Vancouver People Project Volume 21 – Suzy Birstein


Many times a day, the people you see crossing the street or meet in your travels make you smile and wonder, “What is their life like? What is their story?” A photographer is compelled to capture these individuals’ image to communicate their unique stories—to take a portrait that reflects their personality and the world they live in. Forme (@tallulahphoto), this evolved into a passion to photograph these everyday people, whose unique souls reflect not only the zeitgeist but the joy and colour that comes from living on the West Coast.

Portraits from the Vancouver People Project will be featured in Vancouver Is Awesome as a precursor to a future photographic exhibit featuring the wonderful characters who contribute to the fabric of Vancouver.  Tallulah can be reached at


Suzy Birstein

Age: July, a moon child

Born: Toronto, Ont.

How long have you lived in Vancouver? I came here in 1976 with my husband, looking to live on a farm house on a beach. We drove across Canada in our little orange Toyota Corolla with stereo equipment, camping gear and 11 ceramic pots on a roof rack. We had heard of a place called Kitsilano that was near the beach. We have lived two blocks from the beach ever since.

Occupations: In my hippy days, I thought I would have a very adventurous life as a traveller working my way around the world. While living on the Greek islands and basking in the glorious sunshine at the beach, I concluded that 9 to 5  work was not for me. I returned to Toronto to see what adventures lay ahead with my boyfriend Hartley, who later became my husband. I was determined to find something as exciting and unpredictable as travel. To make money, I worked at a Toronto advertising agency and a friend asked me to be an artist’s model. I realized that being an artist was as adventurous as travel, so quit my day job. Later, I developed a passion for ceramics and graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, becoming a professional artist and teacher artist. Initially, I created handmade tableware — a celebration of the everyday. The figurative imagery I painted led to experimentation with figurative sculptures and oils on canvas.  A career highlight was when I made a unique line of ceramics, “Motion Pitchers,” for Academy Award nominees. Today I work and teach at my Kitsilano garden studio. My love of travel was reignited and I now combine art and travel with creativity workshops called “Mia Muse” on the Greek island of Skopelos. I also teach children at the Arts Umbrella for 23 years. My life has consisted of following my artistic passions.

Passions and Interests:  Art, travel, family, our cat, friends, playing dress up, teaching, tap dancing, performance, Hollywood musicals, film classics, movies, jazz, opera, the Rat Pack, Hartley’s delicious cooking, wine, joie de vivre and following my heart.

What do people know you for?  I would think the distinctive style that permeates my art, fashion and home. My passion for life and the wonderful long-term relationships I have developed through teaching and art.

Thoughts on Vancouver? ?Vancouver is a beautiful safe, peaceful and relatively warm place to live, work, raise a family and be healthy. I like that you can comfortably walk and be outdoors all year round. I love our friends, neighbourhood, restaurants, the beaches, gardens and our home. I wish there was as much focus on the arts, culture and education as there is on sports, stadiums and replacing our few heritage buildings with generic new architecture.

Tallulah’s Musings

I met Suzy through a friend; after that I would quite often bump into her at art openings. Her style is unique: the sparkly platform shoes, the bindi on her forehead, rings, feathers and always a gorgeous smile. Her art bursts with fantasy and the sense of sunshine. We took Suzy’s portrait in her Kitsilano garden studio, on a perfect sunny summer day.