Sunday, March 1, 2015

Planting Flowers!

This week we are in the middle of a February deep freeze.  A fresh blanket of snow fell on the foot or so that we already have, but that just increased my determination to plant some flowers.  No, I haven’t completely lost my marbles.  I’ve been working on one of the commissions that features a fence with a bicycle propped up against it.  Behind the fence is a garden of summer flowers along a flagstone path, and creating summer colors is what has helps get me through the cold weather. 
 If you’ve read my posts regularly you know that I don’t post an image of the completed piece until the commissioner has had ad chance to see it, but I will post a sneak peak of the view looking down at the flowers to remind you that summer is coming.  I’m planning to ship the piece to Canada on Tuesday, where I’m sure they will appreciate an early peek at summer. 

As one piece comes together I’m usually well along on the next commissioned piece.  I have all of the tree trunks in hand and the background is woven for the next piece in line.  I’m making branches for the trees as well as leaf clumps to fill in the canopy.  
 The background weaving already contains elements of the treetops, but I’ll build it forward with crocheted leaf clumps.  When I have all the pieces assembled I’ll start putting it all together.  I promised completion of the project by the end of March so I feel like I’m in good shape. 

These days I’ve been splitting my time almost evenly between commission work and creating costumes for the Sounds of South production of Beauty and the Beast.  This week on Friday I got closure on one section of the costume making. 
  With the invaluable help of my dedicated team of costume makers (students, parents and parents of former students!) we now have all of the shirts and vests for the male villagers completed.  I decided to mark the occasion with a costume parade in the SOS classroom to see them all side-by-side.  Some of the students and I hung the outfits along the back closet.   

This also allows me (and Nancy Riggert, my right hand in this process) to evaluate how the costumes work with each other, as well as how they all look from a distance.  We stood back and decided which costumes needed a little more embellishment or fabric love.  We’re pretty happy, but there might be some more changes once we see them on stage on the set and under the lights.  Thanks Becky DeLong for that good advice.   
The pants are still a work in progress, but they’re almost complete—Geni Schermer is on the job!  We picked out full-length pants in the show’s color palette of orange, teal and plum.  The SOS kids have cut them off at the appropriate length and now Geni is hemming them and introducing elastic into the calf bands.  Nancy’s friend Noni has made the ties for the bottoms of the knickers.  The goal is to create the feel of an old French fairy tale.  I think we’re pretty close, but I’m sure some of my Slavic roots crept into the costumes.  I’ll settle for an old European fairy tale look. 

My life isn’t destined to be all winter fun.  I’m delighted to be packing up my suitcases this week and flying out to Tuscon, Arizona for a five-day trip/three-day workshop for their fiber guild. The weather forecast is for the temperatures in the eighties!  I’m very much looking forward to the trip, and in anticipation of the workshop I’ve already shipped two big boxes of stuff (yarn, fleece and looms, plus show and tell items).  It will be a packed three days of fiber fun where I get to share my passion for what I do.  I do seem to have a lot of friends who will be stowing themselves into my suitcases, though, so there might be some extra costs for baggage.

Oh, and I discovered a blueberry pie this week—mmmm!  It didn’t have the rich and subtle flavors of the last pie, which has sparked much discussion about blueberry growth, varieties and the best time of season to harvest.  This is such a serious problem that I think we should run some more tests!  Or compare blueberries with cherries or raspberries! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I want to ride my bicycle!

The story of my winter has been creating commissioned pieces.  The next in line features a bicycle propped up against a fence in front of a flower garden.  Last week I completed the fence and this week I finished the bicycle and painted the fence!  Painting is exciting in the winter because it means we finally had a brief window above fifty degrees that allowed me to coat my popsicle sticks.  I was delighted to get that done because the forecast for the next ten days is for miserably cold winter weather with ice pellets mixed in for good measure.  On the bike itself, I always feel a little extra pressure to get the shape and proportions of the bicycle just right.  
 I showed the very first bicycle I made to Jeanne Smith, the owner of Bikesmiths in town.  I’m sure she tried to not to hurt my feelings as she gently critiqued the angles and proportions of my bike.  Ever since I have tried hard to treat my bikes like my biological organisms and get the details just right. This was also my first red bicycle, which is what the commissioner wanted.  I’m delighted to be pushed out of my black bicycle norm.  I guess I flash back to the bicycles in Amsterdam from my visit twenty years ago—I remember the bikes were always painted black.  I discovered that red just makes me feel cheerful and happy and I really like it.  I promised to have this commission to the owner by mid-March and I feel like I'm on track for that deadline. 

