Category: Mixed Media

Gonna be alright

Hard to believe that a month ago, I was hanging my artwork in a local gallery. I’ve been with this gallery for over a year. Last month they moved to a much bigger location where there’s more foot traffic in the center of the tourist heavy town of Pinehurst, NC.

When they officially re-opened at the new location, several pieces of my art quickly sold. Things looked ever so promising at One of a Kind Gallery. They did their best to stay open the next couple weeks, but it became very obvious with the Covid-19 pandemic that it was necessary to shut down….temporarily.

At the same time, I was extremely excited about my new teaching opportunity with ARTworks Vass in Vass, NC. My first class was scheduled for this coming Saturday. The classes have been re-scheduled for May 4th, but that’s all contingent on things out of our control. Everything seems to be in flux.

The good news is I’m starting to accept the new normal. I’m getting tired of sitting around and have started making progress on some personal goals. Although I normally work from home, this is somehow different? I cannot explain, but it is. I think we all are having some level of sadness, maybe even fear. Possibly you’re experiencing some boredom, maybe some challenges spending so much time at home, or feeling the stress of 24/7 captivity with your family unit.

When my dad was alive, I remember one time I called him worried about some issue happening in my life. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but anyway, he stopped me and said, “Nanette, everything will be OK. Everything has always worked out OK for you.” It’s times like this, that I remember that conversation. He was right then and to this day I can look back and see that it remains true. But, I also see that it’s true for all of us. It’s not that we don’t have bad days…I’ve had my share. But, we always seem to get past it and can look back to see that we made it through that dark time and came out ok. My point is we will get through this. It’s Ok to feel all the feelings you’re having, but it’s also important to find opportunities of joy. Look for things that are good about it. If you’re like me, before this happened I was stressing that I didn’t have enough time. I’m looking at this situation as an extra time is a gift. And, if you start feeling a little overwhelmed, close your eyes for a moment, think of being on a sunny beach, with a warm breeze. Then, think of Bob Marley and sing along with me “Don’t worry…’bout a thing….’cuz every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Stay calm and create

We’re in some really weird times, aren’t we? As things get cancelled around me, I’ve been craving more creative time. If you’re like me, you find peace working on your projects. It’s important we stay calm right now. If creating things provides you with comfort, than you should be finding time for it in your life.

You don’t have to take on a big project. All you need are a few quick minutes in your day to reap the benefits. Here are some simple ideas to consider:

  • Find a little hand stitching, knitting, crochet, or simple sewing project to work on. Choose something that’s easy to grab and work on when you just have a few minutes.
  • Put out some paper or a sketchbook and use it for doodling.
  • Remember all those adult coloring books you collected over the past couple years (ok…well…maybe that was just me)? Pull one out and set it on table with some colored markers or pencils nearby. When you have a minute, start filling in an image. Mindless coloring is very meditative process.
  • When you’re looking for projects, select ones that don’t require “perfection” or “precision.” Your projects should be relaxing you, not adding more stress. Create without worrying about what “it” looks like. In the end, if you don’t like it, you can always cut it up into confetti-size pieces and toss it up in the air with glee.
  • When you’re working on a project, turn off the TV and put on some of your favorite music, or, better yet, work in silence. It will do your brain good.
  • If weather (and air quality) permits, find a place to create outdoors. Fresh air is reported to increase serotonin levels, so creating outside comes with an added bonus to feeling better.

We’ll get through this, just don’t forget to take time for you. Stay calm and create!

 

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!”

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?

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?

 

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.

 

Wave “hi” when you see me!

Back in early April I spent a couple days in Cleveland to film 4 segments of Quilting Arts TV. I’ve never been filmed for TV… well unless you count that one time I was interviewed before an art exhibit and was super nervous or that other time I was on Bozo’s Circus. Filming QATV was a completely new and exciting adventure.

Before we filmed, I took a couple months to prep the materials so that everything I demonstrated made sense and put in hours of practicing/rehearsing at home so I could feel confident when I spoke. Before I knew it I was in Cleveland on this world-wind trip to film 4 different segments for 4 different episodes.

