Does it give you peace?

Have you ever asked yourself why you’re doing something? Or questioned why you should continue? I do it all the time. As I age, I notice I’m questioning myself more often. These are valid questions. Sometimes we get stuck in situations where we feel we have no way out. So we stick with status quo, suck it up, and drive on.

But, have you ever dreamed of being somewhere or doing something different? If so, what did you do about it? Did you take action or stick with status quo?

If you choose status quo, how does it make you feel? Do you feel stuck or does it give you peace?

For me, it depends on the situation. There are some things that I feel that I have to accept and just deal with “what is.” But, there are other things that constantly swirl in my brain which force me say to myself, “if you’re not happy with it, then do something about it!” Yet, telling myself to do something is easy; actually doing something about it is the hard part.

It’s like driving a car down an old deeply rutted dirt road. When it’s time to make the next turn, it seems the car and the road are fighting you. You know you have to turn, but there’s so much resistance that the car falls back into the ruts. I guess at some point, you could give up, stick with status quo and keep driving on the same road. It would be easier, right? But does it make you feel stuck or does it give you peace?

 

Might help later

I think everyone has good intentions when they offer help to someone else. However, what I’ve learned in life is, that no matter how good the intentions, you can’t force your help on anyone. There’s a reciprocal aspect to this as well. If you need help, it’s great when someone offers. We can then decide to accept the offer or not. I’ve also noticed that we (yes, I’m including myself) need help, but don’t mention it to anyone.

It’s a quandary. Maybe we don’t want to feel like we’re a burden. So what do you do if you need help and don’t want to feel like you’re bothering someone?

As a creative person, maybe you want to improve your skills or explore new techniques. The best way to achieve this is to seek new opportunities. With the Internet, there are so many ways to get online help – just Google your question and you’ll find all sorts of solutions. You may even be fortunate to have some place near you to take classes and/or meet like-minded people. By connecting, we find new resources that may be helpful when we get into a bind.

As an example: I’m taking a videography class at the local community college. I spent a month fiddling with the software and my camera, but felt challenged with my results. I wanted to improve, so I enrolled. There are all different levels of talent in this class. I’m able to help some people, but I’m also learning from others. This is the fun part about being in a “live” class. Although a videography class doesn’t sound like it has much to do with my art, it does. I’ve learned that someone producing videos considers artist placement of an object on the screen. Just like I do on fabric. We’ve discussed light balance, rule of thirds, use of negative space, among other topics. It reminds me that I need to do the same in my textile art. In the process, I’m learning something new, but also reinforcing what I already now.

You’re likely to learn something in any class you take. You can also strengthen your skills by learning a different artistic style. So if you’re feeling like you need some help, why not look into taking a class or at least Google video tutorials you can watch. By reaching out to new opportunities, you’re exposing yourself to ideas and resources that might help later.

Good things are gonna come

“Stump’d” by Nanette S. Zeller

A few weeks ago, I successfully completed another trip around the sun (aka birthday). My new year and new decade has officially started. Mentally, this year has been a slow start, but it also has offered me new direction and enthusiasm. It takes evaluating what’s important and figuring out how to make it happen?

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting at an event and discovered the person sitting next to me was also a creative. She was having some challenges and craved being more artistic. We’ve all been there, right? Family, work, health … whatever … it takes energy and time from our passion. If you’re like me, your creative spirit probably nags at you when you’ve ignored (or avoided) it for awhile.

People who don’t get it, may think I’m obsessive. Between, knitting, slow-stitch projects or full-blown art quilts, I’m always working on several different projects at any given time. When I take a trip, I carry at least 2 different travel-size projects with me. These projects are also easily accessible when I have time to sit and watch TV. Sometimes I work on them, sometimes not, but they are always ready to feed my creative desire when I have time. As I shared stories with this new friend, she started showing me projects where she did the same thing. A little stitching here and a little there, and suddenly it’s something significant.

Our conversation made me realize that sometimes we just have to accept what is and do the best we can. Life does get in our way, but as long as you allow nuggets of time to feed the passion, maybe it’s good enough. If you really want to change things, then you might have to let something else go.

Sometimes the fear of what might happen if we do something is greater than the reality of it. Sometimes we have to take chances by closing and opening doors of opportunity. I’m realizing that the exciting things happen when I step out of my comfort-zone. My energy gets rejuvenated as the fear turns into a fire in my belly. I become determined to succeed and, surprisingly, new opportunities appear. I’m no longer “stump’d” and I grow. So as Amy Gerhartz’s sings “Hold On! … Good things are gonna come!”

