Category: Success & Failure

Gonna be alright

Hard to believe that a month ago, I was hanging my artwork in a local gallery. I’ve been with this gallery for over a year. Last month they moved to a much bigger location where there’s more foot traffic in the center of the tourist heavy town of Pinehurst, NC.

When they officially re-opened at the new location, several pieces of my art quickly sold. Things looked ever so promising at One of a Kind Gallery. They did their best to stay open the next couple weeks, but it became very obvious with the Covid-19 pandemic that it was necessary to shut down….temporarily.

At the same time, I was extremely excited about my new teaching opportunity with ARTworks Vass in Vass, NC. My first class was scheduled for this coming Saturday. The classes have been re-scheduled for May 4th, but that’s all contingent on things out of our control. Everything seems to be in flux.

The good news is I’m starting to accept the new normal. I’m getting tired of sitting around and have started making progress on some personal goals. Although I normally work from home, this is somehow different? I cannot explain, but it is. I think we all are having some level of sadness, maybe even fear. Possibly you’re experiencing some boredom, maybe some challenges spending so much time at home, or feeling the stress of 24/7 captivity with your family unit.

When my dad was alive, I remember one time I called him worried about some issue happening in my life. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but anyway, he stopped me and said, “Nanette, everything will be OK. Everything has always worked out OK for you.” It’s times like this, that I remember that conversation. He was right then and to this day I can look back and see that it remains true. But, I also see that it’s true for all of us. It’s not that we don’t have bad days…I’ve had my share. But, we always seem to get past it and can look back to see that we made it through that dark time and came out ok. My point is we will get through this. It’s Ok to feel all the feelings you’re having, but it’s also important to find opportunities of joy. Look for things that are good about it. If you’re like me, before this happened I was stressing that I didn’t have enough time. I’m looking at this situation as an extra time is a gift. And, if you start feeling a little overwhelmed, close your eyes for a moment, think of being on a sunny beach, with a warm breeze. Then, think of Bob Marley and sing along with me “Don’t worry…’bout a thing….’cuz every little thing is gonna be alright.”

Go create something!

And so…life slowly crawls to a stop with this Covid-19 virus spreading through the United States (and world). I work from home, so things haven’t changed too much. But still, it all seems weird and surreal. Things seem kind of normal, but then again, they don’t. The last two weeks my brain has been in a shutdown. How about your’s?

I’ve talked to a number of friends who just say they’re not motivated. We’re creatives who have been offered a gift of time, but we’re not using it. I’ve been asking myself why. I did spend some time updating my website last week, but art still seems stubborn about appearing in my life right now.

I think part of it is the uncertainty. I had plans to be at a conference in Toronto last weekend…cancelled. I was scheduled to do a meet and greet at Artworks Vass, NC this weekend…cancelled. I was scheduled to teach a class next weekend…cancelled. The gallery where I show my art, One of a Kind Gallery in Pinehurst, NC, just moved to a new location. The first week after the move, things were going great. My artwork was selling and I need to make replacement pieces to fill the empty spaces. Well, they closed this week and will re-open …whenever.

I’m a professional artist and, just like everyone else, these closures change the way I work. The urgency of what I need to do is gone. My drive hasn’t been there. I’m in a serious slump…but I’m emerging. I think sometimes you have to embrace the funk when you’re in it. I realize I’m not alone and there’s plenty of people who are suffering far worse than I am. I am not complaining…but accepting that this really has impacted my thinking.

As I’ve talked to my friends, many of them have experienced the same feelings. We know how to count our blessing, but how do we move forward when there’s nothing to move forward towards? This week I realized that the answer is just DO something. Don’t stop because then, the crisis wins. I’m making progress and feeling the stubbornness get stronger. I must return to a practice of making art every single day. It’s like exercising. When you stop working out, you loose the motivation to work out. But, one day back at the gym and you’re remembering the joy it brings you. It’s the same with your art. If you’re feeling this slump, and it bothers you, then DO something! Anything! It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but with each piece you’ll get creatively stronger. The stronger you are, the more you’ll want to do. So stop looking at your computer and go create something!

What life has planned

I’m finding it hard to accept that it is the middle of March. For me, the last two months have been busy. I’ve been rolling from one thing to the next. They tell you make a plan and follow through. “What plan?” I’ve had so many re-routes lately that I can’t even remember all of them. How do you plan when things change right in front of you?

