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Penny Hall's Profile

About

Hello. I am Penny Hall, a professional artist working out of my studio in Ennis, Montana. I appreciate you stopping by my online shop.

I created my first leather blessing bowl in 2003 as a therapy project. Diagnosed as legally blind I wanted to prove to myself I was NOT blind.

When the second bowl I created brought $450.00 at a fund raiser my art business was born. Unable to continue to work at my job I needed a new means of income and the art seemed like a good place to start.

Today you can find my art in galleries and shops in Montana, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

If you want to learn more about my story you can read the items below. I include a copy of these three things with…

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  • Joined November 29, 2007

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leather

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About

Hello. I am Penny Hall, a professional artist working out of my studio in Ennis, Montana. I appreciate you stopping by my online shop.

I created my first leather blessing bowl in 2003 as a therapy project. Diagnosed as legally blind I wanted to prove to myself I was NOT blind.

When the second bowl I created brought $450.00 at a fund raiser my art business was born. Unable to continue to work at my job I needed a new means of income and the art seemed like a good place to start.

Today you can find my art in galleries and shops in Montana, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.

If you want to learn more about my story you can read the items below. I include a copy of these three things with each purchase.

1. My artist statement.
2. The process I use creating the leather bowls.
3. My personal biography and gallery list.

Artist Statement

I love working with leather. It is unpredictable, much like our journey through life.

Attempts to force the leather into a specific shape can take lots of time and energy producing less than desirable results. If allowed to take on its own form the result is magnificent.

Applications of identical colors and finishes react differently with each piece of leather creating delightful surprises. That is why each piece is one of a kind.

The first leather bowl was crafted after eye surgery as a therapy project to prove I was not blind. The journey through surgeries and ever changing sight brought many lessons. It was as if the leather bowls were reflections of life.

I began seeing them as containers to hold all the good and positive things in life. They represented a willingness on my part to receive blessings, and became my “blessing bowls”.

The most asked question when someone sees the leather bowls for the first time is "What can you put in them?" Much like a basket, they hold anything that is not wet.

No matter what you choose to place in your bowl I trust you will add some of your own blessings as well.

If we focus each day on life’s blessings it will change the way we see our world.

Penny Hall



The Process of Creating Hand Sculpted Leather Blessing Bowls


To me working with leather is a reflection of life. Life is filled with experiences we often label “good” or “bad”. The truth is every experience in life is good.

When we open our minds and hearts to bless both the “good” and “bad” the result is something magnificent to behold. That magnificence is who we are as a result of blending all of life’s experiences and seeing them as good.

That is what you will find in my hand sculpted leather blessing bowls. Each hide I receive represents an animal that lived a full life. That includes brands, scars, cuts and scrapes. I include these character marks in my pieces. Occasionally you will find a piece that is what you might consider flawless, but they are rare.

My work begins with a hide that is so large it covers a dining table that seats six people and rolls off the end onto the floor. The color of the hide is the color of skin. Some are pink toned and others are more of an olive tint.

The hide is thicker and harder in some areas like the shoulders. The belly and sides are softer and thinner. The back of the leather is sometimes smooth and other times rough and stringy.

Since I use every part of the hide in my work you will find a variety of thicknesses and textures. The back of the leather is exposed on all of my pieces and varies due to the nature of the hide.

I cut each piece, soak it, shape and sculpt it and let it air dry for a couple of weeks. Some pieces keep the shape while others over the period of a week may shift and open until it settles where is chooses. I never force them to do something I want them to do. I honor their wishes to be unique and allow them to change shapes as they choose.

Once the pieces are dry I apply several layers of stain. This takes time but I love watching the character of each piece emerge enhanced by the colors of the stain. The more layers I apply the more interesting the marks in the skin become as they shine through. Brands, stretch marks, and cuts add interesting natural design elements to each piece.

The color of the hide changes the color of the stain as it is applied. This makes it impossible to create the same color even if the piece of leather was from the same hide.

Once the front and back of each piece is stained I carefully hand apply with wool daubers and paint brushes an edge coat. Once these dry over night I apply a thin clear acrylic finish to help protect each piece.

The final steps include the addition of any ornaments that might enhance the bowls.

The finished item is the sum total of a long journey from where it began as the remains of an animal that gave its life for us to eat to the beautiful piece of art you hold in your hands.

