Category: Family & Friends

Good things are gonna come

“Stump’d” by Nanette S. Zeller

A few weeks ago, I successfully completed another trip around the sun (aka birthday). My new year and new decade has officially started. Mentally, this year has been a slow start, but it also has offered me new direction and enthusiasm. It takes evaluating what’s important and figuring out how to make it happen?

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting at an event and discovered the person sitting next to me was also a creative. She was having some challenges and craved being more artistic. We’ve all been there, right? Family, work, health … whatever … it takes energy and time from our passion. If you’re like me, your creative spirit probably nags at you when you’ve ignored (or avoided) it for awhile.

People who don’t get it, may think I’m obsessive. Between, knitting, slow-stitch projects or full-blown art quilts, I’m always working on several different projects at any given time. When I take a trip, I carry at least 2 different travel-size projects with me. These projects are also easily accessible when I have time to sit and watch TV. Sometimes I work on them, sometimes not, but they are always ready to feed my creative desire when I have time. As I shared stories with this new friend, she started showing me projects where she did the same thing. A little stitching here and a little there, and suddenly it’s something significant.

Our conversation made me realize that sometimes we just have to accept what is and do the best we can. Life does get in our way, but as long as you allow nuggets of time to feed the passion, maybe it’s good enough. If you really want to change things, then you might have to let something else go.

Sometimes the fear of what might happen if we do something is greater than the reality of it. Sometimes we have to take chances by closing and opening doors of opportunity. I’m realizing that the exciting things happen when I step out of my comfort-zone. My energy gets rejuvenated as the fear turns into a fire in my belly. I become determined to succeed and, surprisingly, new opportunities appear. I’m no longer “stump’d” and I grow. So as Amy Gerhartz’s sings “Hold On! … Good things are gonna come!”

Click away

Uhoh! What happened to the last 2 weeks? I’m usually pretty good about posting every week, but I got side-tracked by a number of things this summer.

At the end of August, I was happy to deliver 2 commission quilts that I’ve been working on. I don’t usually do commission pieces, but I really had a good feeling about this one. You never know what people will expect and sometimes that makes working on a piece challenging. Will they like it?

In this case, my friend already had great photography. She had a special place on her wall and wanted to commemorate a trip she made to Japan. At first, she asked me to create an original quilt using her photo for inspiration. When I saw her photo, I realized this could become a collaborative effort. She already had a great photo, so, why not just print it on fabric, do some of my thread work on it, then finish the piece. We both agreed to the plan.

The technology these digital fabric printing companies have is amazing. You can print your images on almost any type of fabric. A little bit of tweaking in a photo editor and it’s ready to upload to their website. Two weeks later beautiful fabric arrives in your mailbox and you’re ready to get stitching.

I’ve printed a lot of things lately and will share more another time. With all the things we can access to online, it makes the world feel like a smaller place. Everything seems like just a click away .

You’ve got this

Last week in my blog, I remembered the little girl I used to be. Part of my reason for looking back in time is because I continue to move forward. Today I am opening up a new chapter in creative my life. I don’t know where this will lead me, but I know I am doing something that I often thought about doing (I’ll tell you more next week).

In the past I wondered, why can’t I do this? Maybe it wasn’t the right time, maybe I really wasn’t ready. Anyway I look at it, I realize it’s been a long journey since that little girl was finger painting in kindergarten. What’s next? I have some ideas but what’s the rush?

I want to take some time and reflect on my journey. Sometimes we set milestones, but when we reach them we don’t take the time to appreciate where we are or how we got here. We always seem to rush onto the next step. But, really, how did I get here? I didn’t roll out of bed yesterday and suddenly make this decision. I realize it’s been a very long road full of trial, error and learning. Sure there’s been some set-backs along the way, but even on my darkest days, I was always moving forward.

Think about where you are in life. Even if there are things in life that you’re wanting, I bet there are plenty of things you can appreciate about where you are right now. I say congratulations!! because you made it to today. Nothing has stopped you from moving forward. I bet you had days that were worse than today and some that were better. You’ve worked hard to get here and there’s more to come. Don’t give up now. You’ve got this!

Play day

Since you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are a creative spirit. You may not create your own things, but I’m sure you at least admire the creative process in others. Maybe you’re trying to be more creative on your journey or maybe you’re a professional trying to make a living with your art. Since, I don’t know for sure, I’m just going to believe that you have that creative spark.

I speak of being creative, not just making “art.” Art is often interpreted as a final product; a painting, photograph, music, or prose. A lot of people are intimidated about producing, but would still consider themselves creative. Maybe you doodle, sketch, knit/crochet/embroider, or simply have a good eye for home decor. You have a creative spirit.

What does it mean to be creative? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. I’ve realized it is the core of my being. I am at my best when I’m making. Through some self-evaluation, I also realized that this creative energy I have is not something I just developed. It is something I was born with. What is your earliest creative memory?

