Sunday, May 7, 2017

Spring rains like my art studio…

The heavy rain continued this week.  Unfortunately, some of it wanted a tour of my art studio.  This happens all too often for me, usually after the ground is saturated and rain keeps coming down.  I even had rain running in through blocked up windows in my storage area.  That created a whole new problem.  The good news is that none of my weavings were affected.  I like to turn adversity into a positive, so I took the opportunity to review all the treasures in my studio that came upstairs to evade the water and purge the items that have sat around for years.  I’ll find them some new, dry homes. 

Before the rains, I had been making some good progress, finishing the background weaving for my latest commission.  I stretched it out on its frame, and next I’ll launch into the dimensional crochet component where I build the foreground further forward.  I’ve already wrapped a mountain of reeds and cattail leaves while watching the final episode of Face Off, one of my few television guilty pleasures.  The contestants create dimensional make-up, prosthetics and costumes that stretch the imagination.  I love the program because of the creative problem solving and challenges in the art making.  I’m just a sponge for new techniques. You just never know when some technique will be useful, which is how I look at my big supply of yarns and materials. 

The boys have been on their usual after school circuit, so this week I have been needle felting cherry tomatoes.  I think they’re just adorable little plump balls of sugar, and I’m looking forward to completing enough ingredients to create my Salsa weaving.  Speaking of tomatoes, I have been making more beefsteak tomato slices for my felted tiles.  I’m looking forward to showing them for the first time in Madison Wisconsin at the Art Fair on the Square, July 8th and 9th.  
And speaking of dates, next weekend I will be in Toledo Ohio doing a two-day workshop and giving a talk and trunk show for the Fiber of Our Being felting guild.  I will pack up about a dozen of my weavings, along with a load of my felted tiles, most of my re-shirts, some felted sweater petals, and about a dozen of my costumes from Beauty and the Beast to display at the trunk show.  That will happens on the Monday night, the 15th of May.  It’s going to be a lot of fun to see all my work displayed together.  I’m especially looking forward to sharing my work with an audience that hasn’t seen my work live. 

I spent a little time this week reorganizing the costume studio at South.  I was ready for a change after finishing up the 34 girls’ chorus costumes.  I gleefully launched into creating the principal’s costumes for Hello Dolly.  At the top of my agenda was creating Dolly’s opening number costume, and so I pulled out all of the clothes, fabric scraps and trims that I had accumulated over this past year in the color story that I was imagining.  
I hung them on the closet doors of the costume studio and just spent a little time taking everything in.  From there I started designing and I have pieced together the design for the dress.  I hope that this week I can pull all the elements together and watch the talented sewing faeries take over and turn it into a beautiful costume.  I really love and depend on my faeries, who bring my costume designs to life and fit them on the cast. 

On the family front, yesterday morning we made a delightful but slightly damp trip to the farmer’s market.  We arrived a little late in the morning, but the weather kept away a lot of people so we got our strawberries.  Poor Tommie missed the trip because he was taking the SAT test, but he got some strawberries at home.  On Friday he took an AP test in US history, and next week are the AP tests in English and calculus.  We are all looking forward to the end of the school year and the start of the family vacation!  
Oh, and my last lonely solitary slice of pie was consumed this morning.  It was a wonderful apple cranberry pie that appeared on Monday, but now it’s gone.  I do hope the next one appears in time for Mother’s day.  If anyone is listening, it would be better for it to appear around Tuesday when I get back! 

Until next week,

Martina Celerin

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Green Yarns and Rainy Skies…

I’m a big believer in the axiom that if you keep working away at the little things, in the end your efforts all add up to something bigger.  I’m often sitting at MonroeCounty Martial Arts in the afternoons, which now means four times a week as the boys are trading off teaching an hour of kids classes Monday through Thursday.  That falls after an hour of training on Tuesday and Thursday, so my afternoons are booked.  I am delighted that they negotiate who teaches which class based on who has the most homework scheduled for that day.  Teaching and training still all gets packed in around Hip Hop practice and ultimate Frisbee workouts.  During my sitting and waiting hours I need something to work on, so I needle felt.  I’ve been working on a Salsa weaving, which means I’m now creating the individual vegetables.  
I just finished the cayenne peppers, because of course my salsa is spicy.  Next up are the cherry tomatoes.  As my friend Dan Maillet used to say, they’re the candy of vegetables--so sweet and a burst of flavor in your mouth.  And when I run out of steam on vegetables, I manage to play the next cycle of Words with Friends with my peeps. 

While last week was a beautiful, warm spring preview, this week we’ve had rain—and lots of it, followed by more rain.  It’s hard to focus on anything else besides water pieces.  That works out well, because I have been working on a commission that will feature a lot of water.  I’ve been pulling out all my sparkly yarns and watery blues.  I find that creating a water gradient is a little trickier than the land version, because there are still some dark blues in the distance and light blues in the foreground needed to get the effect I want.  I’ve just finished the first stage in the process, which is creating the background canvas by weaving the water.  Next I will weave the blue skies (hint, hint local sky!) and then release the weaving from the loom, stretch it out in a frame and then build up the foreground.  Stay tuned… 

Of course my work depends on having lots of greens in all the glorious variations one finds in Nature.  Last week I started winding yarn balls from the skeins that I dyed in my ginormous dyeing fest on sunny days.  When it was sunny I could work outside or on the veranda, but the damp weather made it so wet that I had to set up a temporary studio in the living room beside the big door to the veranda.  With the door open it almost feels like I’m a plein air artist.  I’m off to a good start at re-stocking my stores, which means I should have about fifty balls of new green yarns in my stash.  I pulled out my my beautiful birch-wood hand-made ball winder from Woolhouse Tools to transform skeins into balls, only to discover that the drive train was beginning to sag.  That’s what happen when you age, I guess.  After a little detective work and finding the right helpful person, a new drive cord should be coming from the company in British Columbia sometime this week.  I’m not a patient person when there is a job to do, so I will just work with the old one as long as I can.  It slips and then periodically catches, but I can still move the process forward. 

