Category: Nature Inspired Art

Bee-kind to yourself

As I posted last week, I resolved my hexagon challenges on this new art quilt. With the edition of my latest design element, I hope it is obvious where I’m going with this. The little buddy needs some wings and the background (honeycomb) needs quilting. I’m almost there.

I feel like I’m moving in slow motion. I’m juggling many things “behind the scenes.” Unfortunately, they are things that aren’t really tangible items. I’m doing a lot of computer work, scheduling classes and prep work for the June exhibit. This upcoming week, I’ll be sharing some news that is a major new direction for me. I’ve been producing pre-recorded, on-demand classes. Now I’m ready to take the next step and do some live instruction on-line. More soon…

The thing is, I realize I’m still in this covid-funk. As much as I try to accept the current normal, the things I use to do aren’t the same. I have no desire to teach machine sewing classes in-person right now. It’s not that I don’t want to teach in-person … I am teaching locally, just not machine sewing. Moving forward with live Zoom-based classes will help me work through my mental process of changing focus. I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads.

Creative professionals are a silent statistic in this pandemic economy. Musicians, artists, and actors alike are grappling with their forward momentum. The gigs aren’t there and it’s uncertain when they will be. To stay viable, we have to find innovative ways to share and sell our art. The current “normal” is giving all of us a pause to self-reflect and possibly change direction. The momentum can sometimes feel slow, but there’s always that light inside that reminds us everything is going to be alright. Just remember “Bee-Kind” to yourself.

Stuck when creating

As I mentioned last week, I don’t work with a real “plan.” Maybe that’s good, maybe not. I have a vision or idea, and start working with stops and starts along the way. The following description is an insight to my creative process.

Over the past week, I attached the hexis to my background fabric and created an applique element that will go on top (you’ll see that next week). When I auditioned the applique on the hexis, it looked flat. There was no pop or interest and the applique didn’t stand out.

So, I auditioned some fabrics that I could lay in the center of the hexagons to give it a dimensional appearance. I found a loosely woven material in my stash, laid it on top of the design and stitched around each hexi shape. Then, I cut away the excess material. Tedious.

While I was stitching I noticed the there was a little pocket between the two layers of fabrics. I didn’t like that. I thought, I “should have!!” put Mystifuse on the back of the woven fabric. Then after stitching, I could iron it to adhere it in place. The problem … I didn’t use Mystifuse. Grumbling to myself, I kept on going.

As I continued to work, I thought about … “matte mediums.” I think of mediums as akin to Mod Podge but of higher quality. Mediums are acrylic liquids that can be used by artists to adhere collage material or used to thin acrylic paints. The word matte means there’s no sheen. If you wanted a shine, you would use a gloss medium.

Once the woven cloth was stitched in place and the excess removed, I then “painted” it with matte medium. This not only adheres the 2 layers of cloth, but also stops the woven cloth from unraveling. I succeeded with my vision and I’m ready for the next steps.

Although some people map out their plan, I like the challenge of not knowing. The vision drives me. Most of the time I can work around the obstacles. Usually what saves me is my arsenal of ideas. Mediums are not something quilters usually keep on hand, but other artists do. Because I have exposed myself to many different art techniques, my “toolbox of ideas” is full. And, my stash of supplies is diverse. Classes are a great way to learn new things.

I encourage you to take classes and experiment. Don’t be disheartened if you take a class and find you’re not good at it. You will likely always learn something new when you take a class. Understanding what you like and don’t like is part of the learning process. The more you learn, the more options you have. The bigger the tool box, the less likely you’ll ever truly feel stuck when creating.

As a new person

The last few days, I’ve been digging through my digital photos and I’m flooded with ideas. I love birds and I’m not in any short supply of inspiration. I can easily set up my camera and take pictures of my backyard (yes…every spring, the red-headed woodpeckers visit my feeders).

Where do you find inspiration? I think it’s important to look around you. I take a lot of pictures that inspire me. Looking back, I’m not always sure why I took a photo, but I knew the scene held my interest for awhile and I had to capture it.

Digging through my photos was a reflective practice. I was able to see where I’ve been and who I am now. What interested me 10 years ago is not the same as what interests me now. There are definitely common threads that have carried along through the years (e.g., birds). However, I noticed that there’s a certain level of refinement that has occurred.

We change with each new thing we learn and experience. These changes may be subtle, but over time the cumulative effects can be significant. Your source of inspiration is very likely to be changing over-time too.

It’s important to reflect on these changes, because they say something about what you like to do. If you’re doing something because you’ve always done it, that doesn’t mean that you enjoy doing it. It’s important to reflect on the balance between what you love to do and what you’re good at. I like to think with each new revolution around the sun, we are traveling as a new person.

 

Just keep going, no feeling is final

Today is the last day of 2020 … tomorrow it will all be hindsight (pun intended).

