Category: Nature Inspired Art

What’s Next?

In a heartbeat more than a week, my exhibit “As Nature Speaks: a dialog with an art quilter” will be open to the public (details below). This 2-year journey has been a challenge, life altering, and most definitely a learning process. In my career I have produced a good number of art exhibits, but usually as the manager guiding other’s to the final reward. This is the first time I am wearing all the hats (manager, publicist, creative director, artist, etc.).  This is both good and bad.

The good is I have license to prepare every detail of this exhibit in a way that reflects me. This also leaves the bad, because there is no one to help (or blame) when things don’t go as planned. I’m in a good place with preparation. When life did get crazy, I am so very grateful to have an experienced friend to confide in. We had many conversations where solutions were easily found. Everyone should have such a good friend.

It’s been a long summer and I’m looking forward to its end. There will be a day soon, when I’ll look back and feel the triumph of successfully completing one more milestone.  I am always thankful to learn something with each new challenge I take in life. But, I’m also always looking forward to what’s next?


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
119 Ambassador Loop, Cary, NC 27513

Artist Gallery Talk: Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 from 10:30-11:30a
Artist Reception: Friday, Oct 26, 2018 from 6-8p

Get to show you

I’m in the last two weeks of prep for my show. I feel confident about it, but there’s still a lot of work to do. My birds still need to get framed, signange and other print media need to be created, and I’m still working on publicity.

This is called being a one woman show, no team effort on this production.

I’m a little bit behind my self-imposed schedule, but I planned the schedule so there would be flexibility. You can’t predict things like dealing with a hurricane 5 weeks before show time, so I always allow fluff time in my plans. I think that’s why I feel calm about everything right now. (Well I think I feel calm anyway…lol!)

Some of this comes from experience from producing a lot of other exhibits.  I know what has to get done and how much time its going to take. What I didn’t know was that everything I’ve ever done in my life is being put to use to create this exhibit.  Hindsight is the only way to describe it.

My exhibit is aptly titled “As Nature Speaks: a dialog with an art quilter.” Its a story about me, reflecting on the journey. Throughout the process, I’ve remembered that little kid who loved to pick dandelions and play with earthworms, who also loved to experiment with art. Because of that little kid and the journey she took, I’m now an adult who can express my life-long concerns about the natural world through my art. Natural science and art have always equally been my passions, next month I’ll get to show you.


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

Artist Gallery Talk: Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 from 10:30-11:30a
Artist Reception: Friday, Oct 26, 2018 from 6-8p

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

Every challenge

Do you challenge yourself? I realize I challenge myself a lot.  I don’t know if I would ever be able to live without personal challenges. I always want to learn and grow.

In a little more than a month, I am hanging my solo show “As Nature Speaks” in a very large gallery space in Cary, NC. It literally has been 2 years of challenges to get here. The first challenge was finding the confidence to apply. One day, I just told myself “just go for it,” so I did.

The second challenge was deciding if I wanted to play it safe with a small exhibit or go big. With 2 years notice, I said, “go big!” There were many times along the way that I asked myself “what were you thinking?” But, I couldn’t give up, that just wasn’t an option.

There have been many other challenges on this journey, many dealing with self-motivation and time constraints. I had to learn how to stand my ground and say no to distractions.

I also had to challenge myself to show up and put in the time to create. I had the ongoing challenge of fighting with my perfectionist self who often wanted to play the game called “panic attack” (btw: the side with fear never won). I set the goals and met them.  Yes, this past 2 years have been one challenge after another.

But let me stop here … is a challenge a bad thing? I don’t think so. A challenge definitely isn’t easy. But, when you overcome the obstacle, its likely you’ll arrive on the other side feeling more powerful and having a sense of accomplishment. I like challenges, because when I’ve crossed the hurdle, I know I learned something new and have become stronger. There’s a new and improved me waiting on the other side of every challenge.

 


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
For more information click here: As Nature Speaks

Embrace or improve

My fabric aviary is growing. This is a simple series I’ve been working on to showcase different birds. There are thousands of bird varieties in this world, so this series can, literally, be never ending.

I’m fascinated with birds, so working on this series allows me to look closely at them and discover the details that make each species unique. So how does a red Summer Tanager look different from a red Cardinal? Its in the details.

