Category: Quilts

Bring you peace

As a textile artist, I have plenty of fabric. Even with a closet full, I still find it hard to resist purchasing new yardage when it inspires me. Sometimes I store it away and occasionally pull it out to pet it. If you’re not a fabric person, this may seem odd. I understand, because when I started quilting years ago and purchased yardage I would use it all up before I purchased more for the next project. My friends sort of giggled at my “conservative” approach.

Eventually, I realized that fabric makers have a hold on us. Fabrics usually only have a limited run and then they’re gone … forever. If you purchase a little for a project and decide you need more, you may never find that fabric again. So that’s when my hoarding collecting began.

Sometimes I purchase a fabric just because I like it. Other times, I have a clear vision. That clear vision is what happened with this art quilt, “Seductive Tranquility.” The background is one piece of batik dyed fabric. The horizontal gradient of colors from blue to pink to purple is all one piece of fabric. It reminded me of a sunset and I had to purchase it.

When I made this quilt, I added the mountains, the foreground of grass and the tree. I feel peace when I see this quilt. It reminds me of sitting in a mountain cabin with the building lights behind me and the sun majestically setting in front of me.

Nature can be a very calming and meditative place. But, you have to take time to stop and look. It doesn’t require a big production or hiking adventure. When you see something, like a sunset/sunrise, cloud formations, falling leaves, an acorn in the road, a bird in a tree, whatever …. take a moment and a breathe. Observe, even if for a split second. The tiny respite will bring you peace.


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.

Cutting it up

Have you ever made something you didn’t like?

A number of years ago, I made two artquilts that had a giant yellow sunflower appliqued to the center of a square painted quilt background. At first I thought what I made was a good idea, but it was a bit large (about 32″ square). What do you do with it? I pondered it a while. Tried showing it a few places and then realized I was over it.

But what do you do if you’re “over” something? I pondered that for awhile. Every once in awhile, I’d find it with the other quilts. I’d look at it, think about what I could do with it. Undecided, I would just put it away again. Eventually, I gathered them up, along with some other pieces I was over with, and stashed them in a pillowcase marked “Donate or Cut Up.” There they sat for a couple more years…until last week.

In a class I’m taking, we were challenged to revisit something we’ve made and do something new with it. Re-purposing the sunflower quilts came to mind. What I liked most about these pieces were the wool flower centers with the beading and 3-dimensional effect. What I didn’t like was their overall size and the fact the flowers were set dead center on the piece. I found nothing interesting about the design.

Last week I decided to cut up the large sunflower into smaller pieces. I donate to a charity auction that want 6″ x 8″ and 12″ x 12″ submissions. I could easily cut these large quilts to fit those parameters, and there would be plenty of leftovers to cut the rest into 4″ x 6″ postcard-sized pieces. I think this was a win. From two no longer loved pieces, I was able to make about 18 useful items. Cutting up your art is a pretty bold thing to do, but if you’re no longer happy with it what do you do with it? Why hang on to it? Why not re-purpose it into something else, even if that means cutting it up?

Listen, learn, be kind and connect.

I gave a presentation yesterday using a SAQA Trunk Show to guide the participants in understanding/appreciating art. There were 57 mini art quilts in this show and nearly 80 people in the room. From table to table, we passed stacks of 5 or 6 around the room. The participants were instructed to closely look at each quilt and critique them.

To critique doesn’t mean criticize. When we look at art we should make it a challenge NOT to make quick value judgment of “good” or “bad.” We should be specific about what we see or feel. General terms like “pretty,”  “busy,” or “I don’t like it,” don’t explain what’s really happening. When viewing art, if we find a point of connection we can better explain how we’re reacting to it. Some questions to ask are:

  • How does it make you think or feel?
  • What does it remind you of?
  • What draws you in or pushes you away?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by the concept the artist is trying to portray?
  • Are you attracted to or turned-off by their method of execution (how they created it)?

We also need to be generous and empathetic when we make our comments. Even though the artists may not be in the room with us, try to find what’s good about the art. Always remember that it takes courage to put your artwork out there for others to see.

The best way to learn about art is to take time to look closely at it. I instructed the participant to really study each piece for awhile, then flip it over to read the artist’s statement on the back. You can learn a lot about the artist’s vision by reading the artist’s statement. After they read the statements, I asked them to look again at the quilt to see if their opinion changed. After they viewed each one in the stack, I asked them to share their thoughts: What was their favorite or least favorite and why? Did they find connection?

