Interview with Phoenix artist, entrepreneur, and maker Ruben Gonzales.

26 Sep


We first met Ruben Gonzales at an art opening at what was then his pop-up shop on Roosevelt Row in 2011. Ruben’s shop, 11th Monk3y, is now a company specializing in custom screenprinting, bikes, and bespoke furnishings. He and his crew create everything in their shop (now located on Grand Avenue) in Phoenix. There’s something special about his shop, everything he makes, his relationship with street and hiphop/bboy culture, and the way he supports local artists.


So much of your work is a mix of magic and some inescapably practical function. Can you describe that special machine of magic and function? And do you think it is something everyone “has,” and at some level either struggles with or embraces, or is it something that surfaces only for a certain tribe of us?


Most of what I use to create what I make is just a basic mig welding machine, some grinders, and some cutting blades. I think the magic comes from your own mind though; we all see objects differently then the other person, and I think that is what makes us unique and or makes us curious as to how things are done or come about.
I do believe we all strongly have some level of enchantment, however I feel as we age we tend to make a choice. Do we want to live out our life the way we feel free, or do we want to live out our life having some kind of foreseen comfort? I guess with that last answer it comes down to your choice: live to live or live to live freely. There is a difference.


Do you find your style evolving as you continue to design and build, or do you want to continue to simply refine what you’re already doing?


I find both, actually. The more I do what I do, the better I become at it, and I can see my progress growing in ways I never even thought possible. I generally don’t make the same items more than 2 or 3 times (unless it’s commissioned). So I would say it’s being refined with every new project.


Do you have a process for beginning new work? Do you tend to plan or see it as New Work in a Certain Form, or do you just start cutting and building?


I do. I will usually start with a very basic line sketch, nothing artsy, just some doodles, then I’ll google some images and combine what I see on my paper and what I see out there to make it my own.
Work inspires work. I consider all the work I do “New Work.” Before, I would just build as I go, but that doesn’t always work out. So now, for me, the best way to build is to start with a plan(ish).
The goal is truly to have the client walk in and go “oh my, thats beautiful, it’s gonna look awesome in my place.” Or maybe it’s just to see them walk in with no idea and then smile and say “wow!”



What is your current project? (Choose just one. I know it’s hard.)


Hmm. Okay, so my current project is for Co+hoots (a co-op work space). They wanted some more stylish but sized-down private call booths. Never done this before, did some research, and bam I have 3 down already, 2 more to go!!!!


When did you first know that you wanted to make things?


Ever since I could break things. Seriously though. As a kid, like most, it wasn’t about just breaking something; it was about taking it apart and seeing how it works. Finding the heart to it! I loved learning at a young age, just not the stuff you would learn in schools.


Who are you reading or listening to right now? Which writers and artists and genres inspire you?


I don’t read much. If I do, it’s a Dwell mag or just a random wood and metal blog. Atmosphere’s new album ( SO GOOOD). Hmmm writers … as a kid it was def Stephen King, now I don’t know… but as for artist/builders, I’d say it really started with Jesse James (the motorcycle dude). Before he went big, he would build the coolest things in his shop: not only cycles, but art. Everything about his form was Killer. You could just tell there was passion in shaping metal objects into functional working pieces. He even had this show at one point, Monster Garage, and man they would build ridiculous things for fun.


You also run a business, and have created a community of followers and artists at your shop. Where do you find the intersections between that work and your creative work, if you draw connections or lines? Is there significant bleed- through? Does one feed the other, or do you find that one takes energy the other needs?


Most of the artists we have had through our shop have something about their work, their passion. That’s the connection I get with them. They don’t do it just to say they are having an art show; they do it because without creating art and showing it, life would just seem wrong. The look they get on their faces when the doors open and the crowds come in: that’s priceless! The bleed- through is a good amount. I’m always baffled by how they can create, draw or just in general get down with the skills and talents they have been gifted with. I think it’s an equal share of energy. It’s a great balance we all share here.


So I have to ask this question of everyone, but given your work, maybe especially you. If you could become a different animal, which animal would you be? And why?


So many choices of animals, but if I could be another animal, my first choice would be a monkey, because they are so damn clever, but deep inside I really want to fly. Like physically FLY!!! So in that case I’d say if dragons were not mythical creatures, I’d be a dragon, but in today’s age an eagle. Yeah, I’d be an Eagle.

ruben2#dowork #buildshit #11thmonk3y #whatsyourpassion

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