The art quilt is a creative visual work that is layered and stitched or that references this form of stitched layered structure.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Introducing Nanette Zeller

I am Nanette S. Zeller, a mixed-media textile artist who currently lives in Southern Pines, NC.  I work full-time as a freelance artist pursuing a variety of opportunities including selling my art, teaching, and editing quilting related books.  I have been sewing and working with needle arts since I was 10.  It is an obsessive passion.  Like they say, do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life.  That truly describes me.

Q:  What is the funniest or most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you at an exhibit or quilt show or gallery opening for your work.
A:  Although I tend to focus my art quilts on environmentally-based themes, I do like to use other subject matter.  For instance, I love rusty old things and made 3 art quilt renditions of    thread-painted oil cans.  As a kid, I loved playing in the garage with my Dad's oil cans.  I loved the popping noise they made.  I've had the opportunity to hang each of the renditions in different exhibits.  (One version is currently in Houston waiting to be hung at the International Quilt Festival this October).
During exhibits, it's kind of fun being a fly on the wall as you stand behind someone viewing your art.  When I displayed my oil can art quilts, I started noticing a trend in overheard conversations.  I would watch as heads tilted back and forth perplexed by what they were seeing.  "Are those (toilet) plungers?"  Sigh.  My subject matter is  lost on people under the age of 30.  Thankfully, there are usually plenty of "old" folks around to explain what these "weird" things are.
Oil Cans 3 by Nanette Zeller
Q:  What inspires you to make art quilts and where do you draw inspiration for your individual works?
A:  Although I have been artistically dabbling in a variety of media throughout my life, my collegiate training was in environmental studies.  Specializing in avian and botanical studies, I earned a Masters Degree in Wildlife Biology from NC State University.  Through my education and employment as a field biologist, I was exposed to some amazing natural habitats.  My artistic style has evolved from this life-long culmination of creative adventure and exploration.  My artistic inspiration is deeply influenced by my love and study of nature.
Kiss the Sun by Nanette Zeller

Q:  In addition to art quilting, do you engage in any other artistic endeavors?  Do you use any very non traditional materials in your quilts or have any unusual methods of working that you would like to share?
A:  I have a diverse collection of artistic outlets that I enjoy.  I love to knit, crochet, and felt wool.  As mentioned earlier, I also dabble in a variety of mixed-media techniques from painting, drawing, photography, digital art, and graphic design.  Since fabric tends to be so flat, I frequently add depth to my art by pulling from my tool box of skills.  I've added needle felting to a sunflower to create a fuzzy stem,  created  thread-sketched art quilts from original Prismacolor pencil drawings, and used paints to add details and shadows to flat looking landscapes.  I am always looking for innovative ways to use mixed-media to inspire or enhance what I create.
Tres Dominae by Nanette Zeller

Q:  Is there anything that I didn't ask that you would really like to share?.....How did you get started making art quilts?
A:  For several decades my sewing was limited to domestic tasks (e.g., curtains, pillows, hemming clothes, etc.).  In 2000 a friend invited me to a small local quilt guild.  Initially I wasn't too excited about the craft, but I attended for the social outlet.  I have vivid memories of working on my first quilt the week of September 11, 2001.  Quilting became a safe place amidst all chaos.  At that time I realized that it was more than just a hobby, I knew this would become a way of life.  Soon after that, I was teaching beginners and technical editing quilt books.
Several years later I became tired of following other people's designs/patterns, but I didn't have the confidence to create my own.  Frustrated, I stopped quilting for a number of years and began exploring mixed media art.  I enjoy learning and sucked up everything I could get my hands on;  paint, metal, beads, collage, polymer clay, and screen printing.  Eventually, it occurred to me that a stretched canvas is just fabric.  That's when I started combining quilting with mixed media techniques to make my original art quilts.

I truly enjoy being a member of SAQA and appreciate this opportunity to share my story.  Through my SAQA membership, I've learned a great deal the last few years and have developed greater self-confidence as an artist.

To learn more about Nanette, visit her blog at

Thank you Nanette for sharing your story and your beautiful artwork with us.  I am sure that many of our fellow SAQA members can identify with some of the things you mention.
Anyone else out there care to share their art quilting adventures with us?  We would love to hear from you.
Contact me at

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