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By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Entering Teresa’s living room, it was easy to see her inspiration starts at home. Bookshelves lined the walls filled with an eclectic collection of books on music and musicians like Radio Birdman, Nico, The Velvet Underground and Ramones, comic books and graphic novels as well as science fiction authors like Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard. The other walls held CD’s and DVD’s, two guitars, band posters and, of course, beads. There were beads in tubes, tubs and tins in all colors of the rainbow on shelves, the floor and hanging on the walls. Teresa also collects antique beads and African beaded jewelry from estate and garage sales.

Below, Teresa working in her studio.

Although Teresa didn’t get into beads until her mid-twenties, her interest in comic book super heroines and graphic novels goes back to childhood. As a kid, she loved to read Richie Rich and Mad Magazines. According to Teresa, she drew all the time, making her own paper doll clothes and comics, “I was even doing my own graphic novels before I even knew what a graphic novel was and doing my own cartoons.

So it’s no surprise that her seed bead sculptures depict super heroines. And although her current work is comic book inspired, it was her job at a tile factory that got her started in beadwork. She said, “I took home some clay and started making my own ceramic beads and around the same time I finally got my ears pierced so I made my own little earrings.” After that, Teresa was hooked on beads.

At first, she was only interested in chunky, trade beads which she felt had more history and cultural significance. “In the same way we wear a wedding ring to tell that we’re married, there are people who wear beaded adornment that tells others that, I’m ready to marry or I am married and have a son that’s a warrior.” And even in recent times, Teresa sees beads as a way to make a statement, “When Nelson Mandela showed up for his trial wearing western clothes and traditional bead work. It can have a non verbal impact. You wear it and the message gets through. It’s interesting that way.

While working in clay beads, Teresa joined the Portland Bead Society and took a class from Baltimore artist, Joyce Scott. It was in that class Teresa found a way to use beads to tell her own unique stories. Teresa explained, “When I saw Joyces’ work, I instantly saw a connection to the comic book style, the graphic representation that you could do and also the narrative aspect of it. Beads have always been a method for storytelling, so that really grabbed me. And with a two day class from her, you could stay busy for the next ten years with all the information and inspiration. So that got me going in a very fun way. And I guess I took it from there.

There are times when Teresa has a specific concept or character in mind when she starts sculpting one of her unique beaded art pieces. Other times, it’s the process itself that leads her. “Sometimes, I don’t start to get ideas for the piece itself that work until I just start working without specific goals in mind. So it does help to just dive in and let myself get a little bored and try something else, something new.

Teresa’s very first sculpture was a seed bead eyeball complete with optic nerve. Since then, she’s done super women sculptures and seed bead paintings inspired by 60’s comic books as well as jewelry. A recent jewelry piece includes a cryptic note she found at an estate sale. Teresa said, “There’s a story there, so I can laminate and incorporate it in a necklace and you can read it.

Sculpting figures and tapestry-like pictures out of seed beads is an exacting and detailed sewing process. According to Teresa, “You put three beads on, skip three beads and sew through the next three beads about twenty thousand times.

Now her beadwork keeps her so busy with new projects, teaching classes from Seattle, San Luis Obispo to Detroit, she sometimes forgets to water her plants. But it wasn’t always this way. While working at the tile factory, Teresa began exploring how she could make her art, her full-time work. She got books out of the library and took more classes. It was one of those classes that led her closer to her path, “While taking a year long beadwork class that was about the creative process, a bead store owner told me that she was going to expand her business, and I started working for her and was around beads a lot.

That led to working in several bead stores around town, teaching more classes for bead societies and guilds across the country, and showing her work here in town at Beet Gallery as well as in New York and Tokyo. And her exploration of beadwork as an art form just keeps expanding because she believes, “As artists, we push the notions of what is real. We’re making tangible objects, but they come out of our imagination.

When you enter the world of Teresa Sullivan’s imagination, you see real objects sewn seed bead by seed bead representing the power, strength and beauty of women. It is a powerful message for the maker as well as the viewer, and new territory that breaks the old cultural stereotype of beadwork. And Teresa’s glad to be a part of it, “The whole modern bead work genre is so new it’s kind of like the Wild West, unexplored territory, and that’s one thing that I really like about it. There aren’t a whole lot of people representing this science fiction, comics, rock n roll, crazy wild stuff in beads, I’m happy to fill it.

You can watch Teresa sewing seed beads into sculptural superwomen during Portland Open Studios Tour, October 18-19th.

Buy your tour guide from the Portland Open Studios web site or at any Art Media or New Seasons near you.

You can see more of Teresa’s work on her website at, and listen to a podcast interview with Teresa here.

Above, Teresa in her bead filled studio.


By Shu-Ju Wang

Below, panel 4 in the Affirmative Isolation mural from Proto Illuminations series, by Shelley Hershberger.

A self-described depressed-optimist, Shelley Hershberger is analytical, thoughtful, realistic, and yet always passionate and hopeful. You see this in how she lives, what she’s trying to achieve in her life, and in what she paints.

