God and Art Series: Artist creates for 'Daddy God'

Today we're going to visit with Nelly Villegas, a native Mexican now living in Canada. Nelly owns NellywithWings on Etsy. You can also look at her work and her creative process on her Facebook ( page. Here's her interview:

YBAL: Tell us a little about yourself and your artwork. When did you start developing your artistic-self?

Nelly: I was born and raised in Veracruz, a beautiful but very hot coastal city in Mexico. I have been married almost 18 years to the person I admire the most and we have a very bright and loving 4-year-old son. I am an architect by profession, which I still practice full time. Fourteen years ago, my husband and I embarked on an adventure called immigration and we have made Canada our home for more than fourteen years.

Starting with my Mexican upbringing, I have developed my artistic self over a long period of time. It was just a matter of looking around to see beauty, colour, texture and amazing craftsmanship everywhere and being greatly inspired by all of it. If you ever go to the market in any city or even small town in Mexico, you will see the bright colours of the folk-dancers’ costumes, the tapestry, pottery, the piƱatas, and the intricately embroidered clothes of the aboriginal people. This is all embedded in my being.

YBAL: What attracts you to sewing and hand-woven jewelry? How do you gain inspiration for your work?

Nelly: I love sewing! It is to me in many ways like architecture but instead of putting it on paper, I imagine something and put it to fabric. I make it a reality and wear it proudly no matter how many things I could have done differently or how much room for improvement there is. It is much better than architecture in that it only takes hours, not months or years, to see my creation become a wearable reality.

What I love about sewing and weaving is that when I have the urge to create, I can work anywhere. All I have to do is to grab a few pieces of fabric, some thread, a needle and pins. I can quickly whip up a small pouch, a necklace or a drink sleeve. It is even better with my friendship bracelets and necklaces because all I need are thread and scissors. I can work while my little one takes his bath or while the family is watching a movie. My love for crafting is so great that I carry a project with me at all times.

I get inspiration from whatever supplies I have on hand. I tend to be the most creative when I have limited resources. I love to look at my fabric and embroidery thread stash and figure out a project where I can incorporate those resources. I also love people-watching on the streets, but sometimes a quiet time with inspiring music (preferably Christian or classical music) will help me get inspired.

YBAL: How have the events of your life affected your art? How has art affected your life?

Nelly: I can think of several moments in my life that have influenced what I create today starting with my relationship with my grandma, who is also named Nelly. She is an awesome seamstress and fashion genius. As a young girl, I used to help her cut fabric and was her supply shopping assistant.

During my childhood my mother signed me up for ballet lessons, which became a passion for thirteen years. It made me gain huge experience in embellishing my costumes, usually almost entirely covered in sequins and seedbeads. Later, my move to another city in Mexico, prior to coming to Canada, gave me great exposure to folk art.

Lastly, as I was desperately looking for a hobby to give me a break from the responsibilities of life, I decided to give the sewing gene a try by taking a beginner sewing course through the local school board. Was that ever the best decision! The minute the first lesson started I was hooked, and developed an urge to sew that has not left me even after almost two years.

YBAL: When did you begin your relationship with God and how? How has your relationship with God affected your art? How has art affected your relationship to God?

Nelly: I met Jesus at a very young age as the granddaughter of pastors, but I did not have a relationship with him until I was 11-years-old. One evening I was waiting in the car for my parents, pondering about the Sunday school lesson of that morning. I decided I wanted Jesus in my heart and asked him. I felt peace and a conviction that I should follow him all my days.

However, it was only nine or ten years ago that I started experiencing God as my daddy. I allowed his Holy Spirit to inspire me to spend time with him, then to dance for him, sketch and paint, to write, and now to sew. Even though you cannot see any religious references in my crafts, the Spirit of God has truly inspired what I make. It is also while I create things that my mind relaxes enough to pray for my family, my friends, my customers and whatever else my daddy God thinks it is appropriate.

Any future goals you'd like to share? Any encouragement for other artists?

Nelly: My long-term goal is to create and craft full time, and make this passion to create my everyday business.

There are a few things that come to mind to encourage fellow artists. First are my mother's words as I was choosing a career path. She said: "If you do what you like and get paid for it, you will be happy and successful".

Secondly, find someone to encourage you. Find a partner that will speak good things over you and encourage you along the way. My husband has been that person to me as he's always encouraged me to do more, think big, give things a try, be a go-getter, be an over comer, be an achiever and to bring my ideas to completion.

Lastly, I want to share words that daddy God said in Isaiah 54:2-3, a reminder during my everyday errands to "Enlarge the place of your tent, And let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; Do not spare; Lengthen your cords, And strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, And your descendants will inherit the nations, And make the desolate cities inhabited."