Suki Allen is a talented artist who is spreading the joy of art. Her studio, Bird’s Eye View Studio, is one part artist studio and one part teacher’s work shop, but each is inseparable from the other. Suki not only finds joy in immersing herself in creating marvelously detailed art inspired by the beauty of the Pacific NW, but also in helping people to just get started making things with their hands.
Wings of Art. Suki currently works a lot with scratch boards and collage. Her subjects are often animals from the Pacific NW, and she’s got a soft spot for birds. She loves observing the animals and collecting images of them going about their business, and then bringing them to life again in her scratch boards. The scratch boards are incredibly detailed and reflect the personalities of the animals.
Bird’s Eye View In fact, next to her studio is probably the most fabulous chicken oasis I’ve ever seen. It’s a large spacious area with all types of vegetation and a wonderful house for sleeping. The chickens often stop by the big windows along the side of the studio for a view of Suki at work. The chickens appear in many of her art pieces.
Splash of Color. From what I understand, scratch boards are mostly a black and white affair, but Suki wanted to bring some color into her art. So, she started combining the scratch boards with colorful collage. Collage from old paper becomes the backdrop for the scratch board designs, all created over reclaimed wood. The pieces, each intricately designed, create a unique and beautiful style.
Those Who Can: Suki is an example of someone who can and someone who teaches. She teaches a variety of classes at Collage, a local arts and crafts store, and with the Portland Public Library. She teaches students of all ages. She says for her it’s all about getting “people to make things.” It’s not about making something perfect, but about experiencing the act of creating. She is there to provide her students with the techniques to get the job done, and then to be their cheerleader, full of encouragement.
Name the Gnome. One of her most popular classes is needle felting gnomes. In two and one-half hours, anyone can start with the raw material (wool), learn to work with a barbed needle, and create a doll-like gnome. (Suki cautions against multi-tasking while working with the barbed needle.) Suki encourages her students to get creative, and they come up with all kinds of styles of gnomes. At the end of the class, the students name their gnomes.
Art Zen: Suki was busy preparing for a class for book making when I stopped by. Students will create sketch books by designing the cover, inserting the blank pages, and sewing together the binding. Again, Suki just wants to encourage people to create and learn to quiet their inner critics. She says, “just be in the moment and not worry if it’s right.” A great lesson for life!
Finding Portland: Suki moved to Oregon from the Bay Area to go to college and hasn’t left. She started out in McMinvville studying ceramics, but ultimately ended up at the University of Oregon, where she earned her degree in Women’s Studies, with a minor in Fine Arts. She landed in Portland because there is family history here, and because she loves the city’s energy.
Nature’s Inspiration: When she’s not working, Suki loves getting out in nature. It is nature that inspires and rejuvenates her. She enjoys camping, hiking and watching animals. She also likes goat farming! She reports goats are wonderful animals and are just plain fun to be around.
Suki’s Joy: It really is her art and her teaching that define Suki in my estimation. After college, she ran a cleaning and organizing business, and then also managed the craft store Collage for awhile. But Suki’s face lights up when she talks of her art, the animals who inspire her, and her students. It’s obvious she loves what she does and sees rewards every day. She is simply a joy to be around.
Meet Suki: If you want to meet Suki personally, she is participating in Portland Open Studios, which is like an open house for art studios. Artists open their studios to the public for two weekends in October and invite you to visit them. Learn more about Portland Open Studios here.
Also, check out her website www.birdseyeviewstudio.com and look for her classes at Collage or the Portland Public Library.