Category: Nature Inspired Art

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?

 

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!

 

Holding you back

The “Cloth & Clay” exhibit at Campbell House Galleries closes next week. It’s almost time to take it all down and store it away for another opportunity. Why do I create? It’s because I have to. There is something in my DNA or maybe it’s just some off-kilter electricity in my brain.

I don’t remember a time that I didn’t create. I think my mom was blessed because as a young child all she had to do was put a new craft or book in front of me and I would be engaged for hours.

In high school, I was secretly embarrassed that I crocheted because that is what old ladies did. In college I had a classmate who, after I described my new passion for knitting, told me that I was “so domestic” [spoken condescendingly]. After graduate school I remember calling myself a “closet crafter,” because I didn’t want people I worked with know about my “non-professional” hobbies. These were my saboteurs.  Yet, I still would speed crochet an afghan in no time while watching tv at night. Now I’ll either knit or stitch to pass time. And, I focus deliberately on making textile art.

I’m still learning, refining and pursuing my skills. I continued even though some would have given up. For me it’s a passion, something in-grained. I want to keep learning and exploring. Even when I’m my own worst critic, I continue. What about you? Do you have a gut feeling about creating? Do you love making things? Would you call these skills your passion? Are you listening to your feelings and acting on them? Are you ignoring your critics (even the one in your head)? What’s holding you back?

Fix whatever is not working

So … there it is. Everything is hung and looking pretty.
The idea of creating an art exhibit sounds romantic. It is but, it’s also a lot of work to include creating the art and coordinating all the details (like when to hang, how to hang, reception details, advertising, etc.). As I reflect on all of this, I realize I have a wealth of knowledge. I’ve been involved with producing a countless number of textile art exhibits, including my own solo exhibit. I’ve learned quite a number of tips along the way.

With every exhibit, I walk away with more knowledge; What would or wouldn’t I do again?

It’s interesting that, whatever journey you follow, you have the opportunity to grow. It’s important to step back and review your accomplishments because it helps you reflect on what’s important. What might have been the answer to your life-long questions, may just be a stepping stone for the ultimate pinnacle. So, pay attention, keep trying and fix whatever is not working.

 

Cloth & Clay
June 4-25, 2021
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC
Open Mon-Fri 9-5p  | Saturday, June 19  2-4p
(click image below for larger view)

Enjoy the passion

Twelve days. That’s all the time I have until I deliver my artwork to Arts Council of Moore County’s Campbell House Galleries for the exhibit “Cloth & Clay.” I’ve participated in a big exhibit like this about every two years since 2016. These exhibits are challenging to an artist.

In this one I’m exhibiting with 2 other textile artists and a potter. We have a huge gallery space to fill and the textile artists are each tasked with bringing about 20 pieces each.

With each exhibit I create new pieces. And, because not everything sells, I’m have leftovers to use in the next. It all has me reflecting on so many things. What’s working. What’s not working. And what a journey its been.

I’m stepping into the one next month with more confidence than I’ve ever had. I guess that’s the meaning behind the phrase “put in the work.” I’ve seen my art change, but it also will continue to change. Two years from now there will be another level of difference in what I do. I can’t predict what that will be. But, I do know that it will be accomplished through increased levels of reflection and commitment.

What I’ve learned is art is more than just your professional abilities. There are some crazy-talented people who never want to sell, exhibit, or perform their art. Art is passion. Ultimately, we do it for ourselves while some of us choose to make it public. Being an artist is not about how much you sell … but how much you enjoy the passion.

 

 

Cloth & Clay
June 4-25, 2021
Artist reception:
June 4th – 6-8pm
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC
(click image below for larger view)

What’s holding you back?

The last few weeks I’ve been finishing up details for an exhibit that opens up June 4, 2021 (see below). I’m making the final selection, labeling, creating an inventory, and taking care of hanging details (frames and hanging rods). I’ve been working on this exhibit for 2 years. That’s usually how long it takes from notification until hanging. When you’re looking forward, 2 years seems like a long time. When you’re looking back it seems like seconds.

