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Life and Work with Penney Bidwell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Penney Bidwell.

Can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today. You can include as little or as much detail as you’d like.
I came into the world on April Fools’ Day, 1968, and was born into the carnival. My mother had been an accomplished ballerina and carnival showgirl, while my father was a third-generation carnie on one of the largest traveling carnivals. My great grandmother was the tattooed lady in the early 1920s.

As a child, I spent many hours in my room making things. I loved anything crafty and hands-on. I always loved art but my family never went to museums or galleries so my exposure to traditional art was limited. As a first-generation college student, my parents encouraged me to study something “practical.” I put art on the back burner and studied Economics.

After years of working with a therapist, enjoying the process of self-discovery and healing, I decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology. I was intrigued with Carl Jung and his archetypes. Archetypes continue to fascinate me and often find their way into my artwork. Eventually, I came to terms with the fact that what keeps me up at night and gets me out of bed in the morning is the combination of self-discovery and art. I began to consider an alternate career as an artist.

Each ceramic figure I make emerges from the clay directly from my subconscious—characters of imagination, past experiences, family stories, fairy tales, and dreams. They are soulful beings, reflective of my deep inner-experiences and vulnerabilities.

My intent is not to control my inspirations but to remain open and let the imagery inspire me as it develops. My subconscious guides my hands, and the story unfolds as I work. The mystery of not knowing where a piece will take me and what I will discover is part of the process that inspires me.

Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way? Any advice for other women, particularly young women who are just starting their journey?
I began my career as a full-time mother with young children. Most parents struggle to find balance between work and home. Taking care of my children full-time did not allow me much time or energy to create artwork. Luckily I had a supportive husband and opportunities to allow me the opportunity to take art classes in the evening. I found a wonderful support system through The Denver Art Students League. I could take classes and have open studio time. I found emotional and career support among the faculty and my peers. I made connections to art galleries and found venues to sell my art through the league.

The business of selling art presented new challenges marketing and finding sales opportunities. This added an additional time constraint to my schedule. Fortunately, I connected with Alyson Stanfield at Art Biz Success. She helped me learn the business side of selling art.

Although my children don’t need as much hands-on parenting anymore, I still struggle to strike a balance between home and work and making art and art marketing. My best advice for other women is to find supportive networks through family, friends, and organizations.

We’d love to learn more about your work. What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of as a brand, organization or service provider? What sets you apart from others?
I am a figurative sculptor who works predominately in ceramics. I am mostly self-taught. I work intuitively and my work is a direct reflection of my subconscious. I don’t always understand the meaning behind my work but I trust in my creative process. When I create something from a deep and authentic place I believe people connect with it. On a subconscious level this evokes something internal and relatable within themselves. Some people find the work frightening and others find it whimsical. I value both responses to my work. Even a negative response evokes an internal reaction.

On a technical level, my sculptural pieces are handbuilt from clay and combine slips, stains, glazes, and occasionally found objects. I apply several layers of pigments and continue to fire them until I achieve the desired outcome. It is a laborious process and usually takes at least a month to fully finish a piece.

So much of the media coverage is focused on the challenges facing women today, but what about the opportunities? Do you feel there are any opportunities that women are particularly well-positioned for?
As a mother, one opportunity that came my way is being part of a mom’s group. We took care of each other’s children and supported one another. It was these women that first encouraged me to pursue my dream. I found opportunities through exploring my community, whether it was in an art class, through local galleries, or open calls for submission. There are many art shows and groups that promote women. Recently I was invited to join a gallery that is woman-owned and all the artists are women. When you look for opportunities you will find them.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 800 W. 9th Ave.
    Denver, CO 80204
  • Website: www.penneybidwell.com
  • Phone: 720-883-7165
  • Email: prbidwell@earthlink.net
  • Instagram: @penney_bidwell
  • Facebook: Penney Bidwell, Bidwell Studios LLC


Image Credit:
Meg Reul, photographer credit for photo of the Artist. All other photographs taken by the artist.

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