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Oxford Artists take Pride in Valentine-Themed Creations, from Colorful Cookies to Whimsical Paintings

Sarah Hutto with a tray of her almost-too-pretty-to-eat cookies. Photo by Joe Worthem

Sarah Hutto’s Cookie Canvas  
Sarah Hutto began baking and decorating cookies out of necessity: She was living in Meridian and couldn’t find anyone to make cookies to match the “Where the Wild Things Are” theme of her son’s first birthday party.
“I just told myself that I was going to make these cookies,” Hutto said. “I watched YouTube, and I practiced. I would just do it for fun.”
Hutto took a break from baking to concentrate on a move to Oxford. Then, in December of 2016, she donned her chef’s hat again and started rolling out the cookie dough. When she began posting pictures of her creations on social media, the positive response was immediate and overwhelming.
“I just did it for fun, but people started asking for them,” Hutto said. “It was becoming a weekly thing, so I legitimized it.”
Hutto has been in business only since June, but she has already shipped cookies to states all over the country, including California, Georgia and Texas.
The biggest boon for her cookie company, though, was when Hutto got to create cookies for the cast of the popular TV series “Gilmore Girls” at the Gilmore Girls Fan Fest. After seeing a post on her Instagram page featuring a “Gilmore Girls”-themed cookie she’d decorated, organizers for the festival reached out and asked if she’d like to create cookies for the event.
“I got to hand deliver them and meet a couple of the cast and crew,” Hutto said. “It was amazing. It’s pretty much my favorite show of all time.”
Hutto’s cookies are a real labor of love. She spends about four days perfecting each batch. On day one, Hutto makes the dough and the colored icing, which she lets sit overnight to become more vibrant. The next three days are spent decorating with layers of color and intricate details.
Some effects call for piped-on icing in different consistencies. Sometimes she’ll paint the cookies for a watercolor effect or add edible details like glitter or metallic dusts.
“Creating cookies is a long process, but every step really makes it look totally different,” she said. “I love getting to put extra details [on my cookies].”
Though Hutto will continue to take custom orders on a local level, she is moving away from shipping cookies and focusing instead on teaching cookie workshops around town and at birthday parties.
“Cookie workshops are great, because it’s something you can take home and re-create,” she said. With some basic skills, people can go home and make their own.
Hearts and flowers with sweet or sassy
messages make perfect Valentine’s Day treats. Or, bite into a shark with a toothy grin or a cute and thorny cactus. Photo by Joe Worthem

For Valentine’s Day, Hutto loves to add edible gold and silver to her cookies. She also plans to hold a flash sale, where she will make a large batch of cookies and sell them to customers on a first-come, first-served basis.
“I just love doing that kind of stuff,” Hutto said. “Valentine’s Day is so fun.”
Nicole Lamar’s Heart Paintings  
Nicole Lamar’s heart paintings seem to radiate playfulness and joy. Several hang in businesses around Oxford, and
dozens grace the halls of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Memphis Pediatric Heart. Photo by Joe Worthem

Nicole Lamar’s paintings of hearts hang all around town: There are three large ones in Oxford Urgent Care, several hanging in the Children’s Dental Center, and a slew for sale at Oxford Floral.
You might even catch a glimpse of her artwork on a trip to Memphis. When Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital renovated its Memphis location, they bought 20 paintings from Lamar to brighten the halls. Several also hang in the office of Memphis Pediatric Heart.
Lamar’s paintings are bright, graphic and lots of fun, a motif that began when her children were in preschool.
“My art has always been centered around my family and around my children,” she said. “I really started my whimsical theme when my children were at Willie Price [Lab School].”
Her affinity for hearts in her art was inspired by her children as well. While expecting her second child, Lamar began creating pieces for a solo exhibit at City Grocery. A motherhood theme emerged, along with images of hearts.
“It just kind of grew out of that, and now it is my signature,” she said. “It’s what people ask for, so that’s how it developed.”
Lamar, who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Mississippi, has been painting for as long as she can remember. She comes from a talented family: Her grandfather and mother were artistic, and her twin sister is a cartoonist. She describes her style as impressionistic, happy and joyful. Acrylics are her medium of choice, but she likes to experiment with other media as well.
“Color is very important to me, just layers and layers of color,” Lamar said. “I almost always use acrylics, but I’ll use whatever is in front of me. I paint with my hands a lot. It’s very free, and I’m a free spirit for sure. Nothing is ever perfect, ever, ever. It’s fun, and I think I started enjoying [painting] more when I realized it wasn’t going to be perfect, but it was going to be fun with lots of color.”
Lamar’s paintings are available locally at Oxford Floral, where she worked for 19 years. In fact, the first heart Lamar ever painted was on a T-shirt she designed for the shop years ago.
“[Oxford Floral] is very supportive of what I do,” Lamar said. “It’s pretty much the only place in Oxford I sell my work.”
Not surprisingly, her paintings tend to be more in demand in February, so Oxford Floral will be well stocked. “They’ll be chock-full for Valentine’s Day,” Lamar said.

By: Ginny Cooper McCarley and the Invitation Oxford Magazine
For questions or comments email us at hottytoddynews@gmail.com

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