Category: Art quilts

Have fun!

I feel comfort knowing that life is slowly creeping back to normal. The world seems to be running more like an out of tune sports car versus an old “hit ‘n miss” tractor.” We all have been affected by this past year and life will never again be like 2019. We’ve all adapted to changes. I’m kind of liking this mask idea, because I haven’t gotten sick (knock on wood) in over a year. And, I’m also embracing the Zoom technology. Yesterday, I held my very first live Zoom class.

I’m a bit of a technical geek. In 1990’s and early 2000’s, I use to design e-commerce websites. That was a time when most people didn’t have a “personal computer” (PC) or know what the Internet was. Even with this techie background, I wasn’t ready to embrace Zoom. I spend enough time in front of the computer and I wanted to find ways to get away from it. Zoom wasn’t for me. As the shut-down continued to stop my livelihood, I knew I had to think out of my box.

I took my first Zoom class presented by my friend Jodi Ohl. She is a mixed-media painter. I love her sense of artistic whimsy, so I signed up for her class. What I discovered was live Zoom art classes can be a lot of fun. You’re not sitting there watching a boring lecture, you’re actually working along with the instructor. You’re in your own comfortable creative space and everything is within reach, including the snacks or fresh pour of coffee. Need a different color thread? … just go get one. Forgot your machine pedal? … go grab it from the other room. And bonus!! … everyone participating has front rows seats. No more, standing behind tall people during demonstrations. (YES!!) You can work along or sit and watch…You can be you!!

Yesterday, my students praised these aspects of Zoom classes and I got to see what it was like to be on the other side. When I would teach in-person, I would grab my little “kit” of supplies and go teach. I learned that my kit needed a lot more supplies. Before class, I had to produce videos that show my sewing techniques (which eliminates many uncontrollable levels of chaos sewing live). I needed more step-out examples to demonstrate my processes and I needed to plan ahead to get class handouts to the students. And I had to get comfortable with all the new equipment, lighting, computers, cameras and software.

I was apprehensive at first, but I realized I liked the process. During class, I forgot I was in my room alone. We chatted and shared stories. They worked on their projects and I anxiously waited to see their progress (unlike in-person classes you can’t see what someone is doing on their sewing machine). BTW, everyone did great!

My follow-up verdict is I’m going to continue doing this. And, if you find you’re missing taking classes, check with your favorite artists and see if they’re teaching online; enroll if it fits. I bet you’ll have fun!

 

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Bee-done

We all have those days that we’re hard on ourselves. I’m trying to stay focused on what I need to do, yet be mindful that my expectations for getting things done may not always work as planned. Admittedly, I sometimes overthink things. And, although I may be recovering, there’s still that perfectionist inside of me critiquing the process. It’s a constant juggle of doing things well and letting go of when they don’t.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

I finally found a visual of my feelings most days; the one-man band. As a kid, I remember seeing a guy like the one pictured. I found him fascinating and fun. A traveling musician that is responsible for playing all the instruments of his mini-orchestra. I have such fond memories of watching him play.

Yep…that’s what I’m doing. I’m responsible for all the parts of my tiny enterprise and I’m trying to have fun. Eventually, all the little bits and pieces I’ve been working on fall into place and I get to acknowledge progress and bee-done.

 

Bee-kind to yourself

As I posted last week, I resolved my hexagon challenges on this new art quilt. With the edition of my latest design element, I hope it is obvious where I’m going with this. The little buddy needs some wings and the background (honeycomb) needs quilting. I’m almost there.

I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. I’m juggling many things “behind the scenes.” Unfortunately, they are things that aren’t really tangible items. I’m doing a lot of computer work, scheduling classes and prep work for the June exhibit. This upcoming week, I’ll be sharing some news that is a major new direction for me. I’ve been producing pre-recorded, on-demand classes. Now I’m ready to take the next step and do some live instruction on-line. More soon…

The thing is, I realize I’m still in this covid-funk. As much as I try to accept the current normal, the things I use to do aren’t the same. I have no desire to teach machine sewing classes in-person right now. It’s not that I don’t want to teach in-person … I am teaching locally, just not machine sewing. Moving forward with live Zoom-based classes will help me work through my mental process of changing focus. I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads.

