We first noticed the artwork of Penny L. Richards when she created beautiful upcycled cases using vintage Library of Congress images posted on the Flickr Commons. We were thrilled when she used two images from the State Library and Archives of Florida, which she found on our Flickr Commons photostream. We decided to interview Penny Richards to learn more.
Tell us about yourself.
Penny Richards: I’m Penny Richards, I’m a mom at home in Redondo Beach, California, and a research scholar affiliated with UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women. I sometimes teach art in my kids’ school, and I run or contribute to about 10 blogs (but most of them aren’t mine).
How did you become interested in vintage photographs?
PR: My PhD is in Education, but I’ve always done historical projects, and I’m currently president of the Disability History Association, so it’s mostly from my academic work. I had been gathering disability history and women’s history images from the Library of Congress holdings for a while before the Flickr Commons project started, so it was easy for me to get involved there when it did start.
How do you convert a purse or case into a piece of art?
Well, each one is different, but the basic steps are in this tutorial.
What drew you to these particular photographs (the flying automobile and the woman with camera)?
A good image for my purposes is clear and has all its edges—meaning, I can cut out a person or an object without losing any of the outline—and it’s a good shape for the bag. Most portraits are vertical, but most bags and cases are square or horizontal, so that’s always a challenge.
The flying car just made me smile, and I knew it could be printed onto different papers and cut into pieces for more definition, almost like the anatomical sections of an insect. I also didn’t mind the blurry propeller because that was easy to paint in. The woman who owns that case is a crafter based in Orange County, who loves strong color and offbeat images.
The woman with the camera is just lovely, she has a pleasant expression and she’s looking straight at the viewer (in so many older portraits of women, that’s not true); I’ve used that one a couple times, because I figure a lot of people who’d like my bags would also like photography. The woman who bought that case works in animation, so I guess I was on target there!