Category: Nature Inspired Art

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.

 

Creative spirit

My post last week described my thoughts about how I would feel after my trip to California. I wrote that post a week before I left and scheduled it to publish on the day I returned from my trip. So here I am, a week past vacation and I can tell you that the journey was worth it.

I don’t usually bring my DSL camera with me when I travel. It’s bulky and heavy. I worry about putting it in my checked bag. I bring it as carry-on so I don’t have to worry about who might be mishandling my equipment. It is a hassle, but this trip it was worth it.

My intent with bringing the camera with me was 1) to get some practice taking pictures and 2) find some artistic inspiration for my art quilts. I’m please to say: Mission accomplished! I was able to capture images that I would never get with the camera on my phone.

Several of the photographs are already inspiration for new art quilts. After posting today’s blog, I’m going to sign off my computer and start designing some new art. Before I sign-off, I’m curious, what inspires you to get into the creative spirit?

What would you say?

This post is kind of a “back to the future” scenario. I wrote this last week, just a few days before I left for another trip to California. Last time I was there it was cool and spring. This time it will be cool and fall. I love to travel, but I’m not good at it. Maybe it has to do with so many years of not traveling. I don’t have a rhythm. I spend days fretting about what to bring and what needs to get done before I leave. Once I’m on the plane, I’m OK. Returning home is also much easier than leaving.

When I travel my camera usually gets full of pictures; images of people, places, and things; memories. I’m hoping this trip provides some artistic inspiration. I love the Northern California forests and I want to create more work representing its grandeur. I can only hope that weather cooperates.

As I write this post, I wish I was already on the other side of the journey. I’m not really trying to rush it, but I can’t help imagine how I’ll feel when I’m heading home. I wonder what grand things I’ll encounter. Did you ever wish your future self could give you advice? Or, what if you could go back in time now and give advice to the younger you? What would you say?

 

 

Back to business

When it comes to time management, lots of little distractions make larger problems. I’ve been falling behind on some things. I feel like it’s been my struggle all year. How often have you committed to do something and thought it would be OK? Then when you’re in the middle of it you realize it was more than you expected. Life throws us curve balls all the time. The question becomes how to you recover and learn from the process.

Some of you may have already seen episode 2408 on Quilting Arts TV. (In North Carolina it will air next week Thursday, Oct 3rd, 2019 on UNC-TV at 4pm – in other areas check your local listings). It seems like I filmed this episode a long time ago, so I find it interesting that it’s new to everyone. Besides reminding me how much fun I had doing this, it also makes me aware of how I got side-tracked this summer. Several of my plans for the summer have not happened. It’s officially fall, where did the summer go?

One thing I try to do is learn from my experiences. I didn’t have control over some of the things that happened this summer. Yet, there were a number of things that I did. I’m now in the process of clearing my plate and letting go of some unnecessary obligations. I’m also reminding myself that it’s ok to say “no” and also ok to ask for help. While I sort through all the summer drama, it will be fun to sit back and watch what I did last spring. I hope you get to see my thread-painted applique segment on QATV. I’m looking forward to getting back to business.

Definitely worth the effort

Have you noticed that snail mail isn’t very interesting anymore. I have a long driveway and some days after walking to the mailbox I’m so disappointed to find only a single postcard suggesting I replace my windows. Was it really worth the effort? I truly have better things to do, right? The winning days are when the mail carrier has left your favorite magazine.

This week I found the Oct/Nov 2019 issue of Quilting Arts magazine in my mailbox. That’s normally a good day by itself. However, this was an extra special win. Flipping through the magazine…there on page 46 is my name. Then flipping some more, on page 49, is a picture of me standing next to Susan Brubaker Knapp. That’s a big enough score to warrant a happy dance over.

Whee!! I’m so excited and honored to be part of the Quilting Arts legacy. This is my 3rd published article with them. I’m also very happy that, at least one day this week, my trip to the mailbox was definitely worth the effort.

 

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 .

Interesting challenge

I don’t know about where you live, but the heat of the summer is getting to me. Living in the southeastern US, I realize it isn’t the heat, but the humidity that saps my energy. I look out the window and see the beautiful sunshine, but sadly realize it’s best for me to stay inside.

In a way, this really isn’t a bad thing. I can definitely find things to do. Today I am finishing up a commission project I’ve been working on. When I’m finished writing you, I’ll sit down with needle and thread to do some slow-stitching and binge watching. It’s time to stitch down the facing, then add the sleeve and label.

I work in layers when I create my art quilts. I start with the fabric design (in this example it’s a photo printed on fabric) and then I add my free-motion embroidery (aka thread painting). Then it’s time for batting, backing and quilting. Doing things in this order allows me to cover up some of the ugliness that happens with the embroidery work. It also keeps the thread-painted areas from becoming too flat.

Sometimes the quilting stitches on the back of a quilt are equally as interesting as the design on the front. I keep threatening myself to deliberately create a piece backwards so when it hangs, the design side faces the wall. That would be an interesting challenge.