Stanley Ruiz is a Filipino industrial designer currently based in New York City. With an affinity for combining traditional craft techniques with contemporary design aesthetics, he produces cleverly reinterpreted objects which display both foreign and familiar qualities. Ruiz’ products are stocked in Australia by Hermon Hermon Commercial.
It seems you have a diverse creative background – what experiences have led you to the career you have now?
I studied industrial design back in college, and ended up working mostly with artisans around the Philippines. This experience led me to a job in Bali, where I lived for more than 3 years. In Bali, I worked for an exporting company, designing mainly craft products for the US, Europe, and Australia. By the end of 2004, I moved to New York for work, basically for the same industry – designing goods for the home.
Can you discuss what you learnt during your Industrial Design studies?
Aside from the usual fundamentals and principles of design – the curriculum in my university was geared more towards the crafts industry (I received my Bachelor’s degree from the University of the Philippines, and later on studied Interactive Media Arts at Brooklyn College, The City University of New York).
Your work has taken you from the Philippines to New York. What location has inspired you the most and how does travel influence your work?
Travel has been a major factor in my growth as a person and as a designer. I think people tend to get something out of every traveling experience. In Bali, I learned to appreciate culture and tradition more, and in New York, I learned to embrace the cutting edge. I have been fortunate to travel to many parts of the world because of my work as a designer…and so many memories, people, and inspirational moments experienced along the way.
Do you feel a responsibility to represent Filipino design and culture on a global stage?
Partly no, partly yes. No because I don’t really want to be a representative of anything, aside for my own self (which can be somehow selfish, but hey). I don’t feel like I’ve done something really significant yet, or something with great impact, to warrant that. I still feel like a pale blue dot, to allude to Carl Sagan.
On the other hand, since I’m here – a designer being given this opportunity to somehow become a voice for my fellow Filipinos – then yes, I humbly take this endeavour with some degree of responsibility and pride, not because I’m an insecure Filipino designer in my small stage this part of the world…but because I enjoy what I do and I am proud of my personal progress as a designer and a human being.
Do you work with local craftspeople to create your pieces? And do you consciously incorporate elements of the Filipino design language in your work?
Yes, I work with a lot of craftspeople all over the country – from the weavers in Mindanao, to the shell artisans of Visayas, and the rattan and natural fiber companies in Luzon. I do not do it deliberately, though the Filipino-ness manifests in the materials that I use.
Aside from the many awards you have won for your work, what has been the proudest achievement in your career?
To date, my proudest moment was the day I quit my day job to start my own design company. It didn’t come easy – I had to sacrifice a lot to pull this off. I had to quit my stable job in New York City, give up my comfortable life there, the security of a monthly paycheck, say goodbye to friends. It has been a long wait – it took me about 14 years of patiently working everyday to achieve this. But since I didn’t have resources and people to help me out, I couldn’t start my venture earlier.
What is your favourite piece from your own body of work and why?
If I have to pick one right now, I would say the New Organic collection I made back in 2008 in Brooklyn. It’s a collection with a bowl and a clock made of found twigs and metal vessel. It was the recession then – I got laid off from work. It was a long winter, and I started collecting fallen twigs come Spring time. I launched the collection at ICFF in New York, May 2008.
That’s when I realized I could do this, having my own line of products.
What are you working on at Estudio Ruiz Design Consultancy currently that excites you?
I’m flying to New York in 2 days for the NY NOW show at the Javits, where I am the Creative Director of the Philippine delegation. Next month, I will be in the Czech Republic to develop some glass objects together with Bohemian artisans (with 2 other designer friends). I’m also working with 8 companies for a lighting installation this coming October at Manila FAME (October 20-22, you’re all invited!).