Category: Being an Artist

Who you are

And now the journey continues as I start preparing for the new year. So many great things on my agenda for early 2019. I feel very fortunate.

Before I get to 2019 (just a few weeks away), I’m working on obligations that need to be completed in 2018. Busy. Staying focused. In the past it was easy for me to jump from one thing to another, but I always felt like I was behind. I’ve decided that the new mission needs to be focusing on completing a task and then moving on to the next.

I did this with success this year as I put focus on the solo show. It has given me a body of work that I’m proud of. Without committing to this, I would never have gotten here. So this week, the plan is to finish another task. I have several proposals/submissions that I need to completed. One at a time they will get done. This is the best way for me to move forward. If two tasks can be combined into one, than that’s an extra bonus.

I am constantly reminded to be true to who I am; to include my values, goals and limits. Each life experience teaches me to listen to myself and learn. Are you listening to your inner voice?  Do you really know who you are?

Full of adventure

“Looking for Muir” © 2018
36.5″ x 51.5″
by Nanette S. Zeller

It was a long journey to get here, but now I can say I succeeded. My first solo exhibit is history. I can look at it all in retrospect. I’m thinking about the overwhelming amount I learned about myself, about creating and exhibiting art, and about the business of being an artist. It’s a lot of information I didn’t know starting out.  I feel  confident about moving forward, but there’s also a crazy amount of stuff I want to know.

With 2018 almost over and 2019 fast approaching, I’m feeling reflective. I know that I am fortunate and I try to be grateful for all the opportunities I have. My life started in January, so maybe that’s why I get so sentimental during this time of year. Each year is an opportunity to honor what I’ve done and look forward to what’s coming.

I have a laundry list of things I need to accomplish before the new year. There are some interesting opportunities opening up for me. There are things that I dreamed about and things that I’ve worked hard for. I’m looking forward to sharing all the details along the way. I slowly stepped off the exhibit train I’ve been riding and now I’m jumping onto the next boxcar full of adventure!

Conquer the world

Last Friday night was the artist reception for my exhibit “As Nature Speaks” at Page-Walker Arts & History Center in Cary, NC. Weather didn’t cooperate,  but I did enjoy seeing everyone who braved the storm. Page-Walker sparkles in the evening light. My artwork took on an entirely different feel with the spot lights directed in “just the right place.”

The 2 weeks before the reception, I was busy baking nature-themed goodies to share with the guest. I haven’t baked cookies in awhile. It was fun finding recipes that would be appropriate. The goodness included honey-lavender shortbread, honey-sugar cookies cut-out in bee shapes, and pumpkin spice cut-out cookies shaped and decorated like butterflies and feathers. Gotta love the Internet for finding these things.

It was an enchanting night which included re-connecting with 2 dear friends who went to graduate school with me.  In the more than 20 years since grad-school, we all should have aged…but I’m happy to report we didn’t.  We’re still youthful friends, ready to conquer the world.

 


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC
119 Ambassador Loop, Cary, NC 27513

Call ahead to check gallery availability (919) 460-4963

What’s Next?

In a heartbeat more than a week, my exhibit “As Nature Speaks: a dialog with an art quilter” will be open to the public (details below). This 2-year journey has been a challenge, life altering, and most definitely a learning process. In my career I have produced a good number of art exhibits, but usually as the manager guiding other’s to the final reward. This is the first time I am wearing all the hats (manager, publicist, creative director, artist, etc.).  This is both good and bad.

The good is I have license to prepare every detail of this exhibit in a way that reflects me. This also leaves the bad, because there is no one to help (or blame) when things don’t go as planned. I’m in a good place with preparation. When life did get crazy, I am so very grateful to have an experienced friend to confide in. We had many conversations where solutions were easily found. Everyone should have such a good friend.

It’s been a long summer and I’m looking forward to its end. There will be a day soon, when I’ll look back and feel the triumph of successfully completing one more milestone.  I am always thankful to learn something with each new challenge I take in life. But, I’m also always looking forward to what’s next?


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop, Cary, NC 27513

Artist Gallery Talk: Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 from 10:30-11:30a
Artist Reception: Friday, Oct 26, 2018 from 6-8p

Textiles artists like me

I am proud to be an active member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates). Quilts and quilters are usually viewed as “crafters.” When you say you’re a quilter, people immediately think of an older woman they know who “used to quilt.” Usually, this person is their grandmother.

I think part of the reason I struggled with calling myself an artist for so long was because of this stigma. When I initially started exploring art quilting, I realized this was something different. The medium (fabric) is generally what “grandma” used, but the application is really different. Envelopes are often pushed.