I designed these unique one of a kind pieces as decorative items. However, they are tough as leather and can hold anything that is not wet. To care for them wipe them clean with a soft dry cloth.

No matter what use you choose for your leather blessing bowl I trust you will be reminded to look at all of your life as good and focus today on life’s many blessings.


Penny Hall's Biography

I always admired and appreciated artists but I never expected to become one myself. Life sort of pushed me into it.

When I met my husband, Ken, in 1994 I traded in my high heels and business suits for hikers and blue jeans and left the hectic city life behind. I followed him from Fort Worth, Texas to Santa Fe, New Mexico and began assisting him in expanding his fine art photography business.

We moved to Taos, New Mexico where I worked in galleries helping a friend expand from one to three galleries. I learned a lot about the business side of art while being exposed to some of the most amazing and talented people on the planet.

For fun I began working with buckskin and elk hides making a flute bag for my husband’s Native American style cedar flute. Being around so much authentic native art kindled my own native heritage.

My husband’s free spirit and love of fly-fishing guided our adventures from New Mexico, to Colorado and north to the Madison Valley of Montana. Not long after our arrival I became aware of shifts in my sight and in 2003 was diagnosed as legally blind.

I did not want the word “blind” to stick in my mind so I decided to find a therapy project to work on between eye surgeries to prove to myself I was not blind. I saw a photograph of a leather bowl and was fascinated by the fact that it would hold its shape. I purchased the materials required and set out to make my own.

A tragic incident occurred in our community during that week between eye surgeries. I donated my second bowl to be auctioned off at a fundraiser. The bowl I donated raised four hundred and fifty dollars. I decided maybe I could make more and sell them at our local art show to help with my surgery expenses.

Over the next few days I created a nice selection. Just before the art show my retina detached. In less than forty-eight hours I was in the hospital undergoing major eye surgery. That event changed my life.

During the long recovery I was unable to drive or work. Living in a town of less than a thousand people in rural Montana limits ones job choices. Much of the economy depends upon a very short tourist season.


With the help of Blind and Low Vision services I was given tools to help me continue to work with my art. Each time my sight changed I learned to adjust to doing everything in a new and different way.

Forced to live and move through life differently opened me up to new possibilities. I learned to shift my focus. I let go of fear and began to look for and see only the good. I started seeing the bowls as a container to hold all the good in life. They became my blessing bowls.

The leather taught me not to force my will by trying to make the leather fit the shape I wanted. I learned to work with its tendencies allowing it to dictate the final outcome. In time I accepted the fact that what I think should happen with a color application is not nearly as awesome as what actually does happen when it blends with the natural color of the hide.

The creative process of working with the leather was enhancing my inner growth. And, at the same time it was necessary for me to reach out and begin to develop my art business.

Calling upon my experiences in marketing and working in galleries I developed a gift line that would sell for under a hundred dollars. My husband helped me design tags and an artist statement telling the story of how my blessing bowls came to be. I included a copy with each of my pieces.

Thanks to the internet I searched for galleries and shops with a web site. I looked to see if my work would fit in their shop then sent them an email and photos. That first winter I placed my work in eighteen outlets.

The art shows I participated in locally were a wonderful success. People loved the leather and related to my story. One woman ordered forty bowls at my first show.

Everywhere I go people stop me to tell me how they got one of my blessing bowls, where it resides in their home and how they use it. Many of them are altar pieces and others hold something special.

Today you can find my leather art in galleries and gift shops in Montana, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Colorado, North Carolina and New Mexico. I have private collectors all over the United States as well as foreign countries.

My sight is restored now but I continue to grow along with my art business. I share my story and lessons through writing, speaking, mentoring and of course my blessing bowls.

Ken and I live, work and play in Ennis, Montana along the Madison River in magnificent Big Sky Country.
Galleries and Gift Shops

Artquest Gallery
Hinsdale, Illinois

Artquest West
Ketchum, Idaho

B. Bar Ranch
Emigrant, Montana

Creighton Block Gallery
Virginia City, Montana

Earthwood Artisans
Estes Park, Colorado

Earthworks Gallery
Waynesville, North Carolina

Madison Crossing Home Room
West Yellowstone, Montana

Portiera Designs
Breckenridge, Colorado

Primary Elements Gallery
Cannon Beach, Oregon

Shining Mountain Gallery
Pray, Montana

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