Albuquerque Journal

N.M. “Obamanos Coat” bound for Smithsonian

By Kathaleen Roberts / Journal Staff Writer
June 3, 2011
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SANTA FE – The day after the presidential election, Nancy Judd went Dumpster diving and turned out a coat.

Now the coat – pieced together from 2008 Obama materials, specifically paper door hangers that canvassers left on door knobs – has morphed from trash to treasure as part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Using one of the president’s New Mexico campaign slogans, she calls it the Obamanos Coat.

The Santa Fe environmental artist and educator joined the Barack Obama for president campaign for six months before the election, organizing volunteers and canvassing her neighborhood. On Nov. 5, she scoured the trash bins at campaign headquarters across Santa Fe and Albuquerque, going home with yard signs, posters, decals and paper door hanger photo cards.

She picked up a vintage 1950s men’s coat at a consignment shop, then started cutting 1- by 3-inch strips from paper door hangers emblazoned with photos of the candidate and his volunteers.

“I attempted to size it to fit the president,” she said. “I went online and tried to find his dimensions. I found somebody who claimed to be his tailor. I literally had about 30 volunteers in my studio. The coat itself took about 400 hours to make.”

Santa Fe environmental artist and educator Nancy Judd created her “Obamanos Coat” out of recycled 2008 Obama campaign print material. The coat will soon become part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. (COURTESY PHOTO)

The garment formed part of a trio of “Change Couture” that included a cocktail dress pieced from plastic yard signs and a “Voter Swingcoat” in honor of New Mexico’s political status as a battleground state.

“It’s made of voter registration photos cut into quarter-inch strips woven into material,” Judd said.

The series traveled to the Green Inaugural Ball, as well as a reception honoring the New Mexico congressional delegation and the New Mexico Inaugural Ball. The publicity landed her a front-page story in The Wall Street Journal and international coverage from Mexico City to Paris and Kuwait.

Crafting garments from garbage is nothing new to Judd. The one-time coordinator of the Santa Fe recycling program, she initiated her own company called Recycle Runway and helped launch the city’s annual Trash Fashion contest and Recycle Art Market. Today, she gives workshops on recycling and other environmental issues throughout Santa Fe’s schools and youth organizations.

Her Recycle Runway traveling exhibit (now in Atlanta) has been showcased at airports around the country. It debuted at the Albuquerque Sunport in 2007. She’s made a flounced flamenco dress from fanned pieces of junk mail, a cowboy skirt and vest woven from phone book pages and a flapper dress sparkling with teardrop-shaped “sequins” sliced from aluminum cans.

Judd submitted the “Change Couture” series after her sister heard the Smithsonian was collecting campaign memorabilia. She learned the Obamanos Coat had been accepted when she got a call from a Smithsonian curator.

“I think it was just shock,” she said of her reaction. “For an artist to have a piece in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian is really a dream come true.”

She threw a little “bon voyage” party with the “sealing of the shipping crate” this week at Astilli Fine Art Services in Santa Fe.

She said more alchemy is to come.

“I’d love to do a project for the first lady,” Judd said. “A compost dress.”

The biodegradable garment would be made from fruit and vegetable peels from the White House garden attached to cheesecloth.

“I’d use the cheesecloth to make layers and layers of lace,” she said, adding, “Our immediate environment is our body.”

UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Kathaleen Roberts at or 505-992-6266 in Santa Fe. Go to to submit a letter to the editor.


— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal



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Designer and environmental educator Nancy Judd creates wearable art out of recycled materials