"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
I've started working on a new relief print. This is the first block carved. I have two more blocks to do for the other colors. John had to spend the night in the hospital on Sunday because of some residual tummy surgery stuff, (He's fine), and I couldn't sleep so I stayed up all night carving. My hands were numb in the morning. I think I'm going to take some time carving the other blocks so my fingers don't fall off, but I'm happy with the design so far.
Okay, when I was using a drop spindle, I was spinning S singles and plying them. Now that I've been using a wheel, I've been spinning Z singles and plying them.
Here is my question-
If both sets of yarn have been plied, and had their twists set and balanced, can I use them together in the same project? Or will one skien being S's plied and the other skein being Z's plied screw up my project? Does this make sense?
Thank you for any help!
Also, this is my 115th post. I forgot the 100th.
Before we get to it, I just want to say how thrilled I am to present this interview. I ran across Walter's work when I was researching an early Needle Exchange article for MrXStitch. My lack of German didn't deter me from contacting him, and luckily, his English is quite good. He was kind enough to indulge me by answering my questions. You guys can't see me, but I've been squealing all day with excitement! Also, I encourage you to click the links inserted in the post. Walter's been kind enough to share his favorite artists with us, and they are tremendous. I have also linked to his website under each photo. Many of these pieces are part of a larger series or installation, so please take some time to click through and look at the larger context. His work is elegant, provocative, authentic, and shot through with humor. He is a treasure.
Tell me about your background as an artist. I studied weaving in Japan, nearly 20 years ago. At the Kawashima Textile School, which is part of the Kawashima Manufacture. They worked in the Meiji-period(1868-1912) for the Meiji emperor. Kawashima Jimbei visited Europa and studied some textile techniques, like Jacquard and tapestry.
But I was drawn to textile much earlier and I worked in textile since very early in my childhood. And I did draw and paint since a very early date. My family never forbade anything, but they worked very much and were not interested in my "art" work.
When I was about 17 I met an artist, Helmut Kunkel.
At his atelier and home I learned very much. He showed me how to draw, he backed my courage and gave me a lot of artists techniques. At that time he did ceramic and I learned a lot about that, too. Our friendship is vivid and inspiring till today.
He is not using needlework as an art technique, he is not sewing or doing anything with fabric or thread.
Many of your pieces use textiles and needlework. Why are you drawn to this medium?
My grandfather was a tailer and my grandma a gifted needlework person. She sewed cloth, knitted, crocheted, from her I learned to use the scissor, needles and the iron. So I had fabric, needle and thread at my hands since I can remember, since longer than I remember. Sewing is so familiar to me like drawing and writing.
What themes you are interested in?
I like explore my attractions. This is things which one can see, but although the things one is fantasizing about. So I explore the body in my work, but at the same time I am interested how other artist did that or still doing it.
Tell me about the Joyful Memory series. How do viewers react to it? What interests you about erotica?
This series was in an exhibition a short while ago and we had a wonderful reaction. It was an exhibition in the flat of my curator, the series was shown in the small bathroom. We heard constantly squeaks coming from there, and laughter. But one young lady went in and she came out with an angry face and wanted to know if it was real sperm, which was used for the artwork. We had a long discussion about the problem of intimacy. Finally, when she left after more than two hours, she insisted on kissing me on my cheeks, which I never expected from her.
But as always, my work has a lot of tongue-in-cheek. It is not meant too seriously.
I'm really fascinated by your loincloth series, The Flagellation of Christ, and the loincloths based on the masters. What inspired these? What themes are you exploring?
For a very long time in my life, I concentrated on the Kimono as an art object. I was very fascinated by Japan since my youth. When I turned 40, which seems to be the date for a man, I stopped the kimono and started with new themes and new formats. I turned literally my head, myself from east to west.
Never ever before I had thought about what themes would be important for western art and artists. The first theme which struck me, was Religion. I think that Religion is minting us much more than we think. And it has shaped a lot of the art we look at in Museums.
(By the way, I am not religious in that way, that I cling to a church or something like that. I was brought up in an environment with a catholic father and protestant mother, but had access to both religions. In my youth I was very drawn to Zen Buddhism, and had a very good time with it. Later on I managed to find my own way.)
So from the point of change in my art, as told before, I looked for what could interest me. The first thing I did was starting a project, which is still going on. I collect 11000 signed handkerchiefs of women from all over the world. It has to do with the holy Ursula, the saint of the city of Cologne. A myth is stating, that she had a company of 11000 maidens, all of whom where slain by the Huns, who laid siege to the town (very long ago). I wanted this myth to get into our reality, without showing the cruelty connected with the story. (Click here to see the work in progress- Penny)
The next project I wanted to do something which should deal with some men. And I found in the middle of the Christian religions this nearly naked young man, being tortured and crucified. How interesting, I thought. And in the center of every picture of him one can find a textile, which is concealing his manhood and at the same time is making him more naked.
This shroud was a theme I really liked to work with.
And after this, I wanted to make another statement. I wanted to show how women can use a piece of cloth. So the series of Venus emerged. Here I concentrated on some paintings of one Master, Lucas Cranach the older. And I found a lot of pictures, lot more than I expected about the Venus, made with the same model. A very young girl, just at the border of being a woman. But again I concentrated on the textile, in this case called a veil, and made is the center focus of my pictures.
