Category: Spirituality

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.

 


 

 

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…

 

Smile with our eyes

Life feels weird right now. Most of the time I go through my day without thinking about what is different than it used to be. Things become routine and you don’t think about them anymore. But, yesterday I felt gobsmacked.

I was scrolling through social media and stumbled on a video produced by the Virginia Quilt Museum. Like most museum and art galleries these days, they have produced virtual tours of their art exhibits ( www.vaquiltmuseum.org/virtual-tours ).  They recently produced a video tour of their Eye Contact exhibit. Eye Contact was originally produced for the 2019 Sacred Threads Exhibit and is now touring.

I watched this sweet video, with its serene music, while intently looking for my eyes. As I watched the artwork scroll across my screen, I couldn’t help feel sad. There’s irony here. When I made this quilt, I didn’t think about what it really meant. At the time, it was just an exercise in creative play and didn’t have much meaning to me.

While I was traveling early last year, I notice how my pupils looked square in our hotel so I took a photo. I take lots of photos of non-significant things. Sometimes they inspire me. And truly, this photo inspired me to work on a quilt to send to Eye Contact. When I see it, I think of traveling. Last year was a very fun year of travel for me.

Yesterday, while I watched the video and saw all these eyes scrolling past me, I was reminded of where I was in time. For one, no travel plans for me for while. That’s all been cancelled. And, when I go out in public, I no longer see faces on the people I meet. Instead, I see a mask and above that I see their eyes. While watching the video, I felt like I was seeing mask covered faces.

It was a peculiar experience thinking how a little more than a year ago we were in a different place. Back then, I would have never expected the Eye Contact exhibit to reflect our future, but it has. It’s poignant, and a little bit sad. I’m honored to be a part of this exhibit. It definitely means more to me now. When I created my eyes, I was unexpectedly looking into the future.

Now when I’m out in public, I frequently wonder if my mask-faced smile is worth the effort. Will anyone see it? My friends remind me that indeed … we do smile with our eyes.|

 

 

Lyric Kinard and Sue Bleiweis are hosting the free Global Quilt Connection. If you’re looking to hire virtual teachers for classes or lectures, this is the place to start. This live event will introduce you to 90 instructors, shared through 3 meet-the-teacher virtual presentations. Learn more at Global Quilt Connection. You can see me Wednesday, September 2, 2020 from 4-6pm EST.

Priority and ritual

When you wake up in the morning, what drives you to get out of bed? My drive comes from a feeling of purpose. Each morning I awake with the need to get the dogs out and fed. They have an internal alarm clock and we have developed a ritual which requires my participation.

Having purpose keeps us going. Without purpose, we tend to flounder. Whether our purpose is developed from internal needs (e.g., eating) or external obligations (e.g., job), it provides direction and guidance into how to proceed each day.

Finding purpose can also relate to how we embrace making art.  Sometimes creative purpose can just be a strong feeling of “I want to make this.” Other times, you might need to create something for a gift or maybe to sell.

When other obligations have higher priority in our lives, our creative time may be neglected. Highly creative people need to find balance. When we reduce are creative time, we can develop symptoms of depression, like feeling tired or sad. Our purpose is creating and when it’s missing we feel it emotionally.

It’s OK to feel this way. Sometimes life gets crazy and there’s little time to make art. But, it’s also important for creatives to carve out time for our art. Look at your calendar, find a block of time, set a date, and leave yourself written reminders. Give this gift to yourself, you deserve it. And just like your reason for getting out of bed, if you believe creativity has purpose in your life, then it also needs priority and ritual.

 

Rhythms in your life

Lately, I’ve been thinking about rhythms and patterns in creating things. I think of them as a metronome that forms a beat to follow. Maybe the beat is for a specific task, like hand sewing hundreds of hexagons to create a quilt top or assembly-line sewing 50 face masks. As the process develops, you start out clunky, but then (hopefully) you develop a beat that runs through your head. First this, then this, then this…repeat. One, two, three…repeat. (Note: Knitting and crochet is also this way and is frequently written in “secret” code: *K2, P1, Sl1,* repeat.)

Rhythms also develop in our daily lives. Wake up, let the dogs out, grab your caffeine…repeat (the next day). When you get a new pet, new job, or start a new project, the daily routine shifts and the beat gets clunky. With luck, the rhythm forms quickly and you find your beat.

For most of my life, I’ve been aware of rhythms. As I write this, I’m hearing (and feeling) the 1, 2, 3 count and I’m finding comfort in the pattern. A rhythm can be like a good song that plays in your head as you go through the day.

This week I realized that I’ve felt out of sorts lately because the rhythm keeps changing. This year has been crazy for this. I’m seeking a beat, but the world around me keeps changing. On the days that I find my cadence, I feel more calm and accomplished. Lately, there have been many days where there isn’t anything to count. This is were rituals (or habits) come into play. You find something that’s repeatable on a daily basis. It’s important to find things you can repeat, because it puts order into your day: “I’ll do this, then I’ll do this and then I’ll do this…repeat.” I’m going to  focus some thought on this. Unfortunately, I’ve just never been that successful with forming daily habitual behaviors. Some of the one’s I’ve had (like going to the gym daily) have been broken due to the pandemic. There’s always room to change. We’ll see how it goes, right? Do you see any rhythms in your life?

Find respite in art

The summer heat is finally here in the southern US. I’m one of those people who hates hot weather. For the next 3-4 months, I’ll be stuck inside most of the day breathing only stale conditioned air. We had a long cool spring, so I’ll try not to complain too much. With the long summer days, I’m more motivated to work on a my art. Good natural light helps.

