Frank de Ruwe on seeking smiles above meaning in his creative practice

Conversations About Your Voice: The Dutch street artist and industrial designer lets us into his world, which is driven by the mantra - 'Do your own thing with a smile'.

by Zohra Khan Published on : Jan 29, 2021

Frank de Ruwe aka Frankey puts smile above meaning in his work. A Bill Murray fan donning a cheerful smile and a pointed red beanie, who can often be seen cycling around the streets of Amsterdam, turns everyday sights into tiny landscapes of happiness…stop and ask him what he is doing, and you might as well get, “I am trying to enjoy myself,” as a reply.

Amsterdam-based Frank de Ruwe aka Frankey is an industrial designer, guerrilla campaigns creative, street artist and innovator | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Amsterdam-based Frank de Ruwe aka Frankey is an industrial designer, guerrilla campaigns creative, street artist and innovator Image: Courtesy of Frank de Ruwe

An industrial designer, guerrilla campaigns creative, street artist and innovator, Frankey’s roles are many, but all his specialities converge towards one goal, i.e. to get everyone talking.

Every project by Frankey is driven by the passion to bring smile to people's faces | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Every project by Frankey is driven by the passion to bring smile to people's faces Image: Courtesy of Frank de Ruwe

An uncertain optimist as he likes to call himself, the TU Delft graduate was taught early on in life that things that you make yourself are way better than those that you get readymade. Born to a mechanical engineer father and a teaching professional mother, young Frankey was often taken down to gift shops to choose a gift he wants, which he would only later customise with his father in their backyard with available tools and machines. Being exposed to mistakes and learnings in these years, this was where 'doing your own thing with a smile' got seeped into his mind.

With his creative agency Natwerk, he work with brands to create powerful marketing campaigns | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
With his creative agency Natwerk, he works with brands to create powerful marketing campaigns Image: Courtesy of Frank de Ruwe

Despite many failures and heartbreaks along the way, today looking at all the 'crazy' things he has achieved over the years, Frankey tells STIR that he is grateful that he has had many happy days.

Sliding down 590 steps on a mattress for which Frankey has bagged a world record | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Sliding down 590 steps on a mattress for which Frankey has bagged a world record Image: Courtesy of Frank de Ruwe
An ad campaign where he drove a old Fiat 500 filled with 400 kilograms of grapes | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
An ad campaign where he drove a old Fiat 500 filled with 400 kilograms of grapes Image: Courtesy of Frank de Ruwe

Many powerful projects of his creative studio Natwerk include a much-talked about exhibition on wheels, showcasing his graduation collection on the streets of Milan during 2005 Milan Design Week; a world record for sliding down 590 steps on a mattress; leaping through a flaming hoop in an old Fiat 500 filled with 400 kgs of grapes; and the idea of Bacon sprinklers mass produced for over 10,000 people. One can also discover his art in unexpected spots of Amsterdam.

Making of a street gem by the man himself | Image: Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Making of a street gem by the man himself Image: Courtesy of Frank de Ruwe
Sunset: Nieuwe Weg, Breda | Conversations About Your Voice | STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020 | STIRworld
Sunset: Nieuwe Weg, Breda Image: Courtesy of Frank de Ruwe

"There’s a safe haven: go outside. Enjoy the infinite source of cool stuff," he says when we ask him where he rushes in times of a block and advises young creatives 'to never get frustrated'.

More in our video conversation from the series Conversations About Your Voice, Frankey reveals how he responds to noise in his practice, what has been his most iconic mistake, and which voices continue to inspire him to create work that brings a smile.

Hit on the cover video for all this and more!

STIR X Kyoorius Designyatra 2020: Conversations About Your Voice
The 2020 edition of Kyoorius Designyatra (#KDY20) themed around ‘Your Voice’ caught many stellar creatives from the world of design and visual arts in a moment of self-reflection. As #KDY20 Exclusive Media Partner, STIR spoke with design luminaries Paula Scher, Seymour Chwast, Hyesu Lee, Frank de Ruwe, and Anita Fontaine to know what it takes to live one’s voice. To know more, click here.

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