Saturday dawned too rainy for our usual trip to the Farmer’s market.  We headed out on a shopping mission instead, but by late morning the weather broke and we were able to slip over to the market get a few things.  We didn’t get coffee or breakfast there, but we did score two quarts of strawberries, spinach we need for our weekly deep-dish pizza dinner, and fresh eggs for kluski.  Oh, and some lettuce, because one always needs fresh lettuce.  Oh, and like the dark skies on the horizon, today marked the last day of last week’s blueberry pie for breakfast.  The countdown begins to the next pie!  I wonder what, and more importantly when, it will be?

Until next week,

--> Martina Celerin

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring green yarns and blue skies…

I’ve been on a blog hiatus, where it just seems I have too much going on to sit down for a quiet moment to share my projects and thoughts.  April has brought me back into the art studio, which is my favorite place to be in my personal weaving world.  I’ve been observing and admiring the world and the trees coming back to life in the splendid greens of spring.  My muse of spring leaves always sends me scrambling to pull out my dye pots to simmer verdant brews on the stovetop to mimic the soft first greens.  I wound big skeins of yarns in preparation, so when the sun was shining and the weather mild I processed plenty of material for my first weavings of the year.   

The process of dyeing of course drew me into thinking about creating trees under blue skies in my art studio.  The two of them are usually found with water, so the boxes of blues have come out of storage as well.  I just shipped a nice willow piece to its new happy home, and I was delighted to see a picture of it on the wall.  I already miss the piece a little, so I might need to weave another variation that features a willow.  I’ll just have to see what speaks to me over the next few weeks.

I’m also preparing for my workshop next month in Northern Ohio.  It’s a two-day affair and I’ll be doing a trunk show, so I’ll bring a range of goodies for show and tell.  I’ll bring most of my explorations, from Re-shirts to wreaths and everything in between - including a big collection of my weavings.  In my spare time I’ve been building looms for the participants, which means trips to the Re-Store to get lumber-with-a-history, brackets, and screws.  Kleindorfer’s Hardware fills in the materials I can’t find there.  The warm weather means I get to do a lot of the loom building on the veranda in the fresh air, which is a welcome venue for assembling things.  

I wanted to share an epiphany I had about creating textures on the surface of needle felted structures.  Most of the creatures in my weavings have been scaly or slimy, so I rarely have to create fuzzy creatures.  I’ve never really tried to solve the problem of creating furry surfaces that satisfied me.  I was at the Recycle Center and picked up a piece of handmade fake fur.  I poked around and pulled at it to see how it was made, and I immediately wanted to explore some variations and ideas to reproduce and expand the effect.  I just gave myself some fleece, commercial felt and twine and went to work.  It wasn’t intended to be an exploration of color, just technique.  It was like an old school sampler piece that explored the textures I could produce from the materials by combining techniques.  I’m really pleased with how it all turned out, even if I can’t see how it will lead to anything directly.  Sometimes you just have to give yourself the freedom to create without a goal in mind. 

As I have re-embraced weaving this month, the props and costumes for Hello Dolly are never too far in the background.  My compatriot sewing faeries have been busily completing outfits, for which I’m forever grateful.  When I was visiting with a volunteer at Opportunity House, she offered me some old trunks and vintage clothing that had been in her attic for many years.  After vacuuming, a little washing and a final oiling, all the trunks and luggage will look amazing on stage.  
The bonus was that the trunks were full of treasures as well, mostly vintage clothing from the turn of the century.  Unfortunately, there was quite a bit of mouse damage, but after freezing to kill unwanted insects and their friends, and two gentle wash cycles I still do have a lot of usable clothing and trim for costumes this year.  How awesome is it to have real period clothing for the performance!

Life at home continues apace, or even a little faster than that.  Tommie was inducted into the national honor society earlier this month and is looking now to learn to drive.  Jacob performed on stage with the Jaywalkerz in Hip Hop Connxion.  They had been training that performance for several months.  Both boys have a new exploit, having taken up ultimate Frisbee.  This fills two more evenings a week.  That’s on top of teaching Taekwondo four evenings a week.  They come home exhausted but happy.  Saturday morning excursions to the farmer’s market have begun again, which is very nice to have back in our routine.  The city is becoming colorful again with spring flowers, from daffodils to irises, with a few first poppies showing up.  It’s a beautiful time of year!  Oh, and if you’re keeping track, there have been three pies!  A delightful blueberry pie came first, then a tart cherry pie, and an even better blueberry pie came Sunday morning.  That will be breakfast, with coffee or espresso, for the next couple of days.  Life is good!

Until next week,

Martina Celerin