What People Are Saying About Penny

"I like to think of you as a high priced call girl that the unwashed masses can't afford--like Woody Allen's Whore of Mensa. It's not your fault that people offer $10 blowjobs on the street corner. It's not an insult if somebody doesn't buy your art." -Alexandra J Walters

"Once Penny was making her own silk thread, and a midget appeared. Before he could open his ugly mouth, without looking up, she exclaimed, 'Rumpelstiltskin. Now get the fuck out of here.' Fairytale Over."- Beth Featherstone

"Penny can push a needle through a telephone pole without a thimble." -Shane Blaufuss

"When a man asked Penny, 'What’s the meaning of life?' She looked at him for exactly 3 minutes, completely still, until he cried. That man’s name was Steve Jobs."- Beth Featherstone

"A demon from the pits of bitch cunt." -W.C. Hurst

"pulitzer for you too." -John Lurie

Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking for a New Year's Resolution?

It's the time of year when most of us dust off our best intentions, and attempt to revel in “the spirit of the season”. Even in these ridiculously depressing times, we try to remember what's important and count our blessings and our loved ones.

Many of us gave handmade gifts this year, maybe hand knit socks or embroidered linens, or a snarky cross stitch for that friend with a rotten sense of humor. But how about supporting a charity that teaches people how to do needle work? People who desperately need the solace and confidence that comes from learning how to do something by hand?

Fine Cell Work is the “unofficial charity” of Mr. X Stitch.

What is Fine Cell Work?

Fine Cell Work is a social enterprise that teaches needlework to prison inmates and sells their products. The prisoners do the work when they are locked in their cells, and the earnings give them hope, skills and independence. 

Our mission is to rehabilitate prisoners by giving them the opportunity to earn and save money and the chance to reflect on and rebuild their lives through craft and achievement. Prisoners do Fine Cell Work for an average of 3 years: the benefits can therefore be profound”

Fine Cell Work is now done in 26 prisons

• 80% of the stitchers are men
• In 2008, 403 fine cell workers earned a total of £61,890

The inmates are taught by 50 volunteer instructors 

All our classes have waiting lists

In 2008 we had roughly 150 offers of volunteering

In 2004-08 we had enquiries from 63 prisons which we did not have the resources to meet

“Fine Cell Work gives these men dignity in work and through this, dignity in life. When a man gains self-respect he may start addressing his offending behaviour” 
Officer, HMP Wandsworth

There's an onine shop where you can purchase beautiful needlepoint pillows, or you can participate in their Sponser a Prisoner program and purchase commissioned work using a color pallet of your choosing. And of course they accept donations-

£10 would pay for materials to stitch one tapestry cushion

(100 hours of creative work)

So, if you're looking for a place where you can make a huge impact in someone's life, (and by extension their community when they're released), I urge you to take a look at Fine Cell Work. I wish we had more programs like this.

Click HERE for more info.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Happy Holidays Everyone! My gift to you is the Dr. Pepper Glazed Ham recipe.

Here's the recipe! It's Stupid Easy-
One 10-pound, bone-in smoked ham, skin removed and fat trimmed to 1/4 inch
3 cups Dr Pepper (not diet)
2 cups water
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/3 cup yellow mustard (I use whole grain)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water

Preheat the oven to 325° and position a rack in the bottom third of the oven. Set the smoked ham in a large roasting pan.
Score a 1/4-inch-deep crosshatch pattern into the fat at 2-inch intervals. Pour 2 cups of the Dr Pepper and the 2 cups of water into the pan and roast the ham for about 2 1/2 hours, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the ham registers 120°.
Increase the oven temperature to 425°.
Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, simmer the prunes in the remaining 1 cup of Dr Pepper until they are plump and the liquid is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the prunes to a small bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Whisk the mustard, brown sugar and vinegar into the liquid in the saucepan and boil until very thick and syrupy, about 5 minutes.
Drizzle the syrupy glaze over the ham and roast until glossy, 20 minutes. Carefully transfer the ham to a cutting board.
Pour the pan juices into the saucepan and spoon off the fat.
Boil the sauce until reduced to 2 cups, 10 minutes.
Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and the prunes and bring to a boil.
Simmer the sauce until thickened, 2 minutes.
Slice the ham and serve with the Dr Pepper sauce.

***After you've Hammed on It for about a week, because that's how much leftovers you'll have, pick the bone and make stock. It will be amazing and it can go in anything... Beans, Grits, Soup, Greens, Sauces...
***Also, this is sweet, but not as eye watering sweet as you'd think it would be. The mustard and the vinegar really cuts through.
****This is not an original recipe, It might be Alton Brown or Food and Wine. I can't remember because I just have it saved as a DOC on my computron.
But this will be the fourth time I've made it, AND IT IS AWESOME!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh, Hilarious internets

This came from my site meter, totally awesome-
Best query ever that led to my blog
This came from a Facebook referral. Totally awesomer-
The peanut gallery has spoken

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

FIESTA! (Completely unprepared for my close up)

Our sweet, talented friend Rich just finished his new documentary titled Fiesta! It's about Texas expat artists living in Portland. Because we're completely self indulgent, we've cut out the clip that pertains to us for your viewing pleasure!
You can view the theatrical preview HERE, and contact Rich for the entire movie, or many of his other awesome documentaries. Or, if you live in the PDX area and aren't creepy, you can come over and watch it, (Tara).

P.S. The stupid watermark is because I'm too lazy to find a decent DVD converter.
P.P.S. I don't why he's callin' me "Wells". He's well aware my fake name is "Penny".

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mr. X Stitch does it again!

Panika Detail 2

He says, "After longer than I care to mention I finally finished the piece that started all this Mr X Stitch shenanigans. Panika is about 15 inches wide and about 8 inches high."
He's featured in Cross Stitcher Magazine Issue 221! Go Jamie!
Click on the photos above to go to his Flickr stream, or better yet, go to Mr. X Stitch!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Asterion Commemorative Stamp

"Would you believe it, Ariadne? The Minotaur scarcely defended himself."



Asterion Commemorative Stamp, hand embroidered, original design. Completed in 42 hours.

Shockingly, this piece has nothing to do with Athena. Really it's Poseidon who got his panties in a wad and caused all the trouble. I'm not going to focus so much on the myth here, but there are some interesting elements I'd like to address. Firstly, Daedalus, (Icarus' father) was the one who made the hollow wooden cow statue that Queen Pasiphae hid in so she could have sex with Poseidon's bull. She became pregnant and gave birth to Asterion the Minotaur. She was also Ariadne's mother, making Ariadne and Asterion half siblings.
As far as the labyrinth goes, some sources claim Daedalus created it as a "dancing ground" for Ariadne. However, he is always attributed as creating the labyrinth to house Asterion.
Ariadne is sometime viewed as a weaving goddess, which makes her place in fiber art particularly relevant.
Also, Medea shows up in the Theseus myths, and she's pretty interesting too.

The version of this story I'm most fascinated with is Jorge Luis Borges' short story, The House of Asterion.
It opens with the narrater describing his house, and rebutting common misconceptions about it and himself.
"It is true I never leave my house, but it is also true that it's doors (whose number is infinite) are open day and night to men and to animals as well. Anyone may enter."
He goes on to say, "Another ridiculous falsehood has it that I, Asterion, am prisoner. Shall I repeat that there are no locked door, shall I add that there are no locks?"
He recounts how one time he did venture outside, but the commoners "prayed, fled, prostrated themselves..." He believes this is because he is royalty, (his mother is the queen).
He talks about how in his loneliness, he plays a game where another Asterion visits him. He guides him through his home, describing each room, and tells him how every nine years nine people come to him, "so that I may deliver them from evil."
Just as he delivers the sacrificial people, he too awaits his "redeemer" who will finally kill him and free him from his house. The last line is delivered by Theseus who reveals Asterion's identity when he says, "Would you believe it, Ariadne? The Minotaur scarcely defended himself."

This piece completes the triptych along with Medusa and Arachne. Like the other ones, this piece will be turned into a pillow sham, literally transforming the embroidery into a bedtime story and enhancing it's nightmarish qualities.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm internet stalking Richard Saja

Here's his newest piece, which unfortunately, will not be shown in it's intended venue.

The piece measures 10 feet long and 10 inches wide. The braille spells out this poem by Richard-
The Great White Milky Way
Oh, oh how i have sinned...spilled liquids similar yet of a far
greater multitude than those of Onan, one of only two, struck down by
his displeased creator!
Oh, my unborn children - you legions of tiny golems, each an infinite
possibility become impossible by my desire, I am compelled to address
I have carried you with me always - a searing potential roiling within
- but ever so often, at the very least daily and sometimes more, in
fact, the burden proves too heavy and gurgles up to explode from me in
a white-hot and opalescent fuisillade, a genocide in a teaspoon. So
many, many expiring stains of silenced cries!
Oh, how the paths i have travelled i have soiled with seed, probably
enough to populate an island nation, and a rather large one, at that.
Yet, in my defense, how many more monsters has the world been spared?
How many saviors, masters or slaves?
A gift given too freely is so seldom appreciated, if i may paraphrase
the bard.
So then, unblemished in your potential, you in your infinite stasis
are the great cosmic chorus line. Your ranks ever-swelling -- thanks
to me! -- you wander the stars for all of a boundless eternity free of
care and worry, together forever in the ever-shifting ether, softly
churning in a pastel nebulae of unbecoming while i forever retain the
twinkle in my eye.
So yes, yes, I have sinned and in so doing you remain perfect and
unsullied, my unborn children and i've given you the greatest gift of
all - - that of absolute nothingness.
See you soon on the great, white milky way!

Check out his blog Historically Inaccurate for the skinny on why it was censored.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tritonis: Commemorative Medusa Stamp

Tritonis: Commemorative Medusa Stamp
9"x11" completed in 27 hours, 15 minutes. Hand embroidered, original design. (It looks a bit wonky because the fabric isn't taut.)

Okay, let's get to it!
This is a commission piece that I did as part of my Myth and Monster series. I almost want to call it "Aftermath" because it depicts the what happened to Medusa and Cetus after their attacks. If you read my previous piece on Arachne and classical hubris, you know I have a bone to pick with Athena. Well, Medusa is one of the best examples of what a bitch Athena is.

My favorite version of events is Medusa was raped, ("outraged", Ha!) in Athena's temple by Poseidon. Athena was soooo pissed that her temple was desecrated, she punished Medusa by turning her into a monster with snakes for hair, claws and fangs. And of course, her monstrous gaze could turn people into stone. Nice work, Athena. Poseidon gets off scott free.

Enter Perseus, involved in a convoluted fake out, worthy of a daytime soap. King Polydeces falls in love with Perseus's mother, Danaë. Mom and son aren't interested in any of that business, so clever Polydeces says, "Just kidding! I'm going to mary Hippodamia!"

Perseus breathes a sigh of relief and says, "That's great news! I'll bring you what ever you like as a wedding present!" King Polydeces demands Medusa's head, hoping the task will kill Perseus, allowing him to resume bulling his mom into marriage. (Interesting side note, Polydeces was the brother of the man that raised Perseus.)

Of course, Athena can't wait to help Perseus lop off Medusa's head, and she, Hermes and Hades equip Perseus with the tools he'll need to kill Medusa. Athena then leads him to the Graeae, (who are also Medusa's sisters) and he tricks them into giving him directions to the Gorgon's cave by stealing their eye and tooth that the three of them share. (In a total dick move, he throws their eye and tooth into Lake Tritonis.)

Perseus finds the Gorgon sisters, Stheno, Euryale and Medusa sleeping on the shore of Lake Tritonis and he lops off Medusa's head. From her neck springs her children Pegasus and Chrysaor (fathered by Poseidon). He mounts Pegasus, happens to fly past the princess Andromeda who is chained to a rock about to be sacrificed to Cetus the sea monster, (the Gorgon's and the Graeae's mother). He kills Cetus and saves Andromeda. (Cetus becomes a constellation, thanks to Poseidon.) Then he returns to Polydeces and turns him to stone with the head. Athena takes the head and places it on her Aegis, turning it into the first Gorgoneion. Bellerophon later uses Pegasus to kill the Chimera, who is also related to Pegasus (cousin) and Medusa (niece), by way of being Ceuts' granddaughter.

