Some people and places seem to possess an almost tangible hospitality, an unnameable pull drawing others in. It’s the sort of thing that similes are made for: like moths to a flame, like flies to honey, whatever it is—creative powerhouses Teresa Roche and Barb Blair have it.
Let’s call it “welcome.” Stepping into Art & Light, the West Greenville art studio and gallery guided and curated by Roche, is akin to coming home: it’s familiar, it’s warm, it’s inviting. Such a place is built for gathering and sharing ideas and inspiration. Roche’s own paintings incorporate this same sense of storytelling: abstract images of laundry hanging to dry, design-focused color schemes, and layers of texture and line. Made for home.
One could find that same magnetic home-welcome in Knack Studio, former storefront for Blair: a space displaying her furniture designs and thoughtful home décor. It was more than a store, it was a place for gathering, for sharing ideas and inspiration. Her painted and restored furniture pieces are named, and seem to possess stories of their own, told with bold color, drawers lined with paper, knobs and finishes thoughtfully chosen. Made for home.
And at the nucleus of both are Teresa and Barb.
You’d think they met in the Village of West Greenville where their fingerprints are everywhere: doing their art thing, kindred creative spirits. But their currents converged long before either one would identify themselves as artists at all: wedding-dress shopping.
It’s true. “Barb and I met 29 years ago when she was shopping for her bridal gown [Teresa formerly owned a wedding boutique], and she was the most precious, delightful young lady. That history creates a foundation—although Barb and I are years apart in age, we were connected immediately by spirit.”
That connection and trust built over years is creative magic, as Barb agrees, “Collaboration comes naturally to both of us since it is something that we both find extremely important for growth and true creativity. Years of working together and with others creates a level of creative fluidity that gets better and better every time.”
And after a year or more of investing themselves elsewhere, it’s a year of comebacks for both.
“I didn’t have a show for myself last year,” Teresa confesses, “but I knew it was time. At the gallery, I looked over the 2019 calendar, and just picked a date. That same day, Barb called me and said she was itching to get back to work after stepping away for a while, and I said ‘Great timing!’”
Timing was essential for Barb. “Walking away was needed [her store, Knack, shuttered in 2016], but coming back to it is needed even more. The creative life never leaves us, and I’m thankful for the way creative work pushes me to think outside the box in a different and special way. Coming back to where my brain is on fire and my hands fidgety to use the muscle memory they know so well.”
Though painting and collage serve as her primary media, Teresa longed to tap deeper into her passion for interior design. “I love pattern-mixing, and wallpaper is a great way to start the mix: adding wallpaper and then pillows and upholstery in complimentary colors is a great way to dramatically change a space. I’ve always loved wallpaper of all kinds—torn and old paper in old homes and modern and fresh crisp new paper—I love it all and often use wallpaper scraps in my mixed-media pieces.”
Barb swears that wallpaper makes her a better artist. “I can’t illustrate or draw, per se, so wallpaper is an easy way for me to add so much more creative depth to my work.” Using decoupage techniques, Blair papers drawers, dresser tops, and door insets, creating visual interest to her “story pieces.” Not just painted furniture, these are works of art.
“My whole life, I have believed that two are better than one. Being an artist can be very lonely when you are completely away from other creatives. Collaboration breeds positive creativity.”
After a ten-minute meeting over coffee “where we were finishing each other’s sentences,” the two settled on a show that will highlight Teresa’s bold wallpaper designs and Barb’s latest furniture collection. And it will also be a celebration of collaboration, a partnership more than two decades strong.
Teresa adds, “My whole life, I have believed that two are better than one. Being an artist can be very lonely when you are completely away from other creatives. I thrive working with others and would not ever want it to be any other way. Collaboration breeds positive creativity.”
The spring show is only the beginning. As the collaborative sparks continue to fly, they will mold and shape a home décor line created and curated alongside other Greenville textile and paper artists.
But for now, it’s a new season of creating for these two friends and forces of encouragement for the creative community of Greenville. If the Village of West Greenville’s foundation had a cornerstone, the names Teresa Roche and Barb Blair would be among the first to be chiseled. A foundation of warmth, welcome, and artful story pieces.
Visit Art & Light Gallery at 16 Aiken Street, Greenville, to view examples of work by Roche and Blair. The two artists plan to have a collaborative show in spring 2019. For more information, go to artandlightgallery.com.