Category: Art quilts

We travel through life

I’ve been busy the last week working the final touches of my new online class “Paint with Thread.” I will be opening enrollment in the next couple days. So, if you want to be the first to know … make sure you’re subscribed to my NewZ-letter.

Thread painting is one of my favorite things to do. It’s actually one of the things that got me started doing mixed-media textile art. I’ve always loved working with textiles and started making traditional quilts in the 2001. I was quickly hooked and started devouring it. I was making log cabin and nine-patch blocks like crazy! I got so inspired with quilting that I got a job technical editing quilting books.

The first book I edited was Joyce Becker’s “Beautifully Embellished Landscapes.” Editing that book opened my eyes to something besides sewing squares and strips together. I was really amazed with her techniques and chuckled at how she used dryer lint … a brilliant way to create snowy mountain tops!

After many years of being exposed to textile artists like Joyce, Susan Brubaker-Knapp, and Jane Davila, I caught the mixed media bug. And soon, I tried my hand at thread painting and liked it!!

In 2010, I decided to use the technique to create a portrait of my recently deceased dog, Storm. His portrait eventually made its way to fame by becoming Mr. September for Quilting Arts 2012 calendar [sadly this was the last year QA published the calendar]. Up until then, I had only played around with mixed-media textiles. I’m pretty sure “The Perfect Storm” was my first art quilt. Isn’t it kind of crazy how we travel through life?

 

 

 

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.

Rhythms in your life

Lately, I’ve been thinking about rhythms and patterns in creating things. I think of them as a metronome that forms a beat to follow. Maybe the beat is for a specific task, like hand sewing hundreds of hexagons to create a quilt top or assembly-line sewing 50 face masks. As the process develops, you start out clunky, but then (hopefully) you develop a beat that runs through your head. First this, then this, then this…repeat. One, two, three…repeat. (Note: Knitting and crochet is also this way and is frequently written in “secret” code: *K2, P1, Sl1,* repeat.)

Rhythms also develop in our daily lives. Wake up, let the dogs out, grab your caffeine…repeat (the next day). When you get a new pet, new job, or start a new project, the daily routine shifts and the beat gets clunky. With luck, the rhythm forms quickly and you find your beat.

For most of my life, I’ve been aware of rhythms. As I write this, I’m hearing (and feeling) the 1, 2, 3 count and I’m finding comfort in the pattern. A rhythm can be like a good song that plays in your head as you go through the day.

This week I realized that I’ve felt out of sorts lately because the rhythm keeps changing. This year has been crazy for this. I’m seeking a beat, but the world around me keeps changing. On the days that I find my cadence, I feel more calm and accomplished. Lately, there have been many days where there isn’t anything to count. This is were rituals (or habits) come into play. You find something that’s repeatable on a daily basis. It’s important to find things you can repeat, because it puts order into your day: “I’ll do this, then I’ll do this and then I’ll do this…repeat.” I’m going to  focus some thought on this. Unfortunately, I’ve just never been that successful with forming daily habitual behaviors. Some of the one’s I’ve had (like going to the gym daily) have been broken due to the pandemic. There’s always room to change. We’ll see how it goes, right? Do you see any rhythms in your life?

Keep practicing

Before and after – color pencil on fabric applique

I recently listened to graphic designer Adé Hogue on the Creative Pep Talk podcast. Adé, who’s also an athlete, compared art to being an athlete. No one ever tries a sport for the first time and expects to be good at it right away. For example, if you started running today, you probably wouldn’t get too far and you’d very likely be sore as your muscles recovered from the new workout. For that reason, you probably shouldn’t expect to run (and win) a marathon tomorrow.

This very thing is true for art. It’s not like you will pick up a guitar today and expect be a virtuoso tomorrow. It takes training and lots of practice. Also, when we step away from our craft for awhile we need to ramp up on the training to bring ourselves back to speed.

I can relate to this comparison, because, as an artist and a teacher, I find we sometimes want to be exceptionally skilled as beginners. We also expect our skills to remain high after taking a break from our creative habits.

I know I feel that way right now. I’m learning some new technology and I’m slowly plugging away, learning every step of the way. I’ve also taken a break from my art and find it a bit challenging to feel comfortable with my tools. It’s OK. It just means we have to keep practicing.

What are you passionate about?

The gyms in my town have been closed because of Covid-19. So I set up a makeshift place in my house to work out. It’s a little nook in a hallway at the top of my stairs, just outside my studio door (a spare bedroom). Just some free weights, a yoga mat, a TRX strap and … my design wall.

