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, May 25, 2009

There's so much I like about this

More Goodies from Woolly!

My dear Flickr Friend Odile AKA Woolly Fabulous made these amazing dyed Turkey Tail fungus. She was kind enough to write a tutorial for me to post over at Supernaturale, and I thought I post it here to as a follow up to her interview.
Click on the photo to cruise through her photo stream. She's lovely, friendly, and more than happy to share techniques.

Odile says-

I would recommend collecting the turkey tail after a rainy day. The turkey tail will have bloomed and probably grown a bit more.
I look for all stages of development, the younger turkey tail has a lovely cream underbelly that takes the dye brilliantly. The older fungi sometimes has lichen and other growths on them that make them really fascinating. I've also noticed that the older turkey tail is far more velvety, the younger fungi tends to be thinner and more leather like. It's all good!!!

After collecting the fungi , I give them a good soak in tepid water. It's a good idea to get rid of any unwanted critters and debris.
I have experimented with Ritz dyes and Acid dyes..... they work beautifully.
I mixed water and dye according to directions and them simply plunged the fungi into the hot dye mix. I left them in there for 4-6 minutes and them rinsed them well in cold water .
I noticed that the turkey tail lost a lot of their charm once they dried up......
I remembered a technique for preserving fall leaves with glycerin and thought it might work with these fungi.
I had to hunt around for the glycerin, I found some at my local drug store.

I mixed 3 parts warm water, 1 part glycerin.
I revived the turkey tail by soaking them in warm water, I them gave them a further soaking in the glycerin mixture.
I laid them out on a cookie sheet and left them for 24 hrs.
I decided that I wanted them to be more pliable, I gave them another soak in the glycerin. That seemed to do the trick, they now maintained their lovely velvety texture and were soft and pliable.
I'll be using these in my felt mushroom pincushion/sculptures and maybe I'll figure out a way to work them into my brooches!!
I would like to mention that the natural turkey tail preserved with the glycerin is fabulous... they remind me of moth wings. So lovely.

Thanks Odile!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Interview with Wooly Fabulous!

Odile Gova, AKA Wooly Fabulous, was one of of the first friends I made on Flickr. I believe we met in the Stitched By Hand group, but I could have just run across her vibrant felted pieces and decided to stalk her until we became pals.
Even though we've never met face to face, that didn't stop her from sending me a beautiful felted cuff, accented with zippers, when I was having a particularly down day. I'm constantly grateful for her friendship and encouragement, and I'm thrilled she allowed me to interview her!

Tell me about your background. Did you grow up arting and crafting, or is this something you discovered as an adult?

I have memories of the Nuns from my grade 2 class fussing over my coloring skills, it's a memory that's still very clear oddly enough.
I loved coloring and any crafty thing I could get my hands on, I learned to sew when I was 12 and made all of my clothes right through High school. I became the designated family seamstress, I remember staying up till the wee hours trying to get something finished so I could wear it to school the next day.......
In between the sewing I taught myself how to crochet, knit and embroider.
I tried going to an Arts and Crafts school , I made it through the first year. It was just too slow for my liking, I felt like I was being held back....I wish I knew then what I know now....
Crafting in one form or another has been a constant throughout my life, always will be.

Do you have many artist friends? Are they supportive of your work?
Are your kids creative types too?
I don't have very many like minded artist friends close to me, I wish I did. I have made some wonderful friends from the one show I do every year ("One of a kind" in Toronto), and I make new friends each and every time I participate.
The friendships I have made through flickr have been hugely encouraging, I am very grateful for that... I never would have guessed.

My children are very creative, I'm thinking my consistent efforts at trying to create something every day has rubbed off on them.
Zain(11) loves his piano, he also plays the sax in the school band and my daughter Yazmin (9) is a serious guitar player.
Origami is their choice of obsession these days!!

What inspires you? What themes are you drawn to and why?
I am very grateful to be living next door the the Rouge Valley here in Southern Ontario, I'm also just minutes from the shores of Lake Ontario. I find great inspiration throughout nature.
I prefer a bold graphic approach to almost everything I do, I'm not sure why that is. It has always come very naturally to me .

Do your pieces come out finished the way you envisioned them?
I sometimes plan my projects, more often than not I'll start out with an idea and just let it take me where it will.... sometimes good and sometimes........
Some of my best ideas have come from misunderstanding something I've seen, this has sparked some interesting concepts and approaches to my work. The ability to observe is very important even it's off the mark, how we visualize something can vary tremendously from one person to the next. It's what you do with that information that matters the most.....

Do you consider yourself an artist or a crafter? Do you think there is a difference?
I do consider myself an artist, (finally) I've felt a bit self conscious about calling myself an artist for the longest time. I also consider myself to be a crafts person / crafter, I design all of my own work and I have developed the skills necessary to follow through with those ideas...

What do you hope people take away from your work?
I hope people appreciate my approach to putting things together, I'd be thrilled to know that someone could look at one of my brooches and know without a doubt that it's a Woolly Fabulous brooch.

If you had sixty seconds to come up with a mission statement/motto/coat of arms relating to your work, what would it be? Start NOW!
You're torturing me with this "mission statement" thing......
How about a motto? " bold and graphic " .......

What other artists do you admire? Do you feel like they have influenced your work?
I'm a fan of Jane Sassaman's work, so wonderful!! I also love Hundertwasser and John Klee , the list could go on and on and on....
It's hard to say if these artists have influenced my work or not, most likely they have. I just know what makes my heart soar...... I always pay attention to that.

You've got your hot little fingers into so many mediums, do you have a favorite? What are your currently working on?
My first real obsession would be sewing followed by floor cloth making. I made hundreds and hundreds of hand painted canvas rugs, I finally got tired of pulling hair out of the polyurethane and cleaning paint brushes.
I discovered leaf casting and played with this medium for about 7 years, concrete burns and not being able to use the garage put this effort to rest.
I turned to knitting that year and one thing lead to the other. Before I knew it I was felting sweaters and starting to investigate all its potential. I'm madly in love and I imagine I'll be working with this medium for a long time to come.... there's no end of possibilities.
I've introduced thrifted metal and plastic zippers in my work and that seems to be working out just fine.
I can't believe I'm designing accessories, a very unexpected experience for me. It's a good fit, I look forward to my work every day.

I like to throw in unexpected projects every now and then, this helps me keep my felt work fresh and interesting.

*****Make sure you check out Odile's Etsy- woollyfabulous.etsy.com and give her Flickr a look. Not only will it brighten up your day, but it will inspire your brain!

Thank you so much Odile!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Impulse Buy!

I have a serious fiber problem. It's really out of control. Example: When I found out the Malabrigo mill burnt down, I immediately got online a bought *embarrassed cough* dollars of yarn. I'm bad with roving too. So bad, I almost always buy by the pound. Ounces do nothing for me. Currently I have three pounds of silk (down from six), and two pounds of Blue Faced Leicester. Pounds might make sense if I used a wheel, but nope, I'm a Luddite when it comes to tools, and a bit of a masochist. Spinning a thousand yards on a high whorl spindle is no mean feat. So anyway, I broke my only "by the pound rule" when I saw 7 ounces of beautiful Merino Wool, Tussah Silk and Alpaca blended into gorgeous batts. I couldn't stand it! I immediately clicked over to www.spinknitandlife.etsy.com
and snatched it up. I highly recommend buying from her. Her products are beautiful and very reasonably priced. Also, I put my order in Friday, and I had the package in my hot little hands on Monday! Lightning Fast!
I'm in love!
Here it is so far, long draw, two ply. It is such a joy to spin, I can't put it down! I'm almost finished! Also, she sent me a little extra goodie of Alpaca and BFL blended together. I love that story.
Anyway, you can also find Phyllis at her blog, Spin, Knit and Life. She's really friendly!
If there's any other spindle spinners out there with a Flickr account, I've got a group called Drop it Like it's Hot Spindles. Go there and drool!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

“You have that crooked wisdom which is called craft.” -Hobbes

Art Vs. Craft

What's the difference?

This one of my favorite questions to ask people is if they consider themselves an artist or a craftsman, and what they think the difference is. I've never gotten the same answer. I've really never even gotten a
similar answer. I think about that a lot. A lot, A lot. I think what I've come up with is probably self evident, but I believe it's worth exploring. This is the closest I've personally ever come to answering it for myself.

Let me preference the following with saying, none of the thoughts presented in this are original, I'm pretty much a dilettante who reads extensively and has cobbled this together. Secondly, I'm not trying to provoke anyone into a debate about creationism or theology, and comments that are posted that strictly serve to proselytize will probably end up deleted.

Okay, just to make sure we're all on the same page, a little bit of history. I'm not going to go into exhaustive detail about some things that I believe to be well understood. I know it won't seem like it at first, but this really is about arts and crafts. (The early part of this piece deals with behavioral modernity, I personally believe in the Continuity Hypothesis as opposed to the Great Leap Forward Hypothesis. If your interested at all in these theories, Check out Curtis Marean's lecture
at the bottom of this post. It's really interesting, and you don't need a PhD to understand it.)

Modern Humans, Homo sapiens, appeared about 200,000-150,000 years ago. I'm always asking myself, what defines a human as human as opposed to a deer or a dolphin or a wasp? Aside from obvious physical differences, what do we do that other animals don't? For example, tool making is not exclusive to humans, neither is shelter building.

I believe what makes a Human a Human is our ability to tell stories, and I believe it is this special ability that is as important to our survival as claws on a lion or gills on a fish. How is this significant?

Story telling allows us be successful predictors, which allowed for us to hunt. Why is hunting important? Two reasons. Any access to a new food source is significant, and hunting is the key to our development of complex language.

I believe in the Hunting Hypothesis (however flawed it may be) in so far as, if you are able to communicate with a group, you are more likely to be successful at hunting. Remember, we didn't have jeeps and cross bows. All we had was our feet and rudimentary tools. (Toolmaking being one of the things that is not exclusive to humans.)

If a group of humans is able to communicate successfully, they can make a plan, work together to walk down an animal and attack together which makes them more likely to be successful at a kill than working alone.

More food means more people successfully expressing their genes, which means an evolution of language, the thing that was fundamental in achieving more food. Furthermore, we lack the other physical advantages that other animals have, (claws, wings, fangs, speed, camouflage) but we have the ability to tell stories. Why are stories important? Stories allow us to predict the future.

That's right. We are able to take clues from our environment, place them together and use that picture to predict food. We can look at a hoof print, chewed and broken branches, droppings, and guess that an animal is probably over there. Being able to do that is very different than following a scent trail, coursing, memorizing where a watering hole is, or understanding cause and effect. We don't need highly advanced communication in order to mate, in order to scavenge or gather, in order to have a shelter, but humans do need it in order to hunt.

Therefore, hunting and language goes hand in hand in a chicken vs. egg kind of relationship. As we became better communicators, we became better hunters, which gave us more food, which produced more offspring, and a greater expression in the gene pool. It is interesting to note that as far as we know, there are/were no known primitive cultures/native peoples that are strict vegetarians. It's true, you can look it up. (*side note, if they're Buddhist, Hindu, or any of the big world religions, they are not a primitive culture) You are actually more likely to find strictly carnivorous tribes. Massive agriculture (agricultural revolution type agriculture) and pastoralism (husbandry/livestock raising)are fairly recent developments in our human history.

Following this, we see how language, communication, and story telling is at the core of our successful survival and our evolution. (Feral Children research also provides some interesting insight into how we develop and use language.)

This is also worth exploring because then we see how saturated human kind is with story telling. It's why advertising is successful, why we love and despise public figures, it's why we gossip, it's why we cling to archetypes, it's what wins elections, it's why we have therapists... it's absolutely everything. Stories and story telling is what defines us as human. It's how we relate to the world to each other and ourselves. It makes sense that something so key to our survival would be expressed over and over ad nauseum in every aspect in the way that we live.

So where do art and craft come in? I believe that art is actually story telling. Art is the story that the artist is trying to tell. It is the painting, the dance, the song, the play, the book. All of these are stories the artist is trying to communicate to the audience. Art
is the communication.

I believe this is fundamentally true from the Lascaux cave paintings to Tomas Kincaid's paintings of light. The story may be “These are bulls, this is what their hoof prints look like, and this is me hunting them,” to “Here's a pretty house with pretty flowers and pretty colors. Isn't it charming?”

Both of those things are stories. What about abstract art? What about artists like Theo van Doesburg? Perhaps the story is as simple as “This combination of color and shapes evokes this feeling in me, and I'm trying to convey that to you.” Or in music with something like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, the story is “I had an experience that felt like this, and this combination of sounds feels the same way.”

