It has been said that “Penney dreams in Technicolor and translates those dreams into her exquisite ART WEAR!” Color, texture and pattern have always fascinated her and been magnets for her attention.
Learning about yarns and fibers from her father, a cotton yarn broker, was just the beginning. After obtaining a degree in Speech and Drama, she pursued her love of all-things-fashion, obtaining a Fashion Merchandising degree from Tobe-Coburn in New York City with an emphasis on Textiles. Her career then led her to a very successful stint as a department store buyer in New Orleans. But challenges in “the fashion capital” lured her back to the New York world of apparel design and manufacturing where she honed her design skills with various women’s apparel companies. In the mid-1970s she was blessed with the life-changing opportunity to spend several years living in the sun-soaked paradise of Nairobi, Kenya.
Life in East Africa reinforced Penney’s life-long sense of the dramatic synergy found in the realm of texture and color. Serendipitously, an introduction to the intriguing world of antique trade beads led to a Kenya Art Center course in Fabric Painting/Batik. Always fascinated by the interplay of surface designs and dramatic colors, she bartered her first animal-inspired batiks for a handful of very old, richly-colored and patterned African beads. Innately creative, she immediately translated those evocative bead designs onto fabric and her first wearable, FIBER ART pieces were born!
On her return to the States she focused her energies in the textile and design realms. Combining her years of fashion industry color expertise with her new love of the magic of dyes floating across fabric, she became a Textile Designer and, eventually, held the position of Design Director for a major international textile firm. At the same time, she formed her own hand-knit sweater business, Cocoons by Penney Clarke, which sold her hand knits to upscale boutiques and shops. Penney is a member of the National Association of Professional Women.
"Travelling with her family as a creatively-awakened child, she was exposed to the diversity and colors of the Caribbean, Central and South America"
In the mid-1980s Penney relocated to south Texas eventually settling into the slow-paced life of the arts haven of Rockport on the Gulf Coast, then relocating to San Antonio following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017. Since leaving New York, she has continued to knit and paint on silks in Batik, to teach workshops on silk painting and, while in San Antonio, was a partner in The Textures Gallery of Fiber Arts where she exhibited her hand-dyed silks as well as her own line of semi-precious stone jewelry.
Many factors have influenced Penney’s artistic sensibilities but her repeated forays into the cultures of other countries have played an integral role in her journey. Travelling with her family as a creatively-awakened child, she was exposed to the diversity and colors of the Caribbean, Central and South America and, then, at age seventeen, spent her first summer travelling throughout Europe. And, through the years, for both business and pleasure, she has continued to travel whenever and wherever possible.
Penney says “A perfect blending of design and coloration is essential for a piece to be spectacular, for it to really ‘pop’….and that is always my aim.” With her innate sense of style, Penney eclectically picks and chooses from among her yarns and ribbons, translating the snippets and images from her sensory memories into ethereal and very feminine wearable art treasures. Therefore, each of Penney’s KnitPicks and WEARABLE ART pieces is not only luxurious but is also truly unique.