Among several other about-turns, I had plans to travel next week. It was a big event. I’ve been “planning” for this since October and anticipating it for almost a year. Then, whammo! This weird virus takes control. There are new rules. It seems every one of us is scrambling to live life differently. You see a friend, go in for the hug and they remind the new rules are bumping elbows, toe tapping, Vulcan salute, or simply waving at a safe distance. What in the heck is going on? Well, needless to say my trip was cancelled. Wise decision by the organization, but still adjusting is seems awkward and disappointing. How do you plan for this? And, just how long is it going to be before I can hug my friends again?

The good news is I feel like I’ve handled all the changes pretty well. In the past few weeks, I’ve moved my artwork to a new gallery space in Pinehurst, NC (if you’re in the area, check out One of Kind Gallery). I’ve also established a new location to teach. It took some extra prepping to get the classes arranged, but the schedule is now up at ARTworks Vass in Vass, NC. Check out their website to see all the great classes they offer. It’s a fun art gallery too! If you’re in the area drop by and say “hi.” Everyone is super friendly…and don’t miss their newly acquired Artomat (refurbish cigarette machines that dispense art instead of tobacco). Super fun!

I survived it all so far. And, if you’re reading this, you survived it too. Although my plans for next week were cancelled, I have a new plan. I’m looking forward to using the newly acquired time in the studio. I have work to do and art to create. So stay safe and remember “What we plan for ourselves isn’t always what life has planned for us.” [Kushandwizdom].

 

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?

 

Might help later

I think everyone has good intentions when they offer help to someone else. However, what I’ve learned in life is, that no matter how good the intentions, you can’t force your help on anyone. There’s a reciprocal aspect to this as well. If you need help, it’s great when someone offers. We can then decide to accept the offer or not. I’ve also noticed that we (yes, I’m including myself) need help, but don’t mention it to anyone.

It’s a quandary. Maybe we don’t want to feel like we’re a burden. So what do you do if you need help and don’t want to feel like you’re bothering someone?

As a creative person, maybe you want to improve your skills or explore new techniques. The best way to achieve this is to seek new opportunities. With the Internet, there are so many ways to get online help – just Google your question and you’ll find all sorts of solutions. You may even be fortunate to have some place near you to take classes and/or meet like-minded people. By connecting, we find new resources that may be helpful when we get into a bind.

As an example: I’m taking a videography class at the local community college. I spent a month fiddling with the software and my camera, but felt challenged with my results. I wanted to improve, so I enrolled. There are all different levels of talent in this class. I’m able to help some people, but I’m also learning from others. This is the fun part about being in a “live” class. Although a videography class doesn’t sound like it has much to do with my art, it does. I’ve learned that someone producing videos considers artist placement of an object on the screen. Just like I do on fabric. We’ve discussed light balance, rule of thirds, use of negative space, among other topics. It reminds me that I need to do the same in my textile art. In the process, I’m learning something new, but also reinforcing what I already now.

You’re likely to learn something in any class you take. You can also strengthen your skills by learning a different artistic style. So if you’re feeling like you need some help, why not look into taking a class or at least Google video tutorials you can watch. By reaching out to new opportunities, you’re exposing yourself to ideas and resources that might help later.

Good things are gonna come

“Stump’d” by Nanette S. Zeller

A few weeks ago, I successfully completed another trip around the sun (aka birthday). My new year and new decade has officially started. Mentally, this year has been a slow start, but it also has offered me new direction and enthusiasm. It takes evaluating what’s important and figuring out how to make it happen?

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting at an event and discovered the person sitting next to me was also a creative. She was having some challenges and craved being more artistic. We’ve all been there, right? Family, work, health … whatever … it takes energy and time from our passion. If you’re like me, your creative spirit probably nags at you when you’ve ignored (or avoided) it for awhile.

People who don’t get it, may think I’m obsessive. Between, knitting, slow-stitch projects or full-blown art quilts, I’m always working on several different projects at any given time. When I take a trip, I carry at least 2 different travel-size projects with me. These projects are also easily accessible when I have time to sit and watch TV. Sometimes I work on them, sometimes not, but they are always ready to feed my creative desire when I have time. As I shared stories with this new friend, she started showing me projects where she did the same thing. A little stitching here and a little there, and suddenly it’s something significant.

Our conversation made me realize that sometimes we just have to accept what is and do the best we can. Life does get in our way, but as long as you allow nuggets of time to feed the passion, maybe it’s good enough. If you really want to change things, then you might have to let something else go.

