Author: Nanette Zeller

We shall see

Over the past few months, I’ve spoken to several of my friends about how they are coping with this “new normal.” Everyone I know seems to be re-evaluating what’s important to them and trying to figure out where they belong.

Speedweve tool for mending holes in cloth

I have frequently written about the treadmill mentality. Every day you step on the treadmill and let the belt drive your movement. Sometimes there are so many things coming at you that there’s no time to think, you just have to keep moving…and sometimes it feels like you’re not going anywhere. This covid situation has broken the patterns.  Most of us were given forced time to stop.

Now what? The future we planned isn’t there. Those of use who are working artists/teachers are forced to find new ways of working or be unemployed. For some, this is a good thing, because they received the extra push they needed to finally retire or stay home to care for their family.

What I’ve noticed is, creative people don’t stop being creative. They find another way to focus their creativity. Maybe they move into the kitchen and experiment with cooking. Or they change their focus from art quilting to making functional quilts (blankets) for family. How are you coping?

I personally have started pulling out materials in my stash that I haven’t used in awhile. My wool for felting, that I excessively hoarded a few years ago, has become an opportunity to explore and share a fun craft (see my classes at Artworks Vass). I’m also going through craft books that I purchased over the years and revisiting ideas.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any fabric stores within 25 miles from my home. So, I’m forcing myself to use what I have. By reading the books, I’m re-thinking how I buy and use fabric. I’ve become fascinated with mindful repairs and hand stitching. It’s a calming, productive use of time.  I’m pondering how I can use these skills going forward. Do I keep them as handy projects to keep me busy while watching TV?  Or does it become part of my art form? We shall see.

 

 

Enjoy your creative journey

I’m curious…. What are you working on?
I’ve been writing these weekly posts for several years. Most of the time I just let my muse inspire me with the topic. The world seems so different now and I’m wondering if there is more that I can do to make an impact on all the things important to me. You are important to me.

I teach classes to share my knowledge and inspire my students. It’s a little difficult now with all the social distancing, but I’m building a library of on-demand courses so anyone can learn from me at their convenience. My plan is to build some live webinar-style classes where students can sign-up and we work together through the process. It would almost be like having me come to your home and work with you (read last week’s post to learn about how these classes work).

The challenge with all this is I know what I’d like to teach, but that doesn’t mean you’d want to take the class. With everything going on, I’m working in a closed environment and I’m not able to get out and talk to you directly. The best way I have to share with you is through my blog and newsletter.

I would love to hear what you’re working on and how I could help you along your creative journey. Do you need moral support and encouragement?  Or do you want to learn new things? Maybe you would like to see short videos like this one showing how I added thread painting to trees: https://youtu.be/FUe_ncCUUGE

I am curious and I’d love to hear from you. If you have an idea you’d like to share, drop me note anytime through my contact form or find me on Facebook (Nanette S. Zeller). I look forward to hearing from you and until then, enjoy your creative journey!

Sewing with you

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking a live Zoom class presented by the talented Jodi Ohl. I have been building my own virtual classes, but I found it fun to be on the other side of the screen. I don’t have plans to be a painter like Jodi, but I know that taking classes in another media helps make you a stronger artist. Inspiration can hit you when you explore new approaches or ideas.

It was interesting to be the student yesterday because I realized how much fun it was to take a Zoom art class. I didn’t have to pack my supplies and carry them out of the house, then carry them home again. The class was late in the evening and I didn’t have to worry about driving home at night. I was comfortable working in my own space and didn’t have to dress up. At one point, I realized I forgot one of the items on the supply list. Well, good news, I didn’t miss out on anything…I just walked to the other room and grabbed it. (Note: You don’t know how many times one of my students forgot a part for their sewing machine.) I was able to work along with Jodi, but there some times where I just watched her and that was OK. I felt like I was having a relaxed private lesson with a front row seat. Another interesting big perk I noticed was at break time, I didn’t have to stand in line to use the privy.

Having participated in many Zoom “meetings,” I was really surprised at how much fun and comfortable a Zoom class was. With the current restrictions, it’s not a safe to attend in-person classes. All indications seem that online classes are going to stick around well after we return to normalcy. People, like me, are seeing all the benefits and wanting more.