Th perception that “textile artist = crafter” is changing because of SAQA. They are huge proponents for recognizing textile art as fine art. They advocate that quilts, and other textile works, be showcased in museums and art galleries, not just quilt shows.

I feel empowered being associated with this International organization. I’ve attended three SAQA conferences and I’m currently a Regional Representative. A huge part of my energy comes from the members. They are caring and supportive. If you need to know anything about the professional journey, they are there to answer your questions.

A major part of SAQAs funding for exhibits and advocacy comes from their annual benefit auction which starts Sept 14http://www.saqa.com/auction-quilts.php ). Members were asked to make 12″ x 12″ quilts and donate them to the auction. Each week a different set of quilts is offered and the bids are reduced daily over the course of 7 days, or until someone accepts the current bid price.

Its fun to participate. There are some amazing pieces, with some created by top names in the industry. I’m happy to be participating for the 4th time. I’m in section #2, so look for the monarch butterfly wing or any of the other fabulous quilts (available for bidding September 24 – 30). Its a great opportunity to get a fabulous piece of art while supporting an organization dedicated to supporting textiles artists like me.

 

 


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC
For more information click here: As Nature Speaks

Artist Talk: Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 – 10:30-11:30 more info
Artist Reception: Friday, October 26 – 6-8pm more info

Embrace or improve

My fabric aviary is growing. This is a simple series I’ve been working on to showcase different birds. There are thousands of bird varieties in this world, so this series can, literally, be never ending.

I’m fascinated with birds, so working on this series allows me to look closely at them and discover the details that make each species unique. So how does a red Summer Tanager look different from a red Cardinal? Its in the details.

This process of being unique can also relate to being an artist. What makes one person stand out from another? Often its skill, but sometimes its more than that. When viewing artwork by those who appear to have succeeded, we may compare ourselves to them and begin negative speak. I see it all the time, comments like “they are so much better than me” and “I’ll never be that good.”  Why do we do that? I think the mission is not to compare, but learn from observation while embracing our own uniqueness.

For example, I will never be an award winning quilt piecer; I don’t have the patience. I do, however, admire someone who has those skills. I just wont compare myself because we’re different.

In contrast, thread painting on textiles is one of my passions and I’m always trying to improve. When I see someone’s work who has excelled in these skills, I don’t look at their work and say… “I’ll never be that good.” Instead, I look closely to see their uniqueness. “What are they doing that’s different from me?” “How can I change what I”m doing to obtain that quality?” I’m not trying to copy them, I’m talking quality or sparkle. Maybe its color choice, skill level or subject matter. Looking at the details, I can discover how I’m unique and decide to either embrace or improve what I do.


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC

Backfacing quilts

I’ve had this nagging feeling for a couple years now. You know the one when something’s not right and you keep thinking about how to fix it? Sometimes I attribute this mocking thought-pattern to my sometimes perfectionistic personality (I am recovering…I promise!). I try to convince myself to get over it:  “Let it go … its Ok … no one will notice … you might ruin it if you try to fix it.” But, the voice persisted … for 2 years.

I couldn’t resist temptation any longer. I removed my quilt “soar” from storage and proceeded to remove all the fabric which bound the edges (aka facing). I couldn’t stand how it hung … all ruffly…yikes! Two years after making it, I finally realized what went wrong and had gained experience in how to block a quilt. When I originally finished the quilt, I had trimmed it cattywampass (yes, its a word!). It was time to take on the challenge to fix it.

First step … remove the facing and block the quilt. I placed it on a carpeted floor (face down) and gave it some steam with my iron (using a pressing cloth to protect the quilt). I pinned it into place so that it laid flat, then let it dry.

Second step … trim it square, then re-apply the facing. While doing this, I realized how un-square it actually was. Because the quilt is so large, I originally had trouble squaring it…which is what created the wonky shape it was in. I made a larger cutting surface this time by taping multiple cutting mats together on the floor. Now, I could accurately cut it into shape!

When I started this on Sunday, I have to admit I put myself into a bit of a panic. “What the heck was I doing?!!” I did a lot of self-talk to convince myself, I knew what I was doing and to proceed onward. I’m so glad that I did! It looks so much better. I didn’t have to trim much, but I did get it into shape. While I was at it, I got to enjoy all the quilting on the back. Just a note: I really need to consider making some backfacing quilts.


