Penelope's highlights local artisans' talents
Penny Autry is doing her part for art.
She has opened Penelope’s: A Whimsical Gallery of Artistic Creations at 230 South First St. in downtown Union City — where she features a gallery of work by various artisans.
Ms. Autry said the shop offers a variety of art provided by mostly local artisans, with 90 percent of the artwork being from Obion and Weakley counties.
She said she wanted to offer artists, in addition to herself, a way to display their talents. “It’s an opportunity to turn their passion into profit,” she explained.
The artisans and items currently featured at Penelope’s include watercolor artists Barbara Buchanan, Judith Oliver, Paula Woody and Pam Petersen; jewelry designers Janice Yates, Patricia Twilla, Linda St. Clair and Diane Sisco; gourmet specialties that include dip mixes, seasonings, candy, teas and chocolates; pottery-makers Clint Riley and Joan Odom; photographers Chris Smith and Wallace Covington; one-stroke instructor and painter Charlie Boyd; paintings and drawings by Wilda Dyer, Lori Fulbright, Billie Ragsdale, Ben Walker, D.J. Caudle, Pat Wade and Erica Williams; fun frames and pots by Libby Carson; the “Girlfriends” collection by Ann Reed and Shirley Moran; etched glass artist Kenneth Hunt; trash art artist Bob Thomas (“Moon Man”); textured art designer Jim Smith; Dayna Bags, including purses, pillows and diaper bags, as well as monogramming of items; stained glass artist Joyce Bell; crochet and knitting by Jenny Kemp and Lauren Richards; school spirit shadow boxes by Joyce Klidies; floral designer Beverly Gidcumb; photographer Tim Brady, who has photo prints that are also currently displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Washington, D.C.; hats and totes by Terri Brady; appliquéd children’s items by Connie Vaughn; and Ms. Autry’s own offering of reinvented furniture.
Ms. Autry said Penelope’s “is a fun place” and she doesn’t want the shop to feel cold and uninviting. She said it is painted with vibrant colors to make the store feel “fun and funky” and it features artistic conversation pieces such as the Penelope’s mosaic wall and the “artsy” handpainted countertop.
She said she is thrilled with the number of artisans already featured at the shop, which has quickly been filled.
“There are fears when you open a new business and I suppose mine were ‘Will I be able to get enough local art to fill up my store’ and, of course, the big question is ‘Will Union City support us?,’” Ms. Autry said. “I have been overwhelmed with the steady flow of customers, all the positive feedback and the support of our town.
“While shooting downtown Union City (recently), a Southern Living photographer wandered into the shop. Who knows if any of the many pictures he took of our store will see the pages of the magazine, but how fortunate we were to just be photographed.
“I am excited to be in downtown Union City again. My heart is down here. I have spent most of my adult life working for other retailers and to have a shop of my own has finally become a reality,” she said.
Ms. Autry explained that Penelope’s is a way to showcase all of the local talent.
“A lot of our items are products of reinvention or recycled,” she said. “I take used furniture and turn it into something artsy and functional. The pottery, some of the stone jewelry, Bob’s trash art, mosaic — all an example of recycling something into an art form. The stained glass designer and the many painted saw blades are also reinvented art.”
Ms. Autry said she has many ideas and some exciting plans for Penelope’s, adding that she believes a store of this type “is long overdue.” She plans to book review clubs, bunko groups, birthdays, a girls’ night out and more.
“I want the community to be a part of what’s going on in downtown Union City,” she said. “Mom and pop shops are going to be a thing of the past if we, as consumers, don’t do something about it. Items made in China and mass merchandisers are killing the American artist.”
In addition to Ms. Autry, em-ployees at Penelope’s include her mother and mentor Shirley Moran and close friend Patty Moyers.
“Mom has always kept me focused and has taught me well by example,” Ms. Autry said. “She’s so talented and has opened the doors of creativity to me all my life. I was sewing my Barbie™ clothes at age eight and Mom has always been there right by my side, pushing me forward, encouraging me to follow my heart.”
Penelope’s offers classes for both children and adults. Instructors include Ms. Autry, as well as other artists at the shop. The first children’s class will be Saturday and will offer an opportunity to be creative with pumpkins, as well as face painting and a Halloween treat bag for the participants.
“We have a lot in store for people who are interested in taking our classes,” she said. “It’s a great way to get out with the girls and have a fun and creative night or day out. We also offer birthday art parties for children of all ages.”
Anyone interested in receiving information about upcoming events at the shop can e-mail their address to email@example.com to receive e-newsletters that go out once a month.
Penelope’s is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
For more information, call Penelope’s at (731) 335-2300.