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Clutter in my life

I’m in a phase of wanting to use and repurpose things I have. Two weeks ago, I shared how I was working on a 100-day stitch challenge and set restrictions that I would only use materials that I had on hand. There will be no purchasing any other products for this project.  I’ve also been creating fabric postcards which are made from repurposed scraps from my quilted projects.

I use to be a traditional quilter and made my quilts to specific dimensions and then quilted and bound them. I still do that occasionally, but usually my art quilts are made larger than the finished design. I either piece my fabrics or start with a whole piece of fabric, then create my design on top. After creating the design, I’ll quilt it with the batting and backing, then cut it to the finished size.

The trimmings from the quilt are waste, but I hated throwing them in the trash. So I saved them. After a couple years of saving (hoarding?), I came up with a way to repurpose them. I cut the quilted trimmings into strips and randomly piece the strips together into a rectangular shaped block. Once I have enough of these patched blocks, I cut them into 4 inch by 6 inch rectangles, which I use for the background of my fabric postcards.

Sometimes, I create practice quilts and occasionally there are “failures” where I just can’t save the design I was working on. I use these larger pieces for my postcards, too. I might hold onto them for a few years hoping I can save the project. Eventually, I’ll decide I can’t save it, that’s when the rotary cutter comes out and I chop it into strips for my postcards. It takes a lot of guts, but I like that I’m repurposing the trimmings and “failures.”

At first I just used the “postcards” for my own personal gifting and thank yous. This past year I realized I had so much of this patch-worked quilting, that I decided to make the cards available for sale on my Etsy store.

It feels good to let go of things. Although, repurposing has always been an important part of my creative practice, for some reason it feels more important this year. Maybe I’m just feeling the need to let go of the extra weight that appears as clutter in my life.

You’ll never know until you try

Well a did a thing this week. I’ve decided to re-open my Etsy Shop. If you don’t know, Etsy is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell merchandise. Its been a few years since I removed product from the shop. It has sat empty all this while, waiting for me to return to it. Etsy has changed a bit since I had my shop open. There is a bigger market of “drop-ship” sellers and less original items for sale. “Drop-ship” means you order from someone who then sends your purchase request to another company who produces and ships the item to you. Back in its infancy, Etsy was really against drop-ship businesses, but things change.

What I find interesting, is that there are still plenty of people, like me, who want to sell their original work online. Last year, I started making smaller pieces of art that might be easier to ship. I considered many different options for selling my work and decided putting my “smalls” online was a good way to go. This week, I took the plunge, refreshed by Etsy store and uploaded a few things. There’s more to come. I need to take some pictures, but soon you’ll start seeing my original fabric postcards and bookmarks. Everything takes time, but I’m happy to start sharing more with you.

Its always a challenge to make a decision like this. There is a lot of time invested and no guarantees that it is worth the effort. But, isn’t that like making art too? You have an idea and debate with yourself about how and when you’ll execute it. Will it turn out like you hope? Well, you’ll never know until you try.

You can visit my Etsy store here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/NanetteSewZ

What truly is important

This past week, I took some time away to travel with some friends. During that time, I allowed myself to be totally cut off from responsibility. Phone was off. No access to social media. No checking in on the news. I realize now how much of a luxury it is to disconnect. For most of us, there was a time in our lives when we could walk away from our home and no one could reach us. If we had an answering machine attached to our landlines (I remember a time when I didn’t), we would find out if anyone was trying to reach us when we returned home. Now, the phone is with us almost always. If we hear it ring or beep, we check it, no matter what we’re doing or time of day it is.

For a few days, I felt the luxury of not having my phone. When I felt bored, I couldn’t flip through the socials. I was forced to be present and I didn’t mind it. I realize now, that before I left, I was feeling depressed and worried. By disconnecting, I returned with energy and hopefulness. Or maybe it wasn’t just the phone, maybe it was more about being around people who bring me joy. All I know is I returned with energy and enthusiasm.

And while away, I made time for my commitment of showing up for my art every day! I am on Day 21 of my stitch challenge. I’m making time to free-form stitch for fifteen minutes a day. My goal is to continue this through 100 days worth of “pages.” Every 5 days, I start a new page. The photo above shows my progress of the first 20 days, resulting in 4 completed pages. I’ve learned through this process that showing up is important, letting go of expectations is freeing and starting over is refreshing. And, stepping away helped me realize what truly is important.

