Category: Quilts

Listen, learn, be kind and connect.

I gave a presentation yesterday using a SAQA Trunk Show to guide the participants in understanding/appreciating art. There were 57 mini art quilts in this show and nearly 80 people in the room. From table to table, we passed stacks of 5 or 6 around the room. The participants were instructed to closely look at each quilt and critique them.

To critique doesn’t mean criticize. When we look at art we should make it a challenge NOT to make quick value judgment of “good” or “bad.” We should be specific about what we see or feel. General terms like “pretty,”  “busy,” or “I don’t like it,” don’t explain what’s really happening. When viewing art, if we find a point of connection we can better explain how we’re reacting to it. Some questions to ask are:

  • How does it make you think or feel?
  • What does it remind you of?
  • What draws you in or pushes you away?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by the concept the artist is trying to portray?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by their method of execution (how they created it)?

We also need to be generous and empathetic when we make our comments. Even though the artists may not be in the room with us, try to find what’s good about the art. Always remember that it takes courage to put your artwork out there for others to see.

The best way to learn about art is to take time to look closely at it. I instructed the participant to really study each piece for awhile, then flip it over to read the artist’s statement on the back. You can learn a lot about the artist’s vision by reading the artist’s statement. After they read the statements, I asked them to look again at the quilt to see if their opinion changed. After they viewed each one in the stack, I asked them to share their thoughts: What was their favorite or least favorite and why? Did they find connection?

I enjoyed hearing their feedback. Art is subjective. Something I like may not appeal to you, but either way I can connect to it when I take time to understand what I’m looking at. I can also connect to the people I’m with by listening to their opinions of what they see. Sounds like a lesson for life: listen, learn, be kind and connect.


Their special day with me

One of the great things about showing my art at Page-Walker Arts & History Center in Cary, NC is the new group of people who will be able to see my work. This gallery space is frequently utilized for other events. They hold classes and meeting in the rooms and also rent out the space for special events….including weddings. Imagine having your wedding in an art gallery! How cool is that?

The down-side for the couple is when they reserve the space, they really won’t know what will be hanging on the wall until the artwork is hung. This doesn’t give much time for creative coordination of the bridal party and reception. It’s possible that the walls could be filled with colors that clash with the colors of the bridal party. When I was hanging the show, I really wanted to see my artwork as part of a lively bridal reception, so I asked the director if she could get a photo for me. There will be several wedding events at Page-Walker while by art is hanging there.

Last week, I received an email with a photo attached and was so happy to see the gallery all dressed-up for an upcoming reception. But, I looked closer at the photo and notice the centerpieces on the table.

There on the center of each table is a stack of disks cut from tree trunks. On each stack are several stacked stones and a pretty mason jar with an arrangement of wildflowers. Little votive candles are also included to complete the elegant mood for the reception. The couple may have known that my artwork was going to have a nature inspiration, but surely they didn’t plan their reception around it. It’s so special for me to know that this couple, who clearly loves nature, will have a backdrop of nature-inspired art. It made me so happy to see this photo.

It’s also so rewarding to know that, years to come, people will see my work in this couple’s wedding photos. I am overjoyed that they shared their special day with me.


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
119 Ambassador Loop, Cary, NC 27513

Call ahead to check gallery availability (919) 460-4963



The show will go on

I am thankful to report that everyone I know in North Carolina is safe and has survived Hurricane Florence. My heart goes out to those who are impacted. We still have major flooding just east of where I live. Local traffic patterns have changed as people navigate to work avoiding flooded, blocked or damaged roads in the area. Even this is minor stuff compared to the devastation in eastern Carolina. How do I write anything about what I’m doing when there are countless displaced people in my state? My worries are minor.

During all of this I noticed a tenacity among the people I know. My quilt guild is holding its biennial show this weekend. The judging (for ribbons) was suppose to happen last Thursday. Because of the impending storm, they postponed until Monday. The storm was pretty bad over the weekend. The venue where they were judging had to close Monday. It was amazing to hear that the coordinators pulled it off anyway. The judges drove Sunday in the nasty weather to make sure they would be there. If the guild couldn’t find a venue, they were willing to judge the quilts in their hotel rooms. No one could even prepare for all the happened this past week, but these tenacious women pulled it off. The show must go on! I’m so proud to know them.

The storm is over, major roads are clear and passable. The caravans of out-of-state utility workers and tree removal services are taking care of what damage remains. If you live in central North Carolina and looking for something to do this fine weekend, please come see the Sandhills Quilters Guild show!  I’ll have 3 pieces in the show. You’ll find that quilters in my guild are out of this world talented. You will be impressed. The show will go on!


Textiles artists like me

I am proud to be an active member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates). Quilts and quilters are usually viewed as “crafters.” When you say you’re a quilter, people immediately think of an older woman they know who “used to quilt.” Usually, this person is their grandmother.