I’ve been asked how long did it take to film? Each segment of the show runs about 12 minutes and it took just about that much time to film. Unless, something unusual happened, the segment was filmed in one-take. None of this “CUT! Let’s do that again!” coming from the director.  If there was a need to stop, we re-Prepping Cheesecloth samplesgrouped and started back where we left off. Now you know that what you see is what we did pretty-much in real time. So the actual filming of all 4 segments only took about 1/2 a day on stage. [note: If you ever meet me in person, feel free to ask me about the 1-time we stopped filming and the other time I really flubbed, but we kept filming.]

April seems so long ago and I’ve been anxiously waiting to see the new season. I’m in the first episode (2401) and I’ve heard from people around the country who’ve already seen it. This week it is finally being aired on PBS UNC-TV Chapel Hill, NC channel 4. If you get UNC-TV Chapel Hill, the season opener will be tomorrow: Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 4pm. If you don’t get UNC-TV Chapel Hill, you’ll have to check your channel guide. All PBS stations independently carry and broadcast the show, so times will vary across the country.

During episode 2401 you’ll see how I create and use painted cheesecloth in my naturescape art quilts. You’ll also see me on episode 2408 and 2412. The 4th segment I filmed will air next season. If you watch any of them, don’t forget to wave “hi” when you see me!

_______________________________________

See me on Quilting Arts TV Season 2400 (episodes 2401, 2408 & 2412).
Check your local PBS station for dates and times —
or program your DVR —
or purchase the series as a digital download

 

Don’t give up!

One of a Kind GalleryLife has been busy the last 4 weeks. In my last post, I shared my experience with Sacred Threads. After I returned from that, I prepared for a “Meet the Artist” event at a local gallery where my work is on commission. It was fun being part of this event, meeting new people and seeing friends.

Pillow ArtBefore this event at One of a Kind Gallery, I decided I needed to do something a little different. I have all these great photos of my artwork, but once the art sells the artwork is gone. I decided to use an on-demand print service to print my art on fabric, then make it into something else. I decided to start with pillows and totebags. It appears I’m onto something. In the 1 week they were there, I already sold several pieces. I was also asked by another gallery if they could to carry these printed items. So, it’s time to make another order of fabric. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep up with this and get some up on my Etsy shop.

Then while all this was happening, I entered my “Sounds of the Trumpet” quilt into the Fine Arts Festival exhibit at Arts Council of Moore County’s Campbell House Galleries. 2nd PlaceWhen you enter this exhibit, you assign your artwork to 1 of 5 categories. There isn’t a fiber art or textile category, so I assigned it to mixed-media. Since I use other things besides fabric and thread, I definitely fall into that category.

Prior to the exhibit opening, a juror selects the 1st, 2nd, 3rd place winners and honorable mentions. This year the juror was Bob Rankin, a well respected abstract painter from Raleigh, NC. I enter these exhibits knowing that there’s some heavy competition and that as a textile artist the juror may or may not appreciate my media. (As some of you already know, textile art is often looked at as “craft,” not fine art.)

Juror StatementSo there I was running around one afternoon, when I received a call from the Arts Council. I do volunteer work for them, so it’s not unusual that someone calls me. What was unusual was the message, I had earned 2nd place in the Mixed Media category. This is a major milestone for me. It was the first time that I won an award in a non-textile exhibit.

I share these wins in my life, not brag…but to encourage. To be honest, I occasionally question why I’m doing what I do and I know other people sometimes feel the same way. I create because making art fills a void in my soul. I have to do it, otherwise it pents up inside. Stepping out publicly to share your art takes guts. When it’s a flop, I think “what can I do different?” When it’s a success, I think “how can I build on this?” I always have to step back, evaluate, and learn from the process. And, I encourage you to do the same. If it’s in your soul, don’t give up!

 

_______________________________________

 

See me on Quilting Arts TV Season 2400 (episodes 2401, 2408 & 2412).
Check your local PBS station for dates and times — or program your DVR.