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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Needle Exchange

Little article on the history of American samplers. Go read it HERE!!!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Interview with Alexandra Walters of Knit-R-Done

Alexandra let me pick her brain a few days ago. She's one of my favorite contemporary fiber artists, and I'm thrilled she let me interview her. I'm in awe of her boldness, honesty, and originality that comes through so beautifully in her work. 

Tell me about your background as an artist. How long have you been working in fiber art? I see you're a knitter and a spinner too, Yay!
My grandmother taught me to knit and sew when I was 7. I’ve never stopped. I used to paint in acrylics in my teens and twenties. In 2003 I found out that painting isn’t very compatible with raising kids, so I’ve stuck to fiber for the last 6 years. (I read http://www.amazon.com/Womens-Work-First-Years-Society/dp/0393313484 last year. It’s all true.)

The great thing about working in fiber is that there is no end to the medium. The day I started spinning my own wool for embroidery, I cried for the first half hour of stitches because it was so frickin’ exciting to me.

How would you describe your style? 
My stitching style is loose and messy. I try to mimic painted brushstrokes. I want anybody who knows my work to be able to pick out my stitching style as distinctly Alexandrian. I’m getting there.

Do you sketch out your pieces first and work from a pattern, or do you see where the stitches take you?
For something with a rigid, technical structure, I’ll draw an iron-on transfer with a pencil and stay true to the basic lines. I don’t want my audience to work too hard trying to find a good representation. The vast majority of people who admire my work can name the make and model of a gun from the thumbnail. That’s important to me.

For something with rounded edges or an organic shape, I sketch the basic lines with a water soluble marker, then I stitch layers and layers of threads until I get what I want. (For example: a spoon might have layers of robin’s egg blue, spruce green, light gray, eggshell, bright white, pewter, navy, eggplant, taupe, black, brown, tan, cream, palest sea green, and six more shades of gray.)

Tell me about your work. What themes are you drawn to and why?
My themes come directly from my life. The best advise people give writers is to “write what you know.” I am a military wife--camouflage and Prozac are something I deal with daily. As bad as it sounds, I know guns and drugs.

How does needlework help you explore that?
My military themed work was started as a long love letter to my husband and my country. It quickly because a way to document my own life. These images are precious to me. They are the symbols of intense devotion, struggle, illness, and pain. My battles deserve honor. My story deserves to be heard.

How do people react to your work? I know that some people have been uncomfortable with it, do you think it's the subject matter, the medium, or both?
When people are uncomfortable with my work, I instantly get defensive. I’m not promoting violence.

I see my stitched M9 as love and longing. I see my husband crawling into a bulletproof vest. I smell the gun oil and burnt powder that clings to his hands. I hear his radio screeching in the dispatcher‘s voice. David is an MP. If he were a doctor, I’d have embroidered stethoscopes and tongue depressors.

I’m learning to ignore knee-jerk reactions from people. You’re offended by my quilted gun? I’m offended by mothers who neglect their children to smoke crack. I guess we all have opinions of what is and isn’t offensive.

I’m not trying to be provocative. This isn’t a gimmick. I am honest. My work is the most I can possibly expose myself. It’s more naked than naked.

What do you hope people take away from your work?
Chills. That’s what I get when I see really good fiber art. If that’s not possible, I want people to see my honesty. If that’s not possible, I want people to wonder how the hell I got so much damn floss on a tea towel.

What other artists do you admire? How have they influenced you?
I’m a big fan of Orly Cogan. She is exposed and raw. I want that kind of communication with my audience.
Kim Sooja is one of the bravest human beings on the planet. http://www.kimsooja.com/
Benjamin Shine makes his hand visible in every portrait he does. http://www.benjaminshine.com/art/artworks_home.html
I’ve also loved the work of Sherri Wood on her www.daintytime.com site. Her tattooed baby doll project inspired me to return to embroidery back in 1999. Before her, I honestly didn’t know that fiber could be considered “art” instead of “craft.”

What are you currently working on? 
I’m working on a series based on the poetry of Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things. Long live still life!

Do you have any advice for budding artists? 
Find your own style and tell your own story. Never turn down the opportunity to learn a new fiber craft. You never know when you might be inspired to combine tatting and tattooing.


Thank you Alexandra! See her blogs HERE and HERE 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Pattern Is Dead, Long Live The Pattern!

At the risk of pissing off a large portion of the needlework community, I'm going to go ahead and speak my mind.
Commercial patterns = Paint by Numbers.
There. I said it.
     They amount to the same thing, however, we don't build hip website communities and handmade/craft shows and dedicate portions of hipster magazines to Paint by Numbers, why do we do it with needlework? Why is it not only encouraged, but elevated, as if you and thousands other stitchers have found the Awesomest Project Ever? We don't celebrate painters that primarily paint Paint By Numbers, why do we do it with stitchers?
     I know the conventional answer is "I can't come up with anything that cool/neat/beautiful/ but I want something interesting to stitch." Or, "I can't draw." Guess what. You don't have to.
     Although most of my work is original, I often incorporate non original elements into it. For example, my postage stamp series utilizes actual postage stamps. Granted, I re-drew them, but it's not essential.
     Here's a secret... There is plenty of copyright free art that can easily be used for needlework, and chances are, you'll be the only one stitching it. Oh, and it's free.
     I'm currently doing a series of Haeckel drawings.

