We had the good fortune of connecting with Steven Ramirez and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Steven, why did you pursue a creative career?
I wanted to push the boundaries of what a typical artist looks like. As children, we are taught that an artist must be good at drawing or really good at painting a canvas. These are the stereotypes that comes along with the label of “artist.” I had a passion for art but I was also just as passionate about mechanical technology, as well as computer technology. I pursued all three by unconventional means of hands-on trial and error. I even declared myself an artist before I was ever actually an “artist.” My young naïve confidence allowed me to fail without giving up. I had a strong desire to build things that have never been made before, and that desire has only become more complex.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?

Most people are under the belief that great artists were born creative. I was just average growing up,nothing really stuck out in art class or to my family. What I did have was drive and grit. You have to fail a lot before you become good at anything, and I’ve had my share of failures (more than I can count), but I’ve learned to embrace them and use them as stepping stones to become a better artist.

I had a unique upbringing. My grandfather was one of the original IT computer techs for a major chemical plant along the Houston Ship channel in Deer Park, TX. As a kid, I remember having massive servers in our garage that he brought home to work on. I remember seeing those huge disks inside them and thinking they looked a lot like frisbees. One day my grandfather came outside and to his shock and horror, I was throwing them down the street and watching them shatter. (We’re talking major oil and gas level data here. I still shake my head at this.) Thankfully, my grandfather was a patient man and was always willing to teach me about his computers (back when we used dial-up to get online). He showed me this cool new software he was beta testing called Adobe Photoshop; I was instantly hooked.

By high school I had become so proficient at design I was making backstage passes to concerts. Eventually I realized that I could use my computer design skills to help me create real art. I got into robotics and started combining the two to create art. Back then it was extremely difficult because YouTube didn’t even exist yet. I had to actually read books and call people to figure out how to get things to work. Once I was finally “decent”enough, I landed a job working at Robert Rodriguez’s movie studio in Austin, TX.  I learned a lot there and also became very aware of everything I still needed to learn because I was literally the youngest kid there.

After some time there, I moved back to Houston and worked for some of NASA’s top robotic engineers that invented a new cutting-edge desktop CNC called the CarveWright. This was at the pre-dawn of the “Maker Movement.” I had a behind-the-scenes look at what sparked the maker revolution and watched as companies like MakerBot hit the market with 3D printers, as robotics for art became a whole new industry. I finally moved on to start my own company and invested into large industrial robots, combiningmy learned skills into an actual occupation. I’ve had the opportunity to build some cool, crazy things; including sculptures for NASA, NIKE, Netflix, Dreamworks, Mattel, Adidas, Budweiserand Coca-Cola.  I even got to build an oversized guitar pedal for Metallica and personally delivered it to them.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and collaborating with artist, David Addick’s and gained a wealth of knowledge from him. I have a ton of respect for David. Most people are unaware that he is one of reasons Houston’s art district became what it is today. His monumental president heads and statues seen along Texas highways inspire me to this day.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Houston is so freaking big it’s hard to even pick one area, but for food I would first take them to Gringo’s Mexican Kitchen because the food is excellent and they have a great atmosphere. I would probably take them by David Addick’s art studio to check out the monumental sculptures. If they wanted to catch some live music (along with great food) then I would have to say The Rusticbecause that’s just some good Texas fun, and then end the trip with some BBQ from Killen’s in Pearland!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My wife deserves most of the credit. President Roosevelt said it best when he said, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” My wife, Ferrin,keeps me grounded when I’m under a lot of pressure at work. She’s always there to help me.

Website: smashdesign.com

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