Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Painter Frances Berry’s Vivid Studio in Memphis, TN

by Erin Austen Abbott

When artist Frances Berry graduated from the University of Alabama in 2008 with a degree in Digital Media, she moved forward as a photographer not knowing that one day, other mediums would fill her art card. Frances manipulates images in a way that leaves you feeling like you are looking at a painting. She uses mostly vintage photos in her work, distorting the way we view the image. These digital media photos are reserved mostly for her website. However, you can catch the other side of Frances on her Instagram, as she works in bright, vivid colors on paintings that jump out at you and get you excited to see what she will do next.

Working from her home studio in downtown Memphis, TN, Frances has an energy that is unmatched by most, as seen in her workspace with a backdrop of bold black and white hand painted panels lining the walls, filled with vibrant pieces of artwork. “I keep the first floor clear so that I can roller skate inside,” Frances tells us. “My studio is a constantly evolving organism which shares a symbiotic relationship with me. Stacks of paper ephemera piled on shelves, a hodgepodge of mismatched, discarded furniture, walls that look like scrapbook pages, stacks of books and other things I’ve collected and, of course, my roller skates. I like to think of my studio [as] a laboratory and all the things in it as specimens to study and be surrounded with.” Hearing her say that, it makes sense that there wasn’t a tuning point to painting — a moment that made her decide to pick up the brush. Instead she’s just working in several art forms, moving in a parallel direction with one another.

Jumping from paintings to collages to photography to digital media, Frances is a self-described “picture maker,” often selling her work directly from her street-level studio. “I wanted a space that I could work in without the space working against me, and I knew I wanted a lot of space and to be downtown. This is one of the only places that offers both.” See how Frances works in this 2,600-square-foot live-in workspace that she shares with her dog — along with the results of her artistic laboratory of specimens and experiments. —Erin

Photography by Erin Austen Abbott

Image above: Frances, in her studio, creating a mixed media painting.

Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
Frances getting paint ready for one of her collages by mixing paint with charcoal.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
A close-up of the paint being pressed between paper and a sheet of acetate.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
The outcome of the pressed paint, before the charcoal face is applied over the top, creating a mixed media painting.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
Frances is seen here, working on the charcoal face that will be cut up and applied to the pressed paint underlay.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
A close-up of the color being applied to the face drawing, for the collage.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
An avid thrifter, Frances found the handmade, vintage flat file at a local shop. It's filled with bits and pieces that Frances is forever working on.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
A sneak peek at one of the many pictures that Frances has stored in her flat file cabinet.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
A collection of Frances' roller skates, always at an arms length, for impromptu skate sessions around her studio.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
A glimpse of the floor-to-ceiling inspiration board in Frances' studio. Some of the pieces are done by her, while some are collected. As a whole, the inspiration wall feels like one large installation.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
Paintbrushes in Frances' studio even feel like works of art, with the colors of dried paint and used brushes blending in a beautiful way.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
With Frances' live-in studio being on the first floor, the stairs to her upstairs apartment are visible here. She often uses the underneath side of the stairs to hang art to dry, and the wall leading upstairs is filled with framed art, family photos, and mementos from her home state of Mississippi.
Frances Berry for Design*Sponge
A close-up of the art hanging under the stairs. Bookshelves line the wall under the staircase as well, filled with art and design books.

Suggested For You


  • What incredible creative energy, and colour and oh all those drawers filled with collections! LOVE this maker & studio interview

    Thanks so much for sharing!


  • That’s an interesting technique with the acetate. It looks like fun. I too, have a vintage flat file set of drawers that I salvaged from an old church building that was being demolished.

  • Love this art.
    I don’t understand from the pictures, how the cut-up face is applied. It looks like freehand drawing on top of the pressed paint. Am I reading this incorrectly?
    “Frances is seen here, working on the charcoal face that will be cut up and applied to the pressed paint underlay. “

  • These are GORGEOUS! They would go great in my quirky apartment. I’m going to have to look into how to get one of her pieces! How did you find out about her?