PHEW! What does all this mean? Athena is such a bitch. Why is she all up on Medusa and her kin? In this story we see Medusa's entire family bitch slapped by Athena through her henchman, Perseus. Medusa's mother, sisters, and children are all completely dominated and destroyed in this story. Why? Why is Medusa such a threat to Athena?

If you read the previous post about Arachne, you'll remember the bits about the chthonic cults being challenged by the newer cults, and we see that here, but we also see the theme of the triple Goddess being overtaken by a single deity. It's interesting to note that Metis, Athena's mother is sometimes depicted as a triple goddess as well.

I also find this intriguing because when Athena decided to stomp all over Medusa, she actually made Medusa far more threatening than if she had left well enough alone. First by turning her into a monster, and then by turning her head into a Gorgoneion/Weapon. In attempting to destroy her, she actually infinitely increased Medusa's power.

Incidentally, the Gorgonion is almost the most interesting part of the story. There is evidence of it being used as a warning/protection as masks in mystery cults, in order to frighten the uninitiated and prevent them from studying divine secrets, as well as being painted on thresholds in order to frighten intruders. Graves even states that it was painted on Greek baker's ovens in order to discourage people from peeking in the oven and ruining the baking bread.

I could go on and on about this, Medusa's magic blood that raises the dead, her role as a Libyan triple Goddess, the rise of patriarchal society and cults and Athena's Uncle Tom-ish role in ushering that in... but I've droned on long enough, and I consider myself lucky if you're still reading.

I just think this whole story is fascinating because we can see similar stories being repeated over and over, ad nauseum. New powers will almost always engage in similar shenanigans in order to usurp the former power. You see it in politics, in the work place, in relationships... people tend to attempt to damage and discredit the people they're threatened by in order to assert themselves. They demonize, punish, slander and sometimes injure that person and anyone connected to them in order to dominate.

So, what I have illustrated is Medusa after the rape, Cetus after being killed, and the head after becoming the Gorgonion. And of course, This piece will eventually be turned into a pillow sham, literally transforming the embroidery into a bedtime story, enhancing it's nightmarish qualities.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Magpie and Hex Quilt

Andrea Zuill is too cool for school!
Read about her work HERE!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Arachne Commemorative Stamp

Arachne Commemorative Stamp

9"x9" Hand Embroidered, Original Design
Commissioned by Ken Weaver
Completed in 17 hours and 20 minutes

This is part of a series commissioned for a private collection. I find I'm constantly drawn to the myths, probably because The Odyssey was the first book I remember being read to me as a small child.

One of the motifs I'm always drawn to in the myths are the victims of Athena. She's a fascinating character to me because it seems she's constantly engaged in acts of hubris. Now, hubris as we understand it in the Western perspective is very different than it's classical definition, much like the way Westerners tend to misunderstand Karma. Strictly speaking, an act of hubris is something that re-victimizes, or humiliates a victim, usually your victim, in order to feel superior. We see examples of this when Odysseus blinds and then taunts the cyclops Polyphemus, when Cassandra is raped and dragged out of Athena's temple by Ajax the Lesser, (most of Cassandra's story is a lesson in hubris), and the rape and disfigurement of Medusa are all good examples.

Arachne is interesting in this regard depending on which story you look at. I'm a fan of Ovid retellings. In his story, Arachne weaves a perfect tapestry depicting the god's love affairs. Athena can find no flaws in the piece and flies into a rage. Arachne, terrified of the goddess' wrath, hangs herself and Athena turns her into a spider, an insect that she hated the most. Essentially dooming her to weaving forever in the form a lowly, scorned creature. Hence the hubris. It's not enough that Arachne is dead, she has to be further punished.

In the other story, Arachne brags that she is more skilled at weaving than Athena, they have a competition, and Arachne weaves the tapestry showing the god's love affairs. Even in this story the fabric is perfect, but Athena becomes enraged at the subject matter and beats Arachne with her shuttle, turning her into a spider.

