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Nellie Wortman

Published:

I have been creating art for over 25 years. To know me and how I have become the artist that I am today, you would need to know where I came from. I had a lot to overcome from my childhood. My childhood is similar to many others that have had to deal with an abusive parent. As a young girl, I always knew that what I experienced in my childhood was not how my story would end. That each day was up to me to decide how I chose to view it, and if today was my last day on this earth, was I happy in how I chose to make the best of a bad situation? 

I was determined, from an early age, to change history for the generations to come. It was through my faith that gave me the strength and courage to overcome this. From an early age, I have always been drawn towards nature, animals, found objects, sticks, paths, doorways, etc. As a young girl, I found peace among nature’s elements. 

You will see these elements show up in my work. Some are hidden, while others are more clear to see. I believed from an early age that everyone has something unique about who they are to offer this world. Some find it right away; others find it along their journey of life. I also felt early on that it’s our job as humans to lift others up, not tear them down. Little did I know how much this belief from my childhood would play a big part in how I create as an artist. 

I never thought or felt comfortable to call myself an artist in the beginning, for I had an art teacher in school that told everyone in class that I had no business being in her class, for I didn’t have any artistic ability. Feeling crushed, I tucked away and hid this artistic part of me away for years and never explored art. It wasn’t until after our 3rd child that I wanted to find a way to give back to our community, and in doing so, I started to make handmade cards. I made them for a local hospital that would give them to patients that didn’t have any family that came to visit. 

It was from there that it progressed into others wanting to buy my art, which had me traveling to teach and eventually teaching online classes. I finally had felt that I was moving in the right direction of pursuing my art. Little did I realize that life was about to send me in another direction. I was in my early 30s when I had a major impact on my life. I had emergency gall bladder surgery. Upon waking up, I told numerous doctors that something didn’t feel right. They claimed that I was lucky to be alive. As much as I was thankful, I knew something wasn’t right. 

“I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become.” — Unknown

Long story short, over a 4-1/2-year period, my brain started to shut down. Specialists said that it was impossible with the numerous tests that they ran. Towards the end of the 4th year, and after seeing numerous doctors, I was starting the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Even with all of that, doctors still insisted that it was impossible. It wasn’t until the end of my 4th year that neuro-feedback doctors found the answer, but they weren’t sure if they could help me at this point. They stated that I had been telling the truth all along, but having so much time pass by before I could get to them, they were not sure if they could do anything. That within 30 days or so, I would be in a nursing home. 

It was in that moment of clarity that I stated this to them: “You are not God, and you do not get to determine my destiny, and until God brings me home, I am going to get everything back, and if I am still here, then I still have a purpose here on earth.” 

Now, 11 years later, I have regained about 95% of everything back. I found that having to experience something so profound in my life shifted my perspective on my art. In my earlier years of being an artist, I was drawn towards creating dark, grunge, old, tattered, vintage and recycled looks, which I loved. As I started to relearn everyday tasks and regain memories again, I found myself wanting to create something more with a lightness, freshness and color to it, along with implementing the old, tattered, recycled and vintage looks. 

Finding that balance between all of that was a little bit of a struggle, but I am not one to pull away from a challenge. I spent hours in my studio experimenting and practicing until I felt that what I created spoke these things, along with my voice or message within the piece. It was through the hours of being in my studio practicing and finding my inner creative voice again that I realized that it was OK to become this new yet different type of artist. That I never really lost the old version of me, but that life happened, and it helped me to evolve into who I am now. 

I believe that each step that I take in this life is taking me one step closer to who I was always meant to be. Within my art, I use symbolism. I feel that buttons are like family and friends. They hold us together when we have bad days or life hits us. Fabrics are comfort to me. It’s like coming home after a long day and needing something to wrap around me to make me feel all warm and safe. 

Words hold meaning and power. They can lift us in our darkest hour but also give us light to find our way through things. Paper is a way that allows me to record the written word, message or stories. Photos are a way that allows me to capture a memory that I can revisit over and over again. Wood, sticks, feathers, etc., are my connection to nature, which reminds me of peace and to always remain a child at heart, regardless of what life throws at me. Metal, to me, is my faith … 

With all of these symbols, I am drawn to creating books that are like a time capsule. They give us a place to record a moment or memory and the ability to be able to come back to it at a later time and revisit those memories from the past. My love for old, worn-out, tattered, vintage and recycled pieces came into play early on. 

