You might call Erica Group a 21st century renaissance woman. Interior designer, collector, artist and now the owner of a business called Nature’s Patina inside the new South of New York (So.NY) Market in downtown DeLand, Florida. It’s a place where Group is able to display her collection of vintage items and showcase her artistic talents.
Erica’s journey to being one of Central Florida’s top creatives started a few years ago in college.
She started out in architecture school at the University of South Florida, but later decided she wanted to pursue something more creative.
Erica moved to upstate New York, enrolled in college and received her degree in interior design. While in New York, she started working in an antique store and would visit flea markets and weekend antique shows every chance she got. This is where she got the bug for collecting unique items from the past.
Two years later, Erica drove a U-Haul packed with treasures back to Florida and has been here ever since.
“Of course, some of those (New York antique pieces) I’m keeping. But a lot of them I’ve sold already. I think I only have one New York piece left in my booth.”
While Erica believes there’s a place for mass-produced furniture, she often contemplates what types of pieces will be handed down to future generations.
“What are our antiques going to be? There’s just not that sustainability of the furniture. It’s not lasting.”
Erica says the reason why vintage is so big right now, especially with the younger generation, is because furniture was “just made better” in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Interior design may always be first in her heart, but Erica says she’s been “dabbling” in graphic design recently with the creation of invitations and signage. She developed the minimalistic logo for So.NY Market and sketched a black and white representation of the market’s exterior.
But what Erica is most known for around DeLand is an art project that wasn’t supposed to be permanent.
In mid-2015, she was inspired to draw a large set of angel wings on the side of the West Volusia Beacon newspaper building in the alleyway behind So.NY Market. She wanted to use them as a backdrop for a model photoshoot.
Erica asked permission from Beacon CEO and publisher Barb Shepherd and drew the wings in chalk.
The wings lasted a while, but eventually started to fade during Florida’s wet season.
“When they washed away, I was getting so much interest and attention from people asking where they were.”
That’s when Erica says Shepherd came to her with the idea of making the wings a permanent fixture in the alleyway using paint instead of chalk.
“I had already been daydreaming about that. I jumped at the chance.”
Now, #DeLandWings is a popular hashtag on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Models, kids, tourists, city leaders, and even dogs have posed in front of the wings, sometimes in very unique ways.
“They really have grown. So many people come in asking where the wings are. It’s so fun to see all the different photos and what people do with them. They mean a lot to a lot of people.”