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Baraboo gallery exhibit is sister act

January 16, 2019

As kids, they shared a bedroom, so these sisters don’t foresee any problems sharing a gallery exhibit.

Baraboo fiber artist Char ter Beest-Kudla and her sister Mariella ter Beest-Schladweiler of Minnesota kicked off their monthlong exhibit at the Al. Ringling Theatre gallery Saturday with an open house. Both are showcasing and selling handmade handbags.

“I thought this would be fun to do,” ter Beest-Schladweiler said.

As a young girl, she shared a room with older sister Char in Minnesota. As adults, they paid tribute to their mother — and the craft she taught them — by opening Helen’s Daughters Studio.

“It was just a way we could do something to honor everything our mother did for us,” ter Beest-Kudla said.

Each month, the theater brings new exhibitors to its gallery. Organizer Carol Kratochwill said ter Beest-Kudla was an obvious choice because she plays an integral role in Baraboo’s artistic community. “She’s a leader of art,” Kratochwill said. “It’s just a thrill to have her here.”

The sisters learned fiber arts from their mother, a seamstress. Years later, ter Beest-Kudla was working as a middle school home economics teacher in Baraboo when she started dabbling in making baskets. When her items weren’t selling, she walked around art fairs and realized no one was making handbags. She bought some upholstery fabric, sat down at the sewing machine and started a new career.

“You have to make money at what you do,” she said. “It was filling a hole that I saw in the art business.”

The sisters now make bags in various colors, shapes and sizes, catering to customers who don’t want their purses to look like anyone else’s. Helen’s Daughters has 2,700 Facebook followers.

“Many of them would like to be here so they could buy all this stuff,” ter Beest-Kudla said. “Every one is really one of a kind.”

The duo has put dozens of bags on display, most of which are available for sale. The display will be refreshed throughout the exhibit. “Next week there will be more up,” ter Beest-Schladweiler said.

This marks the sisters’ first gallery exhibit together. While selling bags to shops in business-to-business transactions can be profitable, ter Beest-Kudla said she prefers taking her work to shows and exhibits where she can interact directly with customers.

“You get the immediate reaction,” she said. “We’re always coming up with new designs.”

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