The next commission I promised to deliver by the end of March, so I’m feeling a little pressure to keep moving on that piece as well.  The piece features a forest path with two dogs waiting for their keepers in the foreground.  I’m very pleased with how the sketch turned out and I’m looking forward to creating the piece, which features a lot of trees.  That means that where ever I have gone I’ve been needle felting tree trunks.  Or unicorn horns, or whatever people see when they view the unfinished trunks as I poke away to shape them.  
 Oh, and when the warmer spell hit I also took that opportunity to do some more dyeing, because my stores of green yarns were seriously dwindling.  From the sketch you can see that various shades of greens are essential to the composition.  I got a great start on weaving the background yesterday afternoon when we had a snow day for the local school system.   
That gave me time and space to work in the art studio as the boys entertained themselves upstairs in the afternoon.  The morning was filled with boy-made pancakes, Apples to Apples, and the movie ‘The Boxtrolls”.  Then the boys invented a game that involved rubber balls, metal bowls, rubber bands and doing push-ups.  That’s all I need to know!  It gave me several uninterrupted hours with my loom, space heater and classical music as they played upstairs.  They even transitioned into making dinner for the family.  
 That turned out to be artisan macaroni and cheese by Jacob and three different versions of blizzard cake balls by Tommie.  The evening ended with a fire in the fireplace and a delightful glass of wine.  Hooray!  I hope I can be as successful today with a second snow day. 

On the family front, the big news is that both boys won gold medals at the ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Association) vocal competition.  I’m so proud of them!  An apple pie did appear just after I wrote the last blog, which means it’s been gone for over a week.  
 Fortunately the espresso has been available each morning, which pairs nicely with the ‘Oblivion’ cake from the Bakehouse.  That’s a flourless chocolate cake with a wonderful chocolate ganache layer on top.  We had a guest over for dinner and didn’t have time to bake anything ourselves.  The Bakehouse only had large cakes left when I got there in the afternoon, but that turned into a positive because the cake is awesome and I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast.  I think I have my new favorite local cake from a bakery since the departure of Angel B’s!  I’m thinking it will last until Wednesday, at which time I’ll be ready to switch back to pie again.  Maybe a midwinter cherry pie?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Back to the Studio!

I’ve said this before, but it’s been another busy two weeks!  I have three major work fronts that I need to pop in and out of:  finishing commissions, making costumes for Beauty and the Beast, and keeping my family happy.  Of course the family includes me, so making sure more pie appears is a priority. 

On the commission front, two pieces are moving along.  One features a white picket fence with a bicycle propped up against it.  The weather has been very cold, but the warm breaks we had allowed me to bring out Grandpa’s belt sander.  I set up on the veranda with the sun shining and the temperature in the mid-forties and donned my facemask and safety glasses.  I plunked myself into a comfy chair and sanded popsicle sticks to make fence slats, a process I love.  It brings back memories of the time I learned to count.   
My teachers, Mrs. Kirk and Mrs. Logan had bundles of popsicle sticks that were supposedly in bundles of ten, fifty or one hundred sticks.  I was fascinated by the bundle of one hundred because it didn’t look to me like it could have that many sticks.  I started to count it and she gave me the teacher’s “No, no no!  We just pretend there’s one hundred sticks in there”.  I remember my certainty that there couldn’t be one hundred and I was very frustrated that I wasn’t allowed to count them.  It just wasn’t right!  I was a good kid who did what I was told, but as soon as I couldn’t trust that there were one hundred sticks in the ‘hundred’ bundle I started to question how many there really were in the fifty bundle.  Perhaps that’s what turned my life toward science at an early age.   
Anyway, I’m forgetting the commission!  I do love the color, texture and size of popsicle sticks.  As I sat sanding the end of sticks to form a pointy end I counted them and put them into piles of exactly ten or fifty sticks.  And I basked in the satisfaction of knowing how many stick were in each pile!  I made enough for the fence commission but the weather was so nice that I made enough for another commission that won’t be completed until the end of April.  It also features a fence so I bundled a stockpile of forty fence slats.  On my current work Ive glued them into a gate that will open on wire hinges strong enough to bear the weight.  
 It looks like it might be a while until I can get outside again to paint the wood so that part of the project is on hold.  I did finish weaving the background, using my dimensional crochet technique to build forward the foreground.  The weaving is stretched out on its frame so I’m ready to start planting the flowers once the painted fence is attached. 