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC

 

 

Cut up your failures

Sometimes its nice to take a break from what you’re focusing on and play around with an idea. I belong to an art exchange group where I use the opportunity to do just that … play. I usually have some very specific ideas about what I’m doing. In this exchange group I’m much less inhibited about what I do. Each month we are tasked with making a 10″ x 10″ artwork in whatever medium we choose. This year we have a theme: Construct/Deconstruct. Yep, its a pretty broad theme.

Because I’m focusing on my solo show later this fall (see below), my brain has really struggled coming up with ideas for this group exchange. I had focus early this year, but that creative energy left me. This month, I remembered a cloth bag (pillowcase) that I had stashed away. In the bag are quilts that I have outgrown. They either need to find new life as a donation to a charity fundraiser or be re-purposed into something else.

Looking in the bag, I found two pieces that inspired me for the group exchange (image upper right). I thought, what if I cut them up and reassembled them into something new? (Deconstruct/Reconstruct).

I remember when I made the bamboo quilt, it was early in my journey as an art quilter. I really liked the idea, but I hated that the bamboo looked so flat (2-dimensional). This quilt set me on a journey that improved my quilting style and eventually got me published in Quilting Arts Magazine twice for 2 of the techniques I used in this piece.

Anyway, I no longer loved the bamboo quilt and had to do something with it. So, I cut it up into 10″ x 10″ blocks and added cut-up portions of the other little quilt into the arrangement. I remember it was fun to make the original pieces, but it was equally as fun to re-purpose them into something else. To me, the end result of this creative play produced something much more interesting than its original incarnation. I don’t know if I’ll every continue with this multi layer collage technique, but it was fun to play. It got my head out of a rut and luckily produced something that I could re-purpose. So remember to play, because its OK to cut up your failures.


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC

 

 

 

 

Be more mindful

Are you breathing? How do you know? Did you just check to see if you were breathing?

This is called being mindful. When you check in with your breathe, you are becoming aware of the current moment in time. Sometimes, I forget to check in. Usually when that happens, I realize the stress is also piling on.

The last few days, I have been busy stitching on this sunflower quilt (pictured). Did you know that’s a form of mindfulness too? When I do repetitive stitchwork (e.g, thread painting/quilting), I put my focus on making the stitches … well at least until I run out of thread. Drats!

I’m doing a lot of stitching on this sunflower, but its turning out to be a quick project and enjoyable. After the last two, this is a very nice change of pace. How I’m creating it is not a new process for me (“Soar” was created the same way). Its definitely not layer and layer of steps to create it (like the last 2). Mostly, I’m just stitching, so there’s less thinking about what I need to do next.

And so, what is next? For this quilt, I need to choose the color of thread to quilt the blue background fabric. Choices … choices. Which reminds me … just like life, I get to choose. I think I’ll choose to be more mindful.


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC

 

 

 

Improvise or plan

I’m into the last couple months of prepping for my exhibit (details below). I’m trying to make some smaller pieces to hang along with my large art quilts. I’m currently working on a pitcher plant (work in progress pictured). When I started it, I thought it would be small and quick. In reality, its neither.

Making art can give your brain respite to think deeply about things. During all of this creating, I’ve been thinking about what and who I am, to include why and how I make art. I’ve also been listening to podcasts, my favorite is “Creative Pep Talk” with Andy Pizza. In one of his recent podcasts, he discussed how artists can fall into two categories; planners or improvisors.

I frequently say I’m a recovering perfectionist. People comment all they time how  organized I am (note: they haven’t seen my desk/studio). While I listened to Andy, I immediately thought … “I’m a planner … right?” Then I thought … “wait a minute!”

A planner charts things out and follows the plan. An improvisor just wings it. I realized I’m a little of both, but definitely use more improvise than planning. I never thought about it before. Sure you can look at my post from last week and see the line drawing I used to create this piece. I followed the layout pretty well, but I had no idea what my background would be until much later. I’m also adding more groundcover elements and will just improvise those when I got to that stage of the process.

This quilt is a bit more “planned” than most. Usually I start with just an idea (vision) stuck in head. Then stumble through the process, re-evaluating myself at each new layer of design.

Andy suggests, whether you a plan or improvise your art, you should try to occasionally stretch yourself and do the opposite. That’s scary for me to think about, I’m comfortable at what I’m doing. But, that’s his whole point though, in order to grow/improve you have to challenge yourself… hmmm, can I do it?

This revelation makes me happy to note that I’m not such a control freak anymore. I don’t criticize myself (as much) if I go off plan, because I know how to improv my way out of a predicament. This is good news.

What about you? Do you improvise or plan?

 


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC