Nancy is an award winning fiber and textile artist. Enjoy getting to know her:
How do you describe your work and yourself as an artist? I am an artist working in the fiber medium. I create realistic images of natural objects in a highly exaggerated scale with textiles, ink and thread. My whole-cloth artwork features a bas-relief sculptural effect created with dense hand-guided machine quilting which is accented with hand-stitched details.
Describe the path you have taken to develop your art. Art quilting drew me into the medium but I lacked both the art and the execution skills for doing the level of work that attracted me, so I studied with every top level instructor I could find in the quilt world. Then I took intensive coursework in art design and composition to improve the quality of my art. After that it was a matter of paying close attention to what inspired me, aspects I enjoyed doing and those I did not like to do. I honed away with those guidelines as I developed my own style.
What inspires you? I am fascinated by color, by patterns, the intricacies of the natural world and the dichotomies in how the world works. Working with a small area of the natural world (seeds and fruits) is endlessly fascinating for me.
What do you want to communicate with your art? My Seed Play series exploring the architecture of seeds focuses on tree and shrub seeds and fruits as metaphors for the richness of life’s maturity. Using the uniqueness of tree seeds as metaphor, I strive to illustrate that each individual is unique and wonderful by focusing with admiration and care on a part of the tree that is often overlooked.
Do you teach? Yes, I teach creating designs from nature.
Please share with us your artistic journey and your work using botanical illustration to combine your passion for nature, texture, color and women's work as art. Prior to being a full time artist, I worked in organizational psychology and found various forms of needlework, especially embroidery, to be a soothing hobby as a counterbalance to my work. My first quilted piece was a pattern of the Showy Trillium that I wanted to own, and that required creating it. Soon I created my own designs inspired by special experiences, like the magic of seeing the hatching of Loggerhead sea turtles on the SC coast.
I belong to more than four generations of needle workers; having slept under a quilt pieced by my great grandmother and quilted by my grandmother, and grew up wearing the clothes made by my mother; and I own a bed coverlet made by my great grandmothers’ grandmother.
As a lover of art, I found it disturbing when growing up, that I never saw art by women. Only later did I realize that the culture had not provided many opportunities for women, so they often used domestic productions for their creative expression, such as quilts, coverlets, and other forms of textiles. It gives me pleasure to be participating in this long line of work by my foremothers.
As the daughter of a seamstress, fabric is a lifelong love of mine, visiting quilt stores long before I was interested in quilting. This love of fabric probably accounts for my choosing to buy hand dyed fabrics from other artists and creating my designs with them rather than doing the dyeing.
After some years of quilting, I noticed a pattern emerged that I turned to trees and leaves over and over again for inspiration. Initially seeds were the little accent details in a larger piece of leaves and branches. Very soon, the seeds became my focus. A member of my Fiber Art Options group pointed out that my work had a similarity to botanical art and suggested a botanical drawing course. The course helped my technical skills at illustrating and gave me an understanding of the historical underpinnings of my work. This focus has provided me with a deep enjoyment of finding and working closely with natural objects.
What I have learned, is that my art provides a way for me to give expression to my deepest spiritual concerns and passions. I want to provide artwork that helps others gain an appreciation of the natural world and the wonders there in.
Nancy’s solo exhibition “Seeds Up Close” will be at the North Carolina Arboretum, from January 12 to April 7, 2013. If you are in the area, we hope you will come and enjoy the Opening on January 12th.
The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville NC
100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC 28806
January 12 (Opening)- April 7, 2013 828/665-2492
Nancy G. Cook's art has a graphic quality that provides an experience of intimacy with highly exaggerated scale close-up views of nature, created with layered and embellished fabrics. Her current series, Seed Play, began mid 2008 and focuses on plant seeds and fruits, as metaphors for life's riches. Working directly from collected seed specimens, her designs are based on research and sketching to clarify what is architecturally unique for each species. Her hand-guided machine quilting creates lines and texture reminiscent of bas relief sculpture. Recent work incorporates hand stitching for enrichment and details. While the series began with a focus on trees, her more recent work has incorporated shrub, vine and perennial plant seeds. In addition to creating one of a kind textile art, Nancy Cook lectures, teaches workshops, consults and does commission work. She has been working in this medium since 1994.