Environmentally-inspired Design

Local Artist Nancy Martini’s Latest Quest:Making Natural Dyes from Native Plants

For more than 20 years, Nancy Martini, an Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale graduate, worked as a freelance graphic designer and creative director. That’s when she began creating collections of work using everything from upcycled materials, papier mache and encaustics to distressed porcelain and natural dyes from native plants.

She was an eco-artist before the term became widely known.

“I spent many exhausting years explaining my mission and my art. My earliest memories are of camping outdoors being inspired at the beauty of a simple walk through a forest,” Martini said. “Art came later when I realized, as an extremely shy girl, that art could be my voice that however small, could create change.”

Her parents moved to Florida when she was 10. Martini now resides in Pinecrest where she says “art, environment and life are happily intermingled in my world.” She works mostly out her home but also out of her studio in South Miami.

Her environmentally-inspired work is the Biscayne Bay porcelain collection, something that evolved from her need to give creative handmade gifts to clients, family and friends.

She wanted bowls that were wheel-thrown but looked handmade when seen from across the room. They also had to look good with plain white dishes. When she couldn’t find anything even close to this she decided to create them.

“After a year of learning how to throw on a potter’s wheel and mix chemicals to develop the perfect white glaze, the Biscayne Bay Porcelain Collection was created,” she said.

The pieces are meant to be a subtle reminder of the Biscayne Bay and how precious the health of the Bay is to every person and business in Miami.

“If our waters become polluted, who would come here or want to live here,” she said.

Additionally, the native plants carved in the pieces are meant to encourage people to plant native instead of exotic plants that use excessive water, fertilizer and pesticides that run off and pollute the bay and the ocean.

“Purchasing from a local artist serves many sustainable principals as well as nurturing art and culture in Miami,” Martini said.

The collection, available through her website thegreenhand.co, is selling well she feels because “it fits into a Miami home’s interior landscape helping to soften modern edges,” she said.

In 2013, when she was awarded an artist residency from the National Endowment for the Arts to work at The Deering Estate at Cutler, she became interested in native plants for their dye and weaving properties.

She’s had plenty of success with native plants, particularly the Royal Poinciana blooms in her back yard.

“Although the flowers are red, they produce a beautiful warm taupe or soft, pale yellow dye depending on the mordant. Mordants bind the pigment to the cloth,” she said. Martini’s familiar with textiles since her mother taught her to sew when she was nine to quiet her constant requests to create her own clothing designs.

“I’m still exploring what to create in fabric that I dye. I’ll probably start with pillows and bags because that is what I need right now,” she said.

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