Houston craft would be quite different without Teresa O’Connor. This sculptor turned boutique owner helped pioneer the indie craft culture of Houston with a pop up shop called Art Star founded in 2004. Art Star was located inside of art galleries, bars, and later Retropolis in the Heights. I asked Teresa some questions about her history of being a maker.
BB: Tell me a little bit about your background?
TOC: Hmmm, probably the most interesting part of my background pertaining to the art world was actually before I went back to school to study art. I worked in various nightclubs as door girl, assistant manager, general manager, and in the accounting area too. At one point I was like, ugh, I need a change of scenery, so I sent my application to New York for a job working at resorts located in Mexico and The Bahamas.
Two weeks later I flew to the Bahamas to work as assistant to the costume designer until he left then I took over. So not only was I a costume designer, I worked hand in hand with the set, lighting and sound designers, as well as the choreographer, and also performed on stage each evening. This engulfment of working with everything “in the round”, meaning all things affecting each other and in a dimensional spatial reality would and still does affect the way I work today.
BB: What was the inspiration for Art Star? When did it start? Where did it take place?
TOC: Art Star was a way to bring lots of artists together. Since the work for Art Star was intentionally at a lower price point, typically 100.00 or less, ideally 50.00 or less, It provided a platform of experimentation, a way to sketch with intention. It was also a way for me to take a micro gallery/boutique/pop up with me when I would have a solo exhibition.
A group of us at CSAW started pop ups at CSAW during openings in around 2000 or 2002 I believe. The first “official” Art Star out of town was 2004 in Dallas for my solo exhibition “My Western Draw” at Plush Gallery.
BB: Was there a difference between Art Star as a project and your installation and sculpture work?
TOC: Art Star was its own entity and completely separate from my installation work. As artists we do not live or work in a vacuum. We absorb and are influenced by our surroundings and that includes other artists and their work. So I know what I made and how I made it was definitely inspired by my surroundings. By bringing Art Star to be part of my work, I was also able to say, “look at this other amazing work and artists too.”
Eventually Art Star had a makeshift, permanent home inside Retropolis on 19th street in the Heights. Art Star was there for 5+ years before I made the move to create Hello-Lucky.
When did Hello Lucky begin?
TOC: Hello-Lucky has been open 5 1/2 years now. It was during my residency at Lawndale Art Center that I decided to go ahead and create Hello-Lucky as an independent entity. It was a slow process. The first space I had on White Oak was only open on Saturdays while I still had my residency and my other jobs. At the beginning of being on Studewood we were only open two then three days a week. I had my residency to finish at Lawndale as well as gallery and teaching jobs too. Slowly as I was able to let go of other responsibilities, I was able to have the shop open 5 days a week as it is today: Wednesday through Sunday.
How is it similar and different to Art Star?
TOC: Hello-Lucky is similar to Art Star in that we have lots of work by local artists. Most of the artists I work with have fine art backgrounds such as Frances Trotter, Elaine Bradford, and an original Art Star artist Jason Villegas.
The biggest difference is that I wanted Hello-Lucky to be a boutique which just happens to be locally made, American made, and fair trade. So we are not a gallery, or a handmade store, but a boutique first.
BB: What’s next for you?
TOC: Hello-Lucky has a great website and we ship retail and wholesale orders regularly. We are working on an online store that will link with in store inventory making it simpler for peeps to shop online and have items shipped, or pick up in store.
Plus I just started a second business, Hunter Gatherer, with my business partner Camella Clements. Hunter Gatherer is strictly online sales. It is a highly curated collection of American Made and Fair Trade wears. Check it out at http://www.huntergatherer-shop.com.