Growing up in what was once considered the “textile capital of the world,” my life experiences have woven together a colorful tapestry deeply rooted in my hometown of Greenville, South Carolina.
My parents worked in one of the local textile mills and, at a young age, I developed an appreciation for textiles, always fascinated by the colors, textures and patterns of fabrics. From early on, my parents cultivated in me the skill of starting with nothing and building something meaningful.
When I wanted a banana bike, my dad would scavenge around town to find the necessary pieces to retrofit my old bike. When it was time for a new dress, my mom would find remnant fabric and scraps to piece together a fashionable masterpiece. While money was tight, my parents always made it a priority to have a beautifully decorated home. These experiences imbued in me the ability to bring ideas to life.
Later, I found great satisfaction in the design process and the final product as a way of personal expression — whether in the theater, in a dance studio or in the bridal store I owned.
In particular, the experience of running my bridal store and being constantly surrounded by beautiful textures and fabrics ignited a fervor within me. As a mid-career artist, I arrived here after 20 years in a corporate setting.
Those two decades helped set me up for success, as I learned marketing, project management and developed the business acumen necessary to run my own business. I spent years under the misconception that I could not earn a living pursuing my passion.
At the pivotal cusp of turning 40, and after some time painting casually with co-workers, I was exploring more of my creative side. While planning a corporate incentive trip to Anguilla, my research of the island led me to read the inspirational story At Blanchard’s Table, about a couple who quit their jobs to open a restaurant in Anguilla. During this trip, I was able to plan an event to meet the Blanchards and dine in their restaurant.
After a second trip to Anguilla, I took my own leap of faith and left a stable, supportive corporate career to open an art gallery where I began to implement business strategies I absorbed over the years. Encouraged by my success from showing my work in friends’ homes and due to the support of others, I decided to follow my dreams full time.
My neighbor was in the process of buying a building in what would become our city’s art district and encouraged me to open a gallery to showcase my work and that of other local artists.
During the transition time establishing what would become my Art & Light Gallery, I found it hard being on my own. I missed the camaraderie, teamwork and structure of my former corporate job. Most importantly, I missed the people. What I found, however, was that I gained all of what I felt I was missing in the new relationships and friendships I built with artists and customers of the gallery. I thrived in mentoring artists on how to run a business and visiting artist studios with customers. The fledgling neighborhood where I established the gallery was in transition and I experienced many of those initial years discouraged by the lack of interest in visual arts and original art.
I focused on hosting openings, artist demonstrations and art talks. It was difficult at first to build a local art scene that could sustain a local art gallery. I exerted unwavering effort driven by my aspiration to establish a picturesque gallery that provides customers with the most exquisite encounter, enriched by captivating artworks. Over time, I built credibility and a clientele with a passion for art that was willing to expand their collections beyond our city.
At this segment of the gallery’s journey, I spent much of my time looking to grow the variety of art offered as well as the backgrounds and cultures represented. I also found that the responsibility of running and expanding a business alone came at the expense of creating art.
Several years ago, as the Village of West Greenville was reinventing itself as a thriving arts district, I purchased a parish house a block from where I later built a new home. It was the perfect opportunity to relocate and own my gallery space. I thrive from the inspiration of living once again in
a former mill neighborhood and operating both of my businesses within a few blocks of my home.
With the hiring of my gallery director, Bracken Sansbury, the business was able to expand to now feature over 50 emerging and established local, regional and international artists; 80% being women. The gallery hosts artist receptions monthly in its rotating exhibit space as well as two other remote spaces in the “Village.” Thanks to my incredible gallery director, I had the opportunity to spend more time following my passions — in my studio located behind the gallery — painting and designing fabric patterns.
In my studio, I began working on a playful, not-too-decorative collection a few years ago. From this collection, I started to create wall coverings and linen fabrics, each derived from my original paintings. My inspiration stems from a range of sources, including my exposure to visual arts, architecture, design and travel. And, as usual, punctuated with fleeting moments from my surroundings and everyday life, especially joyful experiences with my grandchildren.
This evolution led to the creation of Teresa Roche Textiles.
As I conceive pieces, my artistic impulse focuses on the process of bringing materials to life. Experimentation and the fusion of unlikely materials have become a staple of my creative practice. Unlike traditional planning, my abstract approach allows the paint and other tools to meld together in unexpected ways, often reflecting upon a particular memory or period of time. One of my favored techniques involves pouring high-flow acrylics mixed with water onto the surface, allowing the pouring to seep into the painting as a sort of stain. Charcoal, pastels and Conté are then added in both the wet and dry phases of the painting, with decisions made along the way as to which marks to keep.
In recent years, I have enjoyed incorporating torn surfaces into my work, working with them as if they were a puzzle to be solved. The pieces are then re-connected with thread, creating a unique and constantly evolving piece.
One lesson in personal growth that I have learned over time is the importance of letting go of the unknown. Oftentimes I would cling to the familiar and not branch out much beyond my city or state. I was not aware it was approachable, nor aware I could be successful in traveling abroad versus the typical beach vacation.
By exploring outside of my comfort zone, like on a recent trip to Madrid and Soria, Spain, for an artist retreat, I found a new level of inspiration. My art and I underwent a transformation as I fully immersed myself in the Spanish culture, absorbing its sights and sounds. Even within my textile business, visiting museums to learn how textiles originated in Africa and Italy, I am better able to incorporate more about these cultures into my own work. For example, a lot of my inspiration has come from the gentle fade of antique or vintage hand-block fabric.
It is inconceivable how I have not begun to scratch the surface of my own creativity, and I am excited about what I have yet to accomplish.
With my home, studio, gallery, and textile workroom all located within walking distance from each other, all within a former mill community, it seems I have come full circle from growing up surrounded by textiles to creating a company specializing in textiles based on my art. As I progress and grow, I have a vision of encountering my fabric unexpectedly during my travels abroad. Discovering my wallpaper or fabric embellishing a wall, chair or table would truly be a dream come true.