Creative professionals are a silent statistic in this pandemic economy. Musicians, artists, and actors alike are grappling with their forward momentum. The gigs aren’t there and it’s uncertain when they will be. To stay viable, we have to find innovative ways to share and sell our art. The current “normal” is giving all of us a pause to self-reflect and possibly change direction. The momentum can sometimes feel slow, but there’s always that light inside that reminds us everything is going to be alright. Just remember “Bee-Kind” to yourself.

Stuck when creating

As I mentioned last week, I don’t work with a real “plan.” Maybe that’s good, maybe not. I have a vision or idea, and start working with stops and starts along the way. The following description is an insight to my creative process.

Over the past week, I attached the hexis to my background fabric and created an applique element that will go on top (you’ll see that next week). When I auditioned the applique on the hexis, it looked flat. There was no pop or interest and the applique didn’t stand out.

So, I auditioned some fabrics that I could lay in the center of the hexagons to give it a dimensional appearance. I found a loosely woven material in my stash, laid it on top of the design and stitched around each hexi shape. Then, I cut away the excess material. Tedious.

While I was stitching I noticed the there was a little pocket between the two layers of fabrics. I didn’t like that. I thought, I “should have!!” put Mystifuse on the back of the woven fabric. Then after stitching, I could iron it to adhere it in place. The problem … I didn’t use Mystifuse. Grumbling to myself, I kept on going.

As I continued to work, I thought about … “matte mediums.” I think of mediums as akin to Mod Podge but of higher quality. Mediums are acrylic liquids that can be used by artists to adhere collage material or used to thin acrylic paints. The word matte means there’s no sheen. If you wanted a shine, you would use a gloss medium.

Once the woven cloth was stitched in place and the excess removed, I then “painted” it with matte medium. This not only adheres the 2 layers of cloth, but also stops the woven cloth from unraveling. I succeeded with my vision and I’m ready for the next steps.

Although some people map out their plan, I like the challenge of not knowing. The vision drives me. Most of the time I can work around the obstacles. Usually what saves me is my arsenal of ideas. Mediums are not something quilters usually keep on hand, but other artists do. Because I have exposed myself to many different art techniques, my “toolbox of ideas” is full. And, my stash of supplies is diverse. Classes are a great way to learn new things.

I encourage you to take classes and experiment. Don’t be disheartened if you take a class and find you’re not good at it. You will likely always learn something new when you take a class. Understanding what you like and don’t like is part of the learning process. The more you learn, the more options you have. The bigger the tool box, the less likely you’ll ever truly feel stuck when creating.

What happens next

From teaching people how to make things, to creating my own designs to sell, I am one of those lucky people who’s work is art. It’s a constant juggle to find studio time to create. Having external deadlines does help get me in the studio. (How do you prioritize time for making your art?)

I’m trying to get better at setting priorities and time for different tasks. I have a bunch of videos ready to be turned into YouTube clips. My on-demand “Photo to Applique” class is waiting for my attention and I need to be working on a few final pieces for an exhibit I’m participating in this June. Time management will definitely be priority these next few months.

Today I’m working on an art piece that will consist of many hexagons. There are several ways to make a hexagon. Templates are an easy way to cut them, but what if you don’t have the right size template?  This video shows how to cut one using a straight quilters ruler (YouTube is awesome!). So you can quickly and easily cut any size hexi that you want. I cut a bunch of them last night.

(Can you tell I don’t work with a real plan?  —  The idea drives me and I figure out the process as I go along. )

Then I had to decide how to attach them to my base fabric. I thought of several different approaches … I decided to sew 2 hexi’s together; cut a slit in one; then, turn it right side out. This is going to give them a bit more dimension (relief) than a single layer of fabric. I’ll sew these, slightly puffy, shapes onto the background fabric to create my design and then proceed from there. I like where this is going, but let’s see what happens next.

