Sunday, December 5, 2010

How I read

     I have my book, a pen and a cup of tea.  I hold the book with both hands to feel its weight and the texture of its cover.  I run my fingers over the edges of the pages so that they can fly through the air.  I smell it and touch it to my cheek.  Then I open it, not to the page I last read, but much earlier than that.  I read over the sections that I have underlined.  I re-enter its world and remind myself of where I am.  I often long to connect with the text in ways that expand my experience.  So I write notes on post-its of images to include on its pages.  I hunt for those images in my massive picture collection or on the internet and carefully tape them onto the pages so that the text is not permanently covered.  The images become new pages that I can flip up to reveal their connections underneath.  Sometimes I use other materials to illustrate an idea.  I have included little bags of sand, sticks, quotes from other books, postcards and fabric.  I have sewn a design with thread onto a page.  At times, I have attached photographs so that the book also becomes a personal journal.
     My favorite book is "Red" by Terry Tempest Williams.  I read it several times and then visited the red rock desert of Utah to observe its beauty first hand.  I carried the book with me as I traveled.  It became a scrap book, photo album and work of art.  I felt as though I had entered the book and treasured it as both an object and a spiritual experience.  I keep it on a shelf with many other books that I have examined in  the same way.  I visit it sometimes and re-enter its world.   That's how I read.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wasn't really in the Thanksgiving mood and had decided to put minimal effort into planning and decorating this year.  Earlier today, though, I noticed an empty patch of white wall just above our dining room table and thought it would be nice to put a wreath there.  I went to the farmer's market in search of one, without any luck.  Jeffrey suggested that we just make one, right then and there.  We used a coat hanger, brown paper grocery bags embellished with a little bit of orange and yellow paint, and fake berries and leaves from old Thanksgiving decorations.  We didn't have to buy a thing.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Altered Books

Recently, I have been spending most of my creative time working on an altered book.  Part journal and part art, the medium suits me.  I realize that blogging is not really my medium.  I have not been able to enter into a relationship with the computer that is as immediate and passionate as the one I have with real materials:  cloth, paper, paint, scissors, glue, paper, buttons.   It is difficult to continue with this blog when my creative longings take me elsewhere.  It can, however, be a record of this other work that I do. So, here are some photos of my most recent project.  Let me know what you think.  I guess the important aspect of blogging is the relationship you create and nurture with others.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Credit card charm bracelets

It seems like the nature of a blog is to go in and out of it.  I'm trying to get back to my original vision, "Creativity Everyday."  This post is one that I hand-wrote in my blog journal in August which I never published but feel like it is a good start back into this process....

August 13, 2010
So what can I do today that's creative?  My outfit isn't particularly striking. I'm sitting in an ugly room at the Courthouse serving my civic duty as a juror-in-waiting and I haven't made anything in the last few days.  I have, however, made a lot of things in the past.  At times like this (when my creative spirit is taking a nap) I can pull from some of those older ideas.  Maybe that will even help me wake up and get inspired again!

Making jewelry, especially out of unusual materials, has been one of my passions for years.  For instance, does a charm bracelet have to have specific kinds of charms?

I'm sure you have all had occasion to cut up a credit card because it has expired, or you are determined to get out of debt, or you never wanted it in the first place.  But how many of you save the pieces and put them in your drawer full of other random junk that might be useful someday?  I sometimes get credit cards or membership cards in the mail that I don't want or need.  Yes, I am a member of the Humane Society, but do I need to carry a plastic card in my wallet to prove it?  Out of my paranoid habit to avoid identity theft, I started to cut the card up and noticed all the interesting little pieces that appeared.  (My favorite one is from a list of tips for taking care of your pet in an emergency, "Always remain calm," a good reminder for everyday life as well.)  I continued to cut the card up, choosing pieces and shapes that pleased me.  I have no idea how the image of a charm bracelet first occurred to me but it soon became a reality.  I poked holes in the pieces of the card with a small awl and attached them to a piece of chain with jump rings and finished off the bracelet with a clamp to open and close it.  Maybe I could offer to make charm bracelets out of your old credit cards as a way to encourage people to stop using them.  Let me know if you would like me to make one for you!
xo penelope

Friday, July 16, 2010

I find myself in a world of pink...

Today, I wore pink and black sunsuit that my sister got for me at Daffy's and Pippi wore a pink bandanna that I made for her with poodles on it.

Yesterday, my friend Judith made a dress for me with the same fabric.  It was like magic.

She measured  me and  then cut and sewed the dress without any pattern or pins, in less than two hours.  I had  these poodle earrings that I made from keychains to go with it.

Then I remembered the new wallet that I bought at Pearl River last week - its mostly pink.

And I just finished reading a children's book called "The Pink Motel" by Carol Ryrie Brink in which the color pink is used as a symbol of individuality leading to a better understanding and acceptance of diversity.