So what about craft? In my experience, crafters have a far more difficult time describing exactly what craft is in relation to art, and at worst, it's considered some domestic lesser pursuit. You can look up craft in the dictionary and find several definitions for the noun or verb version, but the one I'm going to use here is “
to make or manufacture (an object, objects, product, etc.) with skill and careful attention to detail.”

My belief is, if art is story telling, craft is the object, or the creation of an object that allows you to enact a story. Rather, it is a prop in the story a person is attempting to live.

Out of the two, Art vs. Craft, this actually makes Craft far more intriguing to me.

As I stated before, animals use tools, have homes, and some animals even horde apparently useless objects they find appealing, but only humans actually make and collect objects specifically to enact and project a story.

For example, A male peacock with particularly vivid feathers and a healthy appearance will probably easily attract a mate. But all those things are an expression of it's genes. Compare that to a CEO in a well tailored suit and a Herm├Ęs tie, or a Karo woman who's scars and coiled hair signify her age and ranking. Those are things that are carefully chosen and worn to project a story, rather than something that is involuntarily expressed through DNA.

This interaction between the person and the object can also be extremely intimate and revealing. Consider the following examples.

You are a potter and you make a lovely wide rimmed bowl to sell. You imagine a young hip couple who keeps it on their coffee table to put mail and paper clips in it, or you imagine a mother using it as a fruit bowl, placed on the kitchen table.

You go to the hardware store and you see a gleaming heavy set of wrenches. They feel good and your hand, and you imagine your self fixing the faucet with them, and then feeling self sufficient and proud of yourself.

This is also an interesting place to briefly explore what craft reveals about ourselves.

You are a jewelery maker. You make a pair of jade and silver tear drop earrings. You imagine yourself wearing them to the corner cafe for breakfast, where Attractive Person notices them and comments on them, leading into a conversation which leads to a coffee date.

You find yourself picking through Etsy and you find a beautiful heavy polished stone necklace. You think to yourself, “The woman who would wear that piece would be bold and unconcerned with trends. I would like to be like that woman.”

When viewed in this context, we see that through our interaction with crafts, whether obtaining or creating, we are actually telling and enacting stories. Therefore, crafting is the making of object that become props in the story that people attempt to live.

To recap, we have established that story telling is key to our successful survival, and art and craft are a function of story telling. I wonder if our distant ancestors had a more thorough understanding of this than we do, which brings me to my next point.

Until fairly recently (less than 10,000 years ago) human spirituality was expressed through animism. Animism is a slippery concept, but generally it is defined as

The belief in the existence of individual spirits that inhabit natural objects and phenomena.
The belief in the existence of spiritual beings that are separable or separate from bodies.
The hypothesis holding that an immaterial force animates the universe.

What does this mean, basically? In the broadest sense, people paid special attention to and respected things that were useful or dangerous. This sometimes was expressed in a belief that they were imbued with a specific spirit. (I use the word “spirit” as opposed to “god” because I believe “god” has a weightier subtext that is misleading)

I make this distinction because these spirits are generally not omniscient, and they had very specific roles and abilities, sometimes almost mundanely practical.

People tend to think that animistic spirits are limited to nature, like trees or animals or rainfall, or to oversee events like birth, sleep, marriage and death, but they are commonly found in objects as well. In many animistic traditions where you find “nature spirits” you will probably also find spirits specific to dwellings, food, weapons, and tools.

It is the tool spirits that I find most relevant to this discussion. If crafting is creating a prop that serves the story one is trying to live, and stories are paramount to our successful survival, surely the tools that make those objects, that enable that craft are terribly powerful. It certainly makes sense that people would assign them spirits, and that like other spirits in this tradition, they would be revered and placated.

This seems to be almost common sense, even today. Anyone who's smashed their fingers with a hammer or nearly lost a digit to a circular saw knows that tools are to be respected and not handled lightly, but it seems to me this respect takes on a deeper meaning when we acknowledge the significance that crafting actually has in our lives.

Where does this leave us? Well, next time a pretentious art fag looks down their nose at you and your embroidered tea towels, hopefully you'll think back to this discussion and take pride in knowing that you and other crafters the world over are not so subtlety influencing peoples lives. That's some powerful stuff.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Totally Addicted

I can't stop making these miniatures! See the previous post to see how to make your own.


(This is actually a photo of deforestation that Johnny Murder took)





Best thing ever!

