A chef by trade, Penny has been teaching Cooking at the Folk School since 2000. In 2008, she also started teaching Quilting, Sewing, and Needlework. Let’s get to know Penny a little more. Enjoy our interview!
Cory: Where are you from, and where do you currently live?
Penny: I grew up in Pennsylvania and now I live in Raleigh. I’ve lived in North Carolina since 1972. I wasn’t born in North Carolina but I got here as fast as I could!
Cory: How did you become involved with the Folk School?
Penny: In 1995, I saw an article in Early American Life Magazine about the Folk School. I told a good friend of mine that we had to go. I took a weekend class with Jan Stansell on chair seat weaving. It was so much fun. At closing ceremony, I saw all of the other classes and started a bucket list of things I wanted to take. I still haven’t taken some of the classes that were on that original bucket list – I keep adding new ones to it! When Davidson Hall was being built, and I learned that it had a Cooking Studio, I knew that was something I could teach. My husband David, whose career was all about wine, and I taught a “Food and Wine of France” class in July of 2000. It was one of the first cooking classes. A few years, later I proposed a few quilting and sewing ideas to Pat Meinecke.

Quilter’s Garden by Penny Prichard

Molly (the dog) stands next to an Irish Chain sampler quilt Penny designed as an inspiration quilt for an Irish Chain class.

Red & Gold Christmas Quilt by Penny Prichard

Cory: Why do you like teaching at the Folk School?
Penny: Because of the culture of the Folk School. So many interesting people. So much creativity. I like the emphasis on process, rather than product. When I am thinking of what to teach, I try to find things that are flexible and contain different skills, so students can learn what they want. I really enjoy working with the staff, Tammy and Kim, Diane, in the office. Everyone is so kind and competent. It is just a joy.
Teaching and sharing my knowledge and experiences with others gets me excited about my craft. My teaching philosophy is heavily influenced by two schools of Pedagogy; Teaching for Understanding and Constructivist teaching. When I am preparing for a class I think about what I want the folks to learn, to be able to incorporate in their creative life in the future, and then I try and come up with a project or group of recipes that will incorporate those skills. As I am teaching, I encourage folks to ask me questions and let me know what they want to learn. One time, one of the folks in my cooking class said he wanted to know more about the chemistry of cooking. It was great fun pulling up that knowledge and sharing it with him.

Autumnal Quilted Wall Hanging

Cory: You teach in two subject genres that are pretty different from one another: Cooking and Fiber Arts/Quilting. That’s unique! How did you become involved in each craft? How is teaching quilting different than teaching cooking?
Penny: Great question! I became involved in cooking because I grew up in the hospitality industry. My father was a hotel manager. Some of my earliest memories are of “working” the switch board (the old kind with the plugs and cords like Lily Tomlin uses) and sitting on a stainless steel table in the kitchen and having the chef cook for me. True story – my parents would not allow me to cook! I think I started cooking as an act of defiance! Pretty smart of my parents to channel my rebellion that way! My first cookbook was The Vincent Price Cookbook, A Treasury of Great Recipes. It is a gorgeous leather bound book. He was quite the gourmand and to prepare for this book, he went all over the world to famous restaurants and got the recipes for their signature dishes. There are gorgeous pictures of the restaurants, the dishes and the menus. He has everything in there from Bouillabaisse to Hot Dogs.
I got my start in Fiber Arts at a very early age as well. My grandmother, Marion Lord, was a weaver. She founded the Philadelphia Guild of Handweavers. My cousins and I used to love playing in her weaving studio. When my family spent the night, I slept on a French Bed in the studio. I have the loom that my grandfather built for my grandmother. Grandma taught me to knit and sent me to Penland to learn to weave. She was an amazing woman. I started quilting after my kids were born. Their paternal grandmother had some tops from her grandmother and wanted to get them finished. I think that piqued my interest. My wool applique and embroidery grew out of the quilting community. Going to conferences and taking classes.

Wool Applique Without Embellishments

Flower Wool Applique Project

Heart-shaped pin cushion

“Penny Rugs”

Cory: Describe your quilting style.
Penny: I like small pieces. I would rather spend time on an intricate pattern than use big pieces and produce a top in a short amount of time. I have been quilting for a long time. I have to slow myself down because you can only have so many quilts! I love the piecing part and the design part. I love working with different colors. Sometimes I will purposefully choose a palette out of my comfort zone just to get experience working with those colors and textures.
Cory: Do you have a favorite motif or pattern?
Penny: In quilting, I love Irish Chain. It is such a clean design, and you can do so much with it. I also really like the Medallion style of quilting – strong center motif, patterns repeated around that. In wool applique, I have to think about this, I guess my favorite genre would be folk art. I love the simple flower shapes in strong colors. My favorite embroidery stitch is Pekinese – it is a two part stitch. You lay down a running stitch and then you go back, sometimes with another color, and do a loop through those stitches. It can be very loose and lace like or more controlled and looking like a braid.