The Ovidian view makes more sense to me in the context of the other Athena myths. We have to keep in mind that she was a relatively new cult, bent on supplanting the older, chthonic cults. (We see this with Metis and Medusa). And if we dig into the historical geography of this myth, we find that Pliny puts her place of origin at Hypaepa in Lydia. This is interesting because, according to Graves, there was a very serious textile rivalry between the Athenians and the Lydio-Carian people. He states that they were of Cretan origin, and numerous seals set with a spider are found in the mother city, Miletus. Apparently Miletus was the largest exporter of dyed woolen textiles in the ancient world. Lending credence to this theory is the fact that Arachne's father was famous for his Tyrian purple dye and Athena is a weaving goddess, maintaining the theme of textile rivalry.

When we view the Athena myths in their "historical" context, the picture that emerges is that of a powerful new goddess/cult that is constantly trying any trick and punishment in order to dominate and dismiss the earlier cult/culture. In conclusion, Athena's kind of a bitch who's always throwing a goddamn temper tantrum.

This piece will eventually be turned into a pillow sham, literally transforming the embroidery into a bedtime story, enhancing it's nightmarish qualities.

*** I should add that I'm no academic, I just like to read a lot.

Friday, October 30, 2009

RUBY42 Etsy Showcase!!!!

Ruby42 is a dirty lady who wields a needle as sharp as her tongue. If you scroll down to the NSFW Swap post, you can see the "Cream Pie" pillow she sent to Johnny Murder. Now, I know y'all are envious, and you want to know where you can purchase an inappropriate present for your inlaws that will really move things along on Thanksgiving (Crying and drinking whiskey on the sly in the garage)... Well, She's your girl! But seriously, if I wasn't an orphan, I'd be handing these out like fruitcakes come Christmas to any family member that had no sense of humor.
She also has a whole series of Droool Laurie, I mean Hugh, that I'm really tempted to purchase and do a straight up stalker-lit-candles-dead-chickens-shrine with. But then Johnny Murder might get jealous, and his Michael Cane shrine and my Hugh Laurie shrine would have to fight, and there would probably be a fire and... Well, these are up in her store and you should check it out!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mr. X Stitch in the flesh!

If you've ever wondered about the mastermind behind Mr. X Stitch, you can see him live and in color! The consensus around the Facebook is that they did an amazing job hiding his stings. So lifelike!
Read the whole interview HERE.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Not Safe For Work Swap!

If embroidered graphic sex upsets you, don't scroll down!!! You've been warned!!!!

Over at Phat Quarter we held a NSFW Swap which is winding down now. Johnny Murder received this piece from Ruby42, and that lady is equally gifted in talent and humor.

Here is Ruby's piece



It glows in the dark. She's a bad lady!

I'm still waiting on my piece, I'll post it when it arives, but here's the piece I made for Mr. X Stitch.

Lost Girls

Lost Girls

completed in 25 hours, 3 minutes.

This is a hand embroidered representation of an illustration from Alan Moore's Lost Girls.
If Alan Moore sounds familiar, it's because he's the mad genius behind Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Swap Thing... Yeah, and he HATES those movies. Anyway, apparently he wanted to do a porno comic, but it's so much more than that.
Lost Girls is set in a upscale hotel where Alice (Through the Looking Glass) Dorothy (The Wizard of OZ) and Wendy (Peter and Wendy) are all on holiday. As they meet each other, they begin to tell stories of their early sexual experiences. For example, Dorothy's first orgasm was during the tornado, and her first sexual partner was a man who worked on her farm. I give you a hint... He didn't have a brain...

So when you read Alan Moores interpretation of these classics you find his ideas are so convincing it's difficult to believe the original authors hadn't intended these stories to be sexual metaphors. I highly recommend picking it up.

Anyway, Mr. X Stitch is a fellow comic nerd, so I knew an embroidered illustration from the book would be perfect for him!