I think part of the reason I struggled with calling myself an artist for so long was because of this stigma. When I initially started exploring art quilting, I realized this was something different. The medium (fabric) is generally what “grandma” used, but the application is really different. Envelopes are often pushed.

Th perception that “textile artist = crafter” is changing because of SAQA. They are huge proponents for recognizing textile art as fine art. They advocate that quilts, and other textile works, be showcased in museums and art galleries, not just quilt shows.

I feel empowered being associated with this International organization. I’ve attended three SAQA conferences and I’m currently a Regional Representative. A huge part of my energy comes from the members. They are caring and supportive. If you need to know anything about the professional journey, they are there to answer your questions.

A major part of SAQAs funding for exhibits and advocacy comes from their annual benefit auction which starts Sept 14 ). Members were asked to make 12″ x 12″ quilts and donate them to the auction. Each week a different set of quilts is offered and the bids are reduced daily over the course of 7 days, or until someone accepts the current bid price.

Its fun to participate. There are some amazing pieces, with some created by top names in the industry. I’m happy to be participating for the 4th time. I’m in section #2, so look for the monarch butterfly wing or any of the other fabulous quilts (available for bidding September 24 – 30). Its a great opportunity to get a fabulous piece of art while supporting an organization dedicated to supporting textiles artists like me.



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

Artist Talk: Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 – 10:30-11:30 more info
Artist Reception: Friday, October 26 – 6-8pm more info

A lifetime to complete

 My art quilts contain layers and layers of process. I know it looks complicated, because it kind of is complicated. I find I get stuck between stages. Frequently,  I’m not sure how to proceed with an idea that’s in my head.

I had that problem with this quilt (which hasn’t been named yet). The idea came to me sometime before the spring of 2013. I know this because, the inspiration photo that was taken March 23, 2013.  About a year later, I also took some staged photos of a pine cone. However, I’m pretty sure I was inspired to make this quilt long before I took the photos.

I have evidence that last summer (June 2017) I started experimenting with the design elements. However, I don’t think I actually started making the quilt until this past fall. Until last fall, I was thinking about it, but hadn’t shown much action. So when should I say I actually started the quilt? When the idea hit and the years I spent thinking about it? Or, was it when I actually started putting the idea into fabric?

I have photographic proof that I was working on the quilt in October 2017. However, in July I know I was at a fabric store looking for the perfect “pinestraw” fabric. So did I start in October? or July?

I know from October until now, I hit 2 major stumbling blocks. One stopping point was when I had to figure out how to quilt the pieced top that I created (the background fabric and pinecone). The other pause was after I quilted the piece and needed to decide how to add the “pinestraw” in the foreground. Each pause took weeks (months) to get through. So should I count all this thinking when I add up my time?  I don’t know. I mean thinking about it isn’t an active stage of progress. Or is it?

What I’m trying to say is that, for me, its difficult to say how long something took to make. If I use the inspiration photo as my starting point, then it took me 5 years to complete. If I use the actually quilt making process, then it took me about 5 months. But, If I use the actual labor hours as my guide, then its probably taken me about 40 hours.

Realistically, I tend to like to look at it differently. I believe I must consider all the years I studied art, sewing, quilting, photography and nature. Without all that study time and practice, I wouldn’t have any of it. So, if you ask, I’m going to tell you that this quilt took me a lifetime to complete.



I’ve been published!

Quilting Arts Magazine
Cover Artist
Click Here to Get a Signed Copy!

The force is with you

Several years ago, I took a class given by textile artist, Dottie Moore. I was immediately drawn to her spiritual interpretation of creativity. I noticed as she walked around the classroom meeting students that she would stop and ask them thought provoking questions. Her question to me was “What’s holding you back?”

Recently, I’ve been reminded of this question and it has me thinking. I’m moving forward on my path, setting goals and executing them. But, goodness it seems slow moving some days. What’s going on with that? Every now and then, it’s good to ask yourself questions like this. Do you have a good answer?

Sure, I could answer the question by laying blame on all the outside forces impacting my life. But really? If I wanted it bad enough, wouldn’t I just get to it?  What really is really holding me back? The answer, to be honest, is … me.

That’s the key, you know. When we question what we think is holding us back, we’re likely to realize that its in own power to change the situation. AhHa! So there lies the magic of Dottie’s question. It’s like Star Wars and Luke Skywalker … “Luke, the force is with you.”

Where they take me

galleryAnd so it goes, “Paper, Canvas, Cloth” is hung. The artist reception is over. Now I need to step back and take time to breathe. Between now and the end of the year, I’m re-grouping to decide “what’s next?”

I’ve been working on this exhibit pretty much non-stop since August. I haven’t had time to pursue other opportunities. In some ways, it’s been a tough year. In other ways, it’s been a rewarding year.

