Category: Experiments

Feed your soul

I have a pretty big to-do list for the next few month. Less computer work and more time in the studio manipulating fabric. I’m looking forward to this change of focus. It’s always a challenge to find the right balance of creativity and business time. Both are equally important to me. For other’s it might be more about finding time in your daily life for your creative outlets.

In my life, I try to include events and activities that encourage my creative being. I don’t want to lose the joy of creating by focusing only on the commercialization of art. I frequently find projects that are just fun. Sometimes I just want to do mindless knitting or sew squares of fabric together for no other reason than just to sew.

Earlier this year, I challenged myself to spend a few minutes every day drawing in a small sketchbook. I didn’t set a specific time limit, but I usually didn’t give it more than an hour. Over the past few days I have been flipping through these sketches. Some I think are ok, others not so much. Some I’m considering making into an art quilt.

If you are a creative person, I think it’s important to find time for your art. It doesn’t have to amount to anything specific. You don’t even have to show it to anyone, if you don’t want to. I just encourage you to find time for it. I promise it will feed your soul.

 

 

Science project

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on who I am and what I believe. Some things you train to do and some things you just are. I think we are born with certain personality traits and some we learn.

As I reflect on my life, I know I am a scientist. I always have been. As a kid, I would spend all day playing in the yard; picking flowers, looking at bugs, playing with worms, hugging trees and discovering my environment. I also had a passion for art. My mom encouraged me to do arts, crafts and draw. In high school I had a major in art and took several art classes in college. My major in college was environmental science.

My brain is wired for both science and art. I question things. Always at the forefront of my thinking is why did, or do, things happen? But how does that connect with my art? Sometimes I seem both left- and right- brain dominant. Until recently, I never could connect it.

The other day I was watching Quilting Arts TV (episode 2603). Susan Brubaker-Knapp was talking with Lauretta Crites about the creative challenge of making art quits. With art quilts, you sometimes come up with an idea that doesn’t work. So, you have to go back to the drawing board, ponder it awhile and come up with an alternative method to complete your vision. Susan made the comment that this is why she enjoyed making art quilts, because you are always figuring out how to do something. ~ Insert LIGHT BULB moment! ~

It all makes sense. I’m attracted to this form of art because it is a scientific process. I come up with an idea (hypothesis) and try to make it work. I may make a pattern, but my materials may not work as well as I envisioned. Do I go back and try again…or do I continue forward and find another approach. Making art quilts is like doing a science project. I present my idea, compile my methods and materials, and see what results. My final artwork represents the conclusion of what worked and what didn’t. And with this, I discovered why an art quilt is like a science project.

 



You can watch me on the Global Quilt Connection Meet-the-Teacher Event on YouTube:
Click here

Create some amazing art

I hope this finds you well. It’s been a rough month for most of us. It’s surreal to think about how life has changed. I’ve been busy doing many things, but my motivation for sewing is lacking. I have reason to be making new art; I’m scheduled to participate in an art exhibit in June 2021. I’m doing a lot of things toward supporting my business but I’m just not creating textile pieces right now. Should I be worried that it feels like I’m procrastinating?

I’m keeping busy working on things. Catching up on computer work, spent a few days making face masks, and working on a few other ideas. But every time, I think about making art my brain seems to say…”nope!…not yet.” Maybe you’re feeling the same way too. One thing that’s helping is that I’m drawing. I set aside time almost every day to sketch. I don’t spend tons of time on this…at the very most an hour. When I sit down to draw, my intent is to sketch things that I’d like to incorporate into my art. Sometimes I work on refining my skills, like trying to draw birds. Other times, I’m trying to sketch an idea that I have that might turn into an art quilt. While sketching, I’m working out new ideas and that’s important.

Most of the time when I create, I have some vision of what I want to make. I sketch it out and then work through the process with fabric. This past month I’ve learned its ok to sketch out multiple ideas and then re-draw and refine them over several sessions. It’s preparation for when I get started stitching. Right now, my ideas (vision) is not clear in my head yet, so I’m “procrastinating” about starting to work with fabric. But then again, I’m not sitting idly by waiting for inspiration. So am I really procrastinating? Sketches are an important part of my process, and I’m seeing this practice as a very helpful.