My earliest creative memory was when I was in preschool (back then it was called “Head Start” and Kindergarten). I remember the school, I remember the day the teacher pulled out the easels. I remember when we (see photo) were allowed to finger paint on the “big” paper tablets. I chose red and yellow paint and did my finest abstract rendition. I remember being proud. I remember saying, “I’m going to call it Ketchup and Mustard!” I remember that little girl, who didn’t always have it so easy. I realize my creativity has gotten me through alot and continues to drive me today.

I think of you today. You’re also creative, right? Do you remember the young creative you? Do you allow the creative you to come out and play? Just thinking…maybe it’s time we let the kid inside have a play day.

It will be OK

Seriously, there’s no time for this. I spent a lot of time this week worrying about and preparing for a hurricane. We’re expected to experience the outer bands of Hurricane Florence as she makes her way into the Carolinas. The weather forecast calls for tropical storm levels of rain and wind.

Everything is secured, we have “plenty” of water. Thankfully I live in a neighborhood of supportive friends. We have each other’s backs. There’s nothing more for me to do except continue prepping for my exhibit that will open on Oct 11. So as long as we have electricity, I’ll be quilting the last pieces of artwork.

This week is merely a reminder that you can never plan for everything. When things get out of your control, just take a breath and make the most of what you have. As my dad would say…it will be OK.



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

This is all making me think

Yet another snow day here. January has just been full of cold and wet weather. Between holidays and bad weather, will things every get back into a normal schedule?

Yesterday, I had a conversion with a friend who is a textile artist. It was very thought-provoking for me. There’s a common ground you find with people on the same path in life. There’s an understanding of the inevitable challenges we face in our profession. You realize you’re not alone in the struggles. When you talk with someone who understands, you not only find support, but you also find yourself thinking more deeply about your own personal journey.

When you decide to be a professional artist, unless you’re very lucky (or wealthy), you have to be responsible for all tasks of running your business. You are the marketing agent, shipping clerk, bookkeeper, administrative assistant and technical support team all encased in one body (and mind). Within a normal 24 hour day, you must accomplish the business tasks and find time to create the art.

Then there’s the question of “How??? Do I make the money?” Do you stay true to the artistic voice that screams in your head? Or, do you sell out and go for the money promoting products and services? Or maybe you do a little of both? And then what happens when, let’s say after you’ve made a name, you decide to venture into some other style or art form?

It really becomes a balancing act. I have artist friends who are in the business of marketing their art at very commercial levels. And, I have others friends who are in it for art sake. Its interesting to see how they both push themselves (or not) and what happens to them on the journey. I know my weaknesses and strengths. And on this snowy Wednesday, this is all making me think.


I’ve been published!

Quilting Arts Magazine
Cover Artist
Click Here to Get a Signed Copy!


The right answer to “how?”

I’ve been a long time subscriber to Quilting Arts magazine. Over the past decade they have truly inspired me to pursue my artistic interest. This past week I received my Dec17/Jan18 copy of the magazine. It’s always a surreal moment when you see your artwork in print. The honor is even greater for me this time, since I’m such a big fan of the publication.

All of this is about taking a leap of faith. That’s what I truly hope to inspire in other people. If you really want something don’t say “can’t.” Try to come up with the answer to “how?

This idea has long been in my head, but it took several things to push me over the edge. One thing that happened was I met Lea McComas while I was at Quilt Festival in Houston about 2 years ago. I knew who she was, had admired her work, and saw her a number a times during my visit at Festival. On my last night there, I went to dinner with my sister and a friend and had to use the restroom. Lea happen to be in line waiting and we started chatting. Just casual chatter. On our way back to our respective tables, she asked me “Why haven’t you published?” I know I came up with some excuse, but our conversation hit a nerve. When you’re at these shows, its interesting how random encounters become meaningful and inspiring events.

I really don’t know why Lea asked the question, but it hasn’t left me. I even jotted her question down on a piece of paper and tacked it to a bulletin board in my studio. I wanted to be reminded. At the time, there really wasn’t a good answer to her question. But her question left me pondering my personal barriers and eventually finding the right answer to “how?”



See my work and discover my process of “Creating Highlights & Shadows
Quilting Arts Magazine
December 2017/January 2018
available book stores or online at Interweave Press

Laugh with life whenever possible

I believe we learn lessons about life from situations we’re placed in. We can also learn alot by watching how others handle situations. I’ve been learning a lot the past few weeks as I witness 2 friends battle cancer. They are both amazing women, creative and funny. They make me laugh; I love that about them. Because of their sense of human and strong character, they are both facing their diagnosis with positive and determined ways. They are powerful to watch.