I found that sometimes, society had a way of making you feel that if you were from the wrong side of the tracks, didn’t come from money, were past a certain age, dressed a certain way or acted a certain way, made mistakes, etc., that you were either ignored or that your value was less than others. I found this to be so sad and wrong. It was through my pieces of art that I wanted to show the world that even though these old, tattered, vintage, recycled pieces might not be of value in their original shape, by reworking them, I could give them a new life and sense of purpose.

It is through my pieces of art that I want the viewer to feel hope, faith, a sense of connection and that anything is possible if you just believe and don’t give up. I have always loved this saying: “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because its trust is not on the branch but is on its own wings. Always believe in yourself.” (Attribution unknown.) 

I am known for making books. I have made well over 1,000 books in my 25+ years as an artist. The majority of my books have been sold. I have only a handful of them for personal use. I’ve been asked many times, how am I able to let my books go. I feel that, as the artist, I am creating a piece that allows you to hold your memories. A piece that allows you to capture your moments, messages or stories. Many will purchase my books but leave them as-is and display them as a piece of art. Regardless of what they choose to do with them, I am honored to be part of their journey. 

When I am not creating books, you will find me making handmade bezels, Christmas ornaments, paintings or wall hangings. I can say without a doubt that it was worth pushing myself each step of the way to find who I am today. Each day, I find myself evolving into the artist that I am meant to be for that day. I look forward to seeing what tomorrow holds. The possibilities are endless. 

In regard to my studio, I surround myself with things that inspire me. This creates an environment that helps in my creative process. Upon entering my doors to my studio, I am surrounded with pale yellow/almost white walls and white wooden ceilings. This allows me to come into my studio and immediately feel like I am inhaling a breath of fresh air. 

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” — Rumi

I have windows and a slider that open up and give me fresh air and allow me to hear the birds chirping. My old wooden tables are from overseas and within the US. I have columns that remind me of another era, stone vases/bowls that reflect Paris or France, old wooden and wire storage pieces that hold pieces from my travels to Italy, France and within the US. I have an old hardware wooden cubby piece that holds different media. Whenever I find myself feeling overwhelmed by too many elements in my studio, I will rearrange my studio and find ways to put away a lot of my supplies, so they are out of sight. To me, this is like starting on a fresh canvas; the possibilities are endless. 

We each have a story that is worth sharing with the world. It is through my pieces of art that I share bits and pieces of my stories. I believe that by doing so, it creates a link of connection to each other.

I have been creating art for over 25 years. To know me and how I have become the artist that I am today, you would need to know where I came from. I had a lot to overcome from my childhood. My childhood is similar to many others that have had to deal with an abusive parent. As a young girl, I always knew that what I experienced in my childhood was not how my story would end. That each day was up to me to decide how I chose to view it, and if today was my last day on this earth, was I happy in how I chose to make the best of a bad situation? 

I was determined, from an early age, to change history for the generations to come. It was through my faith that gave me the strength and courage to overcome this. From an early age, I have always been drawn towards nature, animals, found objects, sticks, paths, doorways, etc. As a young girl, I found peace among nature’s elements. 

You will see these elements show up in my work. Some are hidden, while others are more clear to see. I believed from an early age that everyone has something unique about who they are to offer this world. Some find it right away; others find it along their journey of life. I also felt early on that it’s our job as humans to lift others up, not tear them down. Little did I know how much this belief from my childhood would play a big part in how I create as an artist. 

I never thought or felt comfortable to call myself an artist in the beginning, for I had an art teacher in school that told everyone in class that I had no business being in her class, for I didn’t have any artistic ability. Feeling crushed, I tucked away and hid this artistic part of me away for years and never explored art. It wasn’t until after our 3rd child that I wanted to find a way to give back to our community, and in doing so, I started to make handmade cards. I made them for a local hospital that would give them to patients that didn’t have any family that came to visit. 

It was from there that it progressed into others wanting to buy my art, which had me traveling to teach and eventually teaching online classes. I finally had felt that I was moving in the right direction of pursuing my art. Little did I realize that life was about to send me in another direction. I was in my early 30s when I had a major impact on my life. I had emergency gall bladder surgery. Upon waking up, I told numerous doctors that something didn’t feel right. They claimed that I was lucky to be alive. As much as I was thankful, I knew something wasn’t right. 

“I am not what happened to me; I am what I choose to become.” — Unknown

Long story short, over a 4-1/2-year period, my brain started to shut down. Specialists said that it was impossible with the numerous tests that they ran. Towards the end of the 4th year, and after seeing numerous doctors, I was starting the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. Even with all of that, doctors still insisted that it was impossible. It wasn’t until the end of my 4th year that neuro-feedback doctors found the answer, but they weren’t sure if they could help me at this point. They stated that I had been telling the truth all along, but having so much time pass by before I could get to them, they were not sure if they could do anything. That within 30 days or so, I would be in a nursing home. 

