If you are in the stitching world and haven't heard of Penny Nickels than shame on you! I really don't think there are enough adjectives that can describe the talent this woman has.She has sass and moxy that well, might even put me to shame.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I like ELO, Lil Wayne, Bob Fosse, "Jersey Shore", and Werner Herzog. I took chess lessons from the age of 19 to 26. I read a lot. I have several tattoos from my favorite books, including a gigantic illustration from Louis-Ferdinand Céline on my arm. My dad made me read "Willard and His Bowling Trophies" by Richard Brautigan when I was twelve and I believe it may have wrecked my young brain. I also have an extensive comic book collection. Yesterday, I had a hour long conversation with my brother about how amazing the movie Total Recall is. I listened to the song “Peg” by Steely Dan three times today, on purpose. I come from four generations of art fags. My favorite artists are George Grosz, Otto Dix, Max Ernst and Francis Bacon. I sound like an jerk off when I talk about myself, but I'm cool with it.
How long have you been stitching and what or who got you started?
I went to a “Fame” type high school where I studied printmaking, and I continued to do that for about ten years. I worked in mezzotint, aquatint, and relief. Studios and chemicals are hard to come by if you're not in school, and the gouges started to take their toll on my hands. A few years ago I realized that my prints would translate really well into embroidery because of the way they're designed and I started stitching them. It's hilarious because I can't get anyone to look twice at my printmaking, but once it's embroidered people really respond to it. It makes me feel kind of like a huckster. But I do think that embroidery is much more dynamic, it's like working in two and a half dimensions, so maybe that's why it pops. I also spin, knit and weave.
You are absolutely amazing! There are so many pieces I love from you, which is your favorite?
Thanks! *Blushing* Hmmmm... I really like my mythic commemorative stamp series, (Hypaepa, Tritonis, Asterion, Cithaeron) that's mostly me working out emotional baggage so they're really satisfying to stitch on. I'll be doing those forever. :)
I think the piece I like the most right now is the siphonophorae I've been working on. It's been going
on over a hundred hours of stitching, but I'm really impressed with it so far. When I look at it my brain hums.
What kind of advice would you give to the masses?
Be fearless! Be demanding! Don't be scared of sounding like an asshole! No one's going to take your work seriously unless you do! And most importantly, explore making your own patterns!
I have a lot of love for commercial and vintage patterns. Sometimes you see something really great that you wouldn't have thought of. They're also perfect to try out new stitches or a palette you might not normally use. But even if you don't have a drawing/rendering/stick figure bone in your body, it's really easy to snap a photo of something simple that looks neat, load it into the computron, print it black and white and trace it. Volia! You just made your first pattern, and it's all yours. Incidentally, I can only draw successfully from life or photo references, so I look at A LOT of online erotica to find my half naked ladies. But I do it on Johnny Murder's computer so he gets all the gross spam. :)
And if you don't want to make your own patterns but you want something unusual, you can find a ton of copyright free art online that can be used for stitching too. I recently saw some Egon Schiele embroideries that were amazing. I just started stitching a kooky Louis Wain painting that I ripped off the internet. I'm never going to come up with anything half as strange as his stuff.
Do you have a website or any upcoming shows?
I have a blog called Donkeywolf which is named after my favorite animal that I made up. It has interviews with other artists, fiber products and textile book reviews, pieces I'm working on and what they mean. I'm showing at Redux in Portland which opens April 2nd and Big Car Gallery in Indianapolis which opens May 7th. I am also doing a show at Good Gallery in Portland this April.
Grits-a food by themselves or a just a vehicle for butter and cheese?
Grits are a vehicle for everything! I use coarse ground corn grits and I usually cook them with thyme, sauteed mushrooms and cheddar, but this morning I made them with spinach, garlic and Gruyère. It was amazing.
Okay, let's recap the reasons I love Penny. 1-sass and moxy, 2-stitching that is beyond belief beautiful 3- she's a southern girl who loves grits. I can't wait to see her shows and her work close up. I know it's gonna be breathtaking. I'm glad to call her an inspiration and a friend.