I’m working on a piece that was inspired from a photo I took last fall (right). I was on a long, solo hike through coastal redwood forests of Northern California. Along the route, I would stop and take photographs. At one of my stops, an Anna’s hummingbird came in to see what I was doing. It was such a lovely encounter with this curious bird. I created a sketch from the photo and now I’m rendering it in fabric.

As I work on this piece, my thoughts go back to that adventure. I remember how I was feeling and why I was on this trip, taking this solo walk. And, now working on this art piece during the heat of the summer, I’m reminded how cool it was that day. I can feel the coolness, hear the sounds, and see how the day appeared.

It’s funny how making art ignites our senses and emotions. Fabric also has a way of bringing back memories. If you work with fabric, have you every gone through your stash, found a piece of fabric and remembered exactly how you acquired it? My mother’s been dead for over 43 years, but I have some fabric that was her’s and I remember the shorts she made using it.

With all the craziness going on in our world right now, are you taking time to make art? Creating is a way to sink deeper into our thoughts. It allows a little escape from the reality, but also gives us time to process how we’re feeling. If you’re feeling uneasy with life right now, I encourage you to escape and find respite in art.

 

 

 

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Creatively travel this journey

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
~ Anais Nin

I’ve been thinking about you. This is a very, shall I say, interesting time to be an artist. I make art because it feeds my soul. I share it because I hope it brings joy or comfort to people who see it. I also find great satisfaction and purpose inspiring people with new skills. When I see the “aha” moment in my students, it gives me great satisfaction.

I’ve been a creative person my entire life and I’ve struggled along the way. I’ve lived through many years of self-criticism and doubt. I always I wanted to do more than make cute gifts for family and friends. I’ve always wanted to teach. When the arts and teaching finally connected for me, I knew I finally found my calling. It’s not been an easy journey but it has been fulfilling. Unfortunately, I discovered this later in my life and my time always just seems short.

And now, we are in a crisis that no one expected and very few have prepared for. As I’ve tried to ground myself these last couple months, I realize I’m not alone. Creative people need to create. It is were most find comfort and release from the negativity around them. When we get stuck artistically during challenging times, it’s counter-productive to what we need and can negatively exasperate our emotions.

As I connect with other professional artist and art agencies, I realize this global struggle is even more difficult for professional artists. Sadly, a majority of artists (2-D and 3-D artists, musicians, actors, etc) are pretty much without work. Most of us depend on outside events and venues for our livelihood. These theaters, galleries, trade-shows, schools, etc, are struggling too. Most are closed. These are places were normally crowds gather; when will it be safe to return? Even when they open, it is going to take a very long time before people are comfortable returning to these places they once loved. And, in turn, it is going to be a difficult journey for many professional artists. This concerns me, not only for my own personal and professional interests, but for those of my fellow artists and also for those of use who enjoy participating in these events. How do we participate and connect when we can’t meet? It’s is going to be a long journey for creative people.

Right now, the Internet seems the best way to connect and, as I mentioned in my blog last week, I am building online courses. I’m wondering what else can I do? I’m curious, what would you like to see from me? Do you want to know more about my process or why I create it? Do you want to watch me create or just see the finished project? Would you watch Facebook or Instagram Live feeds? Is there anything I do in my art that you would like to learn? Or do you want me to help encourage you through your own journey? I’m thinking of you and want to hear from you. Together we can creatively travel this journey.

 

 

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Does it give you peace?

Have you ever asked yourself why you’re doing something? Or questioned why you should continue? I do it all the time. As I age, I notice I’m questioning myself more often. These are valid questions. Sometimes we get stuck in situations where we feel we have no way out. So we stick with status quo, suck it up, and drive on.

But, have you ever dreamed of being somewhere or doing something different? If so, what did you do about it? Did you take action or stick with status quo?

If you choose status quo, how does it make you feel? Do you feel stuck or does it give you peace?

For me, it depends on the situation. There are some things that I feel that I have to accept and just deal with “what is.” But, there are other things that constantly swirl in my brain which force me say to myself, “if you’re not happy with it, then do something about it!” Yet, telling myself to do something is easy; actually doing something about it is the hard part.

It’s like driving a car down an old deeply rutted dirt road. When it’s time to make the next turn, it seems the car and the road are fighting you. You know you have to turn, but there’s so much resistance that the car falls back into the ruts. I guess at some point, you could give up, stick with status quo and keep driving on the same road. It would be easier, right? But does it make you feel stuck or does it give you peace?

 

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

Challenge yourself

I really do have a plan for this summer, but I’m experimenting a little too. I spent so much time last year creating new artwork, that my brain is kind of in a fog about what to make next. Part of my problem, I don’t have any external deadlines to drive me with a purpose. I’ve been muddling along a little bit and experimenting with some new techniques. It’s always a good idea to have creative play time when you’re feeling a little stuck.

I entered a call for entry last week for “Eye Contact: creating a connection.” It’s an art installation that will be part of the Sacred Threads exhibit July 11-28 in Herndon, VA. The call for entry asked to for a 23″ x 5″ art piece that features human eyes. This was a little bit of a stretch for me, but I had a photo of myself looking into a mirror and thought it would be an appropriate subject for this exhibit. When I saw myself in the mirror, I noticed the lights that framed the mirror reflected in my eyes making my pupils look square. It fascinated me, so I snapped a selfie and rendered it into this art quilt.

It is a bit different from what I normally do and that’s OK. In order to grow as an artist, you must continue to challenge yourself.

 


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