 

 

Learn more about the challenge:
* 100 day stitching challenge.
* follow my progress on Instagram

 

I want to

My post last week was about developing consistency and showing up for my creative practice. During the last month, I set some things in motion to help me show up. One item is reconnecting with my planner and another is setting a small very doable daily creative task (the stitchbook challenge).

Over the last several weeks, what I’ve found is having the accountability to myself keeps me on task. It also energizes my creativity. I want to be more involved and spend more time in my studio. The “wanting” is the key. My experience is if I want something bad enough, it is easier to make time for it. If things feel more like a chore, (e.g., something I “have to” do) it is easier to find excuses. For me, the “have tos” are guilt laden. For sure, guilt can motivate. However, who wants to create because they’re guilted into it?

The creative muse is more willing to play when things are fun! So over the last few weeks I noticed I was finding more time in my day to work creatively. Over a year ago, I started creating the patchwork backgrounds for these post cards. They are scraps stitched together and cut to 4″ x 6″. All I had to do was cut the backgrounds to postcard size and finish the edges. Yet, it took me over a year to get here. That’s because, I was guilting myself about working on them. In the last few weeks I noticed the  “I should do that” had become “I could do that.” And with a little more time, it became, I want to do that.

Having the daily stitch practice inspired me to add more opportunities in my day because I want to do more. I am enjoying myself in those 15 minutes I carved away each day. And, I crave more. So here I am channeling and redirecting that craving into making a new batch of fabric postcards, because I want to.

Keeping consistent

No matter how you define creative success, one of the most important components is the willingness to show up and do the work.” – Jane Dunnewold

Thanks Jane, oh, how I can relate to this. The last few months have seemed chaotic for me. A variety of things taking hold of my schedule and spinning me around. Now I’m out of practice for showing up, but I’ve started the new year with good intentions.

What I realized is intentions alone aren’t good enough. Healthy habits of showing up and doing the work need to be enforced. But how do you do that when there are so many things distracting you.

I started the year with my Passion Planner. Last year was the first time I worked with this planner. In reality, it is just a planner, I didn’t need this “special one” to accomplish my goals and schedule my time. This one just includes prompts for self-reflecting, which I find very helpful. I need to remind myself of the positive things I accomplished, as well as keeping track of those items that need to get done. It’s helpful for me to check-in with myself weekly and monthly.

The other thing I realized I needed was practice showing up. For me, this means scheduling time EVERY DAY to work on my creative work. Frequently, I spent too much time on the admin work and the creative work gets postponed.

Recently, I started following a textile artist I admired, Anne Wood. She makes these cute little stitched designs and has some patterns  for birds and dolls that I’d like to try. A couple weeks ago, she announced she was going to start a 100 day stitching challenge. The goal is to spend 100 days, stitching for at least 15 minutes a day. Sounds just like what I need.  Today is day 6. It is easy to get distracted, but I’ve been doing the work (you can follow my progress on Instagram). Making the commitment and now sharing it with you, holds me accountable. I personally know that accountability is what keeps me on task. Left up to my own devices, I tend to wander.

Do you have tips for keeping consistent?

 

Perfectly imperfect

“Flower Garden 2 – Single-flowered Zinnia” by Nanette S. Zeller

I’ve been spending a lot of time the past couple weeks sitting in front of my computer, editing videos. I filmed a couple of “classes” last year and now I have time to edit them and get them up on Teachable for you to see.

At a certain level I could be considered a computer geek. Way before most people had an email address or even a computer, I was designing eCommerce websites. It’s funny to think about it now, because those of us developing those simple sites weren’t sure how the world would embrace the technology. Was it just a passing fad to purchase things online?

Now most everyone knows about Amazon. [I remember when they only sold books!] Things were much simpler then. I would use a simple text editor to write the code. It would take awhile to upload the tiny (for today’s standards) file over my dial-up modem with that piercing “handshake” sound connecting it to the server. Wow, have things changed. The software I’m using to produce my classes is very sophisticated. I can’t believe all the tools that come with it…

In some respects, it is amazing to have the powerful equipment to use in creating. But, in other respects I find all the bells and whistles distracting. There’s too much to keep up with. And I question whether I should be keeping up with the technology in my art practice, too?

This week, out of curiosity, I researched computerized embroidery machines. There is a fascinating amount of power in some of these home machines. Plug in a design into the machine’s computer and minutes later you’ll have a stitched emblem. So perfect.

I decided to pass on this advancement. I’d rather create something that is perfectly imperfect.

 

Full of Color

“Bloom like a flower by the Roadside,” 2023 by Nanette S Zeller

I hope your holiday season was filled with good things. Alas, the new year is finally here.