I often come up with ideas that I’d like to pursue…and then forget about them. In the past, I would jot down the ideas in a list form, but having a visual sketch makes it more realistic. Months from now when I flip through my sketch book, I’ll SEE where I was planning to go with an idea. So, if you’re feeling unmotivated pull out a sketch book and start scribbling. It doesn’t have to be a good drawing or idea…just something you’ve been thinking about. As you work with your new sketch practice, your brain will start processing what you’ve drawn and come up with new ways to approach and idea. The next time you sit to sketch you’ll have a stronger visions to put on paper. So put it on paper, let it age a little and work on the idea some more. Keep at it! I have confidence we’ll both create some amazing art.

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?

May take me awhile

I’m still catching up on things and doing more “business” oriented tasks than artwork. Any creative work I’m doing I’m categorizing as exploration, experimentation, and/or slow stitching. This is a great way to stay creative when real production work isn’t happening. All you need is a little bit of down time to make progress.

Last year I started following a number of artists on Instagram who do slow stitching. I became instantly fascinated by this boro (reuse/mend) trend. I always hated hand stitching because I don’t have the patience to do it neatly. As, I looked at these creations my heart started craving it. My sewing skills started at an young age (under 10), when my mom encouraged me to do hand work; embroidery, crochet, hand sewing, etc. So this “new” vintage style really connects with me on a personal level. This stuff isn’t all that new to me.

They call it slow stitching because it’s just that…using your hands to sew, which, compared to a sewing machine, is a slow method. With the boro style sewing, you tend to use long running stitches to hold fabrics together. This type of stitching can really get you in a meditative/mindful state which is good for your mental health.

One of my more recent slow-stitch projects is about complete. I used indigo fabrics and pearl cotton thread to assemble this little bag that’s a perfect size for a cell phone, keys and a small wallet. It would make a nice little purse, but it needs a strap.  I tried buying some nice cording, but I don’t have many options around here and couldn’t find much online. I did have some wool yarn that would look perfect as a strap and I have a lucet tool that makes a hand-braided cord. So I popped open a Youtube video this morning to learn how to work this simple tool and I’m ready to go. Stay tuned, this may take me awhile …

 


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

The “Sól” in you

This month I’m working on class prep. Creating new art is, sadly, low on my priority list. But, this gives me an opportunity to reminisce a little. It’s always good to look back every once in awhile so you can appreciate how far you’ve come.

I made this sunflower quilt, “Sól” about 7 years ago. When I see it, I feel like it was just last year. Time moves quickly.

The piece was made as a challenge. Photographs were collected from the local photo club and local artists selected one to re-create using their own inspiration. By design, “Sól” turned out very similar to the photo. The biggest exception is that I used textiles to create my 3-dimensional image.

This was a fun piece to create. The sepals (green parts) were fuzzy on the photo and I wanted to recreate a similar effect. I decided to use green felted wool and added some fuzzy white roving (wool) using needle felting. The petals of the sunflower where stitched on fabric, cut out and then sprayed with a fabric stiffener product. I let them dry so they would stay wrinkly (and a bit stiff) when I sewed them to the background.

I am still very happy with this final rendition. This piece is now in the private collection of a friend. He saw it during the show and had to have it. I’m honored to have participated in this challenge and to know the piece is cherished in my friend’s home. Some of my best art has been created by challenges like this. Have you ever participated in an art challenge? They can bring out the “Sól” in you!


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

Challenge yourself

I really do have a plan for this summer, but I’m experimenting a little too. I spent so much time last year creating new artwork, that my brain is kind of in a fog about what to make next. Part of my problem, I don’t have any external deadlines to drive me with a purpose. I’ve been muddling along a little bit and experimenting with some new techniques. It’s always a good idea to have creative play time when you’re feeling a little stuck.