Sometimes the fear of what might happen if we do something is greater than the reality of it. Sometimes we have to take chances by closing and opening doors of opportunity. I’m realizing that the exciting things happen when I step out of my comfort-zone. My energy gets rejuvenated as the fear turns into a fire in my belly. I become determined to succeed and, surprisingly, new opportunities appear. I’m no longer “stump’d” and I grow. So as Amy Gerhartz’s sings “Hold On! … Good things are gonna come!”

Looking forward to the journey

Unlike most of the world, things kind of slow down for me this time of year. I’m able to spend more time catching up on projects. Since the sun goes down pretty early these days, there’s a lot of darkness that makes me want to stay home. I try to get out a little during the day, but I’m home early and working with projects that have been waiting for my attention. I feel productive.

It is also a time that I contemplate on what’s next. Two weeks from today, not only do we have a new year ahead, but a new decade. Wow! A great time to think about what I want to accomplish. I’ve been doing some behind the scenes planning and stepping back to my technical roots (I use to design websites). I forgot home much fun it can be to learn new software that provides a creative outlet.

If you’ve been following me, you may know about some of what I’m planning. But, there’s another component that I’ve been holding close until it’s ready. I’m pretty excited about this next phase of my life. I’m not giving up on my artwork, but just reaching for another outlet that will enhance things.

While I’m learning new software and catching up on some things, I feel like I’m looking at a sunrise along the beach. There’s a new decade ahead and I’m looking forward to the journey.

Cutting it up

Have you ever made something you didn’t like?

A number of years ago, I made two artquilts that had a giant yellow sunflower appliqued to the center of a square painted quilt background. At first I thought what I made was a good idea, but it was a bit large (about 32″ square). What do you do with it? I pondered it a while. Tried showing it a few places and then realized I was over it.

But what do you do if you’re “over” something? I pondered that for awhile. Every once in awhile, I’d find it with the other quilts. I’d look at it, think about what I could do with it. Undecided, I would just put it away again. Eventually, I gathered them up, along with some other pieces I was over with, and stashed them in a pillowcase marked “Donate or Cut Up.” There they sat for a couple more years…until last week.

In a class I’m taking, we were challenged to revisit something we’ve made and do something new with it. Re-purposing the sunflower quilts came to mind. What I liked most about these pieces were the wool flower centers with the beading and 3-dimensional effect. What I didn’t like was their overall size and the fact the flowers were set dead center on the piece. I found nothing interesting about the design.

Last week I decided to cut up the large sunflower into smaller pieces. I donate to a charity auction that want 6″ x 8″ and 12″ x 12″ submissions. I could easily cut these large quilts to fit those parameters, and there would be plenty of leftovers to cut the rest into 4″ x 6″ postcard-sized pieces. I think this was a win. From two no longer loved pieces, I was able to make about 18 useful items. Cutting up your art is a pretty bold thing to do, but if you’re no longer happy with it what do you do with it? Why hang on to it? Why not re-purpose it into something else, even if that means cutting it up?

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?

 

If you weren’t afraid

Over the last 2 weeks, I had the opportunity to give several presentations to quilters who live in the Piedmont area of North Carolina. I received warm and gracious receptions from these creative people. It’s a rewarding feeling to know your message connected with the audience. It reminded me I’m on the right track.

I’ve been working in this profession for a fairly long time. It was 17 years ago that I started teaching sewing. When I started, I mostly focused on basic skills, but I always wanted to teach art. I can say I’m finally there. Art has always been a powerful and consistent part of my life. I explored and created. I made some things I felt were noteworthy and other things that I felt needed to be destroyed. I consistently embraced the ugly and, even with some set backs, I didn’t give up. I kept trying.

In some ways, I’m looking back at how far I’ve come. In other ways, I’m looking forward to what’s next. No matter how old you are, there’s always room for improvement and growth. We don’t have to change, but if we want something bad enough the opportunity is there. In my life, there are many things that are inspiring me to continue. There are new ideas and techniques I want to explore and a serious amount of ideas in my brain waiting to be generated into cloth.

In the words of Henri Matisse, “creativity takes courage!” That’s what this all comes down to for me. When I am feeling my lowest, I muster up as much courage and drive forward. We all have those days, weeks, months… or maybe even years … of feeling discouraged. Just know it’s OK to take time for yourself. If you want it bad enough, don’t give up. As Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg asks, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”