Martinez Studio Encourages Art Collectors to Share Memories and Photos in 20th Anniversary Archive Project

Posted on 09. Jul, 2012 by in Artists

With just 18 months to go before the Martinez Studio celebrates its landmark 20th anniversary, husband-and-wife team Wence and Sandra Martinez are reaching out to current and former clients as they collect images, anecdotes and memories for a massive 2014 archive project.

Martinez Studio in Door County

Sandra Martinez says she and Wence want to capture a visual and written record of their artistic journey over the last two decades, years that have marked such tremendous creative and personal growth.

“As we get closer and closer to such a big milestone, we find ourselves talking about the connections we’ve made with such interesting people — and reflecting deeply on how our work has developed and evolved,” she observes. “So, we decided to reach out to as many of our collectors as possible, asking them to share photos of the work, what they recall of their decisions to purchase those pieces and how they are living with the work today.

“It’s an informal process,” she says, chuckling. “But we’re going to keep the photos in a collection, with notes about the owners, the specific pieces and whether they’re using those pieces as functional art or whether they’re displaying them in a home or office. We’re excited to share those stories on our redesigned website as well.”

Some of the collectors have already responded to the Martinez Studio’s request:

“(Their) tapestries speak the language of the soul, thus their tapestries and photography accompany and adorn our daily life,” explains Otto and Elsbeth Thilenius, who first visited the Martinez Studio when it opened in 1994 in a north Jacksonport chicken coop, adjacent to the now-closed Fieldstone Gallery. The two-story outbuilding was generously provided to the Martinezes by gallery owner Lois Stewart.

The Thilenius family owns 26 tapestries, including one piece from the first collection Wence and Sandra Martinez produced together in 1988. They also own a variety of accessories, lamps, ceramics and paintings.

David and Louise Rogers first saw early samples of Wence Martinez’s weaving at the old Bayou on Third restaurant in Sturgeon Bay and later at Trio in Egg Harbor.

“That same trip, we stumbled on to the gallery and barn,” they write. “This was our first encounter with Sandra and Wence… and the first of 16-17 years of friendship.”

The Rogers said that they use much of the work — rugs, accent pillows, purses and scarves, for example — as functional art, depending on the pieces. Others they use as wall hangings.

“We have always enjoyed using or displaying our pieces and possess such as sense of pride when friends gush over these works of art,” they write. “Our pieces represent the beauty and uniqueness of Door County and the incredible talent and warmth of Wence and Sandra.”

Figura II Weaving Study from the collection of Camilla Nielsen

Figura II Weaving Study (from the collection of Camilla Nielsen)

Mary Logan and John Stellberg likewise noted that the Martinez Studio’s work never fails to draw compliments from guests. They also observe that their own emotions are indescribable when they walk into the rooms that feature the couple’s art. They say they will enjoy Sandra and Wence Martinez’s pieces for the rest of their lives.

“It’s happy and serene at the same time,” they note. “It’s contemporary and organic, textured and airy… it’s really sensational.”

Armando and Mary Zeledon own Martinez Studio photographs, scarves, rugs and photographs. They say one particular rug is displayed on the “honor wall” of their home.

“A stop at the (Martinez Studio) gallery is a must-do when we take our friends for a tour of Door County,” the Zeledons write.

Mary and Bill Burt spent time with Sandra and Wence Martinez in Teotitlan del Valle, Wence’s home village in Oaxaca, Mexico. Mary Burt says she thinks of their time in Teotitlan every time she walks past Wence’s tapestry or Sandra’s painting.

“I feel their work is an illustration of their story,” she says, “(and) both artists appreciate the need for authenticity of media and idea. Whether Wence is tending to the dyeing of the wool using natural dyes and the clothesline atop his home, or Sandra is framing her painting in a way that the beautiful paper’s edge can be seen as part of the whole, they spare no time or effort to make each piece both lovely and unique.

“(These things) hold true for them as well,” she adds. “They are lovely to look at, as their spirits exude authenticity, beauty and a commitment to our natural and spiritual worlds. Their various endeavors illustrate an energy to inform and please while holding fast to that which grounds them — each other.”

Burt also notes that she expects the Martinezes’ work to hang in their home throughout their lifetime, and then it will hang in the homes of their children.

Doug Jansson says he visited Oaxaca years ago and met some of the Zapotec weavers; while he was impressed with the quality of the work, he was blown away when he saw Wence Martinez’s weaving for the first time.

“I was lucky enough to see Wence’s show at the United Community Center in Milwaukee,” Jansson recalls. “I felt his work was so superior in design and execution to anything I had seen in Oaxaca. Later, I saw the studio’s card at the Peninsula School of Art and told Mary we simply had to visit. The rest is history.”

Jansson purchased a long weaving, designed by Wence and woven by his father, for a wall above a staircase in his home. He says it’s the perfect spot, as he can admire it every day.

“I know Wence says it’s fine to walk on his weavings,” he says. “I just can’t. To me, it would be like walking on a Rembrandt.”

Jansson’s fiancee, Mary, commissioned Wence Martinez to produce a small weaving that incorporated a design of Sandra’s. She wanted to pair the weaving with a favorite statue.

“She loved not only how well it complemented the statue, she also loved the collaboration between Wence and Sandra (that) the weaving represented,” Jansson reflects. “Following Mary’s recent death, her children have decided that the statue and the weaving must always remain together. And so they will.”

Marilyn McDonald has been visiting the Martinez Studio since it opened in 1994. She owns two small rugs, a pillow, a handmade paper notebook, a silk stole that she wore to her son’s wedding and now hangs on her bedroom wall, and what she calls “an indestructible handbag.”

McDonald perhaps captures the essence of Sandra and Wence Martinez best when she says, “I love living with their works because they remind me of the necessity of striving for quality in what we do. (And the work also) reminds me of them, two people who have made their lives a work of art.”

Anyone who owns a piece of artwork from the Martinez Studio is encouraged to contribute to the archive project. Simply send an e-mail to, and please include photos of the work and a few personal notes about when you first discovered the Martinez Studio, what was compelling about the work, which pieces you chose, how you use them and what it means to live with the work on a daily basis.

“Everyone’s input means so much to us, particularly as our studio approaches its 20th anniversary,” Sandra Martinez says. “Reconnecting with so many wonderful people and hearing how our work has affected their lives — we’re feeling more love than our hearts can hold. It’s simply spilling out all over.”

About the Martinez Studio:

The Martinez Studio is a workspace and gallery located 1 mile south of Jacksonport on State Highway 57. Open 11 am to 4 pm daily (closed Tuesdays) from May to October, or by appointment, its intimate setting provides collectors with a comfortable, direct connection to Wence and Sandra Martinez and their work.

Flatwoven contemporary and traditional tapestries are woven by Wence Martinez, each produced with hand-spun wool that he hand-dyes himself. A Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca, Mexico, Wence also is a black-and-white photographer, documenting the Zapotec people and culture as well as the Door County landscape. Fellow resident artist Sandra Martinez incorporates her signature ethnographic figures and glyphs into paintings, tapestry designs and small runs of accessories.

The Martinez Studio has been a destination gallery since 1994. For more information, call 920.823.2154 or visit the recently redesigned Website at

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  • Sandra Martinez

    Thanks for posting this Steve! It has been a blast gathering the stories and photos…some surprises and lots of love…thanks again!  Sandra and Wence

    • Stephen Kastner

      It is hard to imagine that 20 years have flown by so quickly… but the evolution of your work together should be inspiring to any young artists at the beginning stages of making that leap of faith. Congrats!