In order to spend more of her time making art, she recently moved into a smaller house with a detached studio. The studio’s uncontaminated gray water goes directly into the garden, and her plants are thriving. As the Portland Open Studios Board Administrator, she actively—and proactively—ensures that we are on the right track to put together successful events for this year and for years to come.

Always concerned about environmental, social, and political issues, she engages the art-loving public through the subject matters that she chooses, but she never hits you over the head with it. You can walk away satisfied at having seen the beautiful imagery and iconography, or you can delve deeper to decipher the mysteries behind the beauty.

While completing her post-bac degree in Fine Art at PSU, Shelley became fascinated by how subtle shifts in line weight, composition or palette can alter the connotations of universal symbols and ancient iconography. She drew upon local historical references and contemporary news images from Iraq to create a series of mixed media works regarding the impact of war on women and children, incorporating visual influences from two contemporary female artists—Shirin Neshat of Iran and Shahzia Sikander of Pakistan. But when the pieces were finished, she started questioning, “Who am I to work with Middle Eastern imagery? What of my own visual heritage; how might I incorporate the iconography of my Northern European ancestry into a contemporary context. But what would that be?

Answer came in the form of an old journal she inherited from her great-great-grandfather, an English physician who, in 1820, had traveled through Wales and written down his observations of that early industrialization period. When Shelley transcribed the journal, she was inspired to connect our individual and shared flickering ancestral memories to the present, through iconography. She studied Northern European artifacts from the first millennium, illuminated manuscripts, and medieval floor tiles for inspiration.

She states, “At first, no matter how I worked with the imagery, the result reminded me of the Crusades. I was disgusted, apologetic. But I was also fascinated and supremely conscious of the connections between the fundamentalist, top-down behavior of those darkened ages with what’s happening in the world today.

Since then, she has been on a gallop, creating work that she’s passionate about; that references our past with our present; that asks, “How do we illuminate our lives today“, and “Are we making any progress?

Using traditional and her own newly invented icons, she paints, layers, takes away, and layers again, to juxtapose masculine and feminine, ancient and contemporary, rigid and loose, degradation and recovery. Always searching for balance; always looking for ways to counter division with unification, and war with peace.

Starting with simple patterns, her paintings are thought provoking and anything but simple. Just ask her about them when you visit her during Portland Open Studios, and you will see this artist animated and energized by her concerns.

Shelley is also an accomplished printmaker, bringing her painting skills to the printing press in creating monoprints that result from a combination of relief, collographic, non-toxic intaglio and monotype techniques. You can see Shelley’s paintings and prints, and her wonderful studio environment, during both weekends of Portland Open Studios, on October 11, 12, 18, and 19.

To see more of Shelley’s work, go to her web site at

Above, a “working” wall in Shelley’s studio.

By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Brenda has been on both sides of Portland Open Studios Tour. First, she was a visitor on the tour, watching artists’ demonstrations in their studios. Now, she’s teaching other artists on the tour how to demonstrate their work to tour visitors.

Below, Brenda doing her “how to demo demo” during a workshop.

For those of you who go on Portland Open Studios Tour, you may not realize all that goes into making it work every year. There are meetings, committees, and assignments that cover legal issues, signage, publicity, website information, graphic art for the tour guide and map, tour guide sales, studio safety, artwork exhibition, and demonstration techniques. Portland Open Studios Tours have been running for a decade, thanks to the expertise and dedication of artists like Brenda.

As part of my cluster group, I met Brenda at the very first meeting. Her calm professional attitude mixed with her contagious enthusiasm, really got me excited about being part of 2008 Portland Open Studios Tour. I got the chance to ask Brenda how she went from visitor to tutor and here are her answers.

Q. Why did you decide to go on the studio tour the first time?

A. I heard about Portland Open Studios from a friend who told me that all the artists are working in their studios. I was very curious to see how other artists’ created their own work and how they worked in their studios. I was also interested in seeing what caliber of art we had in Portland. It was the connection that I needed because I am so isolated in my own workspace/studio.

Q. When was that?

A. I believe my first trip out to Portland Open Studios was in 1999 or 2000.

Q. Can you remember specific artists/studios that you visited that inspired you?

A. I heard about Kitty Wallis, so she was a definite stop. Her workspace and intimate studio setting as well as her love of teaching while she was demonstrating her work was very inspiring. I loved the colors of her work and wild mark-making! She had a sign-up sheet for those who were interested in taking a workshop from her, so I signed up!

I also remember visiting Kimberly Gales, Gene Gill, Pam Green, Dawn Phelps McConnell as well as a few ceramicists, glass blowers and collage artists. Sometimes I’d make it to a studio that was just a few doors down from one I had visited and found something that was truly unique. Each artist was very unique from the other. All inspiring!

Q. Over the years, what volunteer jobs have you done for Portland Open Studios and what, if anything, have they taught you?