This is why I want to take a minute to tell you about my online and virtual classes. My online classes are on-demand (listed here) and, after enrolling, are available to you 24/7. My live classes and lectures (listed here) are meant for groups, guilds, shops, libraries or other organizations. I offer the live presentations through video teleconferencing technology (e.g, Zoom). If you’ve ever wanted to take a class from me, now is a great time to do it. Besides the perks I listed above, I can “virtually” teach anywhere in the world and neither of us would have to leave our homes.

If you prefer to take a live class, I plan to schedule some virtual classes in the near futures. (Make sure you sign up for my newsletter to keep informed.) Also, many organizations are currently scheduling programs for 2021. If you belong to or know of a group which offers programs, I would be honored if you shared this post with them. And, until I see you again, I’ll look forward to sewing with you!

Show for it

My first art exhibit for 2020 is happening this week. On Friday at the Arts Council of Moore County’s (ACMC) Campbell House Galleries, I will be participating in the opening reception for Art in Quarantine.

Early into the shut down, ACMC started a online publication called Moore ArtShare-Covid Edition. It offered an opportunity for regional artists to share their recently completed artwork. My sketches were some of the first entries in the publication.

With the great success of ArtShare, ACMC decided to open up the gallery to artist in the county who had created new works since the pandemic started. I entered 2 pieces:

Dreaming of Tomorrow” is digital artwork made using one of the series of sketches I drew this spring. You may know me as a textile artist or quilter and my find this entry a bit unusual for me. It’s really not. My art quilts are frequently created using sketches and digitized designs I use to make applique patterns. I just jazzed this piece up a little with some fun Photoshop colorizing.

A Sewists Response to Covid-19” is a facemask I made for this exhibit. I created about 150 protective masks this year. My efforts combined with other sewists in the area, collectively produced thousands of masks which most were given away to those in need. I wanted to represent our effort because a sewist’s “art” is frequently overlooked, yet very important to comforting people during good times and bad. My “artsy” mask is sewn from fabric I shibori-dyed a few years ago. After assembling the mask, I spent hours hand-stitching the embroidered embellishments. This stitch technique is known as slow-stitching and is very mindfulness meditative practice. I didn’t have a plan, I just stitched as the inspiration guided me.

I use to hate hand sewing, but recently I’ve learned to embrace it. I don’t worry about what my stitches look like, I’m only concerned with the feeling that I need to do something. Being stuck at home for so many days, missing my friends and family, I can stitch when time allows and contemplate about all of it. Any idle time doesn’t seem so wasted when, in the end, I have something to show for it.


Art in Quarantine

October 2-30, 2020
ACMC Campbell House Galleries
Virtual Opening Reception:  Fri., October 2 at 6p via Facebook Live

It is important to you!

I assume if you’re reading this that you are someone who explores art and finds that it is your passion. So I ask, what’s with self-doubt? So many artists have this underlying struggle of “am I good enough?”

This “covid situation” has really rattled a lot of us. Professional artists are scrambling to re-establish themselves and pondering if they should just toss in the towel. Venues are shut down and businesses are permanently closing. It’s difficult to get the “fix” we one received from outside sources and support groups. For some, income is gone or significantly reduced. And for the professional artists, it’s just a lot of work to keep up with the business side of making art, especially when you’re not making money doing it.

Then there’s family, work, health, fitness and the creative desires all pulling at our time, thoughts and heart. At any given time, what gets the priority?

Right now most of us are dealing with some self-doubt and pondering our futures. I’ve been talking to a lot of friends and we all seem to be dealing with things in different ways. How do we move forward when we still have uncertainty about what is ahead? It’s definitely challenging times.

I’ve been coping by focusing on what I can do and segmenting my time through task management. The last two months, I spent a lot of time developing 2 online classes. Now through October, I have to focus on a couple of art projects. The immediate task at hand becomes my priority. Those that are less priority stay idle while I wait for a few spare moments to give them my attention. Even though, I’m working slowly, I’m still moving forward. When I start having self-doubts, I stop and think about what I have done and not dwell on what is waiting to get done. I will eventually get to the important things.

If your creativity is a passion, then it is also important. Don’t give up on it. Find little projects that you can pick up while watching TV or attending Zoom meetings. Start a bigger project (or work on one in progess) and work on it when you have a few minutes. An example might be piecing fabric for a quilt. You have 15 minutes while dinner is in the oven, then go sew a couple squares. If your projects need a larger chunk of time, like basting a quilt or dyeing fabric, then check your schedule for an opening and set it as a priority task for that day.

