Brenda Friday Provides a Space for Artists at Shoppe B

Brenda Friday opened Shoppe B in November 2021, yet the business commenced long before that. “My family had gotten tired of pushing aside the piles of fabric scattered throughout the house, and I knew it was time to find a space that could fit our growing vision and list of clients,” she says.

Brenda Friday stands on a step ladder beside pink cabinetry in a black blazer, purple shirt, and grey skirt.
Photo courtesy of Adam Milliron

What started as a simple mission to bring more color and character to luxury interior design has evolved into “a vibrant space where customers can wander in for a candle and leave with the custom couch of their dreams or discover a new local artist.” The business sources one-of-a-kind accessories and home decor from sought-after designers and up-and-coming artisans, too.

Creating a Space in Lawrenceville

Friday believes art is for people to admire. And since Lawrenceville’s vibrant art scene first fueled the business’s evolution into a gallery space, she wanted to create a hub where Pittsburgh artists and art lovers could connect and build community. “Put some great art on display, bring in the food and drinks, and suddenly customers become friends! It truly is a salon experience,” she says. “The artist is given a relaxed and intimate environment to showcase their work, and potential clients get to hear about the creative process firsthand.”

“And what’s a good party without a surprise or two?” she adds. “Our last event featured a live opera singer, who knocked us off our feet.”

TABLE Magazine caught up with six of the local talents who’ve found a home within the walls of her welcoming venue.

A man in a backwards baseball cap stands behind a table, behind his sculptures.
Photo courtesy of John Decker

Isaac Bower

Isaac Bower, who’s been an artist for 30-plus years, has lived in Pittsburgh several times throughout his life and credits the city for being somewhere he could purchase a home with a customized workshop. He mainly focuses on an interactive sculpture system he developed called Cojiform, but also does sculpture commissions for residential and commercial spaces. After seeing his work on Instagram, Friday reached out, which meant a lot. “My work is different than a typical sculpture because people interact with it and become essentially collaborators,” he says. “Brenda has been very supportive of the aesthetic style I’ve developed, but also the overall concept of interactive art.” He’s always been at home in her store and gets great joy from connecting with others in the arts community. In Pittsburgh, he’s grateful to have found other fabricators who have proven fantastic peers and resources.

A man works clay at a pottery studio desk surrounded by his creations like swirling vases.
Photo courtesy of Adam Milliron

Philip Soucy

The work of Philip Soucy primarily focuses on the repetitive layering of hand-rolled processed mud. A longtime artist, he works at it full-time ever since completing his master’s at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2019. When Friday called saying she wanted his work in her store, Soucy reacted by saying, “Lawrenceville is a great borough, and her Shoppe was already filled with beautiful pieces, I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s see how my work looks in those glossy purple shelves.’”

As the father of a two-year-old, Soucy admits to not getting out much, yet he always tries to attend events hosted by Brenda Friday (who allegedly knows how to throw a party). He finds Pittsburgh to have a refreshing culture that cultivates a strong craft presence. “We’ve lived in twelve places in our 15 years as a family, and it’s only been in Pittsburgh that we’ve put down roots and bought property,” he says, “in large part because of how well I’ve fit into the craft community here and the connections I’ve been able to make.”

A woman artist in a ochre sweater paints a portrait of a woman at her easel.

Rachael Ryan

Rachael Ryan, oil painter (portrait, figure, and abstract art), boasts 27-plus years of commitment to the arts, and she established her painting studio in 2009. Aside from living abroad in Brazil and England during early childhood — and leaving Pittsburgh for university, recently spending eight years in NYC (where she first connected virtually with Friday, who’s now represented her art for two years) — Ryan considers this home. “My family tree has roots here — dating back to the 1800s, which is very meaningful to me,” she says.

Leaving Pittsburgh showed Ryan how supported she’d been here. “The cultural community instinctively uplifts emerging talent,” she says. Her first solo shows hold great memories; the community made the events celebratory and successful. “I felt truly held by the city.” Now in a new studio space here, she’s slowly reweaving herself into the creative fabric of Pittsburgh. “This city is a special artistic incubator because of the people here,” she says. “They will rally around with their time or resources, and do what they can to help you see a vision through.”

A man in a white shirt holds a painting in one hand and art material in the other in his studio.
Photo courtesy of Matt Dayak

Andrew Jowdy Collins

Andrew Jowdy Collins (A.J. to friends) works in ceramic art, specializing in porcelain. In Pittsburgh since 2012, he’s been working with clay for 23 years and as a full-time artist for five. Collins met Friday about four years ago and began making custom works for spaces she designed, then going on to make limited edition pieces for her store. “She’s also selected fine art pieces to highlight in her shop,” he says, “which has evolved to be something of a gallery with all the really superb work she’s curated.”

Collins feels fortunate to have met a bunch of truly good people (and artists) here who are his “support network, my most rigorous critics and true friends,” he says. “So that’s made Pittsburgh a soulful and rewarding place to practice my vocation.” The city’s also been wonderful for meeting new clients and collectors who deeply value art and the processes that go into making it. “There’s plenty of unpretentious art knowledge and sharp eyes in this city, fortunately.”

A woman artist stands in front of a tile mural with her hands up in the air presenting the piece.
Photo by Kitoko

Laura Jean McLaughlin

Laura Jean McLaughlin works primarily with clay but is also a printmaker, painter and multimedia artist. At age 58, she’s been in Pittsburgh for 48 years — aside from attending undergraduate and graduate school (seven years) and working in a medical laboratory in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (three years). A professional artist for more than three decades, McLaughlin’s been showing her work for about a year with Brenda Friday, who she’s found to be incredibly supportive of her and her creations — on both a professional and personal level.

“One of the biggest pieces of mine that Brenda sold was to the Emmy award-winning actor Colman Domingo,” McLaughlin reveals. McLaughlin finds Pittsburgh an incredible place to be an artist. “It is inexpensive to live here, and the arts community is very supportive.” She only wishes that the city had more local collectors. Otherwise, “there are tons of joys and perks like a very vibrant community of artists supporting each other.”

A woman artist in all black stand with her legs crossed and looking to the right in front of one of her big paintings.
Photo courtesy of Adam Milliron

Mia Tarducci

Visual artist Mia Tarducci primarily works with oil paints, whether 2D or 3D. Coming from a family of creators, she moved to Pittsburgh in 1998 and has been working as a professional artist here for 16 years. Tarducci has known Brenda Friday for several years and was thrilled when she opened her Lawrenceville store. “She has a true appreciation for the talent that exists here and a sincere desire to showcase the work we do,” she says.

Tarducci thinks being a working artist is difficult in any city, but the scene has changed for the better. She ran an art space called The Mine Factory for five years, primarily to fill the void of places for Pittsburgh-based artists to show work. Although she closed the doors in 2017, many other grassroots efforts continue spotlighting the creative community. “As a result of artists lifting artists, we’ve seen an increased number of younger creators staying in Pittsburgh, more businesses engaging artists for public works and a resurgence of patrons looking for art in Pittsburgh rather than elsewhere,” she says. “I feel we’re just beginning to feel the effects of a robust artistic movement.”

Story by Corinne Whiting

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