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Pay it forward – Notions & Fabric

Pay it forward – Notions & Fabric

In 2003, someone asked me if I would be willing to take the notions and fabric from her mother in law’s haberdashery. The shop closed temporarily when she had a health problem, never to open again. They were remodeling and just wanted all of this carefully stored inventory to disappear – and be appreciated.

The only caveat? I must take everything.

Two station wagon trips later, my Via Volta studio was full of notions and fabric. With friends, we dissected this treasure trove, giving away, selling, and enjoying for ourselves everything from embroidery floss to shoulder pads, silk velvet to snaps.

View down Via Volta, Monza, Italia near Cafe San Biagio
My old stomping grounds on Via Volta, Monza

Those were wonderful days! When I left Monza, my fabric and yarn friends made me a wonderful scrapbook of those days. During my March Madness painting spree, I enjoyed paging through this wonderful work of love. But I digress…

I’ve made incredible progress on this gift, but it makes sense to #payitforward again. Here’s a list of the notions and fabric I’d like to give to another creative soul or business.

I’m giving it away, and it’s definitely something that can fit into a small car (it’s about 2 medium moving boxes). I ask that you enjoy, make beautiful things and perhaps consider donating to Follow Your Art Community Studios in Melrose if you are able.

Leave a comment below, or find my on Instagram or Twitter so we can arrange delivery. Everything’s been in boxes for more than a month (kind of like me!), so the quarantine time for textiles has passed.

Patience in the Studio

Patience in the Studio

If you popped by my place during the Melrose Open Studio Tour, perhaps you noticed that it was not a sparse space. A large design surface held tidbits of several projects in hibernation. Fabric sprung from the wire drawers, disguised by a fabric curtain. Wool roving fluffed out of boxes, with screen and bubble wrap rolled under the work table and bottles of soapy water stood at the ready. Pencils, ink tense and HB2, mending, ephemera and of course my sewing and felting machines covered my other table. The space was… busy?

While keeping my tools at my fingertips makes sense, the idea to sort, clean and paint hibernated the winter. After vacation in February, I decided it was time to shake up my fiber den.

Easily said. Done without difficulty, but it did require infinitely more time and patience than expected. Touching everything in drawers, bins, shelves took time. Nostalgic, restless, ebullient, anxious moments rolled into hours. Patience, Alanna, patience.

Fortunately, friends offered to help with the painting, so there was a deadline to get through it all. As they arrived, the remaining items were stuffed, pushed away, and boxed up. Let the wall prep and painting begin – both ceiling and floors. Thank you Sandra and Laurena!

Eventually, the chaos relented, but there were days like this!

With everything boxed up, I took the time to think about the components of my practice. Felting, sewing, knitting, stitched together with writing and marketing shape my creative life. It felt good to recognize all of these components, and give space for each in my studio.

It also feels good to keep only necessary materials at hand. I’ve decided to keep it that way. There are so many possibilities and yet so little time! Patience, Alanna, patience.

The studio “shake up” coincided with COVID-19 social distancing kick up. On the day that Sandra and Laurena came over, a WhatsApp message from a friend who lives in Hong Kong warned, “I worry about the US not taking this virus seriously. Do what you can to stay safe.” March 11 was my last regular day. Patience, Alanna, patience.

Meanwhile, I’m participating in a weekly seminar organized by Creative Capital, “Building Community for a Sustainable Creative Life,” led by Sharon Louden. There’s plenty of material to soak up, ideas to consider and connections to make in the next few weeks.

Clearly this year teaches me to reexamine my creative space – both physical and mental. Balancing enthusiasm and patience is a good exercise for me. This spring, I’m patiently feeding the future of my studio. Let it be a fertile place!

“Stitched” at Loading Dock Gallery

“Stitched” at Loading Dock Gallery

Update: View “Stitched” online

“Joined by Stitch” unites again for their third spring exhibit – this time at the Loading Dock Gallery in Lowell, MA. Please join us at the artist reception.

March 7, 2020 from 4 to 6 pm

122 Western Avenue, Lowell, MA 01851

My critique group is an eclectic mix of artists. We all work primarily in fiber and we’re all SAQA members who live within 40 minutes of each other. Beyond that, let the creative experience express itself! Each year, the setting and the work feed the exhibit… with a different result each time.

Tarja works in the Western Avenue Studios and proposed a group exhibit to the Gallery. They were very receptive to the idea, especially after last year’s show at the Essex Art Center.

Today, we chose the work for exhibit in the Gallery. Starting with a large, new piece by Agusta Agustsson, the next pieces easily flowed from our stacks to the wall. With tall, white walls, there is plenty of space to stack work, which was appreciated with 8 artists!

Joined by Stitch hangs Agusta Agustsson textile art at Loading Dock Gallery in Lowell, March 2020
Agusta, Betsy and Tarja look for level work.
Alanna Nelson fiber art "Suffragette Celebration" debuts at Loading Dock Gallery, March 2020
Suffragette Celebration bubbles on a pedestal with work by Janis Doucette, Tarja Cockell and Sue Colozzi

Installation was quick, easy and the camaraderie that Joined by Stitch developed over the last 3.5 years was clear. I did manage to complete the Suffragette Celebration piece (ahem, at 4:30am the day of installation). White walls and a grey pedestal are not doing this piece any justice… I can’t wait to get it back and photograph it properly.

In any case, please join us for the reception, and let me know what you think of the exhibit!

P.S. With the Loading Dock closing temporarily to encourage social distancing in this time of pandemic, the exhibit became online. As of March 25, the work was taken down and I’d be happy to share it with you in person in May.

Freedom and constraints: 12″x12″ art work

Freedom and constraints: 12″x12″ art work

Perhaps it’s habit. Perhaps someone drilled the golden ratio into my psyche. Until Instagram forced me to frame everything in a square, rectangles and circles were my thing. However, little square works are a popular choice for fundraisers, so last year I challenged myself to create more 12″ x 12″ fiber art work.

I’ve started many little pieces. I’ve even finished a few. As a matter of fact, Two Years a Gemini went to the Provincetown Art Association & Museum’s fundraiser this week. You can bid on it here.

2 Years a Gemini Fiber Art donated to PAAM by Alanna Nelson
Two Years a Gemini, a 12″ x 12″ piece donated to the Provincetown Art Association & Museum

As promised, small squares let me play with compositions and supposedly are quick to create (hmm, not so sure about that). I’ve create fabrics made with wet felting, needle felting or both. The square fiber art pieces are dyed, painted and maybe inked. In all cases, stitch is an integral component.

How many layers, which moments, what is the message of this piece? Usually, I need to have these answers before I begin. With these small pieces, intuition and meandering lead me to pause, scratch my head and ask for opinions. That’s different than I usually work.

At our last critique group meeting, I shared a couple of paused squares. What fun to watch the consideration, experience the thoughtful silence and the hear ideas and impressions.

It’s summer, which means I’m trying to work outdoors whenever possible. There’s a temptation to drop small squares and return to larger work that I started. Actually the strongest temptation is to stop writing and get working on anything textile.

Do you follow me on Instagram? You can see square composition updates posted in my feed. Catch you later!

Unravel: Voices of E Pluribus Unum

Unravel: Voices of E Pluribus Unum

” I resolve to make a difference.”

Alanna Nelson hot pink silk quilt in Unravel at Arlington Center for the Arts
Boston Women’s March: Voices of E Pluribus Unum

The Arlington Center for the Arts includes this quilt for Unravel – a fiber art exhibit that sheds light on the contemporary political scene. Difficult to photograph, this quilt shimmers in real life. The messages from signs remind me of the positive, political determination of that day on the Boston Common in 2017. That shot of energy is perfect every day!

The reception is May 17 from 7 to 9 pm, but it’s on view through July 8. The selections cover a wide range of textiles and messages. Can’t wait to see all of this fiber art in person!

Let me know what you think if you get to Unravel