The name Sigrid Olsen is synonymous with style. Women around the globe covet her expertly knitted sweaters and brightly printed tops. Recently, parent company Liz Claiborne announced it's closing her eponymous line of chic apparel and accessories, allowing Sigrid more time to focus on other creative endeavors. "I was an artist before a fashion designer," she says. At home in Gloucester, Massachusetts, she has rediscovered her passion for painting.
More than 20 years ago, Sigrid began making stamps from raw potatoes and dipping them in silk-screen textile ink to print fabric. Today, in her home and gallery, she displays cheerful works featuring organic shapes. Her gallery also houses a collection of books, cards, and decorated pottery.
"Are you the Sigrid Olsen?" ask shoppers who've entered through a sliding glass door. After confirmation, the women praise her clothing line. "How do you find time for this?" they say, surveying her collection.
Good question. Sigrid explains that her renewed interest in painting followed treatment for breast cancer three years ago. Taking a break from the long hours and hard work that went into designing clothing and home decor, she says, "I realized it had been a long time since I could create something without having it approved by hundreds of people."
Her recent work includes vivid colors and varied themes, many inspired by the ocean. "Even as a kid, I was always painting the water and sky," she says. She creates her paintings―splashed with rays of sun, jumping fish, swaying palms, and tropical flowers―in her basement. Though the room is small, it has everything she needs: paint, stamps, brushes, and quiet.
Sigrid and husband Curtis Sanders spend half the year at the coastal retreat in Gloucester. "But we may not leave this time," Curtis says, only half joking. Located in the oldest working art colony in the country, their residence overlooks the Rocky Neck harbor. Today, artists and art lovers enjoy waterfront shops, studios, and galleries here.
"It's fun to live in a place where everyone would rather be painting," Sigrid says. "When you really have it in your blood, you would always rather be painting."
Sigrid Olsen Art; 978/281-1766 or sigridolsenart.com