It’s been a challenging year and more so, a challenging month. Forgive my absence. I took some much needed time off to address a few issues in my home and now I’m slowing returning to normal daily operations. But, it’s still not normal… is it?

This year truly has taken a toll on all of us. Some more seriously than others. This time of year I usually reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m heading — but this time it seems more weighted than most. My next moves are being taken with caution. I can’t easily express my emotions and concerns, but I know I have to continue moving. I suspect you feel this too.

The 1st day of January, 2020, I was on a plane heading to an out of state wedding. I had 2 more trips before everything shut down in March. I’m fortunate for the good fortunes in my life, but I’m also sad for all that I’ve lost. I plan to do more self-reflection in 2021. This quote by Rainier Maria Rilke, reflects my feelings best:

“Let Everything Happen to you: Beauty and Terror.
Just keep going, No feeling is Final.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Stay well and have a happy New Year!

Be thankful for all of it

Happy Thanksgiving!
This holiday is a reminder that we’re almost finished with this crazy year. YES!

Have you tried to look through your photos from last year? This photo was taken a year ago at a quilt guild were I was lecturing and teaching. Looking at it I realize this was the last time I did an in-person lecture.

I look back at my photos and feel bombarded with emotions. I was appearing on Quilting Arts TV and published in their magazine. I had work in an art gallery that was selling. I was teaching classes and lecturing. I was also feeling emotionally fit and physically strong. I was enjoying life traveling, going on vacation and seeing family (something I haven’t done very much in my life). Life was good.

If I could go back in time a year ago, what would I tell myself about the future. Although I’m sad about all the disappointments that happened this year, I can only think to say “be thankful.” I’m thankful for my health and a loving supportive husband. I’m thankful for my talents and passion for textile arts, because sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me moving. I’m thankful I can continue to laugh, sing (not well…but that’s not the point!) and I can adapt to new situations. I’m also thankful for you! Thank you for continuing to read these posts and support my art. I appreciate you!!

As we reflect on what has been and what is yet to come, let’s be thankful for all of it.

 

 

Be kind to you!

Tenacity…is my word for today. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “the determination to continue what you are doing.” With just a few more weeks left, I think most of us could use this word to describe how we got through this year.

Over the last 8 months, I’ve had many conversations with creative friends about how we are surviving these times. Tenacious describes each of us. Sometimes it is as basic as the having motivation to get out of bed. Other times it is having the chutzpah to change direction, move out of our comfort level or learn new skills.

I can honestly say, I have many levels of motivation this year. I find the solution is self-care. It is OK to have a bad day, week or month. You’re not alone, we all have them. The tenacity comes from recognizing how you feel and, at your own pace, continue to move toward a goal.

What do you want? How do you get there? Even simple tasks can be broken down into manageable pieces and accomplished in steps to challenge yourself to move forward. Keep in mind, if it doesn’t go as planned, just start over again tomorrow. It’s OK if you move slow, you’re still moving. And, remember along the way to always be kind to you!

 

 

Want to learn more about me? Check out my latest YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/YK8XDXuBwQk

Godspeed

“Contemplation (Lesser Goldfinch)” – 2020 by Nanette S. Zeller

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you may remember my quilt “Goldfinch in My Garden” that I sent to Sacred Threads Backyard Escapes exhibit last year. The call for entry asked for an 18″x 24″ art quilt that, once accepted, would be used to display in hospital galleries. The “Goldfinch” was accepted and slated to travel to International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, Ca. this spring… well, it was … until Covid-19 forced a shutdown of all major quilt exhibits. This was (as we all have experienced this year) a disappointment for me … Until …

About two months ago, Lisa Ellis (Sacred Threads curator) contacted me and 12 other artists from Backyard Escapes. She asked if we could re-create a similar piece for a permanent installation in the newly renovated INOVA Schar Cancer Institute – Fair Oaks (in Fairfax, VA), Radiation Oncology department.

OF COURSE!!! What an honor!

I frequently make line-drawing patterns of my designs to use for my fusible applique work. So, I had a pattern for this quilt. The challenge was the dimensions. Instead of being rectangular, the new quilt needed to be larger and square (30″ x 30″). I definitely had to make a few modifications…see the original version here

Luckily!!! I still had one yard of the gorgeous background fabric. And after an intensive Internet search, I was able to score one more yard as backup. I love this fabric! If you know fabric, you know designer quilting fabrics are usually produced for one year and then retired…forever. Fortunately, I was able to make the new quilt without needing to use my coveted backup yard (note: I’m now hoarding it until another worthy project develops).

Last week I sent it on it’s way to it’s new forever home. It makes me emotional to think about where it is going. My family has been deeply affected by cancer. I think of each of them when I think of this quilt. I hope “Contemplation”, along with the 12 other quilts, provides comfort to the patients and families as they travel their journey of healing. Godspeed…

 

What brings you joy

The past couple weeks I have been working on a commission art quilt. I’m re-making my “Goldfinch in My Garden” quilt from the Sacred Threads Backyard Escape exhibit. It’s not going to be exactly the same, but very similar. This new version will be part of a permanent collection at INOVA Schar Cancer Institute – Fair Oaks in Fairfax, VA.

