Another duck stamp dynasty? MN twin sisters hope to make names for themselves in national contest

They say birds of a feather flock together. For twin sisters Kira Sabin and Kess Fennel, pursuing their passion for painting is twice as nice.

"I think it's like a secret advantage because a lot of art involves critique. We always have each other to bounce back. When I'm doing something wrong, I'll say what is wrong about this and she'll tell me and I'll do that for her too. It's like a second pair of eyes," said Kira.

Growing up in Hutchinson, Kira and Kess did everything together, from playing soccer to hanging out with friends.

They also shared an interest in animals and art, so much so, they went to art school together, where they lived in the same dorm room.

"We are the only people we know who talk the same way, and have the same humor. We always know what each other is thinking, it kind of seemed natural," said Kira.

After graduation, Kira stayed in the Twin Cities to become a professional painter, while Kess moved to Washington State to become a tattoo artist.

But while the sisters were separated, Kira became a social media superstar.

We first introduced you to Kira last year, after videos she made on TikTok chronicling the process of entering the Federal Duck Stamp Contest went viral, gaining millions of views. 

Her social media fame helped her make a living as a full-time artist and brought the competition to a new generation of fans.

"It's really unbelievable. I can't picture that many people know who I am and what I'm doing while I sit here in my living room and document the process," told FOX 9 in 2022.

"It was really cool to see. I was very happy for you. I never say this but I was proud. You got what you wanted and it was just really exciting to see. I loved it," said Kess.

So when Kess moved back to Minnesota and in with her sister back in March, it was only a matter of time before the duck stamp contest became a family affair.

"I was like Kira is doing it. Why would I do that? Then I was like ‘Why would I not do that?’" said Kess.

Like her sister, Kess documented her progress on TikTok as she prepared to enter the contest for the first time.

"The main response I got was 'oh my god, there's two of you,'" said Kess.

Even though they look and sound the same, the sisters say their artistic approaches are very different, with Kira aiming for realism, while Kess' work tends to be more stylized.

A couple of weeks ago, the sisters traveled to Drake University in Iowa to watch this year's judging in person,  where they crossed paths with another set of Minnesota siblings, Bob and Joe Hautman, who along with their brother Jim, have become a duck stamp dynasty by winning the contest a whopping 14 times.

"They were really lovely. Bob turned around and shook my hand and said 'Oh I know you'. I was like 'you know me?' That's so weird. So yeah, I've talked about them a lot, so it was great," said Kira.

Unfortunately, neither Kira's Northern pintails nor Kess' Harlequin ducks made it past the first round.

But they say sharing the experience and the spotlight with each other will be their lasting masterpiece.

"It feels natural. It's something we can continue to do, and it will develop on its own. It's something we'll always have," said Kira.