Boundless Creativity in Fabric Art



“Time is an encoded pattern of fabric woven with information and energy,” author Vishwanath S.J. wrote.

In many ways local fabric artist Joan Tandet Nelson uses gathered information, intuitive imagination and boundless creativity to create elegant and timeless works of fabric art.


Under the influence, of her birth city, Chicago, Ill., Joan grew-up in the nearby suburb of Skokie, traveling to the “Windy City” often to spend time the Chicago Art Institute. There she became acquainted with the likes of Rodin, Monet, Chagall, Seurat and Renoir, loving their use of color, light, shadow and composition.


She balanced her artistic wanderings with afternoons in the sun at Wrigley Field watching the Cubs on their long way to their future World Series win.


Joan completed her bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University in special education, then married and became a stay at home mom for her three children for 15 years. During this time, she discovered a love of sewing and quilting.


In the beginning Joan started with traditional cutout patterns and gradually grew toward more contemporary, creative patterns as her confidence and skill level increased. During this time the family moved to California in the Bay area, where Joan taught special education, and received her master’s from San Jose State University.

In 2002, the family moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., where Joan continued teaching at the Cave Creek Unified School District. She found the math and pattern principles of quilting and scrapbooking translated well into math lessons, reading concepts and writing exercises. This made learning more fun for the students while they were learning and practicing basic concepts.


Now that Joan is retired from teaching she creates full-time with her fabric art.


Today Joan works from her home studio and continues her education attending classes and workshops in quilting, color theory and other artistic techniques. She incorporates what she learns into her ever-evolving fabric pieces.


“You just cannot beat the beauty and colors in nature, and often man-made buildings and architecture provide inspiration,” Joan says about where she receives inspiration. “I also draw inspiration from other quilt artists to inform and motivate my design.”


For Joan there just aren’t enough hours in the day or fabrics on the planet to exhaust the multitude of ideas she has yet to create.


She is participating in this year’s Hidden In The Hills Artist Studio Tour and Sale in November, as a guest artist, with clay sculpture artist Sylvia Fugmann-Brongo at Studio number 35.


Visit the Sonoran Arts League website ( to view a selection of Joan’s work and for tour information. She can be reached on her email at


Contact Arts Columnist Shea Stanfield on