Rest in Peace

My life is starting to normalize into this new groundhog day style of normalcy. In December things were in upheaval and in January it slowly started to return to it’s daily drumbeat routine. I am actually catching up on things.

Yesterday I mailed this 23″ x 26″ (finished size 20″ x 24″) block to Social Justice Sewing Academy’s (SJSA) Remembrance Project. Rashiya Melton was an 18 year old woman who was killed at a Halloween party on Oct 28, 2018 in Cedar Grove, NC. She was with her twin sister, doing what young people do: have fun. An innocent victim of gun fire.

The morning after the shooting, I remember hearing the story in the local news. I volunteered to make a Remembrance block and I was honored when SJSA asked me to memorialize Rashiya. They warned me going into this that it may be emotional. All I had was a name, it was up to me to find out the details.

I found very little information about Rashiya, just a few pictures of a beautiful young woman and a couple news articles. Her twin (who also was dealing with the death of a younger brother 6 months earlier) expressed her deep loss and said, “she was the funniest person I knew.” All I thought was I had to do this well!

This style of tonal applique is pretty common these days in textile portraits. The photo I had was very grainy and I struggled trying to make it work. In December I came close to finishing the portrait. When I was nearly done, I said “no way!” There were details that I thought didn’t show her beauty and the fabric colors weren’t working. I mean “really” weren’t working. I have never tried anything like this before and I needed to take a break. There was too much going on and having me rush to finish this wasn’t going to give Rashiya the respect she deserved.

About a week later, I received an email from the Pixeladies. Their newsletters frequently include tips and tricks for using Photoshop Elements. This particular edition included directions on how to render a photo into comic strip style illustration. I was inspired to try their method with Rashiya’s photo and I was able to create a pattern that was more user-friendly than my first attempt. It also proved to make a more elegant portrait of Rashiya.

Lately my blog posts have been about learning by experimenting. That’s true in this block, but it’s also is true how important perseverance is. I shredded my first attempt and am ever so grateful SJSA gave me time to recover. I could have given up, but I didn’t. I’ve learned. I’ve grown. And I hope my efforts honor Rashiya and her family. My heart is full, may she rest in peace.

As a new person

The last few days, I’ve been digging through my digital photos and I’m flooded with ideas. I love birds and I’m not in any short supply of inspiration. I can easily set up my camera and take pictures of my backyard (yes…every spring, the red-headed woodpeckers visit my feeders).

Where do you find inspiration? I think it’s important to look around you. I take a lot of pictures that inspire me. Looking back, I’m not always sure why I took a photo, but I knew the scene held my interest for awhile and I had to capture it.

Digging through my photos was a reflective practice. I was able to see where I’ve been and who I am now. What interested me 10 years ago is not the same as what interests me now. There are definitely common threads that have carried along through the years (e.g., birds). However, I noticed that there’s a certain level of refinement that has occurred.

We change with each new thing we learn and experience. These changes may be subtle, but over time the cumulative effects can be significant. Your source of inspiration is very likely to be changing over-time too.

It’s important to reflect on these changes, because they say something about what you like to do. If you’re doing something because you’ve always done it, that doesn’t mean that you enjoy doing it. It’s important to reflect on the balance between what you love to do and what you’re good at. I like to think with each new revolution around the sun, we are traveling as a new person.

 

Be kind to you!

Tenacity…is my word for today. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the determination to continue what you are doing.” With just a few more weeks left, I think most of us could use this word to describe how we got through this year.

Over the last 8 months, I’ve had many conversations with creative friends about how we are surviving these times. Tenacious describes each of us. Sometimes it is as basic as the having motivation to get out of bed. Other times it is having the chutzpah to change direction, move out of our comfort level or learn new skills.