I know this is sometimes easier said that done. I get frustrated when I’m don’t feel I’m moving efficiently enough. And, I sometimes there’s doubt; “Why am I bothering? Who really cares?” … If you truly have the passion, you know who cares ….  You Do!  So, don’t forget to feed the passion, because it is important to you!

 

Feed your soul

I have a pretty big to-do list for the next few month. Less computer work and more time in the studio manipulating fabric. I’m looking forward to this change of focus. It’s always a challenge to find the right balance of creativity and business time. Both are equally important to me. For other’s it might be more about finding time in your daily life for your creative outlets.

In my life, I try to include events and activities that encourage my creative being. I don’t want to lose the joy of creating by focusing only on the commercialization of art. I frequently find projects that are just fun. Sometimes I just want to do mindless knitting or sew squares of fabric together for no other reason than just to sew.

Earlier this year, I challenged myself to spend a few minutes every day drawing in a small sketchbook. I didn’t set a specific time limit, but I usually didn’t give it more than an hour. Over the past few days I have been flipping through these sketches. Some I think are ok, others not so much. Some I’m considering making into an art quilt.

If you are a creative person, I think it’s important to find time for your art. It doesn’t have to amount to anything specific. You don’t even have to show it to anyone, if you don’t want to. I just encourage you to find time for it. I promise it will feed your soul.

 

 

Your purpose will find you

After the initial Covid-19 shut-down, I’m finally feeling like my life is having direction again. There’s been a cloak of depression hanging onto many of us. Even Michelle Obama described it in a recent podcast. When I think of my feelings over the last few months, I know I was feeling depressed. Everything I was looking forward to and aiming for was gone. There was no alternate path to take, or at least I couldn’t see it.

Without a path forward we can feel stuck and lose motivation. A while back I heard a quote from Cathy Heller (singer/songwriter, podcast superstar) that changed my thinking. She said, “the opposite of depression is purpose.” As I look back over the past few months, I realize that’s where my mild depression was coming from. I had no purpose to drive me.

Sure there was the usual things; getting up and caring for the family, or going for a walk and paying bills. But was that exciting enough to stay motivated? No. Most of it could wait until another time. Purpose can drive you to get up each morning. The fact that you could have an impact on someone’s life is an awesome purpose to have. To know someone/something is waiting on you, can provide the drive to get the work done.

To me, purpose can also be accountability. If I decide not to walk the dog today, no one will hold me accountable, except maybe my dog (oh, how they love to give guilt trips!). If you decide not to clean the house, will anyone care?

For me, purpose and accountability are the keys to moving forward. Sometimes the accountability comes from within yourself. You can set a goal and aim for accomplishment. But, if you don’t have an outside source to keep you to your word, you may give up and go back to binge-watching Netflix.

I think this is so important to our lives as creatives. Over the last few months, I had a couple opportunities pass my way and I took them. They catapulted me onto other projects. People are depending on me. I see purpose and accountability when 3 months ago there was none. I feel a drive to show up every day.

If you feel stuck, I encourage you to still show up. If you can’t create, then just go into your space and be with the tools you love. Share with someone what you want to do. Or just write it down on paper. No guilt trips, just be kind to yourself. Your purpose will find you.

 

Science project

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on who I am and what I believe. Some things you train to do and some things you just are. I think we are born with certain personality traits and some we learn.

As I reflect on my life, I know I am a scientist. I always have been. As a kid, I would spend all day playing in the yard; picking flowers, looking at bugs, playing with worms, hugging trees and discovering my environment. I also had a passion for art. My mom encouraged me to do arts, crafts and draw. In high school I had a major in art and took several art classes in college. My major in college was environmental science.

My brain is wired for both science and art. I question things. Always at the forefront of my thinking is why did, or do, things happen? But how does that connect with my art? Sometimes I seem both left- and right- brain dominant. Until recently, I never could connect it.

