch I made to scale in two dimension where I could predict how much I needed of each component in three dimensions.  I wrapped each individual piece and glued them together to make the cage.   

I kept my other projects moving forward this week, completing the fern pinnae (the leaflets of the fern) I need for one of my felted tiles.  I assembled the fronds and attached them to the black background.  I really like my design that has the pinnae projecting forward to emphasize the dimensional nature of the structure rather than laying flat against the background.  I still need to make the wee frog that will cling to the main vein of one of the fronds, but for now I’m going to enjoy the completed sculpture.    

In Bloomington, the first real snow of the season arrived on Saturday.  I got to test out my new snow boots, and boy are they terrific!  Nancy Riggert and I, my partner in scrounging for costume parts, often score fabulous finds for ourselves.  She spied these barely used boots and knew I was looking for some—thanks Nancy!  The snow shovels came out Saturday morning, and Jacob was off to a shoveling gig, with Tommie as his right-hand shoveler.  
Jim stayed home and cleared the laneway and walk to the door.  I just enjoyed a quiet day in the house.  But the best news about waking up to snow was the smell of espresso and a freshly baked blueberry pie!  Thanks sweetie pie! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Koi being koi

My goal for this week was to finish at least one of my pieces in progress.  That piece turned out to be my underwater pond scene.  If you’re a Facebook follower, you know I’ve been working on creating two colorful koi.  I first sculpted the fish, and then the fish faces, including the distinctive whisker-like barbels that koi use to taste their surroundings.  When I layered on the patches of skin color I tried to make them appear somewhat random, which turns out to be a challenge.  
Our brains are geared to seeing regular patterns, and the whole idea of random colors violates our sense of comfort in symmetry. 

I next needed to position the koi in between the rocks on the bottom of the weaving and the lily pad layer that defines the water’s surface.  I wrapped some used baling wire with yarns that matched the color of the rocks and then inserted those into the fish on one end and the weaving on the other.  I used two wires per fish to prevent them from swimming in circles.  What I really love about this piece is that it’s my first piece that requires the viewer to move considerably if they want to take in all the details in the piece.  
I decided that this perspective on the art speaks to my experiences making costumes for the theater.  Like the costumes I created, you can’t get the full story face on.  The movement of the actors reveals the full story of the costume, giving the viewer the ability to see all the colors and how together they create the full effect of the outfit.

When one composition comes together I typically have to launch on a new piece, which is in this case was a fun commissioned piece.  It involves six felted tiles that are each 8 by 8 inches.  The first will have lily pads with a small turtle resting on a pad.  
I had a little extra fun with these because I used two blended green fleeces as the base and layered the greens to create the veined patterns that one often observes radiating from the center of the pad.  I also began creating a second tile that will feature two fern fronds and a wee frog.  
I calculated that I need forty-five of the individual pinnae (leaflets), so I’ll make fifty just to be sure.  My little pile is growing and soon I’ll have a frond.

I also did more experimenting with dyeing.  I’ve been reading about dyeing with black beans for years, and now that it’s soup season the moment had arrived.  I was already planning to make a black bean soup and freezing away a few bags of cooked beans, so I soaked about three pounds of black beans.  I ladled off the the black supernatant for dyeing and threw away the last bit of liquid that contains the coagulated bean goo.  
That material is supposed to interfere with color transfer.  I added about eight ounces of freshly washed white fleece to the black supernatant let it sit overnight at room temperature.  That’s a little odd, because I’m used to heating the dye pot.  The experiment yielded a light, almost metallic purple.  I was hoping for a more intense color, so next time I want to try heating to coax out more dye and get a better transfer. I suppose that this week I’m … making fronds and influencing purple. 

On the home front it is wonderful to have Tommie home for a month.  He’s a doing his winter term from Oberlin here at IU working with Carl Bauer.  It warms my heart to know that he is wrangling Eppendorf tubes and popping tips.  It also means that we need to cook twice as much of everything and wash a mountain of laundry!  
Even more fun is going to basketball games with him.  This week we had tickets for the four of us for the Illinois game—we even made it on national television!  Finally, sometime long, long ago I finished my cherry birthday pie.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve had a single pie this year.  Jiiiim!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin