Category: Fiber Art

Live life to the fullest

My life has been on overload this month. I can’t complain about any of it, but with the past 18 months of not much going on, this month is making me feel tired. Good news is October starts on Friday and I’ll be able to look at September in the rear view mirror and an emptier calendar.

I recently watched a Ted Talk given by Jean Shinoda Bolen. Her discussion of Liminal Time has been heavy on my mind.

Liminal time is a transitional period between events. Bolen focuses on our current transition between pre- and post- covid times. This threshold period between the two life events is called liminal time. Its easiest to understand in architectural terms, as the hallway between two buildings (liminal space). As you walk through the passage way, you transition from one building to the other. Its almost like being in limbo as you walk the corridor. Maybe you even have time to gain strength to face what’s in the next room.

This all resonates with me because I am transitioning again. Pre- and Post- covid for sure, but also soon to hit another milestone birthday. The questions on whether I have I lived my life to the fullest are weighing on my mind. I’m re-evaluating and looking for what makes me happy. What do I enjoy doing vs what I am doing? Its healthy to do regular litmus tests on your life. Check in. Are you happy? What could you change? What needs to stay the same?

My bearded dragon thread-sketch reminds me of the journey of the dinosaurs. Did they realize they were becoming extinct? I doubt it. I bet they lived life to the fullest. And, that’s what I plan to do, too; live life to the fullest.

Little Secret

I have a confession. I sometimes wonder if I’m “cheating” when I make my art. In last week’s post, I shared progress on my newest artwork (a red-shouldered hawk). I used a similar process to create my little saw whet owl pictured in today’s post. Underneath all the thread work on this owl is a photograph printed on fabric. I left his bright eyes un-stitched and that’s probably why it looks so impressive.

I also ask myself that … this is all my creative work, so how is it cheating? I guess I’m remembering school day discussions of what is and isn’t art.

I took the photo of the bird at an avian rehab center I visited. I also had processed the photo, reducing some of the complexity, in Photoshop. And then I had to successfully print it on fabric. After all the prep work, it was finally time to add the stitching, which, I definitely does take a certain level of skill. After all the threadwork, I then had to complete the design by giving him/her a branch to sit on and, finally, finished it all with an interesting quilted background fabric.

My process is complex and takes a great deal of time to complete. I’ve been fine tuning my skills for many years. I think it’s Ok to sometimes doubt myself, but then I also remember why I shouldn’t. Instead of cheating, let me just call it our “little secret.”

Ok, We’re done

I’m enrolled in a class that studies archetypes in our creative lives. Archetypes are a way of viewing people (yourself) based on personality or character traits. For example, maybe you have nurturing tendencies? (Mother/father archetypes). Or maybe you like to joke around? (clown/jester archetype) Or maybe you enjoy figuring out how things work? (Engineer archetype) [note: Caroline Myss is a great resource]

Exploring your archetypes helps you understand how you work, process things and what you like to do. While developing my list of 12, I realized I have a strong Artist archetype. You may think, “Well duh? You didn’t know that?” Well…I believe I am an artist and I’m working as an artist, but I never realized how strong/innate this trait is within me. Art has always been my favorite go to activity (even at a young age). It’s something that gives me relaxation and calm.

Whenever I travel, I pack an activity bag filled with knitting and, more recently, “slow stitch” projects. I remember doing embroidery as a child, but I use to hate my hand stitching. I would say, I don’t like doing it because I didn’t sew neat and tidy (aka perfect).

A couple years ago, I stumbled on this new trend of mindful stitching and mending. I loved seeing all the pretty stitch work and clearly noticed the un-perfect approach these stitchers embraced. This recovering perfectionist had to try it. Well, I’m hooked!

It is extremely meditative to stitch the layers of scrap fabric. As I stitch, I have no plan. On a whim I’ll change direction or try a different design. It is good to have projects that don’t require perfection or planning. We all have an inner critic and sometimes that voice is stifling. We get so hung up on making things perfect that we miss the enjoyment of just doing.

If your inner critic says you can’t, then find an activity that allows you to ignore it. Slow stitch is a good place to start. Search for inspiration on the Internet using terms like: Slow stitching, boro, or mindful mending. When you start, release all expectations, tell the critic to take a hike, and start stitching. Don’t judge the work in progress, just stitch until your inner creative says “Ok, we’re done.”

Have fun!

I feel comfort knowing that life is slowly creeping back to normal. The world seems to be running more like an out of tune sports car versus an old “hit ‘n miss” tractor.” We all have been affected by this past year and life will never again be like 2019. We’ve all adapted to changes. I’m kind of liking this mask idea, because I haven’t gotten sick (knock on wood) in over a year. And, I’m also embracing the Zoom technology. Yesterday, I held my very first live Zoom class.

I’m a bit of a technical geek. In 1990’s and early 2000’s, I use to design e-commerce websites. That was a time when most people didn’t have a “personal computer” (PC) or know what the Internet was. Even with this techie background, I wasn’t ready to embrace Zoom. I spend enough time in front of the computer and I wanted to find ways to get away from it. Zoom wasn’t for me. As the shut-down continued to stop my livelihood, I knew I had to think out of my box.

I took my first Zoom class presented by my friend Jodi Ohl. She is a mixed-media painter. I love her sense of artistic whimsy, so I signed up for her class. What I discovered was live Zoom art classes can be a lot of fun. You’re not sitting there watching a boring lecture, you’re actually working along with the instructor. You’re in your own comfortable creative space and everything is within reach, including the snacks or fresh pour of coffee. Need a different color thread? … just go get one. Forgot your machine pedal? … go grab it from the other room. And bonus!! … everyone participating has front rows seats. No more, standing behind tall people during demonstrations. (YES!!) You can work along or sit and watch…You can be you!!

Yesterday, my students praised these aspects of Zoom classes and I got to see what it was like to be on the other side. When I would teach in-person, I would grab my little “kit” of supplies and go teach. I learned that my kit needed a lot more supplies. Before class, I had to produce videos that show my sewing techniques (which eliminates many uncontrollable levels of chaos sewing live). I needed more step-out examples to demonstrate my processes and I needed to plan ahead to get class handouts to the students. And I had to get comfortable with all the new equipment, lighting, computers, cameras and software.

I was apprehensive at first, but I realized I liked the process. During class, I forgot I was in my room alone. We chatted and shared stories. They worked on their projects and I anxiously waited to see their progress (unlike in-person classes you can’t see what someone is doing on their sewing machine). BTW, everyone did great!

My follow-up verdict is I’m going to continue doing this. And, if you find you’re missing taking classes, check with your favorite artists and see if they’re teaching online; enroll if it fits. I bet you’ll have fun!

 

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Stuck when creating

As I mentioned last week, I don’t work with a real “plan.” Maybe that’s good, maybe not. I have a vision or idea, and start working with stops and starts along the way. The following description is an insight to my creative process.

Over the past week, I attached the hexis to my background fabric and created an applique element that will go on top (you’ll see that next week). When I auditioned the applique on the hexis, it looked flat. There was no pop or interest and the applique didn’t stand out.

So, I auditioned some fabrics that I could lay in the center of the hexagons to give it a dimensional appearance. I found a loosely woven material in my stash, laid it on top of the design and stitched around each hexi shape. Then, I cut away the excess material. Tedious.

While I was stitching I noticed the there was a little pocket between the two layers of fabrics. I didn’t like that. I thought, I “should have!!” put Mystifuse on the back of the woven fabric. Then after stitching, I could iron it to adhere it in place. The problem … I didn’t use Mystifuse. Grumbling to myself, I kept on going.

As I continued to work, I thought about … “matte mediums.” I think of mediums as akin to Mod Podge but of higher quality. Mediums are acrylic liquids that can be used by artists to adhere collage material or used to thin acrylic paints. The word matte means there’s no sheen. If you wanted a shine, you would use a gloss medium.

Once the woven cloth was stitched in place and the excess removed, I then “painted” it with matte medium. This not only adheres the 2 layers of cloth, but also stops the woven cloth from unraveling. I succeeded with my vision and I’m ready for the next steps.

Although some people map out their plan, I like the challenge of not knowing. The vision drives me. Most of the time I can work around the obstacles. Usually what saves me is my arsenal of ideas. Mediums are not something quilters usually keep on hand, but other artists do. Because I have exposed myself to many different art techniques, my “toolbox of ideas” is full. And, my stash of supplies is diverse. Classes are a great way to learn new things.

I encourage you to take classes and experiment. Don’t be disheartened if you take a class and find you’re not good at it. You will likely always learn something new when you take a class. Understanding what you like and don’t like is part of the learning process. The more you learn, the more options you have. The bigger the tool box, the less likely you’ll ever truly feel stuck when creating.

Count my blessings

Sometimes life is like a pile of scraps. A heap of bits and pieces. Tiny shards of bigger projects or dreams.

My studio is a mess. We’re taking time this month to do some much needed renovations around the house. Although my life feels a bit chaotic right now, I keep the vision that things will be better when we move past this.

My studio space (a spare bedroom) is a mess. Everything is getting packed up in boxes and moved out. I’ve delivered 2 carloads of stuff to the local Restore and there will be more visits to come. I’m not a minimalist, but when you don’t move in 14 years, stuff starts piling up.  I think it’s a genetic trait because my siblings are collectors too.

Most of what I keep are treasures to me. The bits and bobs may be packed away in a box…but when I find them, I’m flooded with happy memories. Some things find there way out of my life via trips to the donation centers. Then other things, the box gets shut and put away until our next encounter.

Not to be forgotten in all of this is my art/textile supplies! These items are treasures at a much different level. If you’re reading this maybe you can relate to this type of — shall we say — “curating.” Patterns, books, yarn, fabric, paints, markers, rulers, threads and scissors!! I may not use some of these items for a few years, but when I need them I’m happy to know I don’t have to go shopping. For example, the “I’m over it” fabric became useful making masks this year. And… all the wool I’ve collected found itself resurrected as a felting class! My former years as an avid cross stitcher paid off when I discovered slow stitching and mindful mending. I have plenty of floss to keep me busy.

As I reflect on all that I have, I’m reminded, as always,  to count my blessings.

 


 

What brings you joy

The past couple weeks I have been working on a commission art quilt. I’m re-making my “Goldfinch in My Garden” quilt from the Sacred Threads Backyard Escape exhibit. It’s not going to be exactly the same, but very similar. This new version will be part of a permanent collection at INOVA Schar Cancer Institute – Fair Oaks in Fairfax, VA.

It’s kind of fun re-visiting something I made before. The best part is I KNOW how it’s suppose to go together. Usually when I make something new, the entire process is play it by ear. I envision how something will work, but I’m not that sure that it will. This time around the construction was much easier.

The size of this quilt is different. I knew I was going to make the same goldfinch, but it needed to be larger. The new quilt is square versus the rectangular version I made last time.  The process of making the applique bird is the same. I documented it on a new YouTube video that you can watch here. I’m having fun making these videos, so expect to see more soon.

I’m also working with the Global Quilt Connection (GQC) again. So many of us want to take classes and with this pandemic our opportunities are limited. So GQC is partnering with teachers who offer online classes for individual enrollment. After I finish this commission piece, I will be back to work on building new classes. My plan for early next year is to offer some live Zoom classes you can sign up for where we can create together. GQC is offering teachers, like me, the opportunity to show what we offer in classes. There are some great teachers lined up to present. So if you’re craving some new ideas on things to do from home be sure to check out the presentations at http://globalquiltconnection.com/studentmainpage.html. I will be presenting on November 17th.

I hope you are staying inspired and finding time for your creative passions. Above all things…find time for what brings you joy!

 

We travel through life

I’ve been busy the last week working the final touches of my new online class “Paint with Thread.” I will be opening enrollment in the next couple days. So, if you want to be the first to know … make sure you’re subscribed to my NewZ-letter.

Thread painting is one of my favorite things to do. It’s actually one of the things that got me started doing mixed-media textile art. I’ve always loved working with textiles and started making traditional quilts in the 2001. I was quickly hooked and started devouring it. I was making log cabin and nine-patch blocks like crazy! I got so inspired with quilting that I got a job technical editing quilting books.