For the past three months, I’ve been working out in this space with my fabric birds on the wall. When I made my “Backyard Songbird Series I” quilts a couple years back, I made 2 sets of each bird applique. The little critters on the wall are the flock that didn’t get used. Looking at them almost everyday has had me thinking about what to do with them. (Ok…actually its not really that I’m thinking about them, they seem to be looking at me and nagging.) There needs to be a “Songbird Series II.”

While I’ve been in lock down, I also took advantage of the great spring we had (note: right now it’s hotter than heck and oppressively humid, but the spring was good). My bird feeder set up attracts some really interesting species. The red-headed woodpecker (RHWO) is a regular guest at Château de Nanette. I’ve been trying to photograph the birds who visit and use the images for the second series. (You can see on the design wall that I did create an RHWO for the first series.) Maybe I need to do something a little more complex this time.

Anyway, my bird feeders are an escape for me. They are positioned so you can see them from any window on the north side of my house. And see them I do! You can frequently find me gazing out a window and looking at who’s visiting. It’s a passion and it translates into my art.

To me this is what finding your voice means, to find an idea or technique that you’re passionate about. Your work doesn’t have to mean anything or speak for you, but it resonates energy. Have you ever thought about artistic voice? Do you have one? If not, do you want to have one? What are you passionate about?

 

 

It takes time to learn

The last couple of weeks I’ve felt more motivation. Maybe it’s the weather. In NC, we’ve had fewer rainy days and relatively cooler weather for spring. In over 30 years living here, I think this is the nicest spring I’ve ever seen. I can open the windows and hear the birds sing.

Unfortunately I haven’t really enjoyed the weather as much as I’d like, because my motivation has mostly been focused on computer work. If you’ve looked at my website lately (nanettesewz.com), you may have seen that I added some new things, including a new about me page.

It also always bothered me how I set up hearing from me. If you wanted to subscribe to my weekly blog posts, you had to use a different sign up form than the one for my monthly NewZ-letter. Last week, I finally figured out how to combine the two. Let’s just say sometimes we procrastinate because we know the job is going to be a big project. This was true for this. It took me a couple days, but it’s there and seems to be working.

Last week, I also started editing the video for my first online class. Some of you who’ve known me awhile may be thinking, “she’s been talking about this for a long while.” Yes, another project I felt major procrastination. There’s a huge learning curve to this. In every step of the process, I have to research, learn, then implement. On Monday, I was so proud that after 4 hours of working, I completed the 20-second opening video. Yippee! I knew going into this that it would take time to learn. Until I become proficient with the tools, I can’t expect fast-paced progress. But!! ah ha! — Once I build one, the next one will be easier. I need to build a foundation to be more proficient and quicker.

Of course, I’m not happy about the situation we’re all in, but with fewer distractions I can focus on these technical projects. That’s a good thing. Sometimes I think we procrastinate because we’re just not ready for the effort it will take. I’m sure that’s how I’ve felt. What is “priority” on any given day? The answer can be a challenge to decide.

When learning new things, we want to be immediately good at them and wonder why it takes so long. We might even give up, because it takes too much effort. I’m sure you’ve even felt envy toward a person who’s “so talented” in what you’re trying to learn. Just remember, everyone was a beginner. Yes, there are those rare individuals who immediately display expert quality results after learning a new skill. Most of us aren’t so lucky. It takes time, effort and determination. If you really want to do something new, be patient with yourself. It takes time to learn.

 

 

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Knows she is loved

It’s spring in the Carolinas! The weather here has been very cooperative. Comfortably cool days mixed with sunshine and just enough rain. Trees are green and the flower colors are intense.

I’ve been doing a lot of computer work lately, it’s so nice to have the windows open and hear nature outside while I’m working. It’s important during these times to get some fresh air and take in the natural beauty around us. I find when I spend too many days, as my mom would say, “cooped up” I start losing momentum. Are you finding time for creativity and fresh air?

Speaking of mom, there’s another sign of spring…  In a little more than a week it will be Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10, 2020). Maybe you have time to make something for your special lady. If not, I want to suggest that now is a great time to support artists, art businesses, local businesses. Here are some gift-giving ideas for you:

Buy Gift Certificates:
Across the country most small arts and craft businesses are closed. Many have online shops and a good majority sell gift certificates. Purchasing a gift certificate helps the independent business stay afloat and offers your gift recipient something to look forward to when things open back up. Maybe use the certificate to take a class together. Not only will you help the shop, but you’ll also help the instructor, learn a new skill, and create a special memory with your special lady.