It’s kind of fun re-visiting something I made before. The best part is I KNOW how it’s suppose to go together. Usually when I make something new, the entire process is play it by ear. I envision how something will work, but I’m not that sure that it will. This time around the construction was much easier.

The size of this quilt is different. I knew I was going to make the same goldfinch, but it needed to be larger. The new quilt is square versus the rectangular version I made last time.  The process of making the applique bird is the same. I documented it on a new YouTube video that you can watch here. I’m having fun making these videos, so expect to see more soon.

I’m also working with the Global Quilt Connection (GQC) again. So many of us want to take classes and with this pandemic our opportunities are limited. So GQC is partnering with teachers who offer online classes for individual enrollment. After I finish this commission piece, I will be back to work on building new classes. My plan for early next year is to offer some live Zoom classes you can sign up for where we can create together. GQC is offering teachers, like me, the opportunity to show what we offer in classes. There are some great teachers lined up to present. So if you’re craving some new ideas on things to do from home be sure to check out the presentations at http://globalquiltconnection.com/studentmainpage.html. I will be presenting on November 17th.

I hope you are staying inspired and finding time for your creative passions. Above all things…find time for what brings you joy!

 

Enjoy your creative journey

I’m curious…. What are you working on?
I’ve been writing these weekly posts for several years. Most of the time I just let my muse inspire me with the topic. The world seems so different now and I’m wondering if there is more that I can do to make an impact on all the things important to me. You are important to me.

I teach classes to share my knowledge and inspire my students. It’s a little difficult now with all the social distancing, but I’m building a library of on-demand courses so anyone can learn from me at their convenience. My plan is to build some live webinar-style classes where students can sign-up and we work together through the process. It would almost be like having me come to your home and work with you (read last week’s post to learn about how these classes work).

The challenge with all this is I know what I’d like to teach, but that doesn’t mean you’d want to take the class. With everything going on, I’m working in a closed environment and I’m not able to get out and talk to you directly. The best way I have to share with you is through my blog and newsletter.

I would love to hear what you’re working on and how I could help you along your creative journey. Do you need moral support and encouragement?  Or do you want to learn new things? Maybe you would like to see short videos like this one showing how I added thread painting to trees: https://youtu.be/FUe_ncCUUGE

I am curious and I’d love to hear from you. If you have an idea you’d like to share, drop me note anytime through my contact form or find me on Facebook (Nanette S. Zeller). I look forward to hearing from you and until then, enjoy your creative journey!

Sewing with you

Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking a live Zoom class presented by the talented Jodi Ohl. I have been building my own virtual classes, but I found it fun to be on the other side of the screen. I don’t have plans to be a painter like Jodi, but I know that taking classes in another media helps make you a stronger artist. Inspiration can hit you when you explore new approaches or ideas.

It was interesting to be the student yesterday because I realized how much fun it was to take a Zoom art class. I didn’t have to pack my supplies and carry them out of the house, then carry them home again. The class was late in the evening and I didn’t have to worry about driving home at night. I was comfortable working in my own space and didn’t have to dress up. At one point, I realized I forgot one of the items on the supply list. Well, good news, I didn’t miss out on anything…I just walked to the other room and grabbed it. (Note: You don’t know how many times one of my students forgot a part for their sewing machine.) I was able to work along with Jodi, but there some times where I just watched her and that was OK. I felt like I was having a relaxed private lesson with a front row seat. Another interesting big perk I noticed was at break time, I didn’t have to stand in line to use the privy.

Having participated in many Zoom “meetings,” I was really surprised at how much fun and comfortable a Zoom class was. With the current restrictions, it’s not a safe to attend in-person classes. All indications seem that online classes are going to stick around well after we return to normalcy. People, like me, are seeing all the benefits and wanting more.


This is why I want to take a minute to tell you about my online and virtual classes. My online classes are on-demand (listed here) and, after enrolling, are available to you 24/7. My live classes and lectures (listed here) are meant for groups, guilds, shops, libraries or other organizations. I offer the live presentations through video teleconferencing technology (e.g, Zoom). If you’ve ever wanted to take a class from me, now is a great time to do it. Besides the perks I listed above, I can “virtually” teach anywhere in the world and neither of us would have to leave our homes.

If you prefer to take a live class, I plan to schedule some virtual classes in the near futures. (Make sure you sign up for my newsletter to keep informed.) Also, many organizations are currently scheduling programs for 2021. If you belong to or know of a group which offers programs, I would be honored if you shared this post with them. And, until I see you again, I’ll look forward to sewing with you!