Right or wrong answers

“Solitude” by Nanette S. Zeller (c) 2011

I made this quilt, “Solitude,” about 9 years ago for my first solo exhibit. I find it interesting how we view art. It is a very subjective process. I can view an art piece and love it. Then there are other pieces were I feel confused or even repulsed by it. We all connect to art so differently.

“Solitude” detail

Sometimes we have a more emotional connection to a piece of art. It might make us feel happy or it could make us sad or even angry. Do you ever wonder if that was the intent of the artist? Maybe they wanted you to “feel” something? Or maybe the artist created the work and their own emotions seeped into the imagery.

If you Google images of Vincent van Gogh’s artwork, you might see that his art clearly emotes feelings. Happy flowers. Moody landscapes. Emotionally rich portraiture. Was he intending to capture these moods or did the paint just reflect where his head was?

If you’re a creative person, do you ever create work that expresses emotion? Was it intentional?

I remember where my head was when I made this quilt, but I would love to know what you see/feel when you look at it? Is it a sad or happy quilt? Or do you think it expresses other emotions? Remember, there are no right or wrong answer when viewing art.

 

Charitable giving

Serging for a good cause

As I posted last week, the world can sometimes feel crazy and off-balance. There’s a certain level of anxiety in our world. I feel it and hear my friends share similar emotions. So many things are out of our control, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us. If you’re affected, what can you do to put yourself back on track?

One thing I like doing is paying it forward. I think it always feels good to help someone else. I try to smile at people I meet and I like sending notes or gifts to people unexpectedly. I like sending surprises!

I also like putting my crafting skills to good use. Over the past couple weeks, it made me feel better to knit hats for Warm Up America. I felt better partly because I was knitting, which to me is a form of meditation. But, it also made me feel better because I was helping someone I would never know.

This week I finished making two scrappy quilts that I will donate to my guild. Many quilt guilds collect quilts to distribute to nursing or youth homes in the local area. And Yesterday, I stopped at a local Days For Girls sew day and serged components for their reusable feminine hygiene kits that will be distributed to impoverished woman around the world.

There are so many opportunities for us to share are talents and help others. It just feels good to help, even if we’re only helping in a small way. I don’t want the recognition for it, I just want to know that I’m doing something to make a situation better. Do you participate in charitable crafting (craftivism)? Share your story!

Peace and balance

It’s embarrassing to admit, but I’ve been away for awhile. The end of 2019 hit me hard and it was a slow start into 2020. I simply lost focus. I can’t really explain it, but there was a strange energy within my soul … a certain level of anxiety that didn’t have reason. It felt like a mild electrical current buzzing around me.

Looking back on the past few weeks, I realized there were a great number of things that put me off balance including some minor health issues. It was difficult for me to transition into a new decade. And, my attitude was also greatly affected by the world news (my heart breaks for Australia!!) and maybe the full moon(?). If you haven’t realized it, I’m big on self-evaluation.

So where am I going in the roaring 20s? As I wrote in my last blog post, I have ideas, plans and actively pursing new opportunities. No matter how hard it was to focus the last several weeks, I realized that it was OK. The more you push yourself when you’re feeling off-kilter, the harder it is to work through it. It’s important at times like this to focus on what you have accomplished, not on what you haven’t.

When you’re feeling off-balance it is important to ask yourself “what is important to me?”

  • Does it really matter if I vacuumed the rug?
  • Can I move a deadline farther out to give myself more time?
  • Can I say no I can’t (won’t) do that?

It’s in your power. We all have obligations that are requirements in life, like raising kids, assisting an aging family member, paying bills, etc. But in this technology driven world, there are so many things we can say … “no, not today.” That’s what happened with this blog. I will not be struck by lightening if I fail to write a new post! It was self-love to say to myself … it’s OK to let it go.

So as I start the new year (new decade) I ask if you’re giving yourself love? What can you do to give yourself peace and balance?

 

Looking forward to the journey

Unlike most of the world, things kind of slow down for me this time of year. I’m able to spend more time catching up on projects. Since the sun goes down pretty early these days, there’s a lot of darkness that makes me want to stay home. I try to get out a little during the day, but I’m home early and working with projects that have been waiting for my attention. I feel productive.

It is also a time that I contemplate on what’s next. Two weeks from today, not only do we have a new year ahead, but a new decade. Wow! A great time to think about what I want to accomplish. I’ve been doing some behind the scenes planning and stepping back to my technical roots (I use to design websites). I forgot home much fun it can be to learn new software that provides a creative outlet.

If you’ve been following me, you may know about some of what I’m planning. But, there’s another component that I’ve been holding close until it’s ready. I’m pretty excited about this next phase of my life. I’m not giving up on my artwork, but just reaching for another outlet that will enhance things.

