Author: Nanette Zeller

Have patience

Over the past several months I’ve been taking lots of photos (birds, flowers, butterflies, etc.) I’m now tasked with sorting through them to decide which will be inspiration for my art. I have several ideas of where I’m going with this, but it is a chore to sort them and decide which are clear enough to use.

Birds move constantly, so you have to take lots of photos and hope to get a couple good ones. This new camera I have (thank you NC Arts Council for the grant to purchase it) is very technical. Technology is an awesome tool, but the learning curve is steep. Once I figure it out I can take lots more photos in quick succession. Which means, more opportunities to get a good image to work with. My challenge is figuring out the technology.

There are days I wish everything was simpler. I wish I didn’t have to keep learning new skills (or re-learning updated software). Its the sign of the times. I feel I either keep up with technology or fall behind.

Learning takes time. Whether we’re learning new art techniques or just keeping up with technology, we have to be patient with the process. I’m struggling with that a right now. I want to move faster, see results quicker, and not have to return to fix things that I didn’t do right in the first place.

I know that it is worth the time to learn something new. I’ll be quicker and more proficient when I do. I will also feel more confident as I move forward. I just must remember to have patience.


Don’t lose hope

This week the sun reached its fall equinox; the equal daylight and darkness. I’m ready for the shift out of summer. Even if it means shorter days. It has been a long hot summer with too much time indoors. The past two weeks I’ve been supervising home improvement projects and it’s been hard to get into the studio to play. Whenever there was a break, I sat at the computer working on an update for my Paint with Thread class.

I understand a lot more about video editing than when I first created this course. It has been sitting idle since the other platform I was using announced their closure. I had to decide: do I start all over or update it? I decided to do some updating. I’m very close to being done. And, I have lots of ideas for other classes, too. I’m looking forward to getting new online classes available. It’s creative work in a “techy” kind of way.

So until our paths cross again, remember the words of Emily Dickinson:

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
nd never stops – at all –

I couldn’t say it better myself. Until next time, don’t lose hope…

Take the next step

Its been a busy week working with issues that don’t produce much in tangible outcomes. I plug along, like we all do. Hoping the micro-steps aren’t wasted time and, in the end, the results will feel worth the effort. That’s called having faith.


“Anchor down. I breathe in.
‘Cause we’ve got hope
We won’t be sinking”
– lyrics: “Hope on a Rope” by Red Wanting Blue



Since I have limited time this week, I’ll just reflect that faith is having a conviction to keep going. When the odds seem overwhelming, we keep stepping. We climb the mountain with one-step, then the other. Eventually we’ll reach the top. Don’t give up, don’t stop. Wherever you’re going…the only way to start is to begin. And, the only way to get there is with faith that tomorrow will be another day. Whatever you may be facing today, hold your head high, steady your balance and take the next step.

Be well…


Higher Plane

I’m in a transition state this week. Last month, I completed a couple of projects and now it is time to move forward with creating some new artwork. I started flipping through photos and found this tree quilt, “Solitude,” which I made in 2011. It is one of the first art quilts I ever made. I really like how I completed the background. It is a quilted whole-cloth design with an appliqued tree. After quilting, the fabric was painted with gesso, then layers of paint colors were applied with paint rollers.

I’m looking at how I handled the background and I’m still fascinated by the technique. I need to revisit this process. It was pretty intense to create. I used regular craft paint, so this quilt is stiff. I need to try it with fabric paint.

My brain is flooded with all sorts of stories about it. I remember creating it, exhibiting it, selling it and now I’m inspired by it again.

There was a time I didn’t like looking back at the pieces I made. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I can be overly-critical about my art. That’s the perfectionist taking charge. A fun way to re-direct this thinking is to image the thoughts are coming from a mischievous little pixie who whisper in your ears. You could believe them or you can just ignore what they have to say. This is part of the journey. To overcome negative self-talk, we first need to recognize it is there then decide to ignore it.

I’ve come a long way since I made this quilt. I realize now that they all can’t be master pieces. Each is made by my hands and nothing hand-made can be perfect in every way. So it is important to let go and accept where you are. As humans we are forever metamorphosing, so we can value each step along the way as a learning process. It is all part of moving to the next higher plane.

Time to remember

This past week I’ve had a flood of memories. I find it interesting how memories stay in our heads even if we don’t realize it. You think you forgot about something and suddenly you’re reminded. It all comes rushing back like you were there again, exactly at that moment.