So THINK PINK and enjoy your weekend!
xo Penelope

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Fruit #3

Here is another "Fruit" outfit.  I reconstructed the dress from a 1960's shirt by cutting off the collar and sleeves, reshaping the neck and adding pink tulle to the bottom.  The belt is made out of grass turf and fake flowers [I didn't make it].  Green cowboy boots, white satin gloves, a green button bracelet [that I did make] and green dangling earrings finish off the outfit.  All I need is a place to go!  Maybe I should start my own "Fruits" gathering - anyone want to join me?   How about on Sunday afternoons at the High Line in NYC?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fruit #1

"Fruits" is a beautiful Phaidon book with vibrant photographs of Japanese teenagers in fantastic, outrageous, colorful and playful outfits.  The author and photographer, Shoichi Aoki, states that his interest in fashion "comes from the way people express themselves through the clothes they wear."  During the 1990's, teenagers congregated every weekend in the Harajuku district of Tokyo to display their creative attire, socialize, and inspire each other.  Street fashion became personalized artwork, moving sculpture and a performance event all at the same time.  This is my homage to that movement.  For the next few days, I will be experimenting with my own "fruity" outfits and posting them here.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Just a glimpse of my bungalow kitchen in the Catskills.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Bicycle Art

     During one summer in my early 20's, I was a bike messenger in NYC. It was one of the many jobs that I tried to support myself while I was dancing and leading the life of an underpaid performer.  I was living on Ludlow St. and biking every morning up to 91st and Park Ave. to get my first assignment.  Then I would ride all day around midtown Manhattan delivering envelopes and packages to smartly dressed receptionists in high heels.  I, of course, was wearing shorts, a tank top and flip-flops... as little as possible to keep cool.  It was a hot, dirty and dangerous job.  As I became more confident, I would take more risks, riding in and out of traffic, around buses, trucks  and pedestrians.  One day I woke up with the feeling that I was going to have a serious accident, so I quit.  The job lasted about two months. That was enough!
     Recently, I got my bike  (not the racer I used to ride) out of storage.  I haven't ridden in about 15 years.  I decorated it with long strips of knitting, a new Pylone bicycle bell, rick rack tassels and a carrier for Pippi on the front.  Its quite a different experience now.  I end up riding on the sidewalk a lot because the street scares me a little - sometimes Pippi and I just walk the bike for a few blocks until we can fine a clear path.  I love my bike now.  Riding around Manhattan isn't a job anymore, its performance art!

Thursday, April 29, 2010


This is a collage I made.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Several years ago I discovered an old cigarette machine at the Whitney Museum that vends art, instead of cigarettes.  It is in the gift shop and requires the purchase of a special token for $7.50 to use it.  After pulling the knob, you receive an original piece of artwork the exact size of a package of cigarettes.  These machines are located in arts institutions and museums throughout the country.  Last year I submitted these small assemblages in solid color tones for consideration in the program.  They were accepted and I became an official Art-o-mat artist!  This is a photograph of the fifty finished pieces that went into the re-purposed   machines all over the country.  Each one was packaged in a box that was labeled "Object Lessons" by Penelope Cake.  They are all sold out now, so I plan to make a whole new batch but I need more solid colored random pieces of junk to finish them.  Any donations would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Making a doll

Sal Lomanno, a childhood friend who I haven't been in contact with for about 40 years, invited me to visit her in Cape May, NJ.  It was an amazing and inspiring experience.  We talked for hours.  We revisited ourselves as children and renewed ourselves as adults.  We decided to create something together - to make a doll.  We went hunting in thrift stores and junk stores to find the right materials.  We didn't know what we were looking for, but found some things to start with.  A soft maroon sweater is becoming the body, some toy oars will most likely be the legs, a vintage aluminum jello mold will be a hat, we'll use buttons for eyes, rick rack for a mouth and are hoping to make some wings out of a lace table runner.  The process of creating a doll and recreating our friendship has begun.  I  look forward to the adventure!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I  keep a handwritten journal about this blog.  I made it out of random pieces of 8 1/2" by 11" paper that I had put together into a spiral notebook.  Most of them are blank or with very little writing on them (to leave room for my own, of course) but are interspersed with pages made from pizza parlor menus, children's doodles, pages cut from discarded books, an out-of-date atlas and photocopies of my hands.  I saw a journal like this one at a stationary store for about $25.00 and was inspired to make my own.  Once I had assembled all the pages from different colored paper, stationary and all the other miscellaneous pieces that I had collected, I took it to Kinkos and got it made into a spiral notebook for about $5.00.  I like the way the detritus of everyday life intersects  and connects with my creative musings...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Exchanging Sleeves