This process of being unique can also relate to being an artist. What makes one person stand out from another? Often its skill, but sometimes its more than that. When viewing artwork by those who appear to have succeeded, we may compare ourselves to them and begin negative speak. I see it all the time, comments like “they are so much better than me” and “I’ll never be that good.”  Why do we do that? I think the mission is not to compare, but learn from observation while embracing our own uniqueness.

For example, I will never be an award winning quilt piecer; I don’t have the patience. I do, however, admire someone who has those skills. I just wont compare myself because we’re different.

In contrast, thread painting on textiles is one of my passions and I’m always trying to improve. When I see someone’s work who has excelled in these skills, I don’t look at their work and say… “I’ll never be that good.” Instead, I look closely to see their uniqueness. “What are they doing that’s different from me?” “How can I change what I”m doing to obtain that quality?” I’m not trying to copy them, I’m talking quality or sparkle. Maybe its color choice, skill level or subject matter. Looking at the details, I can discover how I’m unique and decide to either embrace or improve what I do.


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

Backfacing quilts

I’ve had this nagging feeling for a couple years now. You know the one when something’s not right and you keep thinking about how to fix it? Sometimes I attribute this mocking thought-pattern to my sometimes perfectionistic personality (I am recovering…I promise!). I try to convince myself to get over it:  “Let it go … its Ok … no one will notice … you might ruin it if you try to fix it.” But, the voice persisted … for 2 years.

I couldn’t resist temptation any longer. I removed my quilt “soar” from storage and proceeded to remove all the fabric which bound the edges (aka facing). I couldn’t stand how it hung … all ruffly…yikes! Two years after making it, I finally realized what went wrong and had gained experience in how to block a quilt. When I originally finished the quilt, I had trimmed it cattywampass (yes, its a word!). It was time to take on the challenge to fix it.

First step … remove the facing and block the quilt. I placed it on a carpeted floor (face down) and gave it some steam with my iron (using a pressing cloth to protect the quilt). I pinned it into place so that it laid flat, then let it dry.

Second step … trim it square, then re-apply the facing. While doing this, I realized how un-square it actually was. Because the quilt is so large, I originally had trouble squaring it…which is what created the wonky shape it was in. I made a larger cutting surface this time by taping multiple cutting mats together on the floor. Now, I could accurately cut it into shape!

When I started this on Sunday, I have to admit I put myself into a bit of a panic. “What the heck was I doing?!!” I did a lot of self-talk to convince myself, I knew what I was doing and to proceed onward. I’m so glad that I did! It looks so much better. I didn’t have to trim much, but I did get it into shape. While I was at it, I got to enjoy all the quilting on the back. Just a note: I really need to consider making some backfacing quilts.


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

 

 

Cut up your failures

Sometimes its nice to take a break from what you’re focusing on and play around with an idea. I belong to an art exchange group where I use the opportunity to do just that … play. I usually have some very specific ideas about what I’m doing. In this exchange group I’m much less inhibited about what I do. Each month we are tasked with making a 10″ x 10″ artwork in whatever medium we choose. This year we have a theme: Construct/Deconstruct. Yep, its a pretty broad theme.

Because I’m focusing on my solo show later this fall (see below), my brain has really struggled coming up with ideas for this group exchange. I had focus early this year, but that creative energy left me. This month, I remembered a cloth bag (pillowcase) that I had stashed away. In the bag are quilts that I have outgrown. They either need to find new life as a donation to a charity fundraiser or be re-purposed into something else.

Looking in the bag, I found two pieces that inspired me for the group exchange (image upper right). I thought, what if I cut them up and reassembled them into something new? (Deconstruct/Reconstruct).

I remember when I made the bamboo quilt, it was early in my journey as an art quilter. I really liked the idea, but I hated that the bamboo looked so flat (2-dimensional). This quilt set me on a journey that improved my quilting style and eventually got me published in Quilting Arts Magazine twice for 2 of the techniques I used in this piece.

Anyway, I no longer loved the bamboo quilt and had to do something with it. So, I cut it up into 10″ x 10″ blocks and added cut-up portions of the other little quilt into the arrangement. I remember it was fun to make the original pieces, but it was equally as fun to re-purpose them into something else. To me, the end result of this creative play produced something much more interesting than its original incarnation. I don’t know if I’ll every continue with this multi layer collage technique, but it was fun to play. It got my head out of a rut and luckily produced something that I could re-purpose. So remember to play, because its OK to cut up your failures.