At Bloomington High School South I’ve had lots of help from the students in the choir programs, both Sounds of South and the mixed choirs.  Together we’ve moved a lot of the costume projects forward.  It’s been amazing and heartwarming to see the enthusiasm of the students.  As soon as they come into the classroom they ask if I have anything for them to do, and my answer is always “of course”!  
 I feel good about introducing many of them to potential life skills, such as seam ripping and sewing on snaps and poppers.  Most have done very little sewing and the outcomes can be unexpected, but it all works out in the end.  The most fun is when I can get a student working on is or her own costume so they can connect with their contribution.   
Nancy and I have been working in parallel cutting and pinning lace, ribbon and trim to what we’re referring to as base costumes.  We have scrounged a lot of outfits that need to be embellished to look like village people from the eighteen hundreds.  We’re just about finished with the women’s racks of clothing.   
The process is thoroughly organized such that a person can pull out a list of things that need to be completed on each remaining costume.  The volunteer then checks off whatever tasks they have completed and returns the costume to the rack.  I’m imagining that the process will take a couple of months to complete.  With Nancy’s keen oversight this should roll right along until it’s done. 

On the home front, Jacob made his first homemade pancakes last Saturday morning, which turned out very nicely.  The dark news:  it’s day 17 and still. no. pie.  I’m holding out on healthy food, espresso and wine, but I not sure if life still has meaning.  I saw what looked like a crust in the refrigerator this morning and a bag of frozen fruit, but then it just sat there.  Cautiously optimistic, I move forward with my life!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Back to the Studio!

I’m back in my art studio working on several projects.  I have several commissioned pieces in various stages of completion, due early this spring, and I’m trying to keep them moving along.  The first features a bicycle propped up against a fence.  I wove the background and stretched it out in its frame.  I’m now building forward the flower garden and path area that projects into the viewer’s space.  I am also in the early stages of a second commission that is still mostly a vision in my head.  I know it will require tree trunks, so those are underway.  I suspect the composition will feature a forest path with two dogs sitting patiently, waiting for their owners to catch up.  
 I completed some sketches to share my vision, but I need to have the layout approved by the commissioner.  Now that I’m weaving and creating again, it feels great to be back working with my hands using materials that are familiar.  It was a lot of fun playing with new materials in the Bahamas, but fiber art is my life and livelihood. 

I have also made some major strides forward on my other big project.  I’m working on sculptural costume design for the Sounds of South production of Beauty and the Beast, to be performed this October.  My first completed piece is ‘Chip’, a sweet little cup with a small crack and the son of Mrs. Potts.   
She’s always ready with a cup of tea for anyone willing to brave the castle grounds.  Mrs. Potts is next on my plate (actually, I have to make the plates too!).  I have a delightful sketch for her and I have assembled her skeleton from donated, water sport hula hoops (I found that out directly!) and plastic tubing recycled from the former home of World Wide Automotive.  I will coat the hoop skeleton with ½” thick soft foam, then used and washed white felt (retired from Twisted Limb Paperworks) and then yellow fabric (scrounged from a thrift shop), green stripes and purple flowers that match Chip.   
The stripes will be easy because years ago I ordered ribbon that I thought would be perfect for an unrelated project.  It wasn’t.  On the bright side, I got a great deal for the ribbon on e-bay.  After eight years of storage I have finally found the right application for the green ribbon.  The flowers on both Chip and Mrs. Potts are made of the same purple felt (from the Materials for the Arts at the Recycle Center) so they match each other.  I made a pattern for the flowers and handed it off to one of the Moms of the SOS group and she cut out all sixty-four flowers I needed!  I love having the support to bring my visions to life! 
As soon as Mrs. Potts is assembled I’ll be ready add her final touches.  Her spout is in progress—I have now fitted the prototype onto the girls who will portray her.  The base is made of one inch thick couch cushion foam which I will up holster with yellow fabric.  It will be removable and attachable to the body of the teapot via Velcro.  Overall, I’m having a lot of fun with the design elements here—Chip is built from a laundry basket and a pool noodle, but you’d never know from the costume.  My younger son Jacob is modeling the costume in the picture above. 