This morning  I was weeding through some of my clothes when I came across two shirts that I like but don't wear very often, so I  put them in my giveaway pile. They didn't stay there long (nothing ever does).  The red flannel shirt had these unusual gathered sleeves that I really liked so I wanted to use them for something.  I decided to cut the sleeves off of the flannel shirt and exchange them for the short sleeves of the puppy t-shirt to make a whole new shirt.  I also cut the collar off of the flannel shirt and tried wearing it loose around my neck at the same time.  With scissors, pins and sewing machine I put it altogether and have been happily wearing my new creation all day!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

In Jacksonville. FL

I am in Jacksonville, FL visiting my dear friend Annuel.  Yesterday we took a long walk on the beach and then hit the thrift stores in town.  This is an outfit that I got at the Salvation Army - a black polka dot skirt and a red polka dot top - one of those one piece shirt/ vest combinations - very vintage.  I changed in the car so that Annuel could take my picture in front of one of the best Salvation Army signs that I've ever seen!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Alice in Wonderland

     Dressed for the movie in a set of teapot and teacup earrings, lots of frills and pink and black striped tights!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pippi and me

These are some new tights that my adorable husband, Jeffrey, gave to me that I am wearing  with a pair of leather boots that I got at a Goodwill in Northampton, MA for only $3.00!  Pippi insisted on being in the picture too...

Monday, March 8, 2010


Buttons are an essential part of my creative experiments.  I put them on  everything - from shoes to dog collars. Over the years I have amassed quite a collection.  I find them at thrift stores, yard sales and junk stores.  But the best way to get buttons is to have people give them to you.  When my acquaintances see how many things I do with them they often remember an old tin full of buttons buried in a cabinet somewhere and offer it to me.  They are happy to have them used for something and I often make a bracelet or pair of earrings in return.  If you let people know that you need them, the buttons will come...

For the shoes, I glued all the buttons on with Amazing Goop and for the dog collars, I hand sewed them on with a heavy duty needle and thread.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Brunch

Dressed for Sunday brunch at Pecan in Tribeca.  I made the skirt and the earrings.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I bought this plain bag on sale for $15 at Urban Outfitters but I desperately needed pockets for organizing keys, glasses, cell phone and lipstick.  I cut the back pockets off some old blue jeans in a random shape and, using embroidery floss, I stitched them onto the bag in a deliberately irregular style.  The fraying edges just add to the "folk art" charm.

Here is another bag that I added pockets to.  I cut off the bottom border of an already embroidered velvet scarf and hemmed the edges.  After folding it in half I used a sewing machine to divide it into two pockets.  Then I hand sewed the top edge to the bag.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rick Rack

I collect rick rack.  It makes me smile.  It comes in all different sizes and colors and is easy to sew or glue onto anything - it even goes around in circles with ease.  Traditionally it is used as an edging, but the best thing that I ever did with it was decorate this acrylic cardigan.  I used two colors of the same size and sewed it on in a swirling meandering pattern all over the front and back of the sweater.  It reminds me of those diagrams for ballroom dancing, but without the footprints.  Whenever I wear it,  people comment on it.  I take that opportunity to ask them if they know what it is.  The over 40 crowd usually does, but the younger crowd needs to be educated.  I consider it my cause to enlighten them on its delightful moniker.  Rick rack.  Its also a good name for a cat!

This is my collection of rick rack that I glued onto a table runner and a pillar candle.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Egg wrapper shoulder shawl

Our grocery order from Fresh Direct arrived this morning.  The eggs are always wrapped in this cool corrugated cardboard accordion thing.  A creative challenge for the day: create an outfit wearing it!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Denim Key Skirt

To my dismay, metal keys are quickly becoming a relic of the past.  And not just the antique skeleton keys of centuries ago but even car keys are becoming superfluous. In this age of electronic scanners and plastic keycards we probably won’t hear the familiar jingle of keys quite so often anymore –our children won’t know what they are and they will go the way of the rotary phone and the typewriter.  Luckily, I have always saved any key that came my way and have a box full of them.

Which brings us to today’s creation.  I recently bought an Old Navy denim skirt at the Salvation Army on 8th Avenue and 21st St.  Denim is like a blank canvas to me – it just begs to be made into  art.  I went through my key box and found six that could hang right underneath the zippers on the front pockets and tried using small gold safety pins to attach them instead of sewing them on.  It worked!  The pins actually add to the industrial look and were much easier to use for attachment than sewing.  Then I found a smaller key and used a short piece of ball and chain to hang it from the front zipper.  Using Aleene’s OK To Wash-It glue, I added some brown flowered trim to the bottom edge of the skirt and was finished in less than a ½ hour!

Does anyone want the denim key skirt?  It is an Old Navy size 8 and I would love to give to someone who would wear it and enjoy it!

One of the keys on the denim skirt came from an old hotel -  I  used the vintage tag and made it into a necklace.