While I’m learning new software and catching up on some things, I feel like I’m looking at a sunrise along the beach. There’s a new decade ahead and I’m looking forward to the journey.

Cutting it up

Have you ever made something you didn’t like?

A number of years ago, I made two artquilts that had a giant yellow sunflower appliqued to the center of a square painted quilt background. At first I thought what I made was a good idea, but it was a bit large (about 32″ square). What do you do with it? I pondered it a while. Tried showing it a few places and then realized I was over it.

But what do you do if you’re “over” something? I pondered that for awhile. Every once in awhile, I’d find it with the other quilts. I’d look at it, think about what I could do with it. Undecided, I would just put it away again. Eventually, I gathered them up, along with some other pieces I was over with, and stashed them in a pillowcase marked “Donate or Cut Up.” There they sat for a couple more years…until last week.

In a class I’m taking, we were challenged to revisit something we’ve made and do something new with it. Re-purposing the sunflower quilts came to mind. What I liked most about these pieces were the wool flower centers with the beading and 3-dimensional effect. What I didn’t like was their overall size and the fact the flowers were set dead center on the piece. I found nothing interesting about the design.

Last week I decided to cut up the large sunflower into smaller pieces. I donate to a charity auction that want 6″ x 8″ and 12″ x 12″ submissions. I could easily cut these large quilts to fit those parameters, and there would be plenty of leftovers to cut the rest into 4″ x 6″ postcard-sized pieces. I think this was a win. From two no longer loved pieces, I was able to make about 18 useful items. Cutting up your art is a pretty bold thing to do, but if you’re no longer happy with it what do you do with it? Why hang on to it? Why not re-purpose it into something else, even if that means cutting it up?

Creative inspiration

“Goldfinch in My Garden” by Nanette S. Zeller – NanetteSewZ.com

November was a busy month for me.  Unlike most people, my life kind of scales back in December. Time to catch up on things and find “free” creative time. I’m looking forward to enjoying some down time. It’s also that time of year when I reflect on my journey and plan for the next year.

This year was definitely full of travel for me. I feel so fortunate to have had so many new experiences this year. My life has been enriched by these journeys. I realize that being here, where I live, doesn’t creatively inspire me as much as I’d like. When I travel somewhere new, I gain new perspective.

I try to capture beauty whenever I can on my camera, then use it for creating new artwork. I’ve committed to participating in an exhibit in 2021 and really need to make some new work. My traveling and resulting images definitely have given me lots of ideas.

Here’s an example: In late September, I visited my aunt in Northern California. She always was a gardener. When she down-sized a few years ago, she made sure she had a space to grow things. While I was there, I took photos of the plants and birds that visited her small patio. When I returned home, I knew some of my images would be rendered into new artwork. In my latest art piece (just finished last week), I capture a goldfinch swinging on a stem while it ate the flower’s seeds. The position of the bird’s head seems contemplative. (Note: I’ve submitted “Goldfinch in My Garden” to a call for entry. Fingers crossed it gets accepted into the exhibit.)

While I think of the process for inspiration, I realize I get stuck in my head and need to walk away sometimes. It’s not that there’s no beauty where I live, it’s just the same beauty I see every day. Ordinary. Walking away and seeing something new is an opportunity to look at things differently and be inspired. What do you do to find creative inspiration?

 

If you weren’t afraid

Over the last 2 weeks, I had the opportunity to give several presentations to quilters who live in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. I received warm and gracious receptions from these creative people. It’s a rewarding feeling to know your message connected with the audience. It reminded me I’m on the right track.

I’ve been working in this profession for a fairly long time. It was 17 years ago that I started teaching sewing. When I started, I mostly focused on basic skills, but I always wanted to teach art. I can say I’m finally there. Art has always been a powerful and consistent part of my life. I explored and created. I made some things I felt were noteworthy and other things that I felt needed to be destroyed. I consistently embraced the ugly and, even with some set backs, I didn’t give up. I kept trying.

In some ways, I’m looking back at how far I’ve come. In other ways, I’m looking forward to what’s next. No matter how old you are, there’s always room for improvement and growth. We don’t have to change, but if we want something bad enough the opportunity is there. In my life, there are many things that are inspiring me to continue. There are new ideas and techniques I want to explore and a serious amount of ideas in my brain waiting to be generated into cloth.

In the words of Henri Matisse, “creativity takes courage!” That’s what this all comes down to for me. When I am feeling my lowest, I muster up as much courage and drive forward. We all have those days, weeks, months… or maybe even years … of feeling discouraged. Just know it’s OK to take time for yourself. If you want it bad enough, don’t give up. As Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg asks, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”