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mike lowrey

interview: Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons - Derrick R. Cruz

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Derrick Cruz


Born in Brooklyn and raised in Puerto Rico, designer Derrick Cruz returned to New York in 2001 to start a project entitled Black Sheep and Prodigal Sons. With a degree in Fine Arts and training as a painter and sculptor, Cruz's interest in design took a slightly different form when he moved back to his native state. Inspired by the lively city, he began creating jewellery and accessories utilizing hand crafting and unique techniques. The result is a very strong, dark aesthetic and objects that share both modern and ancient aspects of craftmanship. The attention to detail is very evident both in the objects as well as packaging, which together provide an unfolding story.

What was it that got you interested in designing?

I've been a maker of things from early childhood. Though formally trained as a painter, making is an instinct for me. My interest in design as a discipline stems from it’s role as a tool for making art. You can take the art out of design, but not the design out of art.

Your work balances between various accessories and objects, would you classify yourself as a jewellery maker?

Individuals tend to project meaning unto their jewelry, thus making an object personal. This coincides with my interest in the relationship between craftsmanship and emotive response, which is by no means limited to jewelery making. Ill make anything that will help me better understand the attachment of people to things: accessory, object or otherwise artifact.


What are your favourite type of items to make, then?

I love scrimshaw, but sometimes it really tests my patience. Each piece takes an arsenal of different skills and considerable time to construct. But even after aggravating my tennis-elbow during the engraving process, I love to handle and examine the finished pieces. Honestly, it’s hard to let them go.

How do you come up with the ideas for pieces?

Its like chasing a floating paper bag down the street. Something of interest crosses you, you connect and relate to it, then you follow it till you cant follow anymore. Ideas then evolve through drawings, conversations, research and experimentation. My current work deals with endangered craftsmanship traditions, so unlike plugging a drawing into a calculation machine and getting exactly what you entered, you have to develop a connection with the materials and techniques through practice in hopes that at some point you've gained enough skill to move on to creativity. I’ll often make something and continue to improve upon it for over a year. One thing I'm learning is that time, contemplation and experience make things better.

Do you have anything in particular that influences you?

Ideas or objects that can be described as “ethereal” seem to appeal to me. Any degree of intangibility, whether aesthetic, spiritual or scientific reminds me that I know very little about the world around me, and that inspires me to make things.

What about manufacturing, how does it all work?

I handcraft every object in my Lower East Side studio. Wheels, hammers, saws, fire, water, metal, stones, bone, blood, time, good lighting and patience is how it works.Occasionally I seek the help of other U.S. craftsmen to carryout tasks that exceed my capabilities. The Stanhope lenses in my Mammoth Razors are a good example: they are 160x miniature microscope lenses with microphotography in them. Each is handmade in Pennsylvania by master violin maker Michael Shibley.


Tell more about the Abandoned Comb project.

It was inspired by the mass disappearance of pollinating honeybees in the U.S.. As a hobbyist beekeeper, I felt I had to do my part. So, I made a moralizing instructional tool about the subject.

The way the pieces are contained is very unique.

My containers are not separate from what they contain. I see them as storytellers together. With "Abandoned Comb Amulet", it was necessary to involve as many of the senses as possible in order to lure and force a destructive instinct. There is a promise of gold to help you engage in the decadent process of excavating the sugar and honey. Once the consumption is complete, your hands and face thick with empty sweetness, what's left is a glass shell meant for displaying specimens, but no animal is present, no bee. In the end, your gold reward is just a reminder of an ecologic massacre.

That definitely shows how deeply thought out it all is. What do you have in the works right now?

I have my hand in lots of odds and ends at the moment. Painting is creeping back into the picture, and so is sculpture. I'm waiting for it all to become liquid and then solidify again into a clear direction. Interesting how the alchemical process is basically a metaphor for the creative process. Reminds me of that chapter "A Squeeze of the Hand" in Melville's Moby Dick. A number of my pieces will be on display at Spring Gallery in Dumbo Brooklyn beginning May 16th.

view the latest issue of Scoute, featuring Alessio Zero, Marivittoria Sargentini, Eastern Market, Sartorialoft LA +++.

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I really enjoy reading scoute and I will go out of my way to recommend it to other people. But is it necessary to bump a week old thread in superfashion? You have advertising on scoute now, so regardless of whether you even break even, it's still a business.

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this was published in superfashion as an editorial collaboration, so I don't see a problem here. I bumbed it after rephrasing the title due to it being cut off half way through.

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