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They've got a great "body" of work.

Mara Natkin and Gloria Ramirez find beauty in what lies beneath the surface. Their anatomically-inspired artworks – circulatory systems rendered as labyrinthine pen-and-ink loops, hearts embellished with arabesque atria – are lovingly detailed and packed with stylistic flourishes.

The couple met about eight years ago, when both women happened to take waitressing jobs at the old Buca di Beppo on Van Buren Street after earning their art degrees – Natkin in Milwaukee, Ramirez in Mexico City. They started signing up for the same shifts, sometimes working six days a week together, and encouraged each other’s creative pursuits outside of work too.

A mutual interest in holistic wellness eventually led them to Lakeside Natural Medicine in Shorewood, where they were so inspired, personally and artistically, by what they learned that they decided to found Artery Ink. “Feeling good in your own skin makes you happier,” Ramirez says, explaining that she and Natkin wanted to create a series of anatomic prints, paired with fast facts about the human body, to promote healthy living.

The prints were a hit. So the couple started making greeting cards, calendars, clothing and coloring books, too. Now they sell their work in dozens of stores around the country (including Milwaukee boutiques Sparrow Collective, Swoon and The Waxwing) and have turned Artery Ink into a full-time endeavor.

Ramirez and Natkin plan to marry in 2019. And, if their creative work is any indication, their union will be a strong one. “Happiness is like a muscle,” Natkin says. “You have to work at it every day.”

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‘Body of Work’ appears in the February 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning January 29, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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