Like most people, over the holidays I took some time off and now it is time to get back to work. There is so much ahead of us. I am one of those who views the new year as a fresh start full of opportunities. What about you?

This year, I don’t see as clear a picture as I’ve had in the past. I need to pull together my notes and map out some plans. But, things feel heavier than usual. I consider myself an empath which makes it harder sometimes. For me, making plans isn’t as easy as drawing out the map and following it. I feel the energy around the decisions. The energy can either get me running down the path in my track shoes or feel like I’m wearing concrete boots. The start of this year feels more like the boots.

I’m sharing this because I want you to know it is OK to feel this way. There’s a lot of heaviness around us. If you’re feeling this way, take the time to be with your thoughts. You might even want to take the advice of Andy J Pizza‘s Creative Pep Talk podcast and daydream a little before pushing forward.

However you feel right now, I want you to know I appreciate you for being here and reading my blog.  Please know, that wherever you’re going in life I hope you “Bloom like a Flower by the Roadside;” resilient, strong, beautiful and full of color.

Mend

I’m always very reflective this time of year, especially as I approach the start of my next trip around the sun (aka birthday). I remember my family’s elders speak of how quickly time passed for them. But, I also remember when I was a pre-teen and couldn’t wait until I would become a teenager. Back then it felt like I would never get older. I understand now.
Perspective.

I’ve been especially reflective about this past year and where I’m going next. In my art profession this year, there’s been a couple of rejections, but a number of successes too. When I find myself thinking too heavily, I encourage myself to think of the wins.
Stability.

Lately, I’ve been going through boxes and lightening the load. I find stuff that should be thrown away or given to someone who would have a use for it. It is time to let go.
Release.

Then there are the memories attached to the objects. A loved one or maybe a special day. The memories are mine, but I feel they are attached to the object. If I eliminate the object will the memory stay with me? For some things, maybe it is more important to hold on to it a while longer and repair the broken bits.
Mend.

Wishing you a safe and happy new year.

 

 

 

 

Stay curious

I love having a window seat when I fly. I enjoy looking out and seeing what is happening beneath the plane. I look for roads, cars moving and buildings. When I fly over the mountain states, I enjoy seeing the terrain.

I’ve lived in Chicago, the Pacific Northwest, and now central North Carolina. I know theses places and I’ve visited some others. I try to imagine what its like living in these different (to me) places. I definitely understand how being a tourist isn’t the same as living day to day somewhere.

I wonder what it would be like to live somewhere new. What kind of home would I live in? Where would I shop? What’s the traffic like? Would I have to drive far to get to places? Would I find kindred spirits living there? Its so fascinating to think about.

The window seat provides me with inspiration, too. Like witnessing the color of light as the sunrises.

I can sit for hours watching the earth pass beneath me.
It reminds me to always stay curious.

A spark that builds a fire

After a busy couple of months focusing on my exhibit for Arts Council of Moore County, Campbell House Galleries, I decided to take some time to revitalize my creativity. My first trip was to Rocky Mount, NC to see Susan Lenz’s exhibit “Once and Again: Alterations” at the Imperial Centre. [Here’s a YouTube video of part of the exhibit]  I’m a big fan of Susan’s artwork which features a lot of re-purposed textiles. The architecture of Imperial Centre is so fascinating because it is housed in a converted tobacco processing facility. The hard industrial features of the building made such a beautiful compliment to Susan’s soft vintage textile work.

My second trip was to the Haw River State Park’s Summit Environmental Education and Conference Center to participate in a sleep-over art retreat with some friends. We spent a couple nights gathered in one of the conference rooms independently working on our projects. With so many months working alone, it was a much needed kick to share ideas, resources and laughter with these other very creative women. I decided to bring the hexagon quilt that I’ve been hand-piecing for many years. I was ready to start quilting it. This retreat, really gave me the time and inspiration to get some stitching done.

I think pulling out the hexi quilt was partly inspired by seeing Susan’s work. English paper-piecing, hexagons and hand quilting are all very old school techniques. Even though I used modern fabrics for the piecing and a fancy perle cotton thread for the big-stitch hand quilting, I felt in doing the handwork I was honoring an older generation of time. This is fitting, because I’m making this quilt to honor my grandmother.

Time again, I’m reminded how important it is to step away from the monotony of daily routines. It is important to seek creative inspiration from people, places and art exhibits. Sometimes these opportunities may not seem significant, but yet they can offer a spark that builds a fire.