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Sketching Wellness

Photos by Dan Bishop

September 2014

Mara Natkin and Gloria Ramirez promote wellness through Artery MKE.

Two Bay View women who make their living in the restaurant business have paired a passion for healthy food with artistic talent.

Mara Natkin and Gloria Ramirez combine computer-aided and freehand drawing to create greeting cards, T-shirts and other items featuring food and nutritional information displayed with a light-hearted sense of humor. Their business, ArteryMKE, has a serious side ó eating habits determine a healthy life.

Their core message is found in a series of clever plays on words and factoids.

A few examples include "Iíve BEAN missing you," followed by nutritional facts about beans; "Iím NUTS about you," with everything you need to know about nuts; and "Iím sorry I made you cry," with vital onion facts.

"We wanted to make something that people will benefit from but do it in a way that is fun," Natkin says.

Motivation started from a personal perspective. Natkinís aunt died and Ramirez struggled with her own health issues. The two discussed what was important to them and came to one conclusion ó living a quality life would mean they would need to eat healthier.

Both servers at Maxieís Southern Comfort in Milwaukee, they said converting to a healthier lifestyle was challenging.

"You know, working late hours around food and not getting the proper sleep or exercise is part of that," Ramirez says. "But we are committed to this."

They have partnered with Sara Axtell, a Shorewood-based naturopath and Ramirezís physician. Naturopathy is an alternative form of medicine that emphasizes the bodyís "vital force" and shuns the use of drugs and surgery.

"People are pursuing natural medicine," Axtell says. "I think itís truly inspiring to see these women transform themselves and their careers."

Natkin and Ramirez said they also have been inspired by Kris Carr, a cancer surviving wellness activist and national author whose books, including "Crazy Sexy Diet," reflect the national trend in alternative medicine.

"Her books have been a big part of our interest in communicating what we believe in," Natkin says.

Natkin and Ramirez have been showcasing their business at art walks, festivals and farmers markets in Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Brookfield and Madison.

Exposure, they say, is the key.

"Weíre really happy with the interest so far," Natkin says, adding that health care professionals have taken a particular interest in Ramirezís colorful anatomical drawings that adorn shirts.

Natkin and Ramirez said they want to eventually take their online business ( and morph it into partnering with a local grocery store, opening their own store with a juice bar and art gallery or even incorporating that concept in a food truck.

"You have to find your style, your mojo," Ramirez says. "We are thrilled knowing that this could help people and at the same time make it fun."


This story ran in the September 2014 issue of: