Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Conversation between Window Artist Jobanny Cabrera and Artist Ryan Cardoso

Jobanny Cabrera, self-taught composer and producer, is a testament of what music and intentional evolution can do. Growing up between New York and Rhode Island, Cabrera’s taste is informed by Caribbean, classic rock, disco, and techno textures. After much begging, they finally received the gift of their first keyboard as a kid and diligently taught themselves to play at advanced levels. From then on, Jobanny has pioneered a path for themselves in the world of producing and composition. It wasn’t long before they made a name for themselves in their surrounding communities. By the age of 14, under the alias ``Multiplexxx” they released a project, Roachgrip, in which they broadened their collaborative network throughout and beyond New England. This was their final project before shedding the anonymous stage name and stepping into their truest name, deepening their musical breakthroughs. Since then, they have had numerous commissioned works and solo releases, leading up to their debut album Cabrera which is set to hit all streaming platforms in Spring 2023. As a lifelong learner and engineer-spirit, Jobanny embraces every part of the creative process. They are responsible for the majority of their album visuals, their own website design and even create their own hand-made merch. Jobanny’s embracement of sound mixture and genre bridging produces soundscapes fit for TV and film. Their unique sound and debut album is sure to impress and turn heads in the industry as we know it.

Jobanny was in the Dirt Palace Storefront Window Gallery this June - July. Below is a conversation between him and artist Ryan Cardoso.


Ryan: So I feel like I always get these two things confused, knitting or crocheting? Which of the two is it that you do?

Jobanny: Crocheting. Crochet is just one needle, knitting is two. I crochet. 

Ryan: When did you start crocheting? 

Jobanny: I started crocheting as an idea to make people gifts. I think it was like two winters ago now, during Christmas I wanted to make people gifts instead of buying them, so I picked up crocheting cause I just like hats. I’ve always been interested in hats, even though I don’t wear them as much. I just love headpieces, so I wanted to make a piece for Ceila (my girlfriend), and that was the first piece I made, and the first piece I made I posted on instagram and I remember like 20 people hit me up like are you selling this? And I'm like no? But I can? And that's how it started, it really just became a hobby after that.

R: So like a hobby that turned into a profession?

J: Basically, a happy accident 

R: Would you still say you still have love for crocheting and making hats? Or has the relationship changed now that it’s one of the ways you make money. 

J: It depends, it's an ebb-and-flow because sometimes I'll hate it. I think I started hating it when I started making the hats consistently just to sell them. I would make them post them and then the next day someone would buy it, but now it's more like Im making the pieces and spending time with them….and that's what I love about the installation at Dirt Palace because this is the most time i've got to spend time with things i've made. I'm actually happy with it now. At the beginning it was good then it felt bad but now it feels good again. 

R: So then what would you say is your desired life for these hats  if you aren't interested in making them and selling them instantly?

J: I'd like to keep them for a while and actually be able to display them in different stores and pop-ups. You know, just do pop-ups in general because I love to meet people and see everyone touch, feel, and wear them. My goal is less direct to consumers online, but first I have to build up inventory and right now I'm trying to find a second person to do it with me but it's hard to find someone who wants to make hats and sell them under my name. I'm trying to find a balance, maybe I can find someone's grandmother out there to help me make them. 

R: Did you have your mother or someone in your family when you were younger who used to make you clothes?

J: Naa…I grew up with no family in the states in general. When my mom came here from the Dominican Republic she came with just me, my sister, and my brother at the time and we were all infants. My mom came here by herself. We don't have any family around here, so nobody ever made me clothes. I kind of just started making things by myself. I was always by myself so I started trying things alone. 

Was there anyone making/doing art? Who was the first person in your family to show you that? 

J: My moms a singer, she loved singing and she always made music. Music is my main thing, I think that's what I first gravitated to and it was because my mom. She was always singing and dancing in the living room and that just got my interest, and everything else just went from there, making art and all of that. 

R: Would you say that music is your main medium and everything else is secondary? 

J: Right now it feels like they are all at the same level. Music has kind of taken a back-step in my life right now because I just released my album and that was a lot. I released that project and now i'm focused on sharpening up my 3-D skills, the crocheting just trying to make all of those things. I'm just trying to find a balance in all of those things and still working a 9-5. 