I’ve been thinking about how memories influence my art practice, or at least how I think about my art practice. I believe most of us get caught up in our own heads. We rush around trying to deal with the day’s events and focus mostly on what’s right in front of us.

Each significant life-event is a specific moment in time. We spend days, weeks, months or even years, prepping for that very moment that we’ve been waiting for. And then there we are, taking it all in … and in a flash its gone … except for the memories.

This is how life rolls. But, I’m concerned that the accomplishments we’ve made get buried and forgotten all too quickly. So many times I can remember when I rushed and rushed to meet a creative deadline. For me, there were articles written, TV shows that I appeared in, artwork created, exhibits to participate in, and for sure don’t forget all those little gifts I made to brighten someone’s special day. If you’re like me, you’re proud of each of those events. (And, you should be!) But its done and you forget. You have to … there’s no time to think about it anymore because we’re rushing to take care of what needs attending to NOW!

When I first started quilting, I created a scrap book of each quilt I made. If I gifted it to someone, I noted the reason along with a photo. Time started running short and I eventually stopped filling the pages. Instead, I have a couple keepsake boxs of memorabilia. If its something I feel accomplished about, I toss a trinket (e.g., postcard or copy of the article) into the box. This is great…but it means nothing unless I look inside every now and then. The memory, along with the validation it generated, fades.

This week I was reminded of Lesley Riley’sQuotes Illustrated“* book she published in 2013/2014. I made the courageous lion specifically for that book. I remember the excitement of being involved. I remember stitching the design. Looking back at it I realized I’ve come a long way. My style is different and my focus has changed. But, I forgot about the book. What an accomplishment that was at the time.

Life flashes by way too quickly. Its good to reflect. Dust off the memories. Be proud of how far you’ve come. Do you take time to remember?


*Note: Copies of “Quotes Illustrated” by Lesley Riley can be located on . There are 2 editions with different covers and different number of illustrations/quotes. Publication dates are 2013 and 2014. It’s a lovely and timeless book. Great for gift-giving!

Fill you soul with what you love

Click on the image to see the YouTube video

There’s a line in the Avett Brothers song “Head Full of Doubt” that says Decide what to be and go be it.”

That always has been a powerful line for me. There are so many options in this world. How do you decide? It is not as easy as saying I want to be an astronaut and “poof” tomorrow you’re flying rockets. It takes commitment. And, I’m also realizing it takes a lot of time.

We all have gifts and talents, part of finding our personal direction is tuning into them. When we share these skills we can cultivate a sense of meaning and purpose. It is important to recognize which of our attributes provide us with joy.

For me my art is what brings me joy, but sharing my art is what brings me purpose and meaning. It is easy to get caught up with the day to day minutia and forget about what makes our hearts feel full. When life gets like that, it is important to stop and reconnect. If you love creating, find time to create. Set aside time and commit to making it a regular habit. If life is super fast, find bits of time to squeeze in creativity:

  • Maybe have a sketchbook handy to write or draw your idea.
  • Take five minutes to sit in your creative space and breathe.
  • Go to an art show or gallery.
  • Or, maybe commit to taking a class.
  • Even flipping through pages of creative magazine or book can lovingly fill the empty space in your heart.

It does take commitment and time, but when are you more happy? Do you find joy, running super fast through life? Or, is it more joyful to fill you soul with what you love?

Anything else

If you’re a creative person, here’s an interesting question to ask yourself:
Why you do what you do? Is there a reason you create?

I don’t know if I can clearly answer that…but it is something worth thinking about. For me, its almost like I have to. I’ve been doing it all my life. I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t mentally gravitating toward art. As a kid it was crayons, paper mache, drawing … oh goodness, let’s be real … I was into anything I could get my hands on. I just loved making things.

As an introvert, I find comfort in the creative process. I can escape and entertain myself for hours. I know my mom encouraged it when I was a kid, maybe because I would keep occupied and out of her way.

I also think of the generations before me. The one’s I knew were also creative … sewing, crocheting, wood working, drawing, writing, etc. My siblings also have the “bug” but haven’t pursued it like I have. Maybe for my family it is just a genetic trait? But, aren’t we all born creative at some level? As we grow older that’s when our creativity starts getting squashed. Life gets too busy or we have self-doubt.

I guess if I ponder the question, I believe my creativity is some sort of magic. I get an idea, say “what if…” and then watch what happens. When the project is complete, I’m in awe that an idea manifested into something tangible. The results aren’t always what I expected … good or bad. Sometimes it needs to tucked away for later renewed inspiration. Other times it needs to be cut into pieces, repurposed or scrapped.