The other day I was watching Quilting Arts TV (episode 2603). Susan Brubaker-Knapp was talking with Lauretta Crites about the creative challenge of making art quits. With art quilts, you sometimes come up with an idea that doesn’t work. So, you have to go back to the drawing board, ponder it awhile and come up with an alternative method to complete your vision. Susan made the comment that this is why she enjoyed making art quilts, because you are always figuring out how to do something. ~ Insert LIGHT BULB moment! ~

It all makes sense. I’m attracted to this form of art because it is a scientific process. I come up with an idea (hypothesis) and try to make it work. I may make a pattern, but my materials may not work as well as I envisioned. Do I go back and try again…or do I continue forward and find another approach. Making art quilts is like doing a science project. I present my idea, compile my methods and materials, and see what results. My final artwork represents the conclusion of what worked and what didn’t. And with this, I discovered why an art quilt is like a science project.

 



You can watch me on the Global Quilt Connection Meet-the-Teacher Event on YouTube:
Click here

Hope you are too

I am definitely not a fan of hot humid weather. This far into the the summer, I’m kinda over it. I wish. Like that’s an option. Here in the south we probably have another month or so of this sticky stuff. We’ve also had a lot of rain this year. So between the rain, heat and humidity, it’s not much fun being outside.

Fortunately, I’ve had reason to stay inside. This past week I was developing a 3-minute promo video for Global Quilt Connection. This group was created by Lyric Kinard and Sue Bleiweiss and is an opportunity for teachers in the industry to promote their virtual group lectures and classes. If you’re part of a group or guild that hires presenters this is a great opportunity to meet the teachers. I will be presenting next Wed, Sept 2 from 4-6pm (EST). You can sign up to watch it live or wait and watch it on Youtube. Find out more by clicking here: globalquiltconnection.com/events.html

Now that the promo video is completed, I’m working on updating my website and developing my next online class which I expect to launch it in October. Stay tuned.

So the good news is, during this hot weather, I’m staying cool and keeping busy doing indoor stuff. While I’m in my studio, I get a good view of my backyard and can watch the birds visiting my feeders. I get to see some interesting birds, like the cute little towhee (above). So even though I’m not getting out as much as I’d like, I’m still enjoying the summer. I hope you are too!

 

Smile with our eyes

Life feels weird right now. Most of the time I go through my day without thinking about what is different than it used to be. Things become routine and you don’t think about them anymore. But, yesterday I felt gobsmacked.

I was scrolling through social media and stumbled on a video produced by the Virginia Quilt Museum. Like most museum and art galleries these days, they have produced virtual tours of their art exhibits ( www.vaquiltmuseum.org/virtual-tours ).  They recently produced a video tour of their Eye Contact exhibit. Eye Contact was originally produced for the 2019 Sacred Threads Exhibit and is now touring.

I watched this sweet video, with its serene music, while intently looking for my eyes. As I watched the artwork scroll across my screen, I couldn’t help feel sad. There’s irony here. When I made this quilt, I didn’t think about what it really meant. At the time, it was just an exercise in creative play and didn’t have much meaning to me.

While I was traveling early last year, I notice how my pupils looked square in our hotel so I took a photo. I take lots of photos of non-significant things. Sometimes they inspire me. And truly, this photo inspired me to work on a quilt to send to Eye Contact. When I see it, I think of traveling. Last year was a very fun year of travel for me.

Yesterday, while I watched the video and saw all these eyes scrolling past me, I was reminded of where I was in time. For one, no travel plans for me for while. That’s all been cancelled. And, when I go out in public, I no longer see faces on the people I meet. Instead, I see a mask and above that I see their eyes. While watching the video, I felt like I was seeing mask covered faces.

It was a peculiar experience thinking how a little more than a year ago we were in a different place. Back then, I would have never expected the Eye Contact exhibit to reflect our future, but it has. It’s poignant, and a little bit sad. I’m honored to be a part of this exhibit. It definitely means more to me now. When I created my eyes, I was unexpectedly looking into the future.

Now when I’m out in public, I frequently wonder if my mask-faced smile is worth the effort. Will anyone see it? My friends remind me that indeed … we do smile with our eyes.|

 

 

Lyric Kinard and Sue Bleiweis are hosting the free Global Quilt Connection. If you’re looking to hire virtual teachers for classes or lectures, this is the place to start. This live event will introduce you to 90 instructors, shared through 3 meet-the-teacher virtual presentations. Learn more at Global Quilt Connection. You can see me Wednesday, September 2, 2020 from 4-6pm EST.