I’ve felt some negative blows the last couple weeks, but I’ve also had positive affirmations. It’s time to explore all those things I’ve been putting off and see where they take me.


Join me for:

Paper, Canvas, Cloth
November 4 – December 17, 2016
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC
featuring the work of
Sharon Ferguson, Marilyn Vendemia, & Nanette S. Zeller

Lights, Camera, Action!

FreezeFrame-450x440If you have been following my blog the last 2 months, you know that I have been working on an art exhibit called ARTQUILTSfreezeframe that was produced by the Professional Art Quilters Alliance – South (PAQA-South). I was one of the 3 curators of this exhibit. We spent over a year orchestrating the event. This was the first time that I ever did anything like this. I frequently find myself as a worker bee, but seldom am I leader. It was a great learning experience for me.

I like being part of an art exhibit production crew. I like coordinating with people, hanging quilts, and I especially like getting the word out…publicity. When all the work is done, it is amazing to sit back and watch how people enjoy the end results. Of course, it is the beautiful quilts produced by this hugely talented group of professionals that truly is the key to our successful shows.

This afternoon, I went to visit the exhibit at Page-Walker Arts & History Center in Cary, NC. It seems they have been getting a lot of visitors this past week, people coming from far and wide to see our quilts. Word is getting out. How very exciting!

Why the extra foot traffic this week? Well, we were able to get a camera crew from our local PBS station UNC-TV to come out and film the exhibit. The reporter, Stephanie Bourland, from the North Carolina Weekend program asked that the curators be available for the filming. Uh…did I say I was a curator? Yes, the 3 curators were interviewed for the 4 minute segment on their program that aired this past weekend.

What an adventure! The segment was fabulous. The videography was brilliant. They took such respect and care to video our quilts. Stephanie really cared about us. She cared about making us comfortable on camera and she cared about the exhibit. How much she cared about the exhibit shows in how she narrated the segment. You have to see it.

I’ve included a copy of the video below. We’re the 1st segment in the broadcast (about 2 minutes into the video-before the giraffes). Hope you enjoy it. Lights, camera…action!

This is the last week to see ARTQUILTSfreezeframe.

PAQA-South’s 2013 Member Exhibit
September 26 – October 20, 2013

Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC 27513


Iris_detailI hate summer in the Southeast. Ok…there I said it out loud. It wasn’t so bad the last couple weeks. It was raining like heck though. Everyday for over 2 weeks, we had monsoon style rain all day long and overcast. Unbelievable. Even though I missed the sun, I was Ok with rain. Really, I was.

This week the sun is shining, but why do I feel so miserable. It’s the heat. Well, really it’s the heat and humidity combined. I find it difficult to breathe in this weather. I choose to sit inside with the AC. How did folks live in this area before the availability of AC? Anyway, I feel cranky. I know its because of the weather. I want to go out side and sit on the porch…but I know I better not because the mosquitoes will find me and the sweat will start dripping and that gnats will annoy me. Ugh! I’m just being cranky.

Good thing I know what drives the cranky away. Yep…you guessed it…working on a new piece of art. Sitting in my cool room, listening to the hum of my sewing machine while I methodically add thread to fabric…a work in progress (WIP)…ah! This is nirvana.

Blog Hopping #5

Today is the 5th Sunday of  our Mirror Ball Dot (MBD) Blog Hopping. The MBD enthusiast of the day is Elisa Albury who’s blog is called “Stitch Outside the Ditch.” Elisa has made a modern take of an old Amish classic quilt design. The MBD makes this pretty quilt shine. I especially love what she’s done with her border treatment. Take a look see here.

My friend, Mark Hordyzynski designed Mirror Ball Dot (MBD) fabric for Michael Miller Fabrics and organized this blog hop to showcase the release of new MBD colors. I’ve known Mark for awhile and it always makes me smile when I dig through my fabric stash and see one of his fabrics in my collection. I amaze myself on how many different Mark Hordyzynski fabrics I own. I avoid using them because I want to keep them forever.

This week, I started on my project for the blog hop. Mark sent me the warning today, that I’m up in 2 weeks!  Whoo Hoo!

Are you still wondering what I’m going to do?  You’ll have to wait, but here’s another hint: The scales are weighted in my favor that this idea will be fun.

If you would like to win a color card and five fat quarters of Mirror Ball Dot fabric in your choice of colors, simply leave a comment here on Elisa’s blog post.

Don’t forget about the 20% off coupon savings at good through the end of July. Share it with your friends!

20% Off any order
promo code: MHFD13M
Expiration: 7/31/13


May 19:   Elisa Asbury –
May 26:   Dory Smith Graham –
June 02:  Nanette Zeller –
June 09:  Mark Hordyszynski – Close of the MBD Blog Hop / More MBD Inspiration / Judging for Blog Hop Winner