The Art of Reinvention

By Carol Tisch April 1, 2011

"I needed a new challenge,” says Sigrid Olsen of her new lifestyle store and gallery on South Pineapple Avenue. Beloved by fans for her eponymous apparel brand, the former fashion designer has been lauded in national press as an inspiration to baby boomers who’ve lost jobs during the recession. Liz Claiborne, which purchased her clothing company (and name) in 1999, ran into trouble during the economic downturn and in 2008 pulled the plug on Olsen’s fashion business. Contractually, she could only use her name on art or hand-painted objects.

“What was I going to do, wallow in misery? I went back to my roots as an artist and reinvented myself,” she says. Indeed, Olsen says she’s happier and healthier than ever. The Sarasota gallery is a Florida iteration of Sigrid Olsen Art in Gloucester, Mass., and ISLA Beach House, a small clothing boutique around the corner in an art colony there not unlike Burns Court.

From watercolors to note cards to hand-painted ceramics, the art is decidedly uplifting. “Everyone who shops the gallery in Massachusetts says the look is perfect for Florida, so I decided, why not be here?” Olsen explains.

Sigrid Olsen Art Gallery and ISLA Beach House, 407 S. Pineapple Ave., (941) 312-5826

Get Sigrid’s Look

Part Caribbean, part Scandinavian and 100 percent original, Sigrid Olsen’s signature look is fanciful, bold in color and hand-applied to her growing oeuvre of artwork, cards, prints, home furnishings and ceramics (custom-inscribable Kissing Fish or Love Birds wedding gift platters, $110).

What this town needs: “I haven’t seen colorful Florida art that is true art at accessible price points,” Olsen says. She hopes to bridge the gap with giclée prints (from $60), watercolors (from $100) and original art customized to coordinate with the client’s décor or gift occasion (from $150).

Can’t live without: “Yoga, the ocean—and my art supplies. I bring them with me everywhere I go, even on vacation, and I always carry a sketchbook.” Her passions inspired beach- and yoga-themed note cards at the gallery ($5 each).

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