aoife ® is a sustainable circular brand inspired by the Arts, the natural world and how they influence human culture. We are committed to sustainability and respect for the environment. We launched a new Autumn project called “Nature and the Artist“, reflecting on how artists are inspired by the beauty in Nature surrounding us. We have interviewed various talented artists in Ireland and internationally who have all been inspired in different ways by the natural world – each artist with their own unique skills story to tell.
With great pleasure, we introduce the very talented Artist- Carlos Ramirez. We have long admired this artist with an established background in Fashion and Art, a fascinating combination that creates a beautiful, interesting and unique aesthetic.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I am Cuban-born and came with my parents to the US when I was seven as part of the flight out of the communist Castro regime. My parents started from scratch here as immigrants, leaving all their possessions behind. I believe this plight and my parent’s struggles which I witnessed first-hand as a child, had a powerful lifelong impact on me. In many ways, it made me fearless to pursue new ideas and avenues in life, not just settle.
I went through law school to make my Dad proud but quickly realised that working as a lawyer was not something I was willing to do. Then on a whim (maybe out of desperation), I started a fashion label before starting my last year of law school. I had grown up in a house where my mom sewed for various contractors, and seeing her make a suit or a gown was not uncommon. That became the beginning of a fashion business I owned and worked in for over twenty-five years. We established a showroom on Seventh Avenue, had regular shows and sold to boutiques and stores worldwide. I developed an understanding of style, design, colour, and pattern as I worked putting together six collections a year. This rigorous work, season after season, year and year, laid the foundation for developing my aesthetic and sense of design. Most of my work involved developing new styles, drawing, and painting new fabric print patterns and embroideries. Most of my day was filled with drawing and painting. The downside is that a large design business has an equally significant stress level. I gravitated more and more to my parallel weekend life as a painter. I knew that at some point, this would become my life.
Where are you based, and where do you live?
For most of my life, I went back and forth between a Miami home and an NYC apartment. About a decade ago, we moved to a house and studio in Santa Fe, NM. The winters there proved too isolating, and I missed the city life. On one of our drives through Arizona, we found and fell in love with Tucson. We just finished renovating a mid-century house and added an awesome studio to it.
Did you study to gain your skills, and if yes, where did you learn?
Except for a regular college education (architecture) and then law school, all of my knowledge has been gained from the job working. I am a tinkerer who enjoys pursuing the “what if” in all endeavours.
What is your experience in Fashion?
I spent twenty-five years in Fashion in NY. From a showroom on Seventh Ave, we entertained stores from all over the world, had regular shows, met with the press etc. From our Miami plant, which employed bout fifty seamstresses, cutters, etc., we designed and manufactured all of our styles. Most fabrics were sourced or custom-made for us in Italy and France. I developed long-term relationships with key mills and embroiderers, which allowed us to do unique things.
How did Fashion influence your Art? What is the connection?
It is intrinsic to my work. Fashion, to me, was developing ideas, playing with colour, how a pattern or design would lay out over the human body (canvas) etc. The similarities are endless in my head. I don’t separate them in any way.
How was your time with Wolf Kahn? What did you learn?
One of the treats of running your own business was carving out time to do things that filled your soul. That is what painting did and does for me. I would take every opportunity to go to workshops with various artists around the country. Wolf Kahn was by far one of my favourites. I took a few workshops with him at different times in my life. He was always an incredibly humble and unassuming man—a beautiful person.
You spent some time studying Law. Isn’t it interesting how we divert but are drawn back to being creative?
As a child of hardworking immigrant parents, a career in the Arts was too much of a gamble for them to accept. I had wanted to be an architect, but my dad pushed me to apply to law school. Being a good student, I was accepted and given a full scholarship. I couldn’t say no. I did well in school but feared I would end up stuck in a cubicle doing research for the rest of my life. There just wasn’t enough coffee I could drink in a day to get me through that life. I knew I needed a creative out.
What is your inspiration when painting? Is Nature within your paintings?
It is always Nature. I am an outdoors person; walking, bike riding, swimming, and outside symbolise freedom. It makes my heart smile. Invariably it drives my work.
How do you spend most of your day now?
I am a morning person, I get up around six or so, and after breakfast, I am in the studio. I’m usually there until lunch. I work till about three or so in the studio, then I go outside, hike or walk or do yoga or a cycling class, anything that will shut my mind down and hopefully develop a good sweat.
Do you present your work? At exhibitions, online?
I show in about five galleries around the country but recently have had requests from a few other galleries, so I will see where that goes. I have a show scheduled for the fall in my Dallas gallery, Craighead Green.
What are you working on now?
I just completed an 18′ commission, which was a daunting but exciting task. I enjoy challenges. It was comprised of 3 panels. Cool project to work on. It is going to a home in Hawaii.
Where do you see your Art in the future?
I’m here working and plan to continue to do that indefinitely. Wolf Kahn passed away a couple of years ago. The year before he passed, he had five gallery shows. That is a life well lived. I treasure that.