I also had a wonderful adventure to West Lafayette Indiana with three other SOS moms this week.  The costume creating committee embarked on a hilarious adventure to see the Disney stage version of Beauty and the Beast to get ideas.  On the drive up we stopped at several thrift shops and scrounged for costume and prop parts.  We started off early in the morning, stopped anyplace along the way that might have clothing or prop treasures, and attended the evening production.  It turned out to be very educational for our planning.  I got a great hint for creating Lumiere’s torches without using an actual flame and an idea for the beast’s jacket and cloak.  
 I was less keen on the napkins and utensils that were part of the big dance number.  It reinforced for me how happy I am with my designs.  There are a large number of costumes to create for all the villagers, utensils and characters, but they are also coming along swimmingly.  I’ve completed the sketches and a prototype for the top half of the napkins and passed along a takeaway project to another mom to sew both top and bottom pleated napkin parts.  That’s basically how I’m hoping this will work—if I create the design and bring the materials and instructions together, one of the SOS parents can take over finalizing the actual costume completion.   
I have to give a big thanks to Nancy Riggert in this process, who has been an enthusiastic partner and a fountain of knowledge about how to get things done.  Her energy and effectiveness give me confidence that this whole project will actually come together on schedule. 

Good news!  There was a pie last weekend.  Jim made a beautiful blueberry pie from farmer’s market berries.  There was something subtle and special about the fruit in this one—it had a hint of black current flavor in the filling of summer blueberries.  
 I even think it was his best blueberry pie yet.  And I’m not just saying that because I know there are two more bags of blueberries in the freezer!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Bahama surprise!

I had the surprise of my life about three days before Christmas this year.  The holiday season is always hectic and full of surprises, but this year seemed especially so.  I was working hard on the Sounds of South ‘Beauty and the Beast’ costume design project, which meant creating templates to cut and use for patterns on various costumes.  I was trying to finish my Christmas shopping because Grandma and Aunt Lois, who come for the holidays each year, were coming a few days early this year.   
On top of that, the boys wanted to have my birthday celebration before Christmas this year.  Like many other late December birthday people, my special day is often overwhelmed by the commotion surrounding Christmas.  Even so, I was skeptical about the wisdom of holding the celebration three days before Christmas.  Fortunately, I did get a raspberry pie that day!  That helped a little. 

After a nice kluski dinner, my family staged an elaborate ‘reveal’ to tell me we would spend my fiftieth birthday (yes, it’s very hard for me to believe that too!) in the Bahamas!  
 They had arranged for a flight, car and house rental on a secluded bay on Abaco.  It came complete with a hot tub, kayaks, and beautiful sunrises over the water.  Everything had been arranged without me having the slightest idea about what was going on.  That basically left me with five days to get in the right mindset for a warm-weather vacation just after Christmas.  The location turned out to be amazing and serene.  The images on the website didn’t do it justice.  I’ve been wanting and needing to get away for some time, since the pace of my life has been really high without many pauses in between.  I always talk about relaxing but I never really do.  This was a forced relaxation.  
 It got my creative energies rejuvenated and that left me inspired.  I ate very well, slept well, and I enjoyed my family and location to the maximum.  I played with non-fiber media without any real goal in mind, which was a lot of fun and very artistically stimulating.  One day I didn’t have my sketchbook so I pulled out my Swiss army knife and carved driftwood.  
 I used my pencil crayons to color a party dress on a Conch shell that was sun-bleached white.  I had the time to look carefully at how tree roots grew into the coral reefs.  I saw the subtle color differences in stands of pine trees and mangrove swamps.  It truly was a rejuvenating period for me. 

I definitely ate well on the holiday.  I ate more conch that I’d care to admit, but it was so tasty and so wonderful to be there.  It was perfect to get food from the local peeps far away from the touristy areas.  We had conch fritters several places, including the Fish Fry village near Nassau when we landed, at the ferry to Green Turtle Cay, and at a restaurant in Marsh Harbour.  I had lots of fried conch (the best was in Mount Hope on Little Abaco) and even conch salad from a local legend close to Treasure Cay.  Now I’ll be thinking about conch for weeks to come. 
 In between meals I spent a lot of time exploring the shorelines and collecting.  I picked up everything from sea biscuits, shells and coral to a well-used paintbrush, a buoy, and a special gold polyester hat that is now my favorite.  The boys were pretty excited to see the humongous conch shells and brought a couple home, among other treasures.  We picked up fresh coconuts and ate them for snacks.  I discovered that I don’t really like pina coladas, but rum and pineapple juice with a piece of coconut on the side is very nice.  Even better is rum and guava juice—yum!   
We rented a car and Jim dutifully drove on the left side of the road, taking us down secret roads that led to cow paths and onto donkey paths before turning into overgrown foot paths to the ocean.  We visited so many different types of beaches, from the pure white sands to the solid coral outcroppings and everything in between.  We found and saw lots of live creatures, such as hermit crabs, mollusks, live sand dollars and lots of colorful fishes on the reefs. 