Students work on projects in Penny’s recent Irish Chain Quilting class.

Cory: What type of cuisine do you specialize in and why?
Penny: In 1989 I went to work for SAS Institute in Cary as director of dining services. My philosophy was; I have the same 4 walls and the same population of customers, the only thing I can change is the food. I had 16 items on the menu that NEVER repeated. I was constantly coming up with new dishes. I would get an issue of Fine Cooking or a new cookbook and pull a week’s worth of recipes. I had a salad bar and a sandwich bar with stable items but the soups, entrees and desserts were constantly changing.We served everything from Sushi to Hot Brown’s.
As a result, I have a broad repertoire of favorites. I love Tuscan Cuisine because it emphasizes seasonal food. I love to bake bread and always spend a day in my week long classes exploring the bread of that week’s featured cuisine. For my birthday dinner, I always want Cheese souffle. The French codified cuisine so, of course, I love several of the regions of France for their food and wine. I am excited that next year I am going to teach a class in Caribbean Cuisine, that’s a fun one to explore with all of its influences.

Penny teaches a class in the Cooking Studio.

Davidson Hall, home to our Cooking Studio, Music Studio, Wet Room Studio (spinning, dyeing, felting, surface design), and student housing.

View of our Herb Garden from the Cooking Studio.

Cory: What are your favorite memories of the Folk School?
Penny: Meeting so many interesting people. One time I stayed in Orchard House. The house was filled with women, and we all gathered in the living room in the evening. One night in particular, there was a fascinating discussion about living in a Kibbutz (a communal settlement in Israel, typically a farm). It wasn’t so much the topic as it was the gathering of all of these women from all walks of life, with all of their experience sharing a conversation. 
Cory: Who or what inspires you?
Penny: Lots of things. I get really inspired by my students. When I teach I want them to have a wonderful experience and to go home with some new skills. I feed off of their energy and creativity. I get excited about new things.
Cory: Do you have a favorite place on campus?
Penny: The Cooking Studio. It is so gorgeous. I love being in there, the herb garden across the way, the mountains in the distance. Often times there is music lilting down from the music studio and something fun going on next door with fibers. 
Cory: Tell me a favorite Folk School memory.
Penny: There are so many wonderful memories.
I love taking people there for their first time and introducing them to the Folk School.
One time my husband David and I were teaching a cooking class. We had to get up super early, get the car packed with all sorts of food; go to Raleigh, pick up my niece; drive 5 or so hours to Boone where my son was living, drop my niece and the dog off; drive another 3 hours to the folk school; hurry, hurry, stress, stress. Coming down Setawig and turning onto Brasstown Rd. just felt so much like coming home. All the stresses were released and all the hassle was completely worth it.
Meeting David Baker for the first time. I was assisting in a quilt class and thought it would be fun to have a masseuse come to class. The office gave me two names, I called them both but David responded first. Seeing him for the first time was magical and that magic continues to this day, he is one of my very favorite people, as he is, I know, for a lot of people. 
I can talk about the Folk School for hours. Can’t wait until I can get back there. It is such a healing and nourishing place.

Lavender & Gold Medallion Quilt by Penny Prichard

About Penny Prichard

Penny enjoys a life filled with cooking and fine crafts, nurturing creativity, and the desire to create things by hand. She has been a Folk School instructor in Cooking since 2000, in Quilting & Sewing since 2008, and most recently, Needlework. Penny has been an avid quilter for over 35 years and has branched out into many other fiber arts — sewing, knitting, needlework, weaving, and basket making. Her latest focus is working with wool appliqué. Penny’s whole life has been involved with catering and restaurants. An award-winning chef and cookbook author, she specializes in breads and the foods of France and Tuscany. Her approach to food is both practical and fun, inspiring her students’ cooking for years to come.

Penny Prichard was a panelist for our Appalachian Traditions discussion series. On April 27, 2020, she joined Sue Williams and Pepper Cory for a virtual discussion with instructors from our master-artist-led series on traditional Appalachian craft.
Originally Recorded:
Monday, April 27, at 4 p.m. EST
Appalachian Traditions: Basketry & Quilting
Sue Williams, TN, Basketry
Pepper Cory, NC, Quilting
Penny Prichard, NC, Quilting
This free, hour-long conversation provides a space for instructors in traditional craft to share their personal stories and discuss their creative process. We’ll explore the historic role of craft in Appalachia, examine its continued relevance today, and learn how practitioners are working to promote their craft and inspire the next generation of traditional makers.
View the recording below.

Gallery of Penny’s Work

Take a Look Inside Penny’s Classroom

Cory Marie Podielski
About Cory Marie Podielski

Cory Marie Podielski is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and writer for the John C. Campbell Folk School. She has been writing for the Folk School Blog since 2012 and enjoys interviewing artists, musicians, and craftspeople. In her spare time, she enjoys playing the banjo, dancing, printmaking, playing in clay, and assisting in Folk School bread baking classes. podielski.com