I enjoyed hearing their feedback. Art is subjective. Something I like may not appeal to you, but either way I can connect to it when I take time to understand what I’m looking at. I can also connect to the people I’m with by listening to their opinions of what they see. Sounds like a lesson for life: listen, learn, be kind and connect.


Their special day with me

One of the great things about showing my art at Page-Walker Arts & History Center in Cary, NC is the new group of people who will be able to see my work. This gallery space is frequently utilized for other events. They hold classes and meeting in the rooms and also rent out the space for special events….including weddings. Imagine having your wedding in an art gallery! How cool is that?

The down-side for the couple is when they reserve the space, they really won’t know what will be hanging on the wall until the artwork is hung. This doesn’t give much time for creative coordination of the bridal party and reception. It’s possible that the walls could be filled with colors that clash with the colors of the bridal party. When I was hanging the show, I really wanted to see my artwork as part of a lively bridal reception, so I asked the director if she could get a photo for me. There will be several wedding events at Page-Walker while by art is hanging there.

Last week, I received an email with a photo attached and was so happy to see the gallery all dressed-up for an upcoming reception. But, I looked closer at the photo and notice the centerpieces on the table.

There on the center of each table is a stack of disks cut from tree trunks. On each stack are several stacked stones and a pretty mason jar with an arrangement of wildflowers. Little votive candles are also included to complete the elegant mood for the reception. The couple may have known that my artwork was going to have a nature inspiration, but surely they didn’t plan their reception around it. It’s so special for me to know that this couple, who clearly loves nature, will have a backdrop of nature-inspired art. It made me so happy to see this photo.

It’s also so rewarding to know that, years to come, people will see my work in this couple’s wedding photos. I am overjoyed that they shared their special day with me.


As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC
119 Ambassador Loop, Cary, NC 27513

Call ahead to check gallery availability (919) 460-4963



The show will go on

I am thankful to report that everyone I know in North Carolina is safe and has survived Hurricane Florence. My heart goes out to those who are impacted. We still have major flooding just east of where I live. Local traffic patterns have changed as people navigate to work avoiding flooded, blocked or damaged roads in the area. Even this is minor stuff compared to the devastation in eastern Carolina. How do I write anything about what I’m doing when there are countless displaced people in my state? My worries are minor.

During all of this I noticed a tenacity among the people I know. My quilt guild is holding its biennial show this weekend. The judging (for ribbons) was suppose to happen last Thursday. Because of the impending storm, they postponed until Monday. The storm was pretty bad over the weekend. The venue where they were judging had to close Monday. It was amazing to hear that the coordinators pulled it off anyway. The judges drove Sunday in the nasty weather to make sure they would be there. If the guild couldn’t find a venue, they were willing to judge the quilts in their hotel rooms. No one could even prepare for all the happened this past week, but these tenacious women pulled it off. The show must go on! I’m so proud to know them.

The storm is over, major roads are clear and passable. The caravans of out-of-state utility workers and tree removal services are taking care of what damage remains. If you live in central North Carolina and looking for something to do this fine weekend, please come see the Sandhills Quilters Guild show!  I’ll have 3 pieces in the show. You’ll find that quilters in my guild are out of this world talented. You will be impressed. The show will go on!


Textiles artists like me

I am proud to be an active member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates). Quilts and quilters are usually viewed as “crafters.” When you say you’re a quilter, people immediately think of an older woman they know who “used to quilt.” Usually, this person is their grandmother.

I think part of the reason I struggled with calling myself an artist for so long was because of this stigma. When I initially started exploring art quilting, I realized this was something different. The medium (fabric) is generally what “grandma” used, but the application is really different. Envelopes are often pushed.

Th perception that “textile artist = crafter” is changing because of SAQA. They are huge proponents for recognizing textile art as fine art. They advocate that quilts, and other textile works, be showcased in museums and art galleries, not just quilt shows.

I feel empowered being associated with this International organization. I’ve attended three SAQA conferences and I’m currently a Regional Representative. A huge part of my energy comes from the members. They are caring and supportive. If you need to know anything about the professional journey, they are there to answer your questions.

A major part of SAQAs funding for exhibits and advocacy comes from their annual benefit auction which starts Sept 14 ). Members were asked to make 12″ x 12″ quilts and donate them to the auction. Each week a different set of quilts is offered and the bids are reduced daily over the course of 7 days, or until someone accepts the current bid price.