But, I’m always thinking “what if…” and ultimately, I don’t know how to be anything else.


Give it a try

My wildflower garden continues to bring me entertainment. Over the past month, I’ve seen a variety of winged beauties visit the withering flowers. After walking the dog or taking out the trash, I stop and look for movement among the overgrown collection of flower heads. Lately there has been an interesting collection of butterflies and moths showing up.
You know it!!  These photos are generating textile inspiration!

My mind is wandering with ideas and I’m thinking about changing things up. I wonder if I should try something different? Its an energizing feeling, which also feels a bit stifling. Not because I’m stuck, but because I’m not sure about moving forward. I’m on a known road, safe to travel and less likely to find failure. Coasting is so much more relaxing, then pedaling uphill.

Unfortunately, coasting isn’t energizing. Am I excited about working with the same techniques? Well, I enjoy it… but my brain keeps telling me, “try it, you’ll like it.”

If you’ve been following me awhile, you know that many years ago I ran away from quilting. I was so fed up with my own personal negativity, so I stopped making quilts. I said, “this is suppose to be fun, but it isn’t.” I was tired of the quilt police nagging me every step of the way. So I ran off and explored mixed-media art which, interestingly, inspired be to come back to textile art with new energy. Because of this journey, I know that sometimes we have to push ourselves to find inspiration. Other times we find it by walking through open doors and exploring new ideas. And, then there are times where the ideas pop into our heads and we’re driven to give it a try.



Have some fun! There are two possible outcomes to my “try it, you’ll like it” dilemma.
Pick one of these two YouTube video links to choose the outcome: Option #1 and Option #2 ]


Gifts that are meant to be shared

Work in progress – inspired by my wild flower garden

I openly admit I’m a “recovery perfectionist.” We start learning our behaviors when we are babies. Its been a long journey for me and it is hard to learn new things. In my life and my art, I’m constantly seeking new insight. I realize I will always be “recovering.” Growing. I love learning new things!!

I started reading “The Gifts of Imperfection” by Brene Brown. (I like her casual writing style.) Brene talks about the feeling of being enough which is letting go of what other people think and owning our story. Are we enough? Oh…don’t we all wonder about that?

Accepting who you are as an artist takes courage. We have to believe we are worthy. It is challenge for most of us to stand proud next to our art; to believe that what we create is good enough. People can be cruel and criticize, but we have to believe we are worthy. Believe in ourselves. This is so true even as we learn new skills… and, aren’t we always learning?

Before social media, I use to hide what I created. I can look back at things I made which might have been viewed as “failures.” They weren’t, they were actually learning opportunities. I kept trying. I think that is where it is important to have confidence to say it is “enough.” It is the confidence to say “its enough because I’m still learning” or “its enough because I’m still here willing to try.” Believing it is enough, is believing you are worthy!

I believe you are worthy and if you want to create, you should find a way. Our creative talents are gifts that are meant to be shared.


Watch how I made the purple flower:


On this creative journey

This past weekend I took a road trip to see the Sacred Threads art quilt exhibit in Herndon, Virginia. This exhibit was originally scheduled for July 2021 and was postponed until this year (we all know what was going on then).

The Sacred Threads exhibit is a biennial exhibition which was established as a way “to provide a safe venue for quilters who see their work as a connection to the sacred and/or as an expression of their spiritual journey.” For the past 3 events, I’ve had the honor of having my art selected to be apart of this exhibition. It is an extremely special event. What I didn’t know driving there was how important this year’s event was going to be.

The art quilt community is unique. We are kindred souls. We understand how important it is to create our art in a society that may only recognize our talents as common craft. Many of us have deep messaging behind what we create. Sacred Threads honors all of that. (Note: sadly, as I write this, it is uncertain if there will be another.)

As artists, we create because we are called to. And at gatherings like this, we are collectively understood by each other. No need to explain what we do, or why we do it. There are no quilt police looking at stitches per inch or accurate piecing. There are no critics making judgements on what is or isn’t good art. None of that matters, because we are purely expressing ourselves with textiles.

What struck me most was how good it felt to be among my peers. For many of us, it’s been a long time since we have gathered like this. I’ve missed them. Its been more than 2 years since the start of the pandemic. Meaning it is more than 2 years of being isolated on our journeys. Sure many of us have turned to video conferencing and social media to connect, but there’s nothing like seeing textile art in person. There is nothing like hugging a long time friend and seeing their smiling face looking back at you. And, there is nothing like knowing you’re not alone on this creative journey.