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Artist spotlight: Rivera’s Rarities

Local mixed-media artist Hannah Rivera uses sustainably-sourced insects, dried flowers, thrifted picture frames and fabric, plus her own sketches and paintings to create one-of-a-kind vintage pieces.

Portland mixed media artist Hannah Rivera poses at a market with her pieces. Each incorporates ornate antique bubble glass frames with colorful dried flowers and pinned butterflies and moths.

“Portland’s a great place for inspiration,” said Hannah Rivera. “There’s a great overall feeling of self-expression that’s different from anywhere else.”

For Hannah Rivera, the Milwaukie High School art room was a place of comfort and discovery; water colors and colored pencils were really not her thing (she instead gravitated toward acrylics and charcoals).

Even with obvious talent, creative self-doubt followed her to Clackamas Community College. “Like many of us I moved away from home early and grew up quickly, so there was little time for me to practice my skills and I became even more discouraged,” she said.

Ironically, it would be dead things that brought her artistic expression back to life. During a visit to the Oddities and Curiosities Expo, she felt inspired again, surrounded by taxidermy, bones, and other “witchy things.” Rivera came home with some entomology art pieces and decided to purchase her own pinning kit. She was hooked. “It was such a new and exciting challenge for me, something I had never done before.”

Now she has her own business — Rivera’s Rarities — where she combines natural elements like butterflies, homegrown dried flowers, and repurposed items like fabric scraps, occasionally incorporating her own paintings and sketches too.

“The majority of my frames are antiques,” Rivera explained. “This is because during a certain time period, convex glass was incredibly popular. This domed glass allows space inside, essentially creating a fancy shadowbox.”

Three ornate oval picture frames decoreated with dried flowers and pinned insects, created by Portland artist Hannah Rivera of Rivera's Rarities.

Rivera says the Chinese moon moth, or Actias dubernardi (pictured right) is her favorite species to work with.

Photos via @riverasrarities

It’s important to highlight that the insects Rivera works with are sustainably sourced. “At the end of the day, only you as an individual are able to decide what is ethical,” she said. “I also believe that it’s important to educate and be honest about where my specimens come from, because my morals might be different from someone else’s.”

Most of hers come from conservation farms overseas, where they’re bred and farmed instead of wild caught, preserving the natural population, providing jobs, and contributing toward scientific studies.

“I have connections to local live bug collectors and breeders who give me their specimens after they pass,” Rivera adds. “This allows me to know exactly where my bugs are coming from and be confident in my ability to tell you just exactly how and when these specimens have passed, and I hope to entirely go that route soon.”

If you’re interested in Rivera’s work, send her an email, reach out on Instagram, or visit her website — local buyers get free delivery. She is also participating in local markets this spring and summer; you can catch her at Market Of the Beast on May 19 in Portland, or the Robin Hood Festival in Sherwood July 19 and 20.

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