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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].

 

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!”

Right or wrong answers

“Solitude” by Nanette S. Zeller (c) 2011

I made this quilt, “Solitude,” about 9 years ago for my first solo exhibit. I find it interesting how we view art. It is a very subjective process. I can view an art piece and love it. Then there are other pieces were I feel confused or even repulsed by it. We all connect to art so differently.

“Solitude” detail

Sometimes we have a more emotional connection to a piece of art. It might make us feel happy or it could make us sad or even angry. Do you ever wonder if that was the intent of the artist? Maybe they wanted you to “feel” something? Or maybe the artist created the work and their own emotions seeped into the imagery.

If you Google images of Vincent van Gogh’s artwork, you might see that his art clearly emotes feelings. Happy flowers. Moody landscapes. Emotionally rich portraiture. Was he intending to capture these moods or did the paint just reflect where his head was?

If you’re a creative person, do you ever create work that expresses emotion? Was it intentional?

I remember where my head was when I made this quilt, but I would love to know what you see/feel when you look at it? Is it a sad or happy quilt? Or do you think it expresses other emotions? Remember, there are no right or wrong answer when viewing art.

 

Charitable giving

Serging for a good cause

As I posted last week, the world can sometimes feel crazy and off-balance. There’s a certain level of anxiety in our world. I feel it and hear my friends share similar emotions. So many things are out of our control, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us. If you’re affected, what can you do to put yourself back on track?

One thing I like doing is paying it forward. I think it always feels good to help someone else. I try to smile at people I meet and I like sending notes or gifts to people unexpectedly. I like sending surprises!

I also like putting my crafting skills to good use. Over the past couple weeks, it made me feel better to knit hats for Warm Up America. I felt better partly because I was knitting, which to me is a form of meditation. But, it also made me feel better because I was helping someone I would never know.

This week I finished making two scrappy quilts that I will donate to my guild. Many quilt guilds collect quilts to distribute to nursing or youth homes in the local area. And Yesterday, I stopped at a local Days For Girls sew day and serged components for their reusable feminine hygiene kits that will be distributed to impoverished woman around the world.

There are so many opportunities for us to share are talents and help others. It just feels good to help, even if we’re only helping in a small way. I don’t want the recognition for it, I just want to know that I’m doing something to make a situation better. Do you participate in charitable crafting (craftivism)? Share your story!

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.

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?

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.