A. I’ve held many volunteer jobs with Portland Open Studios. My first was Volunteer Tracking. I was asked to talk to the artists in the workshop about volunteering, and I didn’t know what to say. I’ve also sold Tour Guides at events, and done the Demo on how to demo for the August workshops. I’ve also been doing the pre-press sales and I get a kick out of that job. I learned that I’m good with sales. It’s fun to call and talk to the patrons, especially after a few years, now they know my voice and my name.

Q. Tell me about the benefits of Portland Open Studio for the artist before and after the event.

A. A huge benefit to Portland Open Studios is the networking with other artists and getting inside the art community. One of the biggest benefits I’ve had is through the pre-press sales. Through that, I’ve met and spoken with art gallery owners and art organization leaders educating them on the event. From this, my name is recognized or at least they’ve heard of me. As an artist, this is a big part of marketing my own work.

I’ve formed friendships with other artists through this organization that have lasted over the years. These artists also know other artists, and before you know it, you have networked with dozens of artists in very little time. Because of the friendships I’ve made, I’ve gotten many other opportunities. We’ve hung our shows together, shared information about the community, helped each other when in need, creating critique groups, gathering for paint-outs, the list goes on.

Q. You’ve gone from tour visitor to tutoring artists who are new to the tour…how did you get from there to here?

A. I guess I’ve gone from being a visitor to tutor pretty quickly, but it didn’t happen overnight! This only happened because I said yes to the opportunity. Over the course of my 4 previous Open Studios, I’ve shared how I paint to the visiting public. This easily transitions to teaching artists on how to demonstrate their work. I’ve tried out a few different ways on how to demonstrate, as well as viewing the artists in the tour who are demonstrating, and learning what worked and, what doesn’t! There are some truly exciting demonstrating artists out there.

Q. What advice would you give artists who are considering applying to Portland Open Studios for next year?

A. If you’re considering being an Open Studio artist, ask yourself these questions: What can you give back? Do you consider yourself to be a professional artist, or want to be? What makes your work special and can you share that with others?

You can see Brenda at work in her studio during the Portland Open Studios Tour this year October 11, 12 or 18 and 19 by picking up a Tour Guide at many retail locations around the Portland metro area and any Art Media or New Seasons. See Portland Open Studios for a complete list of retail locations.

Visit Brenda Boylan’s website at

Above, Brenda doing a demo for visitors in her studio.

By Morgan Madison

Below, Green Apple on Yellow, oil on wood box by Suzy Kitman.

North Portland artist Suzy Kitman has a New York flair and speaks candidly about her passion and process. In order to be successful, she says: “You have to find the medium that engages your brain and your heart.” Through a winding career that has taken her from New York to Montana and ultimately Portland she has found her medium to be painting. Her portraits, in particular, readily show the connection between logic and emotion by being technically sound and layered with nuance and feeling. The results are revealing about human nature and offer an engaging glimpse into the unique personalities of her subjects.

Though Suzy has grown into an accomplished portrait painter, she is as surprised as anyone that this is the case. Born to creative parents, she grew up in the New York area and was focused on the arts from an early age, but came to painting a bit later. She went to Kenyon College in Ohio where she received a BA in art, studying drawing, print and photography. From there she returned to New York and experimented with a variety of careers including; graphic design, catering and illustration. One of her most formative endeavors, though, was working at the Met as a patina artist.

Being in the presence of master work and a museum environment stoked her interest in realism, and the careful eye she had to develop in order to re-create patinas was a natural catalyst for this burgeoning interest. Around this time Suzy also began to re-consider her use of materials. She experimented with painting and developed a passion for its hands on nature and a slow deliberate process. Further refinement of her approach occurred during her pursuit of an MFA at the University of Montana which culminated in her thesis exhibit: Night Flying Babies, an ethereal series of paintings that explore themes of power and freedom.

Below, Night Flying 4 Ellie, oil on canvas by Suzy Kitman.

Suzy is currently pursuing a number of different series which include: blushing and voluptuous fruits, doll still lifes and non-traditional portraits that convey personality in unexpected ways. Suzy has come to approach painting as a “meditation of seeing” and emphasizes the need to be wholly present and observant. This conscious decision has formed the core of her artistic personality, and it is readily apparent in the way her work honors its subjects.

Suzy’s work can be seen at The White Bird Gallery in Cannon Beach and through September 15th at the Albina Community Bank in St. Johns. She also shares her passion as an artist through teaching classes at the Multnomah Arts Center and the Portland Art Museum. It is an incomparable experience though to visit the artist at her studio in North Portland and actually see her works in progress and witness first-hand the passion she brings to the creation of her sensitive and insightful living images.

To see more of Suzy’s work, visit her web site at

Portland Open Studios Homepage

Learn more about the Open Studios weekends, where to purchase tour guides, see images of each artist's work, find links to artists' web sites, and much more at Portland Open Studios.


Listen to interviews with Portland Open Studios artists (and more) at Mike Turner's website.


September 2008
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