Earthy Art

Claire Calvino Uses Banana Paper, An Eco-Friendly Alternative, to Make Whimsical Art

The tree's fibers make paper that's less polluting, wasteful and saves the chopping down of hundreds of trees per year.

By Allison Forsyth April 11, 2022

Did you know the average American uses seven trees a year in paper and wood products? That's two billion trees per year.

One way to reduce our consumption by making art out of repurposed materials instead of new paper. In Sarasota-Manatee, there are few local artists doing this.

One of them is Claire Calvino. She owns In Love and Daisies, a small Bradenton business where she creates whimsical doodles on banana paper, an eco-friendly alternative to regular paper. She sells her greeting cards, prints, stickers and screen-printed shirts at local farmers markets in Bradenton and Waterside in Lakewood Ranch.

But why banana paper?

Banana trees only bloom once a year. The rest of the time, their by-products—fibers, leaves and trunks—are left to rot in landfills. But harvesters can collect and ground the by-products into a substance similar to sawdust, soak it in water, and then turn it into a pulp. The pulp is mixed with other agricultural fibers and pressed into sheets of paper a process that is chemical-free, produces less waste than traditional paper, and saves a whole lot more trees.

In Love and Daisies by Claire Calvino.

In Love and Daisies by Claire Calvino.

Calvino gets her banana paper from rural farmers in Costa Rica, who dedicate their work to living off the land—a philosophy  that appealed to Calvino.

All of her doodles are made on the banana paper, which she dyes, draws and sketches on with pen and marker. She even draws designs digitally and prints them onto the paper or t-shirts, which her and her husband, Michael, model on her Instagram page.

The Calvinos' life of sustainability does not stop with banana paper designs. They grew up and met in the Outer Banks in North Carolina, where they found a shard love for land and sea. The couple lived and traveled on a sailboat for six years.

Once they decided to plant roots in Bradenton, they bought a commercial property on the west side of town, where they hope to open a commissary kitchen, urban mushroom farm in partnership with fellow market vendor Petrichor Mushrooms, and place for guests to learn to cook and harvest food.

Michael and Claire Calvino

Michael and Claire Calvino.

"My husband owns a small business called Spare Kitchen, and wants to expand that part of our lives through this urban farm concept," says Calvino. "For now, his business takes the form of hand baking and selling biscuits at the Bradenton public market every Saturday, right next to my booth."

Calvino has found a tight-knit community of fellow artisans at the Bradenton market, who've encouraged her to keep up with her craft. Prior to becoming a full-time artist, she worked long weeks in the restaurant industry on Anna Maria Island. After returning from a trip back home to North Carolina a few years ago, she realized making art was her passion, and despite having any formal training, she wanted to pursue it.

"I came back home, quit my jobs and got to work building my business," says Calvino. "I can't thank the Bradenton market enough for supporting me."

Calvino draws dozens of doodles per week out of her home workspace, where she creates little flower-headed characters, signs that say "spread the love," and other playful, unique designs.

"It's been so wonderful seeing regular customers who want something new each week," says Calvino. "Last week, we had a lot of people wanting the the screen-printed T-shirts, so we focused on that. Another week it may be the stickers or the prints that do better." She also sells vintage clothing that she spruces up with her own touches.

In Love and Daisies artwork

In Love and Daisies artwork.

Her favorite design? Her human figure with a daisy for a head. She's had customers interpret the design many different ways, which is something she's enjoyed about the creative process, going back to doodling on birthday cards with her mom as a kid.

"I want people to take their own meaning from each piece," says Calvino. "This is why I am so passionate about my art and this work, being able to spread the love I put into each piece."

Art by Claire Calvino.

Art by Claire Calvino.

For more information about In Love and Daisies' work, visit Claire and Michael Calvino at the Bradenton Public Market every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. or the Waterside Farmers Market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Or, follow them on Instagram to request a custom work.

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