Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Edge of the City Profile: Local Artist Nicholas Ruiz

Nicholas Ruiz
From time to time I will be featuring Q&A’s with interesting residents of Forest Hills. I recently had the chance to sit down with Nicholas Ruiz. This 23-year-old Tampa, Florida transplant is a budding local artist/fashion designer who has been designing bow ties with some, shall we say, rather interesting twists. So far he’s made bow ties from guitar picks, soda cans, computer parts, film negatives and wine corks, just to name a few.
As you will see, our conversation covered not only his passion for his unique designs, but also his ongoing passion for Forest Hills. In fact, he ties the two together in his website Made In Forest Hills. Who knows, some day you may soon see Nicholas behind the counter of his own store selling his bow ties and other men’s accessories right here on Austin Street.

Edge of the City: How’d you come up with the idea for your bow ties?

Nicholas Ruiz: In November of 2010 we had our annual Film Benefit at the Museum of Modern Art, where I work in the Special Events Department.  At the event I met singer Janelle Monáe, who wears this fantastic bow tie in her music video "Tightrope.”  She told me a friend (singer Erykah Badu) purchased it at a shop in London and I was immediately jealous.  I started looking for a similar bow tie around NYC – but couldn't find one that spoke to me - so I decided to just make one myself.  I planned on making the first bow tie out of guitar picks for the opening of the Picasso: Guitars 1912-1914 MoMA exhibition in February 2011.  
It was a blast to make and I received such a great response from colleagues and friends that I decided to continue making bow ties inspired by the different exhibitions and events at MoMA throughout 2011.  There are style and design influences from the artists' works  and also a sustainable aspect with each each bow tie because the materials are found and recycled from my day-to-day life.  
This past November we held our 2011 Film Benefit, for which I wore a bow tie inspired by our honoree, Pedro Almodóvar.  I just recently completed the entire Bow Tie Collection with our final exhibition of the year and the 11th bow tie for Sanja Iveković: Sweet Violence.  
What began as a fun way to look sharp at my events, turned into a year-long project where I could combine my passion for art and love of fashion.  Some could say I've become a little bow tie obsessed, but really, who doesn't love a bow tie?

E.O.T.C.: Any plans for your bow ties to actually be exhibited at MoMA, or anywhere else perhaps?

N.R.: They’re not being exhibited at MoMA, but a gallery in Connecticut will be showcasing the eleven bow ties from the Bow Tie Collection next year.  Although every bow tie is wearable, the originals will be shadow box framed for the gallery display.  A series of bow ties from this Collection will also be available to buy framed or unframed, and because each one is hand made by me and will vary slightly in material design, there will be a bit of a waiting period for each order.  I've also chatted with Art World, which is a neat frame store on Metropolitan Ave. (formerly on Austin St.) about displaying them.  The Collection is really important to me, so it's excited that they're catching people's eyes. 

E.O.T.C.: I find it interesting that you play up the fact that you are from Forest Hills, even calling your website “Made in Forest Hills.”

N.R.: The name of my website is pretty literal.  I make all of my bow ties right here in Forest Hills.  I grew up visiting my uncle every year in Forest Hills, and then eventually moved here in March of 2010 after graduating from college.  When I first arrived I spent a lot of time fixing up my apartment while exploring the neighborhood.  There are so many hidden gems like the vintage shop, Instant Replay, where I found the brooch for the last bow tie in the Collection or Bangkok Cuisine, which serves hands down the best papaya salad.  Also, nothing beats an indie flick at the Cinemart followed by an ice cream sundae at Eddie's on Metropolitan. 
 I'm also a supporter of preserving the Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, which is such an iconic landmark to the community.  The neighborhood has directly influenced most of the bow ties in the Collection because many of the materials were found right here in Forest Hills.  The chandelier crystals for the Party in the Garden 2011 are from a local lighting store and the wire casing for Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art is from my hardware store around the corner.  Even the de Kooning: A Retrospective bow tie is made from a Queen's Chronicle newspaper, and the parts for Talk to Me are from an old computer I found on Queens Blvd.  I'm always telling friends not to judge FoHi until they've been – I even made an About Forest Hills section on my site so people could plan their visit.

E.O.T.C: So what would you say is your ultimate goal with your bowties?

N.R.: It would be a dream to be able to make bow ties from when I wake up to when I go to bed.  Who knows, maybe one day I'll have a little bow tie shop here in Forest Hills.  All of my bow ties are unique and speak to different people for different reasons.  A wine lover may like the one I made out of wine corks for German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse or a kid at heart would dig the one made out of Legos for The Armory Show 2011 after-party. One of my personal favorites was made out of expired Acetaminophen pills for the Contemporary Galleries: 1980-Now exhibition.  Right now, I'm developing a clasp system to make them easy to wear and working on designs for a limited edition Forest Hills Collection, which will be available in early 2012.  I'm also always searching for new materials, and people can email me at with ideas. 

You can follow Nicholas on Twitter at @bowtieboy, check out his Bow Tie Blog, or visit his website, Made in Forest Hills:

Are you interested in being profiled on this blog, or know someone who is? Shoot me an email at


  1. These bow ties are brilliant! I want every one! Such a talented young man. Can't wait to see his designs for the "Forest Hills Collection." Excellent post Drake - keep it up!

  2. Such a cutie too!

  3. btw: Art World on Metropolitan is fabulous. The owner is lovely and does great work.

  4. What an awesome idea!

  5. Sign me up! These are totally wild.

  6. Makes me wish my husband would wear bow ties!

  7. I'm visiting MoMA soon...what should I see? :)

  8. I recommend visiting the de Kooning: A Retrospective exhibition, which is the largest showing of his work in history - with over 200 pieces on view on MoMA's entire sixth floor gallery space. Definitely grab a bite at Cafe 2 on the second floor, and peek around the corner at Diego Rivera's fresco murals - which haven't been seen at MoMA in over 80 years. The museum also has a wide selection of film programs and the cool Design Store. Have fun! :-)