I can honestly say, I have many levels of motivation this year. I find the solution is self-care. It is OK to have a bad day, week or month. You’re not alone, we all have them. The tenacity comes from recognizing how you feel and, at your own pace, continue to move toward a goal.

What do you want? How do you get there? Even simple tasks can be broken down into manageable pieces and accomplished in steps to challenge yourself to move forward. Keep in mind, if it doesn’t go as planned, just start over again tomorrow. It’s OK if you move slow, you’re still moving. And, remember along the way to always be kind to you!

 

 

Want to learn more about me? Check out my latest YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/YK8XDXuBwQk

Godspeed

“Contemplation (Lesser Goldfinch)” – 2020 by Nanette S. Zeller

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you may remember my quilt “Goldfinch in My Garden” that I sent to Sacred Threads Backyard Escapes exhibit last year. The call for entry asked for an 18″x 24″ art quilt that, once accepted, would be used to display in hospital galleries. The “Goldfinch” was accepted and slated to travel to International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, Ca. this spring… well, it was … until Covid-19 forced a shutdown of all major quilt exhibits. This was (as we all have experienced this year) a disappointment for me … Until …

About two months ago, Lisa Ellis (Sacred Threads curator) contacted me and 12 other artists from Backyard Escapes. She asked if we could re-create a similar piece for a permanent installation in the newly renovated INOVA Schar Cancer Institute – Fair Oaks (in Fairfax, VA), Radiation Oncology department.

OF COURSE!!! What an honor!

I frequently make line-drawing patterns of my designs to use for my fusible applique work. So, I had a pattern for this quilt. The challenge was the dimensions. Instead of being rectangular, the new quilt needed to be larger and square (30″ x 30″). I definitely had to make a few modifications…see the original version here

Luckily!!! I still had one yard of the gorgeous background fabric. And after an intensive Internet search, I was able to score one more yard as backup. I love this fabric! If you know fabric, you know designer quilting fabrics are usually produced for one year and then retired…forever. Fortunately, I was able to make the new quilt without needing to use my coveted backup yard (note: I’m now hoarding it until another worthy project develops).

Last week I sent it on it’s way to it’s new forever home. It makes me emotional to think about where it is going. My family has been deeply affected by cancer. I think of each of them when I think of this quilt. I hope “Contemplation”, along with the 12 other quilts, provides comfort to the patients and families as they travel their journey of healing. Godspeed…

 

What brings you joy

The past couple weeks I have been working on a commission art quilt. I’m re-making my “Goldfinch in My Garden” quilt from the Sacred Threads Backyard Escape exhibit. It’s not going to be exactly the same, but very similar. This new version will be part of a permanent collection at INOVA Schar Cancer Institute – Fair Oaks in Fairfax, VA.

It’s kind of fun re-visiting something I made before. The best part is I KNOW how it’s suppose to go together. Usually when I make something new, the entire process is play it by ear. I envision how something will work, but I’m not that sure that it will. This time around the construction was much easier.

The size of this quilt is different. I knew I was going to make the same goldfinch, but it needed to be larger. The new quilt is square versus the rectangular version I made last time.  The process of making the applique bird is the same. I documented it on a new YouTube video that you can watch here. I’m having fun making these videos, so expect to see more soon.

I’m also working with the Global Quilt Connection (GQC) again. So many of us want to take classes and with this pandemic our opportunities are limited. So GQC is partnering with teachers who offer online classes for individual enrollment. After I finish this commission piece, I will be back to work on building new classes. My plan for early next year is to offer some live Zoom classes you can sign up for where we can create together. GQC is offering teachers, like me, the opportunity to show what we offer in classes. There are some great teachers lined up to present. So if you’re craving some new ideas on things to do from home be sure to check out the presentations at http://globalquiltconnection.com/studentmainpage.html. I will be presenting on November 17th.

I hope you are staying inspired and finding time for your creative passions. Above all things…find time for what brings you joy!