Shortly after receiving her diagnosis, one of my friends made a promise to her husband to clear out her stash before she dies. She didn’t want to leave him with this burden. She held to her promise and organized her things, then invited people to come “adopt” her craft supplies. “Take all that you want and use it,” she told us with a big smile. It gave her great joy to see her things go to people who would love and appreciate what she had. I don’t know that I would be so organized and determined after receiving such news.

I surely don’t need more fabric, but I did go “adobpt” a few things and brought home a mascot. This funky hedgehog is truly special to me. It will remind me of the strong character, grace and humor of my friend. It will also remind me to love what I do, give graciously, and laugh with life whenever possible.



SEE MY QUILT “Soar” at the 
Sacred Threads Exhibition
July 7, 2017 – July 23, 2017
Floris United Methodist Church, Herndon, VA


It’s a new year and I’m trying to get myself into a rhythm of working. Sometimes however, I get distracted.

I vaguely remember owning an infamous “Sock Monkey” when I was a child. I’m told that my mother and grandmother would make these stuffed dolls for us.

Back in the 1980’s, I found that you could still purchase the “Red Heel” socks that were used to make these iconic characters from my youth. Back in the ’80s, I was a new auntie who loved to craft and I made a set monkeys for all my nieces and nephews.

Flash forward a few decades and the munchkin nephews are now parents of their own toddlers. Unfortunately, none of their sock monkey friends survived long enough to be passed down to the next generation of kids. However, when I heard “the Mav” LOVED monkeys, great-auntie kicked it into gear to start the Great Sock Monkey Project of 2017.

Well, if you make one…you might as well make 4! Right? Both the niece and nephew got new buddies, along with some of their friends.

And yes, you can still easily find “Red Heel” socks online (e.g., If you buy the original Rockford Red Heel socks, inside the label you’ll find the directions on how to make them.

I’m told the kiddos love their new BFFs. — Sometimes it pays to get distracted.


No Guarantees

cypress_treesThe end of the year is almost here. There was one last thing I promised to do before the end of the year. I’ve been kind of quiet about it, because you just never know what will happen. Although people cheer me on…after the fact… that they knew I would get this or do that, there is always the realist in me who whispers…”don’t get cocky.” There are never guarantees in life, especially when you put yourself in competition with people. I’m sure some enter a competition and say to themselves, “I got this!” But personally, I think that sets me up for major disappointment when I don’t win.

My personal philosophy is to keep a low profile. I don’t make a big deal about any competition I enter, because I understand that as much as I may want to be accepted…there are no guarantees, no matter how much my friends and family tell me they believe in me.

This year, I submitted entries into 4 different shows. Entering shows is a competition. Everyone who enters is competing for the few slots available in the exhibit space. Each of us believe we are worthy of acceptance, otherwise we wouldn’t be entering. But there again, no guarantees. At year’s end, I’m ranking 2 for 4; a 50% success rate.

Right now, I’m trying to work on a large piece, but my procrastination has been high. I really haven’t been excited about finishing it, life is getting in my way. I wanted to enter it for consideration into a call for entry that opens in January. But, it just has been plunking along with little progress. I’m lacking motivation. I even considered backing out of my exhibit this November. I just wasn’t sure how I could make enough pieces. Sigh…self doubt can strangle you.

And then this past Saturday, I received a plain manilla envelope in the mail…more junk mail? I opened it with curiosity and then, seeing the contents, I immediately lost my breath.

You see, from the start of this year, I had planned to enter another competition. A very selfish competition. I was required to write a proposal and share a dream. I had to pull-together supporting documentation and get letters of recommendations. I attended meetings to learn more about the process and asked questions from people who believed in me. I applied for a grant and have been waiting for the news since October.

This past Saturday, in the plain little envelope where the words which today inspire me to keep going. I received full funding for a Regional Artist Grant. I’ve learned since then the very few people get full funding for this highly competitive “selfish” grant; I was only one of 2 who received full funding this year.

I call it selfish, because it’s all about the recipient. As an artist, we get to dream big and ask for money to fulfill that dream. My dream is to own an industrial-style sewing machine that will allow me to more accurately and proficiently stitch larger quilts. Thanks to the Arts Council and my tenacity to apply for this grant, in 2016 I will own one of these machines. Wow! I’m excited!

My artwork will improve because of this machine. But until then, the large quilt I was procrastinating about will go on hold so I can do it right on this new machine. And, until then, I will place my focus on making smaller pieces on my domestic machine.

Sometimes I think destiny dictates how my art is suppose to happen. When I get upset with my progress, or lack there of, I have to remember to step back and just accept what’s happening. I’ve always believed the pieces I make speak to me; some times I forget to listen. As in this case, I think my swampy quilt knew what was coming.

I like not knowing the outcome, because when things happen that I don’t expect I’m overjoyed. Life’s fun that way. I like having no guarantees.