Category: Being an Artist

Have faith in your dreams

Last week I wrote about fear and how it may affect us when we make art. Fear is an emotion. It is there or it is not. With fear we can either accept the proverbial lion facing us or take action to change the outcome. That takes courage.

To find the strength to conquer our fears, we must want something bad enough. Courage takes passion. When you work on your art and you feel fear, its important to reflect on where the fear is coming from. Is it fear of the unknown, fear of failure, fear of succeeding, fear of change? Do you know?

When I face fear in my projects, I’m reminded of the children’s story, “The Little Engine that Could.” Do your remember? The little train engine pulled out all his courage and said, “I think I can!” — That’s faith.

Courage and faith go hand-in-hand. When I face my fears eye-to-eye, I think deeply. Do I have the passion? Do I want this bad enough? Am I willing to put in the time? Am I strong enough to stay focused to complete the project?  I gain courage by deciding to have faith that no matter what the outcome, I WILL BE OK!!

When facing your art challenges, you must believe you will be OK. Don’t worry about what any else thinks or says. Drum up the courage and have faith in your dreams.

A different road

Imagine you’re driving down the road and you come across a barrier that keeps you from moving forward toward your destination. What would you do?

Life is full of road blocks where we suddenly have to change our plans. Sometimes these blocks are crushing to your character. That one “thing” we so looked forward to is cancelled. Sometimes these detours are like gut punches either sucking all the wind out of us or feel emotionally devastating us. [Hmm? I think we all can relate after this past year.]

So what do you do? The road is closed. You have to re-group and make decisions. Do you find a way around the obstacle? Turn around and go back the way you came? Or, just sit there waiting for the barrier to move? There are choices. You may not be able to change the situation, but you are in control of how you react.

Recently, I’ve felt a step (or 2) off my game. Summers in the south do that to me; even with air conditioning, the heat takes a lot of energy out of me. I’ve kept moving though. I kept showing up. I wasn’t at the pace that I’d like to travel and wasn’t on a road I originally planned. I tried to keep an open mind and I found new opportunities. I made gut decisions, just because I felt like it was the right thing to do. I put faith in myself and headed down paths that could be dead ends. Unexpectedly, I found new directions I never thought about. It’s been an interesting and rewarding few months.

Then, yesterday this lovely book arrived in the mail, “Creative Strength Training Member’s Exhibition”. Proudly standing guard on it’s pages is “The Messenger.” How is it possible that my work is published in a book produced by Jane Dunnewold? Because in January, I decided to sign up for her class. Then, when she opened up the call for entry, I submitted my work. My soul was telling me I needed a new direction. So instead of waiting for my life to change, I grabbed the wheel and I turned down a different road.

Find a new perspective

It’s clear to me that this new-normal is affecting many of us. I definitely feel a different level of anxiety. Things are clearly different than they were 2 years ago. It’s not just about my physical and mental health, there’s also external stressors like access to supplies. I can’t tell you how many things I normally use which have become difficult to find/purchase. Where I live, I frequently find empty shelves and it requires extra diligence to track down that thing I’m looking for. [Honestly, how many stores do I have to go to find my cat’s favorite food?]

Add to all this, the constantly changing procedures. As a teacher/artist, I regularly have to adapt to new policies. All the little things start to add up. Sometimes it’s easier to stay put, than venture out. For some (namely introverts), this might sound like a glorious opportunity to have more creative time alone.

Last week, I was battling this scenario. Do I cancel my trip and stay home or walk through the fire to travel. It took a lot of courage to convince myself that I must face the beast in my mind. I also had to make some modifications on what I was doing to allow myself some down time while I was away. It’s important to listen to what your body/mind needs.

I’m home now. While away, I put myself in situations that felt a bit out of my comfort zone. It’s been almost 2 years since I traveled out of state. I survived. In retrospect, being in a different environment was a healthy change for me.  I was able to come home with a new perspective and appreciation. I saw what I could have had and realize the fortunes I’ve created by taking chances along my life’s journey.

I realized that sometimes you have to step out of the box to see the jewels inside. When you get stuck, go somewhere else. It doesn’t have to be far. When you get there, stop. Listen. Be. Observe. Take mental notes. Sometimes that’s all we need to find a new perspective.

The Messenger

Have you ever had a feeling that you foresaw the future? The word for this is prognosticate, meaning foretell or prophesying the future. Every so often I observe this connection in myself. It’s a bit of a crazy feeling because I don’t tend to go around predicting the future. Yet sometimes I look back on events to embrace that maybe I had some subconscious premonition. Let me explain by first sharing my artist statement for “The Messenger.”


  • “Hawks are considered messengers from deceased ancestors, deities, or other guides. Their intense gaze earns them great respect. I met this red-shouldered hawk at a hunting and fishing trade show. Once able to fly, the injured bird was now tethered to its handler’s gauntlet. With strong hollow bones, wings, and feathers, its large body (lighter than you would expect) is uniquely adapted for flight. Yet, there it perched, staring at me, unable to escape its captor. How would the courier continue with its dispatch while shackled in this auditorium? I took its memory home with me and decided to help it flee. When you are ready, courageous Messenger, fluff your feathers and spread your wings. It’s time to share your revelations; be free.”
    – Nanette S. Zeller (June 2021)


The Story:

I realized a few years ago that I needed to take my own photographs to use as inspiration for my art quilts. I like using birds in my art, but lack the patience and equipment to take photos of them. So I “kinda” cheat, by visiting places that have birds who will be models for me.

In early 2020, I found this red-shouldered hawk (right) at hunting trade show. The bird was part of a local rescue which rehabilitates injured animals. It obviously was use to the attention of people and kindly (anthropomorphic) let me take it’s photo.

I wrote the artist statement after I completed the art quilt “The Messenger”. If you look at the photo, you could see what I was thinking about when I wrote the prose.

Flash forward nearly 2 months, I found myself at another event with a different rescue group (nc-claws.org). I was able to take plenty of new bird photos from this event (i.e., more art quilts coming soon). I learned that whenever possible this group returned the rehabilitated animals back into the wild. They were releasing a couple birds last Saturday and I was selected through a raffle to release (following some training) a red-shouldered hawk. Is that serendipitous, or what?

This is not the first time I’ve had precognition. I just don’t always understand why. What I do know this time is the red shouldered hawk is trying to tell me something because it once again is The Messenger.

What will you see?

Do you ever just lay on the ground and stare at the sky? Every now and then I lay on our deck and stare skyward. The decking is usually warm and feels good on my back. I relax. When I was a kid I use to play the game of trying to see objects within the cloud formations. Now I just like watching the clouds roll across the sky.

The simple act of looking at the world from a different angle can generate new ideas. When I look up from my yard, I am amazed at how many commercial aircraft fly overhead. Apparently, we live on a major bi-way for east coast air travel. I had no idea until I looked up at the sky. When I first noticed all the air traffic, I wondered why and researched it. My curiosity was spurred and I learned something new.

This fact was always above me, but I didn’t know until I looked at it. And not just glancing, but looking up with intention and stopping to pay attention.

If we want to be better at what we do, we have to seek new opportunities and listen to new stories. And above all be willing to learn. Learning new things can be as simple as looking at our world from a different angle. Look up. Walk slowly. Listen to the “silence” of the night. Peer close at the ground. Take a different road on your travels. When you change the angle of view, what will you see?

The risk to blossom

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


Today I was reminded of this small art quilt that I made in 2014. It was based on the prose by Anais Nin. I created it early in the journey of finding my artistic voice.

Although the design is nature-inspired, I don’t believe at that time I was so focused on that vision. It took making pieces like this that generated the “ah ha” moment of “THIS is what I want to create.”

It’s interesting reflecting on the journey. We’ve all traveled to get here. From childhood until this very moment, our lives have changed along small incremental stages. In the midst of the journey we feel like we are the same as we always have been. Yet, only by reflecting on the milestones can we comprehend the leaps and bounds we’ve made.

Each step along the journey, leads to the next step. It’s like climbing the mountain; one step at a time. If you keep at it you’ll eventually reach the top … or find the next mountain to climb.

What’s holding you back from taking the next step? Are you willing to take the risk to blossom?

 

Freeing up space.

Mid-July! We are definitely in the dog days of summer. I try to get out a little in the morning, but by mid-afternoon I prefer to find activities to do inside. The other day I spent a little time sorting things in my studio closet. I really need to do some heavy sorting. Over the years, I’ve collected enough supplies that I could create new things for a couple years and still not need to go shopping.

I find it a bit overwhelming sometimes. What do I work on? I have many work and personal projects to consider. I think setting priorities for these projects are some of my hardest decisions. I want to do something fun, but I need to do something for a class, gallery or upcoming exhibit.  Oh, then there’s that project I just saw advertised in social media advertisement!! Wow … I would really love to do that too! Choices, choices.

The challenge is finding a balance between it all. It’s hard, but I’m doing my best to avoid shopping for new things. I have to really evaluate what I’m admiring. Is it a need or want? Will I use it? Should I save my money instead?
[Uhm?? Did I actually just write that? Did I forget about the 60-tube set of gouache paints I bought during the Amazon Prime Day Sale  — Sooo…Let’s just emphasize that I’m trying to be aware of what I buy.]

To me, unless there’s a specific need, acquiring new art supplies is another distraction.
But isn’t it fun to treat yourself to that pretty fabric, yarn or thread (or paints)? Yes! it is!!
What helps me rationalize my acquisitions is to lighten the load of things that no longer serve me.

Where I live, the schools face financial hardships. We’re fortunate to have a local arts council that supports music and art in the schools. So, on an on-going basis I cull my stash. Any art supplies I no longer need/want get put in a box that will be donated to the arts council for later distribution to the schools. I’ve met many creatively resourceful art teachers who love these grab bag style donations. And, I love the fact that I can lighten my stash and help enrich the life of a young student. If you feel burdened with your collection of things (or if you’re moving and need to down-size), maybe seek out charities in your community who would love to have the items you no longer find useful. Freeing up time to create, sometimes means freeing up space.

 

 

Positive ways

Life is a journey. You never know exactly how things will turn out. As much as you plan, there is dharma, the eternal and inherent nature of reality. What we plan is not 100% in our control. Through various turns or “twists of faith” we arrive in the present moment carrying with us what we lived.

I think we all can appreciate this after the past year. How many things did you plan for last year? How many plans were cancelled? Now that the scariest part of the pandemic seems to be over, we can review where we are.

I know I dealt with a number of disappointments this past year and now I’m pondering what’s next. What I learned over the years is not to give up. I keep putting things out there, hoping to see a nugget of return. Its obvious, I want my art to be seen. Not everyone does. Some people create for their own personal joy. Other’s make to gift. Its all good.

The more I make, the more I discover what brings me joy to create. What amazes me, is when when my heart is in my work, more people connect to it. Its a circle that I can’t force happen. So I just keep creating and putting it out there.

A couple months back I submitted 2 of my bird artworks to Martha Sielman (Director of SAQA) who’s working on a personal project. She wanted to create a book about fiber artists who are inspired by birds. Well, its kind of obvious that birds are one of my things and I do make fiber art (art quilts). So, I sent off a couple of photos.

Yesterday, I received an email from Martha, announcing that 2 of my birds were accepted for her book. It was such a long time ago that I submitted these pieces, I almost forgot about the possibility. I would be OK if my art doesn’t get accepted, but I’m also very excited when it is. This recognition gives me another affirmation to keep trying.  I encourage you to keep trying, too. Ask yourself “why do I create?” and “what do I want to create?” Discover who you are. Then go for it. Take classes. Mingle amongst your art supplies and make things. Take chances. If you want your work to be seen, share it whenever you can. Then let the universe answer in positive ways.

 

Inspire you

All the partying with the “Cloth & Clay” exhibit is over. Last week we removed all our artwork making way for the next exhibit at Campbell House Galleries. Right now, I don’t have any new exhibit opportunities coming up. Its time for me to refocus. Although, I’ll keep working on my art, my major focus will be teaching.

I’ve taught almost all my adult life. My first “teaching” job was right after my undergraduate degree. I got a job working at Plum Creek Nature Preserve (IL). From there, I got a summer job working as an Interpretive Ranger for the National Park Service at Mt Rainier (WA). Following that I pursued a teaching certificate (Secondary Science Educator), then continued on to my graduate degree studies. The story continues with a variety of other teaching opportunities over the years.

When I teach, I love watching the “ah-ha” moments. These can be either when my students are enlightened to a new concept or when the finally grasp an idea or skill they’ve been struggling with. The “ah-ha! I think I get it now!!” moments are the prize for the teacher and student.

As with my art, I have a ton of ideas for new classes. And, I’ve been capturing a bunch of video to create some YouTube tutorials. Videography can be pretty time consuming, so my production time will move slow with this. I want to get it right for you. I’ll be dropping things as they’re ready. If you want to be the first to know about my new content, be sure to sign up for my NewZletter . You can also find me on Facebook [my page: NanetteSewZ / my profile: Nanette S. Zeller] and Instagram [Nanette_SewZ].

Coming up first is my On-Demand class called Photo-to-Applique. I’ve been talking about this one for awhile and its time to get all the content produced. The images in this post are class samples. So stay tuned and remember, when I create new classes and tutorials my goal is to keep it easy but also inspire you!

 

Creative brain

I spend a lot of time in this room. I’ve worked for myself for a long time and we purchased this big house so we each could have an office space. Sure beats paying rent for an office space somewhere else. Or, using the kitchen table as my cutting station. I know I am very fortunate to have this, but it’s not the space that generates work. If there is determination and desire we can create anywhere.

This winter we painted the rooms. “My” room use to have a dark teal color left by the previous owner. I loved it, but I love this lighter gray even more. The room color changes throughout the day. Sometimes the walls looks blue, sometimes green, and other times just gray.

The window faces my backyard which has tall longleaf pine trees and my bird feeder. Whenever I need a break, I can turn, look out the windows and see what’s happening outside. A short respite.

My brain is humming. The exhibit is closing and it’s time to start new projects. This room will get messy again, as goes the flow of my creative brain.