Denise Santina Ruiz
My mother’s womb, Puerto Rico, Chicago
Chicity: Humboldt Park, pre-gentrified Logan Square communities
Describe the work that you do…
I redesign and remix vintage and recycled accessories, I upcycle bags and jewelry. I pull from various pieces to make a one of a kind piece. Because of the materials used, no duplicates can be made, which is perfect for the person who wants to stand out. I use textile, paint, embellishments, earth elements etc. I create for the Caribbean diaspora so I try to use influences from the culture in most of my work.
Why is the work important?
I think it is important because it is eco-conscious. It is coming back to the indigenous idea of working with what you have and creating beauty from that. In realizing the abundance already available. This is a culture of fast fashion, scarcity thinking, carbon copy trends and material waste. I seek to challenge that current with my work. It is slow, deliberate, unique. The materials I use are 50-100% recycled and upcycled, depending on the piece.
What inspired this work?
The inspiration came after my mother passed. She was also an avid yard sale shopper, our home decor was almost all used and she created a beautiful space with it. Creating became a catharsis, way to connect with her spiritually, and to heal from the loss. That healing is not over and will probably be life long, but creating one of a kind pieces feels so perfect, our mothers are one of a kind, and we are each unique individuals, I want to represent that in all I do.
Why are you a proud Puerto Rican?
Where do I begin? I am proud because this is my bloodline, my ancestry and to honor that is to honor yourself and your children – future ancestors. I am proud because we are one of the most resilient people. Colonized, exploited and brutalized and yet we continue, we hold steadfast to our culture, our customs, and our strength despite that. We are a beautiful mixture, our Indo-Pan-Africanism and Caribbean roots are prevalent in so much of our daily life, language, spirituality, music and history. We come from beauteous lands, mountainous memory, salt water and medicine. We are game changers, an example of the power in agile fists and small but mighty islands. I love our people, our tierra and our capacity to survive as a diaspora in the face of so much effort to keep us down. We are beautiful. Punto.
What song is currently in repeat rotation for you?
Honestly, I’m not over Solange’s album (A Seat at the Table) yet, so that stays on rotation pretty often.
What book is at the top of your favorite book list?
Right now I’m obsessed and reading all of Malidoma Patrice Somé’s books, I am also in the middle of The Star Side of Bird Hill by Caribbean author, Naomi Jackson. I tend to read multiple books at the same time. 🙂
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