I entered a call for entry last week for “Eye Contact: creating a connection.” It’s an art installation that will be part of the Sacred Threads exhibit July 11-28 in Herndon, VA. The call for entry asked to for a 23″ x 5″ art piece that features human eyes. This was a little bit of a stretch for me, but I had a photo of myself looking into a mirror and thought it would be an appropriate subject for this exhibit. When I saw myself in the mirror, I noticed the lights that framed the mirror reflected in my eyes making my pupils look square. It fascinated me, so I snapped a selfie and rendered it into this art quilt.

It is a bit different from what I normally do and that’s OK. In order to grow as an artist, you must continue to challenge yourself.

 


See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171
www.sacredthreadsquilts.com

Doesn’t hurt to try

Boro stitching

Do you ever wonder what’s the point in trying?

Recently I had a conversation with someone who mentioned that she was exploring so many things that it felt like she had an attention deficit disorder. I wondered if there is anything really wrong with being attracted to new ideas and creative outlets. Do you have to stick with just one? What if you try something and you don’t like it? Is it a failure if you don’t want to continue with a project?

From a young age, I was exposed to all sorts of creative outlets. I loved the diversity of it all. Crochet, needlepoint and counted cross-stitch were big things in my life when I was a child. Loved them all! Then forget all that when I found knitting in my 20’s….my passion! Then in my 40’s, there was quilting…the traditional (piecing fabric blocks) kind. Oh boy! I was hooked…until I wasn’t. Seriously, I really hated it and ran away from it all. I was too much of a perfectionist. Those matchy-matchy seams drove me Cr@Zy!

So, then I moved on to mixed-media and started exploring polymer clay, stamp carving, surface design, paper mache, collage, needle felting, weaving, et.al. Was I going insane? No. Eventually all this creative play brought me to where I am today. I have things I started and will never finish. I frequently donate my unloved supplies to school art supply drives or charity-based thrift shops.

But hey…I’m still trying new things…I always will! Why? because I love the thrill of trying! And as an art quilter, every so often those old skills come in handy. I love having this overflowing toolbox of resources!

Currently I’m exploring boro stitching, which is a Japanese method of hand-stitching used to mend fabrics. I’ve always hated my hand stitching, but I’m allowing myself to embrace my imperfection. It’s such a meditative process to mindlessly run stitches through cloth. The finished results are so intriguing.

In trying new things, you’re figuring out what works for you (sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t). It’s OK, if you decide you don’t like to do something, then just let it go. If you hate it, toss it in the trash and donate the supplies to a friend or charity. Just remember, it doesn’t hurt to try.

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

 

 

 

 

Looking for more

I’m working on a group challenge this year that is forcing me to look at the details of an object.  So, what do I really see when I see something? There are a number of ways that I look closer at an object.

Sometimes I do it with binoculars. I see the birds at the bird feeder and pull out the binocs to look at the details of the wings or feather coloration. Today, I saw a bird fluttering about the feeder and I wasn’t sure, but thought I was seeing blue. With the aide of the binoculars, I clearly saw that it was a male indigo bunting. That was exciting to to see and felt like I’d won a prize.

Another way I see details is to plop myself on the ground and look close. Frequently, as I sit on the ground, I’ll use my cellphone camera to take micro shots of tiny objects. I get as close as I can and zoom in. Its amazing the fine detail you can see with these photos.

Once I have a good image, I’ll look for more details by zooming in on it with photo editing software. For example, this week I opened up a photo of a Monarch butterfly that I took several years ago. I zoomed in and cropped the photo to show just a portion of the full image. I find it interesting because you see things that you might not normally see.

I printed the cropped image on photo transfer paper, then applied it to fabric. I guess I could have moved on from there, but the process of stitching the image forced me to look even closer at the details. As I stitched, I paid close attention to the shapes, lines, and colors in the wing. So many layers of detail. As I delve deeper into this project, I realize I am consciously and unconsciously looking for more.