Category: Being an Artist

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.

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?”

 

Nature-inspired

As part of the grant I received this year, I have to make an art piece utilizing the materials I purchased with the monies; a new camera lens and computer software. Due to life circumstances, I’m a little behind schedule…but definitely within my time allotment.

Part of the reason for being behind is I had challenges taking the photographs. When I took pictures with the new lens this summer, I felt they were just ‘eh. I didn’t find inspiration in what I was photographing. It took my trip to California to really kickstart the ideas. There were several images from the trip that really inspired me. I have been working on this backyard bird scene since I returned home in early October. The trip was definitely what I needed to get started. I’m almost finished. Yesterday, I completed the threadwork (aka, free-motion embroidery or thread painting) on the goldfinch and the flowers. Today, I’m ready to quilt. I’m happy with how this is going and excited about working on it.

Last month, I also received news that I was accepted into a gallery exhibit in June 2021 at the local Arts Council. My work will be hanging with work of 2 other textile artists and a potter. These exhibits have a tendency to “sneak” up on me. So, yep, I need to keep my momentum going. Good thing I have a number of ideas to work on. This bird piece will be the first in the collection for the exhibit. Our theme is nature-inspired.

“Tool box” of ideas

In a world where most TV programming can’t be watched unless you have a subscription service, it is nice to know PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) is still going strong. I can honestly say, my life has been enhanced from watching PBS programs. Shows like “This Old House,” “Antiques Roadshow,” “Sesame Street,” “Electric Company, “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood,” “Zoom” and “Victory Garden” all bring happy smiles to my memory.

When I started quilting in 2001, I was glued to the weekly broadcast of Alex Anderson’s “Simply Quilts.” I was inspired and learned so much from watching her guests talk about their craft. After “Simply Quilts” came Quilting Arts TV which was another program that impacted my life. I think I’ve watched every episode since it aired. Watching the guests on QATV, I gained confidence to challenge myself artistically using fabric as my medium. It’s kind of full circle to know that I am now part of the PBS legacy that I so treasure.

Depending on where you live in the US, Season 2400 of Quilting Arts TV may already be finished (each station airs the programs independently – check your local listings). For my friends in North Carolina who watch UNC-TV, we have 2 more episodes left. My last apparence this season (episode 2412) will air locally on Thursday, Oct 31 at 4pm. In this episode, I share more of my thread painting techniques, this time making 3-dimensional elements. [Note: Instructions from this segment were also published in the Oct/Nov 2019 Quilting Arts magazine]. In total I filmed 4 segments of QATV. This season 3 were broadcast, the 4th will air in season 2500.

This has been an amazing opportunity for me. I hope you get to watch the program and find inspiration, just like I have all these years. It is wonderful to know we still have PBS as a valuable resource. If you’re interested in learning more about sewing and quilting, check your local listings for QATV and other related programs on PBS.  It’s a great way to learn new things and build a larger “tool box” of ideas.

Part of your toolbox

I’ve been in a little bit of a slump this summer, distracted by too many things. I’m finally clearing my plate of responsibilities and finding time in my studio.

While I was in California, I took a photo of a goldfinch. The composition of the photo really inspired me. Even though the photo is bit blurry, I could still see the details of the bird and use it to draw the pattern for my applique. There’s still a long way to go with this piece.

When I look at basic fabric applique, it always looks so 2-dimensional. I like what I’ve created, but see that I’m missing definition and shading. Once the fabric composition is complete, I’ll pull out my colored pencils to add shading. Then I’ll add some stitching to create definition, texture and secure the pieces to the background fabric. Many layers of technique will be used for this new composition.

I love the fact that this piece is inspired by something I actually witnessed and was able to capture with my own camera. Usually my compositions come from a mental image I have and I use photos for general reference (e.g., shape of a tree or flower). In this piece, I used Photoshop Elements to manipulate the photo to get things placed exactly as I wanted. I will be using the new image as a direct reference for my composition and to create the pattern pieces for applique.

It’s great to have an array of tools and techniques available when creating art quilts. I call this my “toolbox.” Whenever I’m creating new art, I can pull from many different techniques to create a desired affect. It took many years of exploring for me to acquire all these resources. If you’re just starting to work in fabric art, don’t get overwhelmed by it all. Learn as you can and practice. You’ll gravitate towards things that you feel confident doing and discard things that you dislike. All these skills will be available as part of your toolbox.

 

Creative spirit

My post last week described my thoughts about how I would feel after my trip to California. I wrote that post a week before I left and scheduled it to publish on the day I returned from my trip. So here I am, a week past vacation and I can tell you that the journey was worth it.

I don’t usually bring my DSL camera with me when I travel. It’s bulky and heavy. I worry about putting it in my checked bag. I bring it as carry-on so I don’t have to worry about who might be mishandling my equipment. It is a hassle, but this trip it was worth it.

My intent with bringing the camera with me was 1) to get some practice taking pictures and 2) find some artistic inspiration for my art quilts. I’m please to say: Mission accomplished! I was able to capture images that I would never get with the camera on my phone.

Several of the photographs are already inspiration for new art quilts. After posting today’s blog, I’m going to sign off my computer and start designing some new art. Before I sign-off, I’m curious, what inspires you to get into the creative spirit?

What would you say?

This post is kind of a “back to the future” scenario. I wrote this last week, just a few days before I left for another trip to California. Last time I was there it was cool and spring. This time it will be cool and fall. I love to travel, but I’m not good at it. Maybe it has to do with so many years of not traveling. I don’t have a rhythm. I spend days fretting about what to bring and what needs to get done before I leave. Once I’m on the plane, I’m OK. Returning home is also much easier than leaving.

When I travel my camera usually gets full of pictures; images of people, places, and things; memories. I’m hoping this trip provides some artistic inspiration. I love the Northern California forests and I want to create more work representing its grandeur. I can only hope that weather cooperates.

As I write this post, I wish I was already on the other side of the journey. I’m not really trying to rush it, but I can’t help imagine how I’ll feel when I’m heading home. I wonder what grand things I’ll encounter. Did you ever wish your future self could give you advice? Or, what if you could go back in time now and give advice to the younger you? What would you say?