Saturday, July 21, 2018

Upcycled Jewelry Workshop

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On Wednesday night, at Ostara's Coffee House in West Cape May, I led a workshop in making upcycled jewelry. I brought all kinds of wonderful materials such as costume jewelry, charms, hardware pieces, fabric trims, and other oddities that I found in my studio. My students were cranking out their creations in large amounts. One young woman made 18 pieces! Here are a few photos of their work. Next Wednesday, July 25, will be my second Embroider Your Own Denim workshop, also at Ostara's. Come join the fun from 5:30-7:30pm!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

"Of the Nymphs"

"Of the Nymphs" is a 10 minute film by Liz Waldie that features me as a performance artist and poet.  View it here:

Monday, April 16, 2018


Am I really still playing with dolls?  Kind of.  I embroidered the antique doll that was my mother's, I made the rabbit doll out of a spice tin, I dressed the little monkey and the cat, and I gave the cat some ears.  I like them.  They make me smile when I look at them.  I hope they make you smile too!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Golden Shovel Poem

The structure of a Golden Shovel poem is to take a short poem and use the words from one line as the ending of each new line in an original poem.  I used the first line from one of favorite poems by Emily Dickinson as my guide to write my own.

Emily Dickinson's poem:

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

My Golden Shovel poem:

Now is the time, not after,
not before, this moment is great.
Embrace the pain.
It is there – a
time for formal
reckoning. Release the feeling,
then peace comes.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A Film Is In the Works!

Last summer, a young woman named Liz Waldie from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia asked me if she could feature me in a short film that she is making for her senior thesis project.  Of course I said, "Yes!"  We started filming last fall, in various places such as my studio, a nature preserve, and a photo studio.  Mostly, I improvised - dancing, art making, and other kinds of performing.  Now we are almost done with the filming so Liz will start the process of editing and defining the film by what footage she chooses to include and how she puts it together.  It has been a wonderful experience to work with a young artist who challenges both herself and her ideas about what art can be.  "Experimental" is a word that described the kind of performance art that I made when I was her age.  I am glad to see that this approach has continued and that young people are still interested in pursuing it.  The film will have its premier in early May so stay tuned for more information. 

Photos by Shaina Nyman

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Which way?

These signs hang above the door in my studio as a reminder to stay flexible and always be ready to improvise when the situation calls for it.  I find that this is especially important when I am teaching.  Tuning into what the children need and will respond to at any given moment during the class makes for a much more productive and satisfying learning experience, not just for the students, but for me as well.  Here is a piece that I wrote about such an experience when I was teaching dance at a school in Manhattan.

Snow. Glistening like glitter in the sunshine and mirrored in the sparkle of the children's eyes.

We were looking out the windows of the dance studio at the play space two stories below. It was covered with a thin blanket of untouched snow. I could feel the energy vibrating in the room – they needed to make their mark on that perfect blank white canvas. I can't remember what curriculum I had planned for the day's dance class, but it no longer mattered.
I asked my students to take a good long look at the scene below, and then close their eyes and see the same image in their mind. They had already taken off their shoes in preparation for dance but suddenly I asked them to put them back on. “Why?” “What are we doing?” “Are we really going OUTSIDE?”
I directed them to make a single line behind me and led them down the stairs and opened the door to the play space. Even though it had snowed it was not too cold and I knew they would be fine without their coats for a few minutes. I started to walk slowly, asked them to follow me and step right into each other's footprints. We began to draw a design in space with our feet. It curved and crossed itself, meandering here and there, making zig-zags and spirals. We smiled and giggled, giddy with the excitement of such a spontaneous moment. Then we climbed back up the stairs with flushed cheeks and cold toes.
We looked out the windows again. The view revealed a map, a flight pattern, an abstract painting, an ancient symbolic language, a plan, directions for making a dance. We remembered what it had looked like just a few minutes before and marveled at the transformation. I divided the children into groups and they worked on collaborative choreography. “What patterns do you see in the snow?” “What kind of movement do those patterns look like?” “What kind of a dance journey can you take yourselves on?” “What kinds of places can you visit?” I chose some music with a lively rhythm to help carry them along. The little dances that they made were amazing - full of skipping and sliding and tip-toeing, bodies morphing themselves into different moving shapes, arms akimbo, legs stretching and kicking. The smell of art was in the air.
Too soon it was time to go. They were off to another world, a different classroom, another subject to grapple with. Down the hallway I heard one of them say, “That was the best class I ever had.” It was only 9:15 in the morning but it had already been a good teaching day. Later, when I looked out the window again , the snow had melted, the design was gone, and the moment had passed.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Daffodil (a story)

Everyone called her Daffy, but her real name was Daffodil. She was born in the spring of course, a bulb flowering from her mother's womb. Her skin was fair, almost transparent, and her newborn head was covered with light blonde hair. She was unexpected - no one remembered planting her in the fall. It was just lucky that the squirrels didn't find her. She had been planted down deep, far from the other bulbs. She was alone except for the birds and the bees that hovered over her cradle. Her mother had died while giving birth to her and her father was carried away by the wind. Her little lips were thirsty for milk, like spring rain. She opened them wide to catch it when it came. It made her veins pulse with new life. But no one remembered feeding her.

