Mother-daughter duo bring creativity to Tillie Lace

by Keenan Ketzner

photo by Sarah Van Houten

With its numerous bands, venues, theaters, and art schools, one of Bellingham’s greatest strength has been its ability to bring in and self-sustain homegrown artististry. Nothing could be more in line with that trait than the recently opened Tillie Lace Gallery and Art School. If you’ve been down to 1415 13th Street (home of the former Lucia Douglas Gallery), you’ll see there stands a quaint, two-story building that is now co-owned by mother/daughter duo Cooper and Morgan Lanza.

For years the two had been selling their art in various outlets around town from trailers, art walks and even the good old Make.Shift Gallery, also located in downtown Bellingham. But now, they have a new place all to themselves, and they plan to do whatever they want with it. The building consists of one main room with a storage in the back to house all the items necessary to change the room from gallery, to school, to whatever’s needed; but it is remarkably spacious and there is a large curtain that serves as a backdrop or a divider for the room.

The space was named in honor of Cooper’s grandmother, whose skills at typing and artistry enamoured Cooper as a child. “I remember seeing the pencil in her hand and thought that it was doing all the work. I thought it was like magic,” she recalled. Tillie was born in 1911 in Chicago, and they both recall admiring her for being a fiercely strong woman, and “one hell of a typist.”

The plan for the gallery had been floating around for years. Around the time Cooper was six, she started sitting in on art classes at a local bohemian art gallery, and has had a vision for such a project since then. She initially went to the Academy of Art University in Chicago and studied costume, then went on to study fine art and dance at the University of Oregon before going to Paris and studying at L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière. It wasn’t until having finished her MFA in painting and drawing from the Academy of Art University and stumbling upon a good deal for a nice space, did it all come together.

She reached out to her daughter, Morgan, who agreed to be involved. Morgan, a Fairhaven College graduate and head of the Bellingham Girls Rock Camp, was already a frequent advocate for community-based art. “I had graduated and she had graduated… It was kind of a chance, but like my sister says: ‘when opportunity and luck meet – jump!’” she said.

Their gallery opened in the Spring of 2016. They continue their old tradition of selling shoes, jewelry, paintings and drawings, and there are also shows for various other artists in towns but they’ve also expanded to teaching at their Fine Arts academy. Primarily, Cooper teaches people of all ages painting, color theory, drawing, and art fundamentals – anything people need to become the very best they can while catering to their different skill levels and request. Even though Cooper herself often works outside the box, she quotes Pablo Picasso, that you must “learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” The dynamic duo will remain at this location for the foreseeable future with their doors open to anyone with an open mind, and art in their souls.

For more information, stop in at 1415 13th Street or see tillielacegallery.com.

Published in the November 2016 issue of What’s Up!