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Artist Spotlight: Oh, kirby! {and Giveaway}

Elizabeth R ($70, original painting on wood panel)

I first became acquainted with oh, kirby! artwork via decor8 way back in 2008 and have been charmed by Sarah Kirby's original work every since. My attraction to her art is partially based on a shared fondness of similar historic periods and figures and partially because her style recalls the many, many paper dolls that I cut and played with as a girl. Knowing that anyone who regularly paints the likes of Anne Boleyn and Marie Antoinette is a girl after my own heart, I got in touch with Sarah after making a recent purchase on her website and asked her if she'd mind doing a little interview for Odi et Amo. Fortunately, Sarah was happy to indulge me and my amateur attempts at interviewing and I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I did.

By way of a brief introduction, Sarah is an artist, vintage clothing dealer, and freelance costume designer from Georgia. Although Sarah is a self-taught artist, she has an undergraduate degree in art history and master's in museum studies from St. Andrew's University, both with a special focus in historical clothing. Drawing upon her historical background, Sarah creates lovely, stylized portraits of both famous and ordinary historical figures that possess a certain undeniable charm. Any oh, kirby! print or original painting would be lovely additions to any space where you're looking to add a little bit of timeless whimsy. Be sure to check out Sarah's other Etsy shop oh, kirby! the vintage shoppe, which features vintange clothing, as well as her lovely blog.

Odi et Amo: How did you first become interested in historical clothing? When and how did your interest in painting historical figures and costumes begin?

Sarah Kirby: I've always been fascinated by history and the clothing of the past. I've been sewing historical costumes since I was a young teenager, but even when I was little, when we would visit museums I would find myself gravitating towards displays that featured historical clothing. Now that I’m older, I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to work with historical clothing in museums, and being able to lovingly prepare them for storage and learn the stories about the people who wore them has only increased my love for it. Likewise, I've been making art all my life. I've done everything - landscapes, portraits, abstracts, etc - but if you looked inside my sketchpad, all my doodles were always of costume illustrations and historical characters. A few years ago, I decided to do a few pieces inspired by my sketchpad doodlings, and haven’t stopped since!

Blackbird, Victorian Mourning Lady ($85, original canvas painting)

OetA: What historical periods and types of fashion are you most interested in? Why?

SK: There are so many that pique my visual interest. I don't think I could pin down one, or even a few, periods in fashion history! But if I had to choose, I have always been very drawn to the Rococo period and the Renaissance period. It's quite funny, too, because they are so different from each other. One is the epitome of decadence, frilly and pastel, and the other is very rigid, with more earthy, realistic colours. I also love the Victorians, because their frills had a strange, pinned-up, gothic quality, and I find this inspiring both for my art as well as my own personal style.

OetA: What do you think future historians will have to say about early 21st century fashion?

SK: I think they will write that fashions in the early 21st century were very much influenced by the 20th century, but that there were a few rebels, such as Alexander McQueen, who broke away by creating designs that were completely ground breaking and truly modern. With that said, I like that the 20th century still plays such an important role in fashion, because it means that vintage continues to be relevant! I think there is room for both ground breaking and old-fashioned, and that is what is so great about 21st century fashion. Anything goes.

Miss Austen ($18, 5x7" print)

OetA: What's your favorite piece currently available in your store?

SK: I would probably say Miss Austen. I just love the simplicity of the portrait, and the colours -- and of course, the Jane Austen reference. When I painted her, I knew I couldn't sell the original, and it is now in my bedroom!

OetA: Your store mentions that you're making room for lots of new pieces -- can you give us a preview of what's to come? Do they represent a departure from what you've been offering?

SK: I am working on a few projects that will be appearing in the next few months. In November I will be introducing my holiday themed card and original art collection. This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, and I’m very excited! As far as whether or not my upcoming projects will be a departure, I don’t know. I just paint as the inspiration comes to me! Sometimes a piece will seem wildly different from what I usually do, but then sometimes it will be cozy and familiar.

Sarah, modeling some of her own vintage finds

OetA: What attracts you to vintage clothing as opposed to modern, "of the moment" fashion?

SK: There are so many reasons, yet somehow I find this question hard to put into words! Simply put, I’ve always found that vintage fashion just suited my shape and my look better than modern styles. There isn’t a single item of clothing that I feel more comfortable in than a full-skirted cotton 1950s dress. I also love how unique each piece can be. When you wear vintage, the chances of meeting someone else who owns the same dress is very slim!

OetA: Tell me a little bit about your vintage clothing Etsy shop. Where do you find most of the pieces? Do you have any helpful hints on vintage clothing shopping in general?

SK: My vintage items come from thrift stores, estate sales, antique malls, and personal friends. For example, I recently acquired all the clothing items from the estate of a friend’s mother, who was an antique dealer, so I suspect those will be keeping me busy for quite a long time.When looking for vintage clothing, I try to go with an open mind and persistence. You’re looking for a one-of-a-kind piece, after all! Sometimes I go to five different shops and find nothing, and other times I go to one shop and find thirty items. Also, certain vintage items may not look fabulous on the rack, but keeping an open mind can bring about so many more fashion possibilities – sometimes a simple hem is all you need to completely change the look of an item!

Just because it's Tuesday, I thought I'd give away one 5 x 7 print of Kirby's original artwork. To enter:

1. Head on over to Oh, kirby!'s Etsy shop and select your favorite 5 x 7 print.

2. Come back here and leave me a comment, letting me know which print you'd select if you won.

3. If you'd like a second entry, become a follower of Odi et Amo (and be sure to let me know you have by leaving a second comment).

I'll be taking entries until midnight CST, Sunday, October 25, and the winner will be announced Monday, October 26, 2009.

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