I’ve had high and low points during this journey. Always questioning and seeking the energy to keep the procrastination away. There were things that I made which I think were failures. But, nothing really is a failure is it? It may feel that way, but it’s not. It’s all part of the learning process.

As I look at the artwork that will hang in this show, I think back to 10 years ago. In 2011, I submitted a thread painted portrait of my dog to the Quilting Arts Magazine calendar competition. “The Perfect Storm” was selected to be “Mr. September” for their 2012 calendar. This was the first time my art had been recognized by someone outside of family and friends. I felt I was on to something; my artistic voice was starting to appear.

Over the last 10 years, there have been many changes. I have matured physically, mentally, spiritually, and artistically. The “failures” along the way where opportunities to learn and grow. If I didn’t have the failures, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I also don’t think my art would be where it is.

My driving mantra … especially when I was ready to throw in the towel … is “never give up!” When what you do is a passion, you can’t give up, because passion is part of your soul.  And, how do you give up on your soul?

As I reflect on my journey, I’m thinking of you. Do you have a passion? Are you pursuing your dreams? What’s holding you back?

 


Cloth & Clay
June 4-25, 2021
Artist reception:
June 4th – 6-8pm
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC

On this journey today

Change is inevitable.

I had a conversation yesterday with a family member which brought up some vivid memories. Due to life circumstances, the family life I had was different than my siblings. My brother and sister and their spouses all went to the same high school … and I didn’t.

As the youngest of 3, I moved with my parents into the city (Chicago) at the start of my freshman year of high school. Yesterday’s conversation reminded me of how important that change was to my future self. I started high school in a brand new school that was designed to be an arts magnet schools. I wasn’t recruited, but was just lucky enough to live within walking distance of the school, so I was in.

I joined the theater program doing all sorts of back stage jobs. My freshman elective was beginning band. I didn’t know how to play an instrument but quickly took a liking to the clarinet. From there I continued through the remaining 3 years in band classes, marching band, and orchestra (I still have my letterman’s jacket to prove it). And then in my junior year, I enrolled in my favorite class, “Chicago Where its Art.” Talk about mixed media exposure in those last 2 years. Drawing, painting, stained glass, architecture… you name it Mr. Erklin was teaching it to us. Wow!

After high school, I didn’t pursue art in college (except for a couple electives). I chose science as as my curriculum of choice.

And here I am now thinking back to the past, while I try to pursue a dream that maybe I should have started when I  was 19. In hindsight, it’s odd the way things happen. I believe, what’s meant to happen all comes around in it’s due time.  Had I not had these early opportunities of exposure to art in the Chicago Public School system, I probably wouldn’t be on this journey today.

 

There for a reason

This week I finished my hawk quilt. It’s been quilted, squared up and a facing added (instead of binding). Overall, this is a simple design; a bird on a branch. The fact that the hawk is 24″ tall is really where things got complicated. All said and done, I used 18 colors of thread to finish this piece. In my Paint with Thread classes, I teach the exact techniques that I used for this piece, except I significantly scale down the number of thread colors.

When I create my art quilts, I always use an oversized background fabric. Whenever you add heavy stitching (e.g., quilting or thread painting), the fabric pulls in and you wind up with a smaller piece than you started with. The amount of shrinkage correlates with how much stitching you add. At the end, I square things up, removing the excess fabric.

When I create, I go through various stages of anxiety. This is especially true when I’m creating for a deadline. Each step of the process supports the next, if anything goes wrong the outcome might lead to starting all over again. Hopefully, if the worse happens, I can develop plan B, but that’s not always the case.

Squaring up a quilt is anxiety provoking for me. At this stage of the process, starting over is not a welcome option. I realize the anxiety is helpful by making me hyper-alert and focused on the process so I do it correctly. Why? because if I do it wrong my rectangular quilt could wind up with obtuse angles versus right (90°) angles. Obtuse angles make the quilt look skewed and hang wonky or ruffly. I embrace the perfectionist in me during this process, because it will show if done wrong. I just have to remind myself to breathe, this anxiety is there for a reason.