Show and Tell


The first time I ever met Theresa Abel, she was shopping at a vintage clothing store. Her raven hair and scarlet lipstick made me look twice—she fit right into her surroundings—and the lovely dress she was trying on looked tailor-made for her.

That’s kind of what her and partner Tim O’Neill’s Artisan Gallery is like: a head-turner that somehow fits right into the sleepy little town of Paoli. What was once a 1920s creamery is now a gallery that exhibits about 150 local and national artists. Both Abel and O’Neill are artists, too—she’s a painter; he’s a woodworker/furniture-maker.

The couple bought the gallery in 2004; previously, Abel was the art director, which she still does in her new role as manager.

“We try to make it an interesting mix where people are comfortable,” says Abel. “Looking at the art, we try not to make it intimidating.”

A stroll through the gallery reveals metal jewelry, works in oil, wood, ceramic and more. Abel says their ceramic pieces are best sellers. She thinks the nearby Paoli Clay might be a reason why; a lot of artists walk through the door while in town. When I visited, the gallery’s annual ceramics invitational was in full swing, which is an opportunity to bring in more artists than they can usually accomodate, explains Abel.

I was particularly interested in one of the gallery’s best-selling artists, Kelli Hoppmann, whose works in oil are vibrant and lush. True to her non-intimidating philosophy, Abel was happy to explain the artist’s vision in the piece.

“When you see an artist’s work, it changes the context of the world around you—I think that’s what good art does, it helps you in that way,” says Abel.

The adjoining Creamery Café serves pasta, sandwiches and salads; it encourages customers to stay awhile and take in the experience. On the crisp fall day I visited, the outside view of the Sugar River was picturesque—worthy of its own artistic interpretation.

Price Range: $25–$4,000

Owner’s Picks: Jose Sierra porcelain vessels, $250–$700; Janice Ho jewelry, $30–$500; Shannon Sullivan acrylic/ceramic pieces, $240–$900.

Verdict: Artisan’s approachable feel paired with Abel’s expertise means you can be comfortable stopping in to look, purchasing lovely art—or eating at the café.

Artisan Gallery: 6858 Paoli Rd., Paoli. 845-6600. (Winter hours: Jan.–Feb., open weekends)

Shayna Miller is associate and style editor of Madison Magazine.

Madison Magazine - January 2008
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