Teresa: Palm Reader, Painter, and Musician
Here’s one from the archives! While doing some file organizing recently, I came across this recording of a young palmist living in Chicago, from back in 2015. I was stopping over just on my way to New York, and on my search for badass women to interview I came across Teresa — not only an intuitive palm reader, but also visual artist and musician.
Her teal-toned garden level studio hosted alters to the arts, stocked with earth minerals and cherub figurines, stacks of National Geographic magazines, and discarded prescription bottles found in a thrift store, waiting to be used in an indeterminate future art project. This 22-year-old was splitting her time between the deep study of chirognomy and playing three different instruments in a band, as well as filling journals and five-foot tall canvasses with surrealistic painted body parts.
After our interview in her studio, we made our way to a nearby park for the reading. I have to admit, I am still only half inclined to believe the practice of palmistry. I know there are forces in this world we don’t understand and I believe they find expression in mediums only some people can access, but all the while I can’t help but harbor suspicions about the authenticity of a methodology laid out by some semi-organized collection of divinators. This duality made the palm reading itself all the more interesting for me, as Teresa took my hand and told me about my temperament, upcoming challenges, and secret superstitions. She traced lines and crosses in my palm that told her about love life and my family — quite often very accurately, and that’s kind of the point. Not to guess wildly at unknown futures, but to be able to read personalities extremely well, both psychologically and in a physical manifestation, and to use that to help guide the person through into answering their own questions about what’s coming up in their life.
Skeptic though I may still be, Teresa brought me a lot closer to understand palmistry and how it’s practiced in the contemporary world. And she’s still honing her craft — bringing to it an intimacy and authenticity I never would have expected. Read a little bit more about her, and if you end up anywhere near Logan Square in the near future, I definitely recommend you open up your palm to her interpretation.
How did you get interested in such a niche practice?
I started reading palms when I was 15, my mom taught me as a fun thing for us to do together. She originally didn’t want to learn, but one of her coworkers coerced her into getting a reading done, and after a year or so of having her palm read, she agreed to learn it. I grew up doing that, but it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been studying it. There are different schools of thought, but they all rely on the fact that the hand is the brain’s servant. Then there’s the question, did divination happen, or is it pure science?
How do you study palmistry?
There are books. Like the Benham Book of Palmistry, which is my baby. This guy was crazy — he published the original copy in 1900, and originally wanted to disprove palmistry because he was a scientist. Then he ended up spending 12 years of his life studying it, documenting over 1200 palms. Which inspired me and now I’m in the process of documenting palms, in my own study.
What do you do to document them?
I scan them over time. I have a few friends now who are participating, but anyone who wants to be in the project is more than welcome to. I scan every six months, because the palm is changing as your thoughts and your life changes.
I didn’t realize that — I thought the lines always stayed the same.
It’s not at all! Unless your brain is doing the exact same thing for 30 years.
I was also reading there were different techniques and schools of thought. Is what you’ve learned an established school, or more off-the-cuff?
It’s more off the cuff. It’s the one that tells all of the basics, the main lines and how to read them. Then there are some people will only read the little lines. But I do a mixture of both, and I ask if there’s any areas they would like to be studied, because I want the person I’m working with to get the most out of the reading.
I feel like many of the creatives I’ve been speaking with have multiple artistic interests. Let’s talk about your visual arts background.
I’ve been painting for a very long time, I don’t feel like I’m good at it, haha. I’ve recently been working big, so I’ve got 6 of these pieces which I don’t like at all equally, but I’m still working at them, exploring them. There’s one I’ve been working at about two years, and another for two weeks. In school, my painting professor told me “you have to be willing to fight” for your art—so I force myself to paint, no matter what.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
This is my only painting that is a self-portrait. That’s been hard. Then in my other stuff, I take a lot from my skechbooks and throw them up on the canvas, and then manipulate it forever.
Like your palms, constant change.
Exactly. There’s a few paintings I think are done. It’s hard to walk away.
It’s got to help to live in the same place for a while, because you start to form relationships with people and community.
That’s really helped, in selling work and especially palm reading. That wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t read someone’s palm in college for fun. They lived above a person who runs a store of mystical and antique goods. It’s a really neat little shop, and I got to do a reading there once. The owner is a tarot card reader, she’s brilliant and magnificent and she helps me, too.
How often do you read palms?
It depends on the week. Some weeks it’ll be one client, and others it’ll be like 20. It’s crazy.
Is it mostly through word-of-mouth?
It’s mostly referral —I do events, too. I love it! It’s so much fun. I’ve done birthday parties, after-prom parties, bridal showers.
Is it more introspective about the person and who they are, or is it future-guessing?
You can focus on the future, people do. But I don’t, because I haven’t studied it enough. I focus on the introspective, personality, characteristics. I help guide people, talking about decision making and big life choices.
So tell me about your band.
We’re kind of a garage band, we’re called Nerdle, because we’re all a bunch of nerds. We’re all painters or art people making fun, silly punk rock music. It’s really fun, but nothing serious. I met the band in college.
What instruments do you play?
I play guitar and bass and drums, but I’m the lead singer, and then I play bass too. We switch it up. For a few songs I wrote the drums, so I do the drums. It’s original stuff, we have a lot of songs which need to be worked on and have been worked on too much. We record, but it’s not too good, it’s a work-in-progress.
I’m going to start making things to sell, as related to palmistry. I want to screen print more often. I was an intern at a press, the oldest one in Chicago. I did a lot of etching there, and want to do some for the palm. I want to do guiding and areas, to help people know what area they want to talk about.
They had a really unique press that has been motorized. They do stone lithography, using stones from Bulgaria. Beautiful. You lay the stone on the bed and the only thing that’s mechanical is what pushes the press back and forth—everything else is done by hand.
You do have a feel for things that take a lot of patience…
I think patience is an endeavor I want to be better at, so I try really hard. But I fall in love with processes, learning a process until it’s completely finished. And I don’t know if I’ve completed all of my learning yet. It’s the ultimate high—getting better.