I stumbled across this post this morning on how to fake your own miniatures!
Head over to Build/Make/Craft/Bake to learn how to do your own. It's really cool!
In the meantime, this is how I wasted time this morning. I was warned in the post that it is kind of addictive.

Oregon Coast

Wendigo Country

View from El Moro

I'm pretty happy with these, but you should make sure to check out the master!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Django Finished!

Django Reinhardt Postage Stamp Shirt
Finally! This guy was starting to hurt my feelings because of all the satin stitch. Django measures 8"x10" and was commissioned by Joe Butcher. Who is Joe Butcher? I'm glad you asked.
Wowza. Yeah, he's pretty handsome, and a tall drink of water, and an amazing musician.
If you're an old school NYC hardcore fan, you'd recognize his 80's band Ludichrist.
If you're a Texan, you've seen him in Pleasant Grove. If you haven't spent the last several years under a rock, you'd recognize him playing pedal steel in Polyphonic Spree.
And if you live in the DFW area, it would be in your best interest to start stalking The King Bucks.
Yeah, It's a little shakey cam, but that's because everyone's crazy dancing.
I know hipsters, "Blar Blar country music, blar." You know what I say to that? Don't be an ignorant asshole.
If in the span of this post we can go from Ludichrist being vilified by Hells Bells: The Dangers of Rock 'N' Roll to the cheery choir cult sound of Polyphonic Spree, you can wash the stupid out of your ears and check out The King Bucks.
They're amazing, and I'm homesick for the honky tonk.
*Also, if you're wondering, "How do I get a shirt, apron, pillowcase with my face, dog, favorite actor embroidered on it?" All you need to do is contact me, and we'll work it out.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Phat Quarter!

If you are a member of Phat Quarter, and signed up for the swap, the partner list is now up!
It was a grand undertaking, and the largest swap I've ever organized. I think we ended up with 30something players. Whew! So head over there and see who you're paired with.
Assigning partners felt a little like this.
!Mechanical Bull!
By The Dutch Treats (Johnny Murder)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Moving on

Habu Textiles 100% Stainless Steel Thread. Part Two. Is it weird that I turned my product review into erotic fiction? I didn't think so either.

I saw you sitting there in the Local Yarn Store/Bar. You were full of easy confidence, simple elegance, and obvious strength. You had a updated modern look, that spoke of possibility. What would happen if I took you home? Would you let me try things I had never dared to try before? I couldn't wait to get my hands on you.

After a little awkwardness, and another drink, we got down to business. First we tried the “Embroidery”. I found you to be deceptively fragile, and even after a lot of plying, you still couldn't get comfortable enough just lay down and make knots with me. Maybe it was me. Maybe my fingers just weren't nimble enough, and maybe I wasn't prepared to deal with how slippery you turned out to be.

Afterward, we both felt unsatisfied. You didn't have to say anything, I could tell.

I thought about you many times over the next few days. I have to admit, you made me feel inexperienced, out of my depth. I thought about passing you along to one of my wilder friends, but no, I couldn't give up just yet. I could see the potential, the amazing, earth shattering things we could do together, but I knew I would have to approach you differently next time around. And then it occurred to me, perhaps we both needed a little help?

As I looked through my Little Black Book/Giant Black Bookshelf of fiber, Blue Faced Leicester immediately jumped out. So soft and supple, so... willing. Forgiving. All my friends had told me you were into that sort of thing.

BFL immediately got down to business. She had been waiting patiently on her Bar Stool/Spool for weeks, and she was ready to play. You took some coaxing however. You were not down with the Lazy Kate, and only allowed me to very carefully wind you on to the Nostepinne along with BFL. It was slow going with many Interruptions/Breakages. I almost called it a night, but the three of us had come so far. I knew if I didn't get out the spindle immediately, it would never happen for us.

When it was all over, I really felt like BFL and I did all the work, and you were more trouble than you were worth. ($16.00 a spool). Let's be honest, you did lead me on, but I did try to make you my boyfriend when you clearly were not boyfriend material. That's okay though. I've had way more frustrating walks of shame.

300 yds. BFL spun on a high whorl spindle and plied with Habu stainless steel thread. Long draw, low twist. This will be knitted then fulled for a sculptural piece.
I can spin thousands of yards on a drop spindle for a textile piece that will take me a year to complete, but I can't check my mail. PTSD is amazing.