It was in that moment of clarity that I stated this to them: “You are not God, and you do not get to determine my destiny, and until God brings me home, I am going to get everything back, and if I am still here, then I still have a purpose here on earth.” 

Now, 11 years later, I have regained about 95% of everything back. I found that having to experience something so profound in my life shifted my perspective on my art. In my earlier years of being an artist, I was drawn towards creating dark, grunge, old, tattered, vintage and recycled looks, which I loved. As I started to relearn everyday tasks and regain memories again, I found myself wanting to create something more with a lightness, freshness and color to it, along with implementing the old, tattered, recycled and vintage looks. 

Finding that balance between all of that was a little bit of a struggle, but I am not one to pull away from a challenge. I spent hours in my studio experimenting and practicing until I felt that what I created spoke these things, along with my voice or message within the piece. It was through the hours of being in my studio practicing and finding my inner creative voice again that I realized that it was OK to become this new yet different type of artist. That I never really lost the old version of me, but that life happened, and it helped me to evolve into who I am now. 

I believe that each step that I take in this life is taking me one step closer to who I was always meant to be. Within my art, I use symbolism. I feel that buttons are like family and friends. They hold us together when we have bad days or life hits us. Fabrics are comfort to me. It’s like coming home after a long day and needing something to wrap around me to make me feel all warm and safe. 

Words hold meaning and power. They can lift us in our darkest hour but also give us light to find our way through things. Paper is a way that allows me to record the written word, message or stories. Photos are a way that allows me to capture a memory that I can revisit over and over again. Wood, sticks, feathers, etc., are my connection to nature, which reminds me of peace and to always remain a child at heart, regardless of what life throws at me. Metal, to me, is my faith … 

With all of these symbols, I am drawn to creating books that are like a time capsule. They give us a place to record a moment or memory and the ability to be able to come back to it at a later time and revisit those memories from the past. My love for old, worn-out, tattered, vintage and recycled pieces came into play early on. 

I found that sometimes, society had a way of making you feel that if you were from the wrong side of the tracks, didn’t come from money, were past a certain age, dressed a certain way or acted a certain way, made mistakes, etc., that you were either ignored or that your value was less than others. I found this to be so sad and wrong. It was through my pieces of art that I wanted to show the world that even though these old, tattered, vintage, recycled pieces might not be of value in their original shape, by reworking them, I could give them a new life and sense of purpose.

It is through my pieces of art that I want the viewer to feel hope, faith, a sense of connection and that anything is possible if you just believe and don’t give up. I have always loved this saying: “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because its trust is not on the branch but is on its own wings. Always believe in yourself.” (Attribution unknown.) 

I am known for making books. I have made well over 1,000 books in my 25+ years as an artist. The majority of my books have been sold. I have only a handful of them for personal use. I’ve been asked many times, how am I able to let my books go. I feel that, as the artist, I am creating a piece that allows you to hold your memories. A piece that allows you to capture your moments, messages or stories. Many will purchase my books but leave them as-is and display them as a piece of art. Regardless of what they choose to do with them, I am honored to be part of their journey. 

When I am not creating books, you will find me making handmade bezels, Christmas ornaments, paintings or wall hangings. I can say without a doubt that it was worth pushing myself each step of the way to find who I am today. Each day, I find myself evolving into the artist that I am meant to be for that day. I look forward to seeing what tomorrow holds. The possibilities are endless. 

In regard to my studio, I surround myself with things that inspire me. This creates an environment that helps in my creative process. Upon entering my doors to my studio, I am surrounded with pale yellow/almost white walls and white wooden ceilings. This allows me to come into my studio and immediately feel like I am inhaling a breath of fresh air. 

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” — Rumi

I have windows and a slider that open up and give me fresh air and allow me to hear the birds chirping. My old wooden tables are from overseas and within the US. I have columns that remind me of another era, stone vases/bowls that reflect Paris or France, old wooden and wire storage pieces that hold pieces from my travels to Italy, France and within the US. I have an old hardware wooden cubby piece that holds different media. Whenever I find myself feeling overwhelmed by too many elements in my studio, I will rearrange my studio and find ways to put away a lot of my supplies, so they are out of sight. To me, this is like starting on a fresh canvas; the possibilities are endless. 

We each have a story that is worth sharing with the world. It is through my pieces of art that I share bits and pieces of my stories. I believe that by doing so, it creates a link of connection to each other.