-  Penelope Cake

A collage I made

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Red Dress

The Red Dress

I don't want to. I don't want to give you away. I still long to be the young girl I once was who could slip so easily into your silhouette.

But you were not young when you came to me, you were already old - it was a generation before. You were born from the hands of a woman who believed in the magic of needle and thread, good cotton fabric, the hum of a sewing machine, the feel of new seams, and the beauty of buttons. She made an art out of sewing, transforming the simply flat into exquisite form.

One time, maybe the best time, I wore you when I danced. The late afternoon sunlight was streaming through the studio windows, making long shadows of your full gathered skirt. The music felt sacred and permeated the atmosphere with magic and grace. I twirled and you followed, a beat behind me, like an echo or a trace of light. I melted into the floor, laying you upon it softly and with dignity. The floor was our friend. I rolled and somersaulted around the room, losing sight of space and time. I liked to be upside-down and you liked to be inside-out. We were proud of our eccentricities.

But how can I describe your red? Oh to find the words! Like roses, of course. And blood from the prick of their thorns. The heat of a bonfire, the blush of a passionate kiss, the taste of strawberries in the spring, the love of a good man. I saw your red once before in a dream, but I have forgotten what it was. Maybe it was a mirror to my soul.

But now I am old and my waist strains against your thin tight belt. We no longer fit each other. It is sad, but expected. The spread of flesh over time. It is time to say good-bye. Find a new life with a new generation.*

*This dress is for sale in my Etsy shop, PenelopeCakesCloset.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

I am dancing again!

Thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert (author of "Eat, Pray, Love" and "Big Magic") and Amy Purdy (Dancing With The Stars) for mentoring me through a difficult time.  I want to choreograph and perform a dance in honor of my 60th birthday in January and was blocked in many ways, mostly having to do with worries about what people will think and my body image.  I was honored to participate in Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast entitled "Magic Lessons" in which she interviewed me and helped me get going on this project.  In an additional episode, Amy Purdy also offered advice and support to me.  It was an amazing experience and the first interview will go online September 2nd.  I have started rehearsing in my yoga studio (Cape May Yoga) and have posted some photographs below.  I am also available for teaching my new class for teens and adults that I call "Dancing From the Heart" and a class for younger children that involves both creative movement and writing called, "Creativity Lab" which I taught at Cape May City Elementary this past school year.  I am so thrilled to have dancing be a part of my life again!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Our son the doctor!

Kodi graduated today from Stony Brook University with a PHD in psychology.  He will be going to UCLA this summer for a postdoc.  Doesn't he look handsome in his blue and gold?
I am one proud mother.
And while I was waiting for the ceremony to begin I embroidered the program!

Friday, October 2, 2015

We are new members of the Cape May Artists Cooperative!

We are showing all repurposed artwork with an emphasis on using discarded books.  We have turned them into floating bookshelves, lamps, vases, wall displays, miniature book houses, jewelry and even a set of napkin rings!  This is our first try at setting up our display and I'm sure it will continue to evolve over time.

Jeffrey and I are making artwork together for this endeavor and are having a great time collaborating!

We just set up our booth this morning.

Come visit the gallery and enjoy the work of 17 other local artists!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fashion week in NYC!

On Sunday night my sister and I were treated by my wonderful sister-in-law with tickets to the Nolcha Fashion Show at Chelsea Piers as part of Fashion Week in NYC.  This is the outfit that I chose to wear.

The dress is from one of my favorite consignment stores, "Turn Around Boutique" in Wildwood, NJ and was picked out especially for the event by the fabulous owner of the shop, Lynne Bruno. She encouraged me to go completely vintage with my outfit.  "Do you have any white go-go boots to wear with this dress?"  "No,"  I said, "but I have some red boots that might work."  I bought these boots about 5 years ago at the Goodwill store on 89th and 2nd Ave in NYC for about $12.  
I wasn't too concerned about a bag, but I spotted this vintage envelope purse at a thrift store in Cape May the next day and new it would be the perfect accessory - especially at $4!
The runway show was fantastic but the people watching before and after the show was definitely a big part of the fun! A wonderful time was had by all.  Thank you, dear sister-in-law Jane, for making it all possible.  Love you!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Totally unnecessary, but so much fashion fun...


I crocheted these out of sport weight black wool following a pattern found on Ravelry.  Then of course I had to try them on with some of my favorite flip flops.

Vote for your favorite combination by leaving a comment (you can leave a comment anonymously and then you don't have to sign-in) or a message on this blog.  Then I will put together a full outfit to go with the winning choice and model it on my next post.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Game Piece Earrings

I love to wear unusual earrings and have a whole collection that I have made out of game pieces;  Candy Land, Parcheesi, Monopoly, Bingo, Operation, Barrel of Monkeys, puzzle pieces, dice and of course Scrabble.  It is a common occurrence for people to look at me and do a double-take when I am wearing them.  They are certainly familiar, but surprising to see on someone's ears!