Make it from Scratch Sustainability Spotlight Sustainable Living

Sustainability Spotlight – Relationship with Nature

Our lives are filled with sustainable choices in life and in work. Tune in for the Sustainability Spotlight, as I feature admirable, sustainable choices in our world today.

October 2018 Feature

Abby’s work focuses on the relationship between the power of nature and man-made design, specifically examining places where those two forces interact. – Abby Martell

Loving nature and living with nature may seem as if they go hand in hand, but this is not always the case. Abby Martell is an imaginative and creative young woman, learning to utilize the natural resources around her to grow artistically. From a young age, she found interest in the outdoors, exploring ways she could connect with nature.

With a BFA in Textiles from the Rhode Island School of Design, she has taken her skills and education to the wild, combining,

“hand processes and natural materials and phenomena to create pieces that question the line between human and nature, man and beast” Martell.


Growing up as neighbors, I have had the pleasure of knowing Abby in her youth, as she and my younger sister Gina were best friends. I was also her babysitter from time to time. She, loved to explore nature in the woods, imagination driven…get her hands dirty, and discover pieces of nature. Seeing the creations and artistic abilities that Abby has developed, is both amazing and admirable.

Through the use of natural products Abby has a Native American approach to her craft and behavior. She sees nature for what it is and may have been historically, appreciating it’s uniqueness.

Learn what your local land is supposed to look like and support people who are working to preserve pieces of it. Imagine hundreds of miles of tall grass, grazed by buffalo and antelope, home to an incredible diversity of birds and insects…” Martell


Natural Dyes

Abby uses natural dyes whenever possible in order to get the colors she is looking for.

Specifically indigo has been a favorite of mine. It creates vivid shades of blue through a fermenting and oxidizing process. – Martell

With the use of local, native plants, berries, and lichen, Abby loves to experiment, making custom dyes.

You can also use food scraps! Onion skins make a bright orange or yellow and avocado pits make a beautiful dusty pink! – Martell



A popular topic in the world of sustainability is composting. So often, kitchen scraps are thrown in the trash bin rather than being recycled back into the earth. Understanding how to recycle trash is very important… is this product paper? plastic? garbage or recycling? What is common to forget is that many food scraps can be set aside to break down, and then put back into the soil to help stimulate plant growth, reducing unnecessary waste.

I compost a lot – to the point where I get anxiety throwing food scraps in the trash at friends’ houses or in restaurants. It’s super easy if you have a yard…. and if you don’t, buy or make a worm bin for your porch or mud room! It’s lots of wasted nutrients that should be going back to the earth! – Martell

A Future Farmer

With goals of having her own flock of sheep, Abby was able to spend this past summer, working part time on a sheep dairy farm in Marshall, NC. There, she was tasked with milking and fencing for pasture and had the opportunity to learn a lot about sheep care while being able to use the wool for her personal projects!

While working on the farm, I was paid in meat, dairy (amazing yogurt!), eggs, and piles of veggies from the farm, so basically everything I cooked was grown with my help, a farm I visited, or from farmers I have interacted with. – Martell

Understanding the growing and processing process of what she eats has really resonated with Abby and she continues to explore natural and local grown food.

I listen for words like “no-spray“, “permaculture“, “biodynamic“, and sometimes organic when buying at the farmers market and talking to farmers…but organic can be misleading. Sometimes the produce is still sprayed with pesticides that aren’t much better than conventionally grown. I also look to see that the animals I’m consuming or animal products I’m consuming come from happy animals! – Martell


Learning to live and create with natural and “happy” resources is something that Abby is driven to do. The message she sends is simple and sustainable… love the earth, appreciate it’s beauty, use what the planet… nature gives you, and give back to it!

Follow Abby through Instagram and her own personal page, to learn more about her journey and lifestyle as well as view her stunning work! Stay tuned as more of her hand-made creations become available for sale

Her skills are admirable…to name a few:
  • Photography
  • Contemporary and traditional bookbinding and restoration – including leather binding
  • Drawing and painting with charcoal, graphite, guache, acrylic and ink
  • Permaculture and natural farming techniques
    • Urban farming techniques
    • Impact/philosophy
    • Farming and Gardening as art


Stay tuned for more examples of sustainable living!



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