Johnny Murder holding the Siphonophorae
My Version in progress.
  How did I do that? Well, I drew out the elements I wanted to keep, and then used a projector to enlarge it and traced it with a heat transfer marker to make the pattern. This is the third Haeckel piece I've done so far. I'm nearly 100% positive I'm the only person embroidering his work. (At least that's what Google tells me).
     But what if you can't draw? If you don't have a projector? Easy. Just print it out and trace what you want with a transfer marker. Done.
     This is my piece for an upcoming show. The theme is works based on The Garden Of Earthly Delights.


This is the original work that I tweaked and added new elements to. 

Again, I drew my version and added things, but you could easily print it out and trace it.
     Here's a great tutorial on how to turn photos into patterns- Feeling Stitchy Also, I bet this Craft Magazine tutorial would work too- Craftzine
     So I guess my point is, needlework takes a tremendous amount of time. Do we want to spend that kind of effort on a pattern that everyone else is doing? And if we're not going to do our own work, why don't we pick something unusual? If we're going to do paint by numbers, let's do this-
instead of this-

*Also, Blogspot has changed the post format and it's all screwy. Forgive the strange paragraph layout. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Masterpiece Theater

When I can't sleep, Johnny Murder reads to me. This may explain my sleep disorder that causes me to hallucinate, however.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


New Needle Exchange article up over at MrXStitch! Go Read It! 

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Food Town! Sweet Potato Focaccia!!!!!

Johnny Murder and I tried our hand at home made focaccia with amazing results. We started out using this Food And Wine recipe, with a few changes. We halved the amount of leeks and added portabella mushrooms and garlic. We used Yukon Golds instead of Russets, and let it rise twice for an hour each time before laying it in the pan to rise a third and final time. (I don't trust dough that only rises once.) It was sooooo gooood.

Then John had the smarty pants idea to make it again using Sweet Potatoes in the dough, and topping it with spinach, garlic, caramelized onions, feta, portabellas, and bacon. IT WAS AMAZING. WE ARE TOO FAT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE NOW.
Next time I make it I'm going to top it with swiss chard and gruyere, but I think it would also be interesting to do one with roasted fennel bulb, chopped roasted walnuts and feta. I'm gonna go crazy with it!

Also the dough is vegan, so if you adjust the toppings it's yummy for everyone!

Focaccia? I hardly know her.

I'm only going to post the dough recipe, you can pretty much top it with whatever you like. It's ends up being a beautiful orange color, and it's not super sweet at all. Rather, it kind of enhances the sweetness that dough already has. Here's our tweaked recipe. (it follows the Food&Wine one pretty closely, dough wise)

This will fill and 11"x17" baking sheet, so plan accordingly. Also, you'll probably end up using two largish bowls. One for mixing and one for rising the dough.

2 large sweet potatoes (or yams, which ever one has orange flesh. Sometimes they're labeled funny)
1 packet of fleischmann's active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for oiling and brushing

Peel and boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, about 30 minutes. Mash or rice or hand blend until super smooth. Measure out 1 1/3 cups.

Meanwhile, combine well the yeast, warm water and 1/2 cup of flour with a pinch of sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about 30 minutes. The mixture will froth and nearly double in size.

In a large bowl combine the yeast/flour/water mixture, the 1 1/3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes, 3 cups of flour, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Kneed until a sticky, loose, taffy like dough forms. At least five minutes.

Papa's in the kitchen!

Transfer to an oiled bowl, and turn the mass of dough ball to coat. Let stand covered with an oiled piece of foil in a warm, draft free spot for an hour. It should double in size.

Knead again, for 3 to 5 minutes. Returned to oiled bowl, (It's okay if there are some sticky doughy bits still in it) and let it rise again for an hour, covered with the foil.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Lightly oil an 11"x17" baking sheet. Transfer the dough and press and stretch to form a rectangle about the same size. Lightly brush (or use the back of a spoon) the dough with more olive oil and loosely cover with oiled foil for 30 minutes. It will get puffy. Use your fingers to make indentations evenly all over the dough. Top it with stuff you like!

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The crust should brown a bit and the cheese should bubble.

Sweet Potato Focaccia

As far as topping measurements, for the leek one we used 4 leeks, chopped and caramelized, one sauteed chopped portabella and 1/4LB of swiss.
When we made the second one we used four strips of cooked bacon, chopped, one portabella, 1 1/2 cups of sauteed spinach, almost a whole purple onion, caramelized, and then a mix of swiss and feta that came close to 1/4 of a LB. AND GARLIC! Always add lots of chopped garlic! OH! AND FRESH HERBS!!!!! Thyme and rosemary and sea salt are great scattered all over this. Fresh Basil would be amazing too.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Good Times in Portland

Last Friday was my first set of shows here in Portland. It was an amazing experience, and what really made it special is sharing it with the kick ass stitchers below.

Photo by Pam's hubby, Mark

Pam from Faster Kitty Kill, Tara from Bubble Off Plumb and my sweet honey Johnny Murder from MANBROIDERY! Not only do I get to write with these ladies at Feeling Stitchy and MrXStitch, it was amazing to be hanging out with the some of the most notable stitchers on the west coast. POW! Represent!
So here's a run down of the pieces we have up. At Redux-
Fetish Triptych

Fetish Triptych

Clearly, You Haven't Earned Them Yet

Clearly, You Haven't Earned Them Yet

Pussy Magnet by Johnny Murder

And then at Good Gallery-
Trilobite Triptych

Trilobite Triptych

So thanks to everyone who came out and saw the work, it was really special. And if you're in Indianapolis in May, I've got a piece up at Big Car Gallery!