By Mary Ellen Riddle
November 6, 2020
The Outer Banks is a magical place – a respite for vacationers and a beloved home for locals. It’s common to hear residents exclaim: “Another day in paradise!” With the holiday months upon us, why not consider giving a bit of that paradise to those on your list? As you ponder “just the right gift,” consider the work of these seven Outer Banks artists.
Stephanie Kiker’s muse is the environment. “I find my inspiration in my surroundings,” she says. The ocean supplies the Buxton artist energy, exhilaration and peace. She incorporates nature’s movement, patterns, shapes and colors in her bold, graphic designs.
The eye-popping coastal images such as sea life and surfers are printed on a wide variety of surfaces, including wood, tile, notecards, mouse pads and decals. It wasn’t easy choosing what to highlight among her smile-worthy offerings, but her wood art featuring fish, turtles, dragonflies and surfboard shapes called out from the useful and decorative pieces that make up her body of work.
The wall art is made from ¼-inch thick birch wood imprinted with her designs and completed with a satin finish. Wood grain shows through the lighter colors. A piece of wood is fastened on the back of her pieces that makes the art appear to float on the wall. The best part: she has 50 designs from which to choose, including a hibiscus-covered turtle. Price: $59. Her work is available online at stephaniekiker.com and in multiple galleries and shops on the Outer Banks.
Raffaele Paglia has been busy making butterfly shadow boxes. His inspiration was the Valley of Butterflies on the Greek island of Rhodes, which he visited 30 years ago, he says.
To craft his three-dimensional work, Paglia starts with paper, professional markers and colored pencils to create, cut out, and hand-shape a variety of butterflies, including swallowtails, monarchs and long-tail skippers. Several species of the butterflies he crafts, such as crystal skippers, are native to the Outer Banks.
Paglia glues specific species together and inserts them into shadow boxes that range in size from 11-by-9 inches to 15½-by-7 inches. Some of his boxes are singular, while others are diptychs and triptychs – two- and three-piece creations designed to be displayed together. Prices range from $165-$285. They are sold at the Silver Bonsai Gallery in Manteo. Paglia is available to do custom work. Contact him at email@example.com or call 910-616-5624.
Julie Moye, an eclectic artist who runs KDH Cooperative Gallery and Studios in Kill Devil Hills, creates brilliantly colored ornaments from aluminum cans fashioned into shapes of various sea life and land animals. The choices include dolphins, horses, dogs, crabs and sharks – a total of 44 designs.
“My primary reason for working with cast off material is my ongoing battle with our society’s throwaway mentality,” Moye says.
She creates the ornaments by cutting the cans apart, flattening the metal and cutting the designs with dies created for each shape. Moye began embellishing the aluminum with alcohol ink as an experiment and found the glowing colors attractive. The multicolored hues draw gallery goers to the work. When observers discover that the ornaments are made from recycled materials, Moye says, their interest deepens. It thrills the artist to turn trash into treasure that, in turn, attracts buyers. She enjoys figuring out the designs for the ornaments and how to construct them.
Working with recycled materials is not new to the artist who has crafted art from broken mirrors and dishes, tin, clothing, building detritus and bottles. The ornaments start at $12.95 and are available at KDH Cooperative Gallery and Studios, Tar Heel Trading Company in Corolla and Duck and Luckydogstudio on Etsy.
Randi O’Sullivan calls herself the mermaid with a paintbrush. The Rodanthe artist has a self-professed love for bold colors, whimsy and detail. Her goal is to spread awareness, joy and love through her colorful art that celebrates life, nature’s beauty and imagination.
O’Sullivan is adept at painting magical, intricate designs – mermaids, seascapes and mandalas, to name a few. Her inspirations include island flora and fauna, the sea, sunsets and sunrises, salt air, motherhood and music.
Her designs appear on a variety of goods such as stickers, beach bags, canvases, clothing and hats. Each hat is custom ordered, painted by hand and one-of-a-kind. Prices: $70 and up. Contact her at www.randiosullivan.com. She is also available at www.facebook.com/randiosullivan, and Instagram: @randiosullivan_art.
E.M. Corsa stays abreast of the times — hers and the world’s. Her recent creations came about as she struggled to find a way to navigate the current state of affairs.
“Whether it be a turbulent sea, a forbidding wood or an invisible virus, the task was daunting,” Corsa says. “Because I always turn to my art for answers, I began creating compass roses to give me direction and bring a bit of joy to the weary traveler.”
Corsa creates her compass rose designs using transparent watercolor and colored pencils. Each fanciful composition features a variety of creatures and images — sea life, birds, suns, foxes, bugs, stars and telescopes, portholes and musical instruments.
The colorful creations include, of course, directions – north, south, east and west. There are 18 prints from which to choose that come matted and measure 11-by-14 inches. The cost is $55, which includes shipping. Corsa also offers custom designs. Price and details are available upon request. She asks for a two-week lead time to complete a custom work, but often can finish it within a week. Contact Corsa at 252-480-0303, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or facebook.com/emcorsa, and online: emcorsaart.com.
Vicky Lowe, an Avon artist/designer, spent the first 20 years of her career working in textile and dinnerware design in London and New York. Her creations have been picked up by Target, Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and Pier 1 Imports, and have been printed onto high-end dinnerware by brands such as Lenox. She has an Outer Banks-inspired, locally-based line of home goods called A Good Catch.
Swell Art Gallery in Buxton carries her beautiful and fun tea towels. She creates her designs in watercolor, which are then printed onto high quality linen/cotton with eco-friendly inks. The printed fabric is turned into tea/dish towels, table runners, pillows, aprons and prints with a variety of seasonal items in the mix. Her tea towel designs include birds, boats, fruits, florals, surfers, swimmers, lighthouses and crabs. Even one well-placed tea towel enlivens living spaces much like a painting.
Lowe’s whimsical images present fresh colors and flowing watercolor strokes. They not only have the look but also the spirit of the coast, a true celebration of the Outer Banks. The tea towels cost $24. Lowe also is available for commissions and pet portraits. To see her work visit www.theswellartgallery.com/shop/vicky-lowe/61 or call Swell Gallery at 253-995-5181. The gallery offers free local delivery.
Lori Twohig specializes in creating miniature decorated trees using colored glass and shells. The Outer Banks artist was inspired to create ocean art after being rained in for a week with five kids while on a vacation in the early 1980s. The gang settled in to make art crafted from sand, shells and driftwood.
“After moving to the Outer Banks, my art flourished,” Twohig says. She takes advantage of the shells and treasures that wash up on the shore to handcraft her ocean-inspired art. “This unique coastal environment leaves unusual finds for my work; (it’s a) plentiful and a never-ending inspiration for my art.”
Most of the shells she uses come from the Outer Banks; some are ordered from around the world. She uses manufactured tumbled glass for its consistency of color and thickness. The trees are magical, featuring carefully layered glass and/or shells, often a starfish topper and graced with miniature starfish, umbonium, or button top snail shells, and pearlized beads. The trees come in a variety of colors including green, white, teal and purple – the most popular being a blend of sea foam, periwinkle, yellow and teal. Sizes range from 4 to 20 inches.
Her work is available at Roanoke Island Artisans in Manteo and Kitty Hawk and The Gourmet Olive in Manteo. She also sells her work at OBXshesellsseashells.etsy.com on Etsy. You can view her work on Instagram: @Obxsaltshellsandglass and Facebook: @Obxshesellsseashells.
Mary Ellen Riddle has been writing the Coast’s art column for more than 27 years and brings to her work a BFA in painting from East Carolina University and a profound passion for the role the arts play in society.