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

 

 

 

 

Be more mindful

Are you breathing? How do you know? Did you just check to see if you were breathing?

This is called being mindful. When you check in with your breathe, you are becoming aware of the current moment in time. Sometimes, I forget to check in. Usually when that happens, I realize the stress is also piling on.

The last few days, I have been busy stitching on this sunflower quilt (pictured). Did you know that’s a form of mindfulness too? When I do repetitive stitchwork (e.g, thread painting/quilting), I put my focus on making the stitches … well at least until I run out of thread. Drats!

I’m doing a lot of stitching on this sunflower, but its turning out to be a quick project and enjoyable. After the last two, this is a very nice change of pace. How I’m creating it is not a new process for me (“Soar” was created the same way). Its definitely not layer and layer of steps to create it (like the last 2). Mostly, I’m just stitching, so there’s less thinking about what I need to do next.

And so, what is next? For this quilt, I need to choose the color of thread to quilt the blue background fabric. Choices … choices. Which reminds me … just like life, I get to choose. I think I’ll choose to be more mindful.


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

 

 

 

Improvise or plan

I’m into the last couple months of prepping for my exhibit (details below). I’m trying to make some smaller pieces to hang along with my large art quilts. I’m currently working on a pitcher plant (work in progress pictured). When I started it, I thought it would be small and quick. In reality, its neither.

Making art can give your brain respite to think deeply about things. During all of this creating, I’ve been thinking about what and who I am, to include why and how I make art. I’ve also been listening to podcasts, my favorite is “Creative Pep Talk” with Andy Pizza. In one of his recent podcasts, he discussed how artists can fall into two categories; planners or improvisors.

I frequently say I’m a recovering perfectionist. People comment all they time how  organized I am (note: they haven’t seen my desk/studio). While I listened to Andy, I immediately thought … “I’m a planner … right?” Then I thought … “wait a minute!”

A planner charts things out and follows the plan. An improvisor just wings it. I realized I’m a little of both, but definitely use more improvise than planning. I never thought about it before. Sure you can look at my post from last week and see the line drawing I used to create this piece. I followed the layout pretty well, but I had no idea what my background would be until much later. I’m also adding more groundcover elements and will just improvise those when I got to that stage of the process.

This quilt is a bit more “planned” than most. Usually I start with just an idea (vision) stuck in head. Then stumble through the process, re-evaluating myself at each new layer of design.

Andy suggests, whether you a plan or improvise your art, you should try to occasionally stretch yourself and do the opposite. That’s scary for me to think about, I’m comfortable at what I’m doing. But, that’s his whole point though, in order to grow/improve you have to challenge yourself… hmmm, can I do it?

This revelation makes me happy to note that I’m not such a control freak anymore. I don’t criticize myself (as much) if I go off plan, because I know how to improv my way out of a predicament. This is good news.

What about you? Do you improvise or plan?

 


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

 

You will improve

The past 2 weeks, I’ve been designing postcards and business cards; doing layout work in Photoshop, and dealing with technical issues with my Internet Service Provider.  There was a time, as part of my career path, I would spend all day doing computer work. It never phased me. I realize I’m not as patient anymore. Maybe things have gotten more difficult or maybe its just me.

This past week, I’ve also been designing an art quilt. I use patterns to create my applique designs. I could probably draw the design elements on paper, but I prefer to have a computerized (vector) line-drawing that I could re-size and re-use. Without going into too much detail, these vector drawings can easily be altered through the computer without distorting the quality. (note: I use Adobe Illustrator to create them).

For the piece I’m working on, I’ve been trying to change a photograph of trumpet pitcher plants (left) into pattern pieces I can use in my design (right). I succeeded, but along the way I had to re-learned some old skills and realized that there’s probably a better/easier way. (It doesn’t help that my software is a little bit dated.)

I could throw in the towel with all of this technology, but that’s not me. I am willing to learn new skills, but I also want to improve on skills that I already know. This is true for my computer work, but also true for my design, artistic and quilting skills. I crave learning and I’m always thinking of how to improve what I know.

At times, it feels frustrating learning new things. Its takes time to learn and become proficient. Its important to be patient with yourself. The first attempt may or may not be good and you can bet its not going to be a masterpiece. Give yourself time and practice; you will improve.



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