As a self-described “lifelong creative,” Robyn Ladwig was always looking for a fun way to unwind at the end of each day spent helping with her husband’s business and caring for their children. Fortunately, her family knew exactly what she should do.
“I had mentioned wanting to start a hobby to my husband, and one Christmas, he gifted me an easel and paint set and it just started from there,” she says. “I started playing around with all the different avenues of art. At night, I’d tuck the kids in, go upstairs, and paint.”
Ten years later, Ladwig—who splits her time between Stuart and Michigan—has taught herself how to work with several mediums, including ink, acrylic paint, and epoxy resin. The latter is her medium of choice, creating a high-gloss finish on the water-inspired paintings, jewelry, and home goods. In 2017, she started her brand, Coastal Custom Art, and began selling her creations, as well as custom pieces she creates for clients. Her work also incorporates one semi-constant component: sand.
“Loving the water, I just gravitated toward trying taking a bird’s-eye view of the shoreline, and then I thought about using real sand and found objects,” she says of her process. “I’ve had commissions from people who got married on a special beach or lake and brought me sand from the site. A lot of families will vacation every year somewhere, so they give me their sand and then gift their children a painting to commemorate the time they all spent together at that cottage or beach. That’s the beauty of what I do and why I love it so much.”
Ladwig is keen to give back to the ocean she loves so much. She has partnered with the Treasure Coast Manatee Foundation, which works to protect the species in our local waters. Since January 2021, she has donated 50 percent of the proceeds from each piece of art or jewelry sold in the organization’s gift shop. “I reached out to them because I thought that would be a wonderful way to help the manatees,” she says. “They’ve always been near and dear to my heart.”
In addition to the foundation’s gift shop and Ladwig’s website, locals can find Coastal Custom Art designs at The GypSea Cottage in downtown Stuart, and Shuckers on the Beach and Sunrise Surf Shop in Jensen Beach, as well as several boutiques along the Gulf Coast. More recently, Ladwig has begun creating one-of-a-kind trinket dishes using shucked oyster shells and handcrafted cheese boards.
Says Ladwig: “I’ve turned [my hobby] into an art career, and now that my kids are all grown, I have even more time to devote to it. It’s just been wonderful.”