Gallery owner Elizabeth Kilby lives in a world of Asian art


Elizabeth Kilby walks up to an antique Japanese woodblock print, a ukiyo-e tryptych, and says, "Aren't the colors gorgeous in that? It's circa 1867."

"And these," she says turning to a set of striking framed designs on the opposite wall, "are antique Japanese kimono stencils, the stencils they used to print the fabric of the kimonos. They're all late 19th century. See how intricate this one is? I think they're fascinating just in themselves."

Mrs. Kilby is one of those lucky few who gets to work around everything they love.

She's the owner of a new gallery, the Oriental Collection, on Padonia Road in Timonium and spends every working day around antique Chinese temple panels and temple carvings, hand-carved wooden temple figures and masks from Bali, antique bronze guardian lions from India, brass hardware from India and China, old wedding kimonos, rosewood elephants with ivory tusks from India and Chinese scrolls and framed watercolors.

"I enjoy being around it," she says, then adds with a laugh, "But some of the pieces I get in, I don't want to part with. Everyone says, how can you not take it all home with you, but you can't stay in business if you do that."

It's like working in a museum with artwork and objects from Bali, Japan, China, Thailand, India, Iran and Korea.

The gallery specializes in fine arts, antiques and furnishings. There is a large selection of antique Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints and a collection of pillows made from various Asian fabrics, including Thai silks and pieces of old obis -- the sashes for kimonos. There also are many antique and contemporary porcelains, including vases, temple jars, fish bowls, garden seats and figurines.

"Many of the items I have are unique; you just can't walk in most stores and find this variety," she says.

"These are hand-carved stone chops from China. You use them to stamp your name. When people buy them, I send them back to China and have their name engraved both in English and in calligraphy."

She walks over to a stately Japanese doll and says, "This doll is circa 1860, she's an old empress doll. She has a lot of charm, don't you think? Collectors are always looking for the antique Japanese dolls."

She continues the tour and comes to a Japanese doll house, complete with dolls and furniture. One doll preens before a mirror, two others prepare tea, still another stands outside with a rake.

"It is incredible isn't it? She did it very authentically I think. If you look in there and see some of the pieces are really rare -- the noodle pot, the tea service and the antique dolls. And she has all the dolls doing what they're supposed to be doing. She did a wonderful job of putting the shoji screens on. And it lights up, too. When you turn the light on, it shows through the shoji screens."

Ms. Kilby had always had an interest in art, majoring in art in college and doing her own painting and sculpture. "Then I fell in love with the Oriental art," she says, "and I kept thinking and thinking about going into business."

The owners of an Asian art gallery, Oriental Arts and Antiques, in that same location decided to retire and Ms. Kilby had an opportunity to work in their shop for five months while they vacationed in Mexico. After they came back and closed the gallery, selling off their collection, Ms. Kilby took over their space, redecorated and started fresh.

She likes to work with people to help them incorporate the artworks into their decorating scheme. "I love to decorate, so when people come in, lots of times they'll bring in a piece of fabric and we'll try to match up a vase or something."

She will also create silk flower arrangements to fill porcelain vases or bowls that her customers buy.

The hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays to Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays. The gallery is closed on Sundays.

The Oriental Collection is located at 100 W. Padonia Road in Padonia Park Shopping Center. The telephone number is 252-4687.

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