Off-the-wall decorating

Plant art can spruce up the d?cor of a home or business

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

When Deb Dworman walked into MacDaddy on Madison hair salon, at 7506 Madison St., a couple weeks ago to have her nails done, she was blown away by the art on the walls — mostly because it's alive.

The walls are draped—no, covered—with what husband and wife, John and Jane Morocco, of River Forest, refer to as plant art. John and Jane, who did the installation at MacDaddy, own a small business called Living Art. According to the company's website (livingartusa.com) John and Jane's work "combines art and plants to create vibrant, living decors on walls and in spaces."

And Dworman, for one, loves what they've done at MacDaddy.

"It's so incredibly gorgeous," she said. "I can't recall ever enjoying art as much as this."

John takes pride in the creativity of their decorative art. He said that, unlike other plant rental companies the stick a fern or a lemon tree in a pot and place it in the corner of an office or a home, he and Jane "combine the creative aspect with the green aspect and bring it into your home or office."

"It's a whole different approach," he added

In short, both organic and inorganic media are used.

For example, Meghan Gunia, a stylist at MacDaddy, said her favorite piece is a creation that consists of John's old saxophone (it doesn't work anymore) and an air plant called a Harrisii.

As a gift for her husband, Dworman said she is planning on buying Living Art's spin on the plants Sempervivum and Fasciculata Hybrid: both of which are arranged atop an old typewriter. She also is going to grab some other pieces for her business, Deedee and Edee.

"Everything we use in our compositions ... is recycled," Jane said. "Much of it we find in alleys or flea markets. All the pockets [containers holding the plants] are made from recycled water bottles."

In addition, the plants used in the Living Art creations tend to be succulents or "air plants" which don't have roots and absorb water through their leaves.

"They don't need a lot of water," Jane said. "That's a big thing to me, too, the conserving of water." She added that the plants also filter out a lot of the bad chemicals in a building's air.

Both in their 50s, the Moroccos said that the inspiration for their new business venture was pretty much born out of necessity. John, who had worked in marketing, lost his job two years ago. The key for the couple was that they were able to transform an emotionally difficult crisis into an opportunity.

The idea for the business began incubating in Jane's mind about a year ago as she started making Christmas gifts for friends and family that combined plants and unused items around the house.

"Everyone I gave them to went crazy," she recalled. "It started out as more of an experiment."

Her husband gradually got on board with the idea that this exercise in creative gift giving could actually evolve into a viable business. What motivates him, besides the possibility of making a living with their new venture, is the sense of mission he shares with Jane.

"We have a motto," he said. "We can make a difference in the living and working environments that we touch. We've made a difference here at the salon in the way they feel, in the way they breathe."

Gunia confirmed the Moroccos' claim by saying, "Having living art here at MacDaddy, I definitely feel a different energy: very positive, very lively. It's very green, very healthy."

Stephanie Neubauer, MacDaddy's owner, said that Living Art will be on the wall of her salon until the end of the year.

The Moroccos said that all income from the sale of their work on display at the salon will be donated to Opportunity Knocks, a River Forest nonprofit that provides services for persons with developmental disabilities.

This story originally ran Nov. 2 in the Forest Park Review, a sister paper of Wednesday Journal.

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