It isn’t every day that we settle down to discuss bees, architecture, axes,
collages and carpentry in one sitting, but it isn’t every day that we meet Ruben B of Trasmonte.
It’s impossible to distil Ruben down to a single description or profession; he is a beekeeper, an axe-maker, a carpenter, an artist, and a creative, to name just a few.
With roots in architecture, Ruben says that it’s a thread running throughout his work, ‘I first began with architecture school. I worked as an architect for several years in a studio I opened with friends, then stopped because of the crisis’.
Ruben found that projects that were in the pipeline for many years, projects that a great deal of time and energy had been poured into, didn’t get off the ground, ‘it was frustrating to see that our projects were not built because there was not enough money’. Undeterred he simply took what he had learnt and applied his creativity elsewhere, as is Ruben’s approach to life – he simply shifts his focus. ‘We decided to move on from long architectural projects to fast and easier ones in editing and collage’, Ruben says.
He formed a partnership with Max-o-matic through Fotolog and, under the moniker ‘The Weird Show’, put together collective expositions and exhibits of collage with international artists in different parts of the world, ‘I like collage because it’s fast, fun and intuitive’, he adds, ‘last year our shows were in New York and Montreal, this year in Norway and Barcelona’. Additionally, Ruben ran a small publishing house with some partners, editing illustration books and a magazine, ‘we have also created some print on demand books, aside from the exhibitions’.
The evolution of Ruben’s ideas and projects seems entirely organic. Five years ago, he and his wife had plans to move to the countryside, but were concerned that this required a job that was both adaptable and suitable to their surroundings. ‘The easy way was plugging in my laptop and continuing to do what I was doing here’, says Ruben, ‘but this did not fit well in my mind – having to work with amazing views while locked in front of a screen – so, the idea of bees came naturally. Everywhere I looked, the television, the newspaper, they were talking about bees, and since I was a child I’ve always liked insects so it was perfect for me’.
As with his other projects, Ruben took a practical and focused approach to beekeeping. ‘I took a course on ecologic beekeeping with Antonio Simon in Madrid, then after that I learned on my own using the Internet’. Self-taught Ruben was focused on keeping the most natural bees he could, ‘I learned that the bees we find now increased in size 120 years ago because they thought the bigger the bee, the more nectar it could carry and the more honey production. However this was a fallacy, the smaller bees fly faster; they carry less nectar but bring more’, he explains. With guidance from a German man living on the island of La Palma, a patient Ruben began the ‘slow, dedicated process’ of shrinking his bees to normal size, ‘By decreasing the cells the bees inhabit they grow up to the size of the cell, so after they’ve grown in the plastic honeycombs with small cells, they have to be able to build their own natural honeycombs/beehives with small cells’. For the past three or four years Ruben has been devoted to his bees, tending the apiaries and travelling around the world in a bid to discover new techniques and methods. He is currently working on a project to set up beehives in the centre of Madrid in a bid to create sustainable homes for urban bees.
This venture, named Trasmonte, also encompasses Ruben’s unusual and beautiful painted axes; a project that perfectly illustrates his flair for collaboration, the natural progression of his ideas, and his frank and practical attitude. ‘In Burgos we noticed that there were a large number of trees blocking the sun to the beehives. Bees need a lot of sun to produce honey so I had to lop off the trees’, he explains, ‘I wanted a good axe, and after searching I found the best axe producers in Spain – a company of artisans in Gipuzkoa. When I came back to Madrid everyone loved the axe, so I got in touch with blacksmiths here with the intention of selling painted axes, why not?’
Charmed by Ruben’s approach we realise that he is unafraid to give life to his ideas, he has the drive and creativity to bring them to fruition and has a keen instinct for the talents of others, ‘It’s nice to see that when you have an idea, you find other people who want to collaborate; the process happens in a natural way’.
We are intrigued to know where a man juggling numerous complex and diverse projects draws his inspiration. ‘I like books’, he says, ‘I guess I am also a very curious person, this is perhaps my architectural way of seeing things’. Although his work appears disparate, Ruben says all the things he does – the collages, his beekeeping, the axes – are connected by the aesthetics and functionality of things, something that, again, he says stems from the influence of his architectural training. And of course, Ruben is inspired by his city, ‘Madrid is great; I like it because it is constantly changing. Whenever you walk down the streets, you find new and recently opened stores. You always discover something’.