AAA Magazine, New Mexico Journey

Can Do Attitude

AAA Magazine

By Megan Kamerick, photograph by Ann Murdy
December 2009

Eleven years ago, Nancy Judd made her first dress out of recycled materials for the Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival, which she cofounded. Today, her mission is education through fashion. She creates recycled garments through her company, Recycle Runway, and exhibits them in public spaces and in schools. What is the Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival? It was created to attract people to a fun event that, at the same time, would encourage recycling, reuse, and waste reduction. There is a recycled-art market, a juried art exhibition, a kids’ exhibit, information booths, and a recycled-fashion contest.

Why did you want to start it? As Santa Fe’s recycling coordinator, I was responsible for public education. I put recycling and art together and came up with this. People can come do their Christmas shopping and see their kids in the fashion show and their kids’ artwork displayed.

Were you always an environmentalist? During college, I took a year off to go to art school. One day, I saw a garbage can filling up with aluminum cans and asked the school to get a recycling bin. Then I just got interested in who picked up that material and where it went and what it was made into. I did an independent study on recycling and waste management and that led to my career in recycling. It was Recycle Santa Fe that brought me back to art. I’d been sewing my whole life, but I’d never made a recycled dress before.

What goes into making a dress? For one dress, I folded origami fans out of junk mail and sewed them to a skirt. It took me about 200 hours to make because I had to choose the mail pieces, then cut them into squares and fold them. Then I hand-sewed them onto a skirt I made.

Do you have a favorite? I’m particularly fond of one made of aluminum cans cut into teardrop shapes and sewn to a dress made from ,a cloth shower curtain. It sounds beautiful when you wear it—it’s like being a human tambourine.

Are your designs inspired by the materials? What inspires me is the idea of taking something we consider trash and transforming it into something beautiful or elegant or sexy. My goal is to abolish the whole concept of waste and to redesign how we manufacture so everything becomes a resource.

The Recycle Santa Fe Art Festival takes place November 13-15 at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe. (505) 603-0558; recyclesantafe.orq. For information about Recycle Runway, go to

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