The first book I edited was Joyce Becker’s “Beautifully Embellished Landscapes.” Editing that book opened my eyes to something besides sewing squares and strips together. I was really amazed with her techniques and chuckled at how she used dryer lint … a brilliant way to create snowy mountain tops!

After many years of being exposed to textile artists like Joyce, Susan Brubaker-Knapp, and Jane Davila, I caught the mixed media bug. And soon, I tried my hand at thread painting and liked it!!

In 2010, I decided to use the technique to create a portrait of my recently deceased dog, Storm. His portrait eventually made its way to fame by becoming Mr. September for Quilting Arts 2012 calendar [sadly this was the last year QA published the calendar]. Up until then, I had only played around with mixed-media textiles. I’m pretty sure “The Perfect Storm” was my first art quilt. Isn’t it kind of crazy how we travel through life?

 

 

 

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.

Look forward to

Week 9-thousand fifty-seven and I’m getting ready for the winter holidays. What?

I feel like I’m in a time-warp. I’ve been self-employed for a couple decades now. However, there is something different and strange about our current situation. I am really losing track of time. I can’t believe I’m writing another blog post today. Didn’t I just write one 2-days ago? Sure, I know its been longer than 2-days, but geesh, this time-warp feeling is messing with my brain.

What’s also adding to my confusion this past week is that I’ve been intently doing computer work. There’s nothing like staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Your eyes start crossing and your brain loses all sense of time. Although, I may be struggling to remember what day it is, I am super excited about my progress.

After months (or has it been years?) of planning, I’m thrilled to share that my very first online class will be available very soon. I’m in the final stages of editing. Each step of the development has been a huge learning curve for me. During the process I decided to demonstrate something simple. Many of you probably have made fabric postcards, but I know some haven’t. I use more than just fabric to create my designs, so I call my process Fabric Collage Postcards. Don’t mind the winter-theme of my class project, it’s never too early to start making greeting cards for the holidays. And besides, the process is the same no matter what theme you choose.

So, this week I’m giving you a teaser. And, I hope it gives you something to look forward to.

 

 

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Knows she is loved

It’s spring in the Carolinas! The weather here has been very cooperative. Comfortably cool days mixed with sunshine and just enough rain. Trees are green and the flower colors are intense.

I’ve been doing a lot of computer work lately, it’s so nice to have the windows open and hear nature outside while I’m working. It’s important during these times to get some fresh air and take in the natural beauty around us. I find when I spend too many days, as my mom would say, “cooped up” I start losing momentum. Are you finding time for creativity and fresh air?

Speaking of mom, there’s another sign of spring…  In a little more than a week it will be Mother’s Day (Sunday, May 10, 2020). Maybe you have time to make something for your special lady. If not, I want to suggest that now is a great time to support artists, art businesses, local businesses. Here are some gift-giving ideas for you:

Buy Gift Certificates:
Across the country most small arts and craft businesses are closed. Many have online shops and a good majority sell gift certificates. Purchasing a gift certificate helps the independent business stay afloat and offers your gift recipient something to look forward to when things open back up. Maybe use the certificate to take a class together. Not only will you help the shop, but you’ll also help the instructor, learn a new skill, and create a special memory with your special lady.

One of my favorite local shops is ARTworks Vass. If you live in NC, it’s a fun place to visit to buy art and take classes.

Purchase Direct:
Maybe you can’t visit your mom because she lives far away or is stuck at home. Check to see if her favorite artist or local art/craft shop who sells online. There are many places to look for art and supplies. If mom is a creative, you could surprise her with new supplies from a local craft shop. Or visit her favorite artist’s website to see if they sell online. Places like Etsy and Red Bubble are great places to find art or supplies while supporting small businesses. This week I even added a few new things to my Etsy Store – NanetteSewz . Check it out, there might be something appropriate for your lovely mum (if you purchase from me, I’ll even include a hand-made gift card).

It’s time like these where we all can use a little lift in our spirits. Artist or small business they truly appreciate your support right now because their livelihood is affected by the pandemic shut down. But even more so, imagine the joy you’ll give your mom when she opens your gift and knows she is loved.