You can see this piece in progress on the Penny Nickels facebook page.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Works in progress

I'm taking Paul Overton's advice and posting photos of my work in progress. I'm not going to upload it here, but if you're interested it's on the Penny Nickels Facebook page.
There's a link in the column on the right.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


There is a Penny Nickels page on the Facebook if you're interested! Mostly it's just new work, and maybe a little bit ruder one liners than I post here. Just for fun!
Click HERE

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Pricing Vs. Practicality

I've taken most of my items out of my Etsy shop. Why? Well, most of the work I get now a days is commission work, and the people that custom order from me know how much things cost. The hilarious thing about it, is that what I charge for custom work is significantly more expensive. Why? Because the people who custom order from me understand labor, and they're all artists.

What am I on about?

It seems to me that more and more I've become aware of a disconnect between pricing and practicality. For example, people would balk at the cost of my hand embroidered pillows that I had in my shop. $100.00. The hundred dollar pillows in question take anywhere from thirty to fifty hours to make. Do the math on the hourly wage. That's not including materials. It's not pretty. Which is why they are no longer in my shop.
But, if I had done those pieces as stand alones framed in their hoops, $100.00 would be reasonable even ridiculously inexpensive. I can (and have) sold woodblock prints of the same designs for several hundred dollars.

Why? People say, Hey! I'm not paying a hundred bucks on a pillow. Something I'll use every day. However, these same people will pay six hundred dollars on shoes they wear three times a year, or fourteen hundred on a painting that hangs in their hallway.

Why are we willing to pay obscene amounts of money on art, but the second the art becomes useable, it's somehow devalued?

I've seen this play out over my entire adult career. My first job ever was as a custom bookbinder. Everything was done by hand. Later I worked under a woman who was trained in Library of Congress archival standards of bookbinding. I learned how to make rabbit hide glue, use ox gall, scything knives. I could name types of paper by touch alone. And then people would come in and want to order a custom scrap book, or a photo album, or a guest book but become indignant that the piece would cost more than a hundred dollars.

A few weeks ago, I received an email on Etsy. It read something like this. "I love your embroideries and I wanted to see if you would make an embroidered panel quilt, queen size. I'd be willing to go up to $130.00"

I get it, I really do. I shop at Target, and I understand that very few people have ever made anything by hand, or know people that do. They can hardly be blamed for their ignorance. But guess what? That quilt your Granny made you? She did it because she loves you. And I bet she wouldn't dream of selling one for no hundred sad dollars. And I'm not your grandma.

I also understand that I have a luddite way of doing things. I use hand cards, not mills. I use a drop spindle, not a wheel, and I use needles, not a Viking Emerald. That that takes a tremendous amount of time. But no less time than oils and underpainting.

So I want to hear from you. Knitters, I know that sweater took like, 1000 yards of yarn and your hands ached when you were finished. Potters? Come on. You built that Raku kiln in your back yard and kept a steady eye on it the whole time. Hand quilters? You guys are saints. I want to know what your experience is with buyers and pricing. Is this disconnect something you've noticed too?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dear Reader, Help me!

So, I went fiber crazy at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, (see previous post) and I came home with hand cards and ten Lbs of Angora goat locks, (Mohair). After watching kabillion YouTube videos, I *think* I have the hand cards figured out, but not before I scraped the shiznit out of my hands.

The Dangers of Self Teaching
Sad Face.

If there are any Bad Out hand carders in the PDX area, I could certainly use some pointers.

Hand spunHand Spun
Mohair and BFL I hand carded and spun on a drop spindle.

Next plea... I've never spun anything other than wool and silk before, so the Angora goat locks have been a bit of a challenge. I finally got the washing down, and I carded it with BFL to make it a little more familiar to my hands, but it seems like it holds twist very differently than wool does. Does anyone have experience with this? Any Goat Gurus out there? Give me advice!

Baby Llama
Baby Llama spun on a drop spindle.

The Llama roving has been the least headachey fiber so far. There was quite a bit of VM in the bag, but it picked out easily as I spun it. Right now it's working it's way onto my loom with a Habu wool wrapped stainless steel thread warp. So far, so good, sooo soft.

I'm taking a break and heading back to embroidery for the time being.