by Jeff Lytle

Hunter Nall sees things differently. He sees nuts and bolts and scraps of metal and turns them into art such as fish, birds and even marionettes that work.

Nails are welded into trivets. He sees teacups and candleholders as future birdfeeders. He sees the long-nosed head of a puppet in an oil can. He looks at a French castle and notices shapes of suits of armor.

“I borrow concepts and make them my own,” he explains.

The autistic artisan’s latest push is to repurpose entire discarded motor scooters, starting with one that his sister spied at curbside waiting for the trashman. Hunter snagged it and started searching for others – ideal for his art because they have so much metal in fenders and lights.

Hunter Nall

So far they have been transformed into robots, dogs, birds and an alligator, whose back is fashioned from a blown tire tread.

Nall, 26, and his work are earning attention beyond his base, the Whitman Design studio in Naples’ Design District, across 10th Street from the Naples Depot. He is engaging patrons of street art shows, relishing their questions.

He networked with other artists on future projects at the latest annual Naples Woman’s Club charity auction. A sponsor of that, a Porsche dealer, has agreed to provide Nall spare parts. His work will be featured at four interior designers’ studios. And he has a new advertising brochure and video coming out.

Not bad for an artist who already was doing well, selling almost everything he makes at Whitman Design, where he started as an apprentice to owner David Alger.

Now Hunter rents a workshop and displays finished products in the showroom, where his work blends in with Whitman’s eclectic handmade custom lighting and furniture.

“He has had virtually no arts training,” says his stepmother, Gayle Nall, “but finds that art is a way he can communicate his deepest thoughts and make people happy.”

“It’s not just about the money,” Hunter explains. “It’s about making people smile. My work interests them and makes them think.”

His own interests and thoughts “fire up” with travel, which was shelved by the pandemic but now is on track with a summer trip with Gayle to Michigan and plans for New York, Chicago and maybe Denmark and Luxembourg (more castles and armor).

“He is inspired by the world,” she says. “Hunter is successful at carving out a mini niche of creative products for himself to begin his future independence,” says Alger. “That was my first goal and direction for him — to build up an inventory of low priced, easily sellable sculptures to establish plentiful sales, build confidence, and build communication skills with the public. All of this he achieved within the first year. Now he’s adding into his inventory larger scale pieces to show how deep his abilities are.”

Alger points with pride to a 10th Street art show last year, when Hunter made $2,000. “He was in his element!” Alger beams. “People fell in love with him and his sculptures. His passion seems to be more in animated designs– people and robot-type things. And then he’ll turn out something so modern or abstract.”

A customer, Debby Livingston, is also a fan. “He is an extraordinary and delightful young man,” she says. “His work is amazingly creative and original, and he can execute what his mind imagines. She bought three metal birds for trees in her yard, two more for a landscaper friend and has her eye on a Nall flamingo.

Stepmom Gayle, who is an interior decorator and partner with husband Ronnie at custom homebuilder GNR Developers, says Hunter makes the most of opportunities.

At the Woman’s Club auction, for example, he showed off his wares and raised a top amount, over $200. He networked with other artists and connected with the Porsche dealer.

In France he sought out paintings and brass ballerinas in the Louvre. The impressions are channeled into a body of work ranging from plush animals and yarn dolls to welded home accessories and yard art. As the Woman’s Club auction neared, Hunter looked at the scope of work demanding his attention and said, “I’m a little behind.”

Mentor David Alger is used to seeing that: “He puts his head down and begins a project and doesn’t come up till he’s done.

When told Hunter is lucky to have him as a friend, Alger responds: “We see the blessings come our way every day.”