It was a great nine days, but now I’m very inspired to launch back into making weavings in the art studio and creating costumes for Beauty and the Beast.  I’m not a costume designer, but I responded strongly to this project because the performance needs sculptural costumes and my artwork tends to be very sculptural.   
It’s a way of exploring a related but very relevant art form to help keep me fresh.  In closing, I will note that it is a new year and there still hasn’t been a pie.  I suppose I did have lots of treats in the Bahamas.  The guava duff is a heavenly local treat, and the Café Florence makes “the best sticky buns in the Universe”, according to a respected travel publication.  I did have a slice of pineapple pie, coconut tart, and other treats I don’t need to mention.  But a fruit laden pie with berries from the summer farmer’s market?  My loving husband seems indifferent to my pie needs.  I guess he’s earned some credit, but my supply of patience is not unlimited. 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Looking at more water than I’d care to!

I moved my latest exhibition, entitled “Looking at Water”, to the Bloomington Bagel Company last Monday.  I think it looks wonderful!  There was a nice blurb in the Herald Times over the weekend mentioning the show, so I’m hoping a different set of people will see it during its run to the end of January.  That’s the good news from the past week.  Unfortunately, after I reconstituted my art studio following the Thanksgiving flood, disaster struck again.  Two more inches of rain fell on Friday night into Saturday morning.  Just before bedtime Friday I decided to pop into the studio to check on things.  Lo and behold, the water level was halfway up my window and hissing in through the cracks around the frame.   
I leapt into action moving materials and rolling the carpet back, while Jim jumped into action outside.  He kept baling the window well while intermittently clearing a path for the water to flow around the house.  Fortunately, the rain let up around midnight and we both got to bed around one a.m.  As in the first flood of 2014, no art was damaged in the process, but now I’m back to drying carpet pads outside and the studio is a mess.  The low winter humidity in the house is finally a blessing. 

My life had a few more unexpected twists last weekend.  I was scheduled to do a workshop to create needle felted ornaments on Saturday at Gather, but too few people officially signed up to make it run and we canceled.  I think that the busy Holiday shopping, concerts and family schedules just made the timing too busy for most people.   
I thought by scheduling it early in December we could work around busy schedules, but apparently not.  I made several demonstration ornaments for the workshop and was ready to go, and I feel very badly for those who did sign up and really wanted to participate.   We will try to pick a date in late January or early February to hold a workshop to make felted heart shaped ornaments for Valentine’s Day.  If anyone wants to get a head start on next year’s Christmas ornaments I’ll bring those supplies as well.  It’s really all about the technique, so both will work.  I promise to let everyone know well in advance so you can mark your calendars.  Learning how to successfully coordinate a local workshop is new for me, so next time we’ll do better.  I really hate to disappoint people.

The rest of my news is piecemeal.  I did finish my ‘Summer Salad’ commission, and that will ship today to its new home in New Hampshire.  I'm delighted with how it turned out.  I’ll post pictures after the new owner has a chance to see it in place.  I’ll then launch on my next commission, which involves a river running through a forest of trees.  I have already completed the base structure for the tree trunks out of old wool army blankets.   
I don’t yet have a final sketch for the composition, but I know the trees are a necessary part of it.  You likely didn’t know that December first was also national cake day.  Tommie took it upon himself to make an amazing vanilla cake with butter cream rum frosting.  It really tasted like a traditional European cake that was heavy and not too sweet.   
This weekend the boys and I moved holiday baking into high gear, making several batches of cookies.  I even created a new cookie I’m calling boysenberry moons—they are delightful!    It’s a sandwich cookie featuring toasted pecans and boysenberry jam filling that I decided just needed to be tried.  We also created this year’s version of our annual candy house.  The rule is that no one gets to eat anything off of it until Boxing Day.   
Finally, there has been no pie in my house since well before Thanksgiving, which is very sad.  Even pumpkin pies at the holiday dinner did not satisfy my need for the berry-filled treat.  Helloooo… is anybody listening?

Until next week,

Martina Celerin