Sometimes I combine painting and embroidery. Some installations are from different materials.
Who are your favorite artists? How have they influenced you? My greatest favorite is Kiki Smith. I love her work and I think she is the strongest influence since more than four years. There is a great German embroidering artist (man!), Jochen Flinzer, which influenced me at my start. I am delighted by the work of Erwin Wurm.
What are you working on these days? The heart series. It is like a drug, I can not stop making hearts. And again, this is a series about women.
But next year there will be an exhibition in a Museum in Neuoetting. Next is the famous city of Altoetting, a pilgrimage site since more than 1250 years. I make new works for this, giving an answer to the relics, which interest my very much.
I started to work on a big embroidery. The theme will be the Japanese 'Nehan', this is pictures showing all beings mourning the dead Buddha Shakyamuni. I will show a figure of the dead Christ, mourned by animals and unearthly beings.
What do you want viewers to take from you work?
I love, if I can touch people. This is what I expect from art, to feel touched. I like to give them a smile inside, too.
Do you have any advice for other artists? I think it is very crucial to listen to your self. One needs to know himself as much as possible. I had the luck to meet the Japanese Zen Buddhism, when I was very young. It gave me techniques to explore my self and dive deep into me. I found things I liked and things I disliked very much. It is an endeavor to learn to live with all this, not to reject and not to become rampant.
Love is most important.
I'm absolutely thrilled and honored to be interviewed by the very talented Alexandra on her blog, Self Guided Art Therapy. It was one of the first blogs I became addicted to, and I've always been in awe of Alexandra's work. So go check it out! - Interview With Penny Nickels Iphigenia in Aulis Commemorative Stamp
About a year ago, the Sublime Stitching conflict with Urban Threads made it's way all over the stichingverse internet. Statements were issued, accusations were made, and people got shitty. I got shitty. I wrote a pretty vicious letter to Urban Threads as well as posting about the controversy here. (That post is now deleted). That's why I'm writing this. I should say that I do have both positive and negative opinions about the way each company handled this dispute and presented themselves, but I feel it would be dishonest to let my previous post stand, and to not follow up with the outcome.
Yesterday, Urban Threads posted their follow up. Apparently both parties have reached an agreement and the matter is now closed. Sublime Stitching has written a retraction of the initial accusations. I do feel like it's unfortunate that you can still find pages and pages online of last year's dispute, however information on the resolution seems terribly difficult to find. I was unaware of it until Miss Shaebay clued me in. So, in the spirit of disclosure and amending my previous stance, I hope interested readers will take a look at the Urban Threads post as well as Sublime Stitching's statement.
I almost never do self portraits. They feel too much like I'm secretly indulging in vanity. I can't help but think they're somehow not honest. Am I portraying myself how I wished I looked? Am I trying to seduce the viewer, or attempting to show a quality I wish I had? These questions always come up when I sketch myself, and pretty soon I've abandoned the drawing. I mean, we all want to look attractive, and it's hard to let that go when you're deliberately posing and presenting your face.
So I did one straight forward portrait and was quickly disappointed. It looked fine technically, but it was boring as hell, and those old fears about naval gazing crept in. So I decided to draw myself making the most ridiculous faces I could think of.
Here's what I learned/remembered:
1. Hot Damn! I can draw some shit!
2. At art fag school, they were always drilling into me, "Draw what you SEE." You're brain will make things look like you think they "should". That's not actually what they look like. A good test is to turn the piece upside down. Perspective problems, poor composition, all the tricks your brain played will fall apart.
3. Speaking of drawing what you see, I drew a bunch of hands this week. Now they totally creep me out. They look like fat little squid feelers attached to my arms, and I can barely stand them. If you spend a lot of time really studying your body parts, shit gets weird. I need to draw some feet for a project, but now I'm avoiding it.
4. I was surprised that my favorite piece out of the series is probably the least attractive portrait of me I could possibly do. (The first one/Scrunch Face)When you're not trying to look pretty, you can really focus and amaze yourself.
5. When I go out, I try to put on a little makeup. Powder, mascara, lip gloss. For these, I pretty much rolled out of bed and didn't even bother brushing my hair. In most of them, I'm wearing the same tee shirt for several days. It's funny that for people I'll probably spend less than an hour with on the very rare occasion, I'll get dolled up. But for these portraits, where I have to study the true picture of my face, flaws and all, and immortalize it not only on paper but on the internet, I couldn't have cared less. All of these drawings have some beautiful moments in them, and they have nothing to do with makeup or awesome clothes.
6. Although I've never thought poorly about my looks, my perspective about what I believe makes me attractive has certainly been challenged by this series.
7. The most fun part about this was the responses and encouragement I've gotten from people. Bridget really went for it and tagged the photos on Flickr with amazing descriptions. She is hilarious!
I don't do a lot of self portrait because it makes me feel like I'm getting too close to navel gazing vanity, but then I figured if I uggo myself up by pulling stupid faces, I can go back to treating it as an exercise.
"Penny and Johnny are the Bonnie and Clyde of contemporary embroidery." -Mr. X Stitch-
Our response- "I'm a professional, God damn it. I live in a car."
I also write for Mr. X Stitch and Feeling Stitchy. FACE!
*There has been some confusion as to who actually writes this blog. It's me, Penny Nickels. Johnny Murder (Manbroidery Founder) is my husband, and occasionally he chimes in and we share a few posts.