One of my favorite local shops is ARTworks Vass. If you live in NC, it’s a fun place to visit to buy art and take classes.

Purchase Direct:
Maybe you can’t visit your mom because she lives far away or is stuck at home. Check to see if her favorite artist or local art/craft shop who sells online. There are many places to look for art and supplies. If mom is a creative, you could surprise her with new supplies from a local craft shop. Or visit her favorite artist’s website to see if they sell online. Places like Etsy and Red Bubble are great places to find art or supplies while supporting small businesses. This week I even added a few new things to my Etsy Store – NanetteSewz . Check it out, there might be something appropriate for your lovely mum (if you purchase from me, I’ll even include a hand-made gift card).

It’s time like these where we all can use a little lift in our spirits. Artist or small business they truly appreciate your support right now because their livelihood is affected by the pandemic shut down. But even more so, imagine the joy you’ll give your mom when she opens your gift and knows she is loved.

Heading to California

With all the craziness the past month, I realized I never shared some good news. My quilt “Goldfinch in my Garden” was selected to be part of the Sacred Threads “Backyard Escape” exhibit. Yay! I was also notified that it was selected to travel to International Quilt Festival (IQF) in Long Beach, California this summer. Double Yay!! I was told that if the quilt sells while it was traveling that 25% of the sale price would be given to the Shriners Hospital Children’s Burn Unit. Triple Yay! So wonderful to hear all of this!!

Why did I forget to tell you? Well the world has been crazy. Every day seems like a different “thing” to consider moving forward. Sometimes even just getting through the day is full of different ways of doing things. It’s an odd place to be to be an artist. While I’m excited to have this opportunity with IQF, in the back of my mind I wonder if it will really happen. So many exhibits are being cancelled because of the Corona virus. Some venues are using images of the exhibit to make virtual tours. It’s not the same as walking through a gallery or other exhibit, but at least the art is being seen. Even though I’m elated about this opportunity, I’m cautiously waiting to hear the decision of the organizers. And, everyone is waiting to hear what happens with this virus. Until I know better, no news is good news and the goldfinch is heading to California.

Goldfinch in my Garden” by Nanette S. Zeller
International Quilt Festival
July 9-11, 2020
Long Beach, California

for more information visit:
http://quilts.com/quilt-festival-long-beach.html

see the gallery of quilts heading to Long Beach
http://www.sacredthreadsquilts.com/html/backyardLongBeachGallery.html

Gonna be alright

Hard to believe that a month ago, I was hanging my artwork in a local gallery. I’ve been with this gallery for over a year. Last month they moved to a much bigger location where there’s more foot traffic in the center of the tourist heavy town of Pinehurst, NC.

When they officially re-opened at the new location, several pieces of my art quickly sold. Things looked ever so promising at One of a Kind Gallery. They did their best to stay open the next couple weeks, but it became very obvious with the Covid-19 pandemic that it was necessary to shut down….temporarily.

At the same time, I was extremely excited about my new teaching opportunity with ARTworks Vass in Vass, NC. My first class was scheduled for this coming Saturday. The classes have been re-scheduled for May 4th, but that’s all contingent on things out of our control. Everything seems to be in flux.

The good news is I’m starting to accept the new normal. I’m getting tired of sitting around and have started making progress on some personal goals. Although I normally work from home, this is somehow different? I cannot explain, but it is. I think we all are having some level of sadness, maybe even fear. Possibly you’re experiencing some boredom, maybe some challenges spending so much time at home, or feeling the stress of 24/7 captivity with your family unit.

When my dad was alive, I remember one time I called him worried about some issue happening in my life. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but anyway, he stopped me and said, “Nanette, everything will be OK. Everything has always worked out OK for you.” It’s times like this, that I remember that conversation. He was right then and to this day I can look back and see that it remains true. But, I also see that it’s true for all of us. It’s not that we don’t have bad days…I’ve had my share. But, we always seem to get past it and can look back to see that we made it through that dark time and came out ok. My point is we will get through this. It’s Ok to feel all the feelings you’re having, but it’s also important to find opportunities of joy. Look for things that are good about it. If you’re like me, before this happened I was stressing that I didn’t have enough time. I’m looking at this situation as an extra time is a gift. And, if you start feeling a little overwhelmed, close your eyes for a moment, think of being on a sunny beach, with a warm breeze. Then, think of Bob Marley and sing along with me “Don’t worry…’bout a thing….’cuz every little thing is gonna be alright.”

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?