Its fun to participate. There are some amazing pieces, with some created by top names in the industry. I’m happy to be participating for the 4th time. I’m in section #2, so look for the monarch butterfly wing or any of the other fabulous quilts (available for bidding September 24 – 30). Its a great opportunity to get a fabulous piece of art while supporting an organization dedicated to supporting textiles artists like me.



As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC
For more information click here: As Nature Speaks

Artist Talk: Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 – 10:30-11:30 more info
Artist Reception: Friday, October 26 – 6-8pm more info

A lifetime to complete

 My art quilts contain layers and layers of process. I know it looks complicated, because it kind of is complicated. I find I get stuck between stages. Frequently,  I’m not sure how to proceed with an idea that’s in my head.

I had that problem with this quilt (which hasn’t been named yet). The idea came to me sometime before the spring of 2013. I know this because, the inspiration photo that was taken March 23, 2013.  About a year later, I also took some staged photos of a pine cone. However, I’m pretty sure I was inspired to make this quilt long before I took the photos.

I have evidence that last summer (June 2017) I started experimenting with the design elements. However, I don’t think I actually started making the quilt until this past fall. Until last fall, I was thinking about it, but hadn’t shown much action. So when should I say I actually started the quilt? When the idea hit and the years I spent thinking about it? Or, was it when I actually started putting the idea into fabric?

I have photographic proof that I was working on the quilt in October 2017. However, in July I know I was at a fabric store looking for the perfect “pinestraw” fabric. So did I start in October? or July?

I know from October until now, I hit 2 major stumbling blocks. One stopping point was when I had to figure out how to quilt the pieced top that I created (the background fabric and pinecone). The other pause was after I quilted the piece and needed to decide how to add the “pinestraw” in the foreground. Each pause took weeks (months) to get through. So should I count all this thinking when I add up my time?  I don’t know. I mean thinking about it isn’t an active stage of progress. Or is it?

What I’m trying to say is that, for me, its difficult to say how long something took to make. If I use the inspiration photo as my starting point, then it took me 5 years to complete. If I use the actually quilt making process, then it took me about 5 months. But, If I use the actual labor hours as my guide, then its probably taken me about 40 hours.

Realistically, I tend to like to look at it differently. I believe I must consider all the years I studied art, sewing, quilting, photography and nature. Without all that study time and practice, I wouldn’t have any of it. So, if you ask, I’m going to tell you that this quilt took me a lifetime to complete.



I’ve been published!

Quilting Arts Magazine
Cover Artist
Click Here to Get a Signed Copy!

The force is with you

Several years ago, I took a class given by textile artist, Dottie Moore. I was immediately drawn to her spiritual interpretation of creativity. I noticed as she walked around the classroom meeting students that she would stop and ask them thought provoking questions. Her question to me was “What’s holding you back?”

Recently, I’ve been reminded of this question and it has me thinking. I’m moving forward on my path, setting goals and executing them. But, goodness it seems slow moving some days. What’s going on with that? Every now and then, it’s good to ask yourself questions like this. Do you have a good answer?

Sure, I could answer the question by laying blame on all the outside forces impacting my life. But really? If I wanted it bad enough, wouldn’t I just get to it?  What really is really holding me back? The answer, to be honest, is … me.

That’s the key, you know. When we question what we think is holding us back, we’re likely to realize that its in own power to change the situation. AhHa! So there lies the magic of Dottie’s question. It’s like Star Wars and Luke Skywalker … “Luke, the force is with you.”

Where they take me

galleryAnd so it goes, “Paper, Canvas, Cloth” is hung. The artist reception is over. Now I need to step back and take time to breathe. Between now and the end of the year, I’m re-grouping to decide “what’s next?”

I’ve been working on this exhibit pretty much non-stop since August. I haven’t had time to pursue other opportunities. In some ways, it’s been a tough year. In other ways, it’s been a rewarding year.

I’ve felt some negative blows the last couple weeks, but I’ve also had positive affirmations. It’s time to explore all those things I’ve been putting off and see where they take me.


Join me for:

Paper, Canvas, Cloth
November 4 – December 17, 2016
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC
featuring the work of
Sharon Ferguson, Marilyn Vendemia, & Nanette S. Zeller