Category: Mixed Media

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!

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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!

 

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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.

This summer

My summer is turning out to be busier than expected. Isn’t that always the case? Creatively, I’m working on a couple commission pieces, but they’re not something I want to share right now. So today I decided to show you a piece I created a couple years ago. This sunflower and butterfly artquilt was created for a collaborative art challenge. I was given the choice of several photographs to recreate using my own artistic style. I chose a fabulous photo of a butterfly and I used it to draw a pattern for my thread-painted rendition. (To see the full quilt check out my gallery page or click here. Note: this quilt is available for sale)

I started by tracing the basic shapes onto black fabric (using transfer paper). Then, using my sewing machine, I filled in the shapes with coordinating colored thread. In the examples, you can see how I filled in the traced lines (click on image to see a larger view). This technique is commonly referred to as “thread painting.” When I was finished, the entire butterfly shape was filled with thread. I then cut it out of the black fabric and appliqued it to the sunflower quilt.

When people hear the term “thread painting,” there’s often confusion. They think I’m somehow painting the thread. Actually, I’m using the thread to paint! A better way to explain the technique is to call the technique “free-motion embroidery” using a sewing machine.

Most people are familiar with hand embroidery, where you stitch a design using needle and embroidery floss. Free-motion embroidery is basically the same thing using a sewing machine. Instead of moving the needle across the fabric, I’m freely moving the fabric under the machine’s needle.

Thread painting is something I really enjoy doing. I also enjoy teaching the technique. What are you working on this summer?

If you want to learn more about my classes or upcoming art exhibits, you can join my newsletter or follow me on Facebook.

 


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

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

Tomorrow offers new opportunity

I’ve been riding a mix of feelings the last couple weeks and I’m wondering, how do you judge a good day from a bad one? Does any one event crush you to a point of writing the entire day off as bad? I’m know there are instances that could be that bad, but for the most part I try to focus on what’s good (operative word: “try”). This is what helps me get through difficult days.

Earlier this year, I entered 2 different juried art exhibits and heard from both this past week. The first one was a win. My artwork was accepted into the Sacred Threads 2019 exhibit. This exhibit is about textiles artists of all faiths connecting to the sacred and/or sharing their expression of the spiritual journey. Two years ago, I also was selected to be in this biennial exhibit and had the opportunity to go see it. This entire exhibit speaks to me. I’m extremely happy to be in this show.

Yesterday, I received the other notification which wasn’t so rewarding. This exhibit spoke to me from all levels of my journey of being an artist and sharing my connection with nature. All 3-pieces I entered were rejected. I was quite worried about entering this one, because acceptance would place me on another level of professionalism. I was extremely anxious about making sure the entry was spot-on and I didn’t make any mistakes (which could potentially get me eliminated). You know what? Even with all that anxiety about entering, I’m very OK that I didn’t get accepted. This rejection isn’t about me personally. It is about a pool of fabulous artists all trying to get their shot. Someone has to sit on the sidelines in this “game.”

Some days it’s difficult to reflect on what’s positive in our lives, but there always is something. I think putting the best that you have into an entry, then receiving a rejection can be difficult. I’ve been there, but I remind myself there’s something else down the road. This moment of disappointment is only temporary. When I feel myself in a pity party, I remind myself that tomorrow offers new opportunity.

 

See my artwork at:

Sacred Threads July 11-28, 2019, Herndon, VA

Find joy in the creating

This is part 2 of a 2 part blog series on creative inspiration. Read part 1 click here:
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Last week I shared a story about becoming inspired by an art exhibit where I connected with the other exhibiting artists. The same weekend I had an opportunity to display a SAQA Trunk Show at a local quilt shop, Cary Quilting Company. SAQA (Studio Art Quilts Associates) is an international organization of art quilters consisting of over 3500 members in 39 countries. They have several “trunk shows” containing small art quilts which can be rented and displayed.

As the NC/VA Regional Co-Rep for SAQA and with the support of Cary Quilting, I brought the quilts to the shop. For 3-days, my friend, Christine Hager-Braun, and I sat watch over the quilts and invited shoppers to look at the artwork. The overall response from visitors was “this is amazing.” They were excited by the diversity of artistic expression.

Since the quilts measure only 10″ x 7″, visitors were a little surprised by how small they were and realized they “could” work that small. The smaller size seemed to minimize their angst about creating art. Quilts are usually pretty big and cost a substantial amount to make. Something this small seemed to liberate them to enter their “studios” and play.

I also met creative people who didn’t quilt and didn’t want to learn, but they saw the variety of techniques and became intensely inspired to explore fabric as a medium. One beautiful woman, came back a 2nd day to show me what she was inspired to create after seeing the exhibit. It was pretty amazing what she did. Her energy, gave me energy.

But then, sadly, there where others who implied they could “never do that.” I answered, “Why not? If you want to, you can.”

I realize through this opportunity, that the power to be creative is inside each of us. Because bad art happens, the issue is whether we are willing to push past our ourselves and create things that might stink. As Seth Godin puts it: “What matters, what makes it art, is that the person who made it overcame the resistance, ignored the voice of doubt and made something worth making. Something risky. Something human.”

For years, I was my own worst enemy. A few people who know me saw that intimidated dabbler. I held myself back for many years, until I decided that I was destined to share what I do. It is increasingly clear, that my goal as an artist is to inspire. I can encourage confidence in those doubting themselves, because I’ve been a doubter too. I realize we don’t have to allow a critic to stop us because, it is our own decision to accept the labels. Yes, we can reject them, if we choose to.

Because there are so many ways to express ourselves artistically, we shouldn’t try to replicate someone else. I say be open to learn, experiment and make bad art. If one style of expression doesn’t feel right, try another. Eventually, you’ll know that you’re on the right track, because you will find joy in creating.