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Several of Our Favorite Environmental Artists 

Artwork featured in image by Bryan Holsenbeck

Here are a few North & South Carolina artists whom we love and hope you will love too:

Tom Buhrman:

"I can store my entire “Vampire Squid” costume in Tom's one-of-a-kind Octopurse for a quick “Wonder Octowoman” wardrobe change anywhere I go."

Durham, NC-based Tom Burhman was born an artist and designer but took a hiatus to work and raise a beautiful family. He is now back at it and how! In addition to generating paintings, performance art pieces, short films, and digital designs, he also creates fashions from bicycle tires and repurposed materials from the Scrap Exchange. Check out his website at We dare you!


Tanya Casteel:
“My background in photography, my interest in science, and my love of the ocean all inform my work. Each item is individually handmade, making them one of a kind. They are decorated with aquatic decal graphics that I make myself. The decals are applied last and fired in a kiln (during a 3rd firing) which transfers the iron-oxide pigment into the glaze; making it part of the glaze. The images will NOT come off! I also make all the glazes myself. My pottery is food, microwave, and dishwasher safe.”

Listen to Sea Source’s radio interview on WCOM here:

Bryant Holsenbeck:  

“For over a decade now, I have been documenting the ‘stuff’ of our society that we use once and throw away. Americans create more garbage, per capita, than any other culture, yet we are blind to our waste. I collect many things, among them, bottle caps, credit cards, pencils, shoes and chopsticks. I use these everyday items to make work, which transforms the objects and surprises us. We are used to using ‘stuff’ once and then throwing it away. We may throw it away, but my work makes me aware of its continual impact.”

Listen to Sea Source’s interview on WCOM radio here:

Carter Hubbard:

“In February of 2008, Carter began collecting the colorful, non-recyclable (due to the type of plastic used) gelato spoons from Sugarland on East Franklin Street. Over the span of one year, she washed and counted nearly 37,000 pink, yellow, and blue spoons from two collection buckets; one behind the counter and one in the salon area. The Sweet Life spoondelier is made up of over 7,000 spoons. They only came in three colors, pink, blue and yellow, so Carter assembled them to create other color combinations. The spoondeliers primary purpose is as a base for educational materials.”

Listen to Sea Source’s interview with Carter and Photographer, Alison Overton on WCOM


Metamorphosis Metals, Raleigh

Metamorphosis Metals is the husband-wife team of Sonya Coulson Rook and Jackey Rook.  Sonya shares my passion for cephalopods and also for creating tiny worlds. Her jewelry provides her a perfect expressive outlet to play and to help others spread the octo/squid love. She and her husband “combine traditional metalsmithing techniques with non-traditional materials to create jewelry and accessories for men and women.”  They describe their aesthetic as industrial and organic with a focus on minimalism.”

Bonnie Monteleone, Plastic Ocean Project, Inc.
The Plastic Ocean Project is an art initiative that raises awareness “regarding the problems with the over-use of one-time use plastics, why it matters, and what can be done about it.” Monteleone and partners collect plastics from nearly 10,000 nautical miles in three oceans to make work that “systematically illustrates how the oceans are very different than” they were “less than 200 years ago.” How amazingly cool is that?

Gretchen Morrissey:

A selection of textile artist & naturalist, Gretchen Morrisey’s color and design palette.

Gretchen Morrissey’s work represents the perfect nexus of art and science. Boasting years of experimentation, deep ecological research, and chemistry training, Morrisey creates hand-dyed textiles using natural dyes (indigo, lac, cochineal, madder, Osage orange) and heritage printing techniques. The result is stunning images inspired by nature and rendered in uniquely vibrant color. Morrissey also works as a professional graphic designer, nature illustrator, and workshop and master course instructor.


Paperhand Puppet Intervention:

Giant Tortoise from Paperhand’s 2017 Summer Show “Of Wings and Feet”, Photo by Lee Capps

From “In 1998 Paperhand Puppet Intervention’s directors Donovan Zimmerman and Jan Burger met and began a collaboration of epic proportions. Since then, 20 years ago, they have been using paper-mâché, cardboard, bamboo, your old house paints, cloth, and other assorted junk (Paperhand treasure!) to create incredible giant puppets, masks, shadow plays and spectacle performances for all ages.

They continue to tell stories, beat drums, sew cloth, get sweaty, push boundaries and carry heavy things to help make the world a better place. Paperhand’s parades, pageants, and award-winning performances aim to be an inspiration, a call to action, and a celebration for everyone to enjoy!” Environmental conservation and natural wonder form the basis for each production.

Emma Skurnick:
Emma Skurnick received her certification in science illustration from UC Santa Cruz in 2000. Since then, she has been living and working in North Carolina, splitting her time evenly between illustration, fine art, and teaching. Her work has been commissioned by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, American Scientist Magazine, and the NC Aquariums. She is a passionate lover of biodiversity and nature. Every work reveals a hidden statement and often very personal meaning for the artist.

Jim Swaim, Environmental Sculptures:

Environmental Sculptures uses metal mesh to form animal shapes and then fills these pieces with trash collected at cleanups. Swain and participating artists partner with non-profit and governmental organizations to use their sculptures to raise awareness of the harmful effects of littering. Their goal is to inspire activism to protect the environment.

Todd Tinkham:
Todd Tinkham longed to write and direct films since he was a boy growing up in a small fishing community in Massachusetts. But it would take years of working with at-risk teens, mentally ill adults, and incarcerated men, before Tinkham would ever make his first film.

Todd Tinkham founded TinkhamTown Productions in 2005 after losing both of his parents to cancer in 2004. Realizing that his parents had never really pursued their dreams, Todd decided that he could not wait any longer. “After my folks died, I realized that I wasn’t going to live forever, and that if I wanted to go after my dreams, I’d better start now.” He has dedicated himself to subjects of humanity and justice. Currently he is working on a full feature documentary about the petrochemical industry’s push to gain a stronghold in North Carolina. Watch an early excerpt here about Louisiana residents message to NC following the BP Disaster:

Listen to SeaSource’s interview with Todd and uber actress, Jennifer Evans on WCOM Radio:

Donn Young:

Donn Young has been a photographer since his grandfather Louie Berman gave him his first Brownie camera when he was eight years old. More than 50 years have passed, and Donn has made a career of making photos — ranging from commercial to editorial to fine art photography. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Young’s studio was based in New Orleans. Following the disaster, 1,500,000 of his photos sunk under 10 feet of water. The Louisiana State Archives created the Donn Young Archive a reference of images for future generations to study. Donn Young is the first living photographer of his generation to be so honored. Young now dedicates much of his work to raising awareness for and discussion of social and environmental justice issues.

Listen to SeaSource’s interview with Young and Natural Disaster Relief expert, Gavin Smith at

Matt Zigler:

Zigler is a painter, installation artist and writer who explores the complex relationships we have with animals and nature and the resulting attitudes towards the environment.  Matt grew up on a small farm in rural Maryland, the son and brother of two PhD level scientists, which encouraged both his first person experience of and higher level research about the natural world.  Exploring animals as exotic as African elephants and as mundane as common street pigeons, his work is informed by science, philosophy and personal encounters.

Listen to SeaSource’s interview with Matt on WCOM Radio:

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