R: So you just released your album ‘CABRERA” in April 2023, what would you say was the biggest challenge on that project?

J: Well because the project was a collaborative album, I had like 8 features on it. Just making sure everyone stayed on task was the most difficult part, and just actually making sure the songs got finished. I produced a lot of the album like 4 to 3 years ago, so the production was already done but everybody getting their features recorded, re-recording, feedback, just making sure things sounded good, getting the money to go in the studio, mixing and recording….you know all of that was the most difficult part. Just finalizing everything and making sure it was all at the same level.

R: Thinking about how these two mediums relate (music and fashion) for you, each song has like 2-4 artists on it vs when you are in the studio making these hats. I'm imagining it's just you working on them. Do you prefer to work with others or do you prefer to work alone? 

J: I prefer to work alone. I have always worked alone my whole life and I love being by myself. The challenge with the album was that I really wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and work with people and see it through. I'm happy the album came out, but now that it's out I really just want to focus on me, myself and I. That's really what I am going to work on for the next year, just working on solo projects. 

R: If you see yourself working alone more, where do you see your hats going in a year? Do you want to stay at making hats or make other things also? 

J: I want to expand, my goal is to make dresses. I think dresses are a beautiful canvas to make something really big on. I'm starting with hats because hats are easy, and also gives me the technique and practice of sitting down and working on something for 5 hours consistently. I’ve only crocheted 1 dress, and that took me like 3 months where it takes me about 4 hours to make a hat. So my goal is to eventually build up to making dresses and place them in galleries, and then still do pop-ups after. 

Do you think of your hats as merchandise or fine art? 

J: Definitely fine art

The window install is so exciting to pass-by, all of the colors and patterns. When you are making these hats are you imaging specific people wearing them or are you just coming up with random colorways? 

J: Most of the time it just depends on what color yarns I have. I'm learning more about yarn in general and that depending on the color, changes the quality of yarns so most of the time I don't have the option to use what I want, I just have to work with whatever is available. Sometimes I'll get a color for a hat and then not see it for another six months, so my rotation just depends on what's available. But when I think about making dresses I'm definitely making it with who's wearing it in mind. I want to make them for my friends. I never want to think about making them for strangers. Even if it's me making it for a specific person and then it ends up getting sold to the public. 

R: You want to have the control of knowing where the garments end life is.

J: Yes, the past 20 hats I've sold I don't know who owns them. Usually the hats are bought for friends, so it never ends where I expect

R: If you had to pick a colorway to live by, what would it be? 

J: Earthtones! I'm an earth sign and I love earth tones. I'm just always wearing green or muted colors. But in the hats, it's the one time I get to play with colors, I don't wear a lot of colorful things but the hats are that outlet. 

Do you have an interest in fashion or do you just enjoy making hats? 

J: I really don't follow fashion, I just wear what's comfortable to me. I think as I've gotten older I've gotten into it more. Growing up I used to always get bullied for the stuff I would wear, and most of the time it was just what I liked and felt good in so it never made sense to me so I have a love-hate-relationship with fashion because of that. Clothes frustrate me. I’m more into style.

J: I’m also conscious of how things are made so whenever I see something that's overpriced I'm always like ‘this is some bullshit, I'm not going to buy this cheaply made thing.’

Do you see things and think ‘I'm gonna go home and make this.’?

J: Yes all the time 

R: I see the Dirt Palace window installation as like a department store or Macy’s store front. Do you have a memorable moment with clothes or shopping from when you were younger? 

J: I think all of my memorable shopping moments were with my older brother when he would take me once a year to buy my shoes for the entire school year (that one pair of sneakers). I remember always going to the sneaker store and just picking out the shoes that I liked, that my family never liked. I would always choose the sneaker that they hated on and I would always look good when I put them on and get compliments on them. That's always been the thing in my life, people seeing things that they thought were funny, but when I wore it they would change their mind. 

R: You are very generous when it comes to sharing your tools skills, and resources, how important is it to work in community? 

J: It's something I really care about. Throughout my life I’ve had mentors, when I was younger I worked at the Boys & Girls Club and had this manager who was really like my best friend. He committed suicide when I was really young and that changed my life. Since then I've always been generous because of how generous he was with me. He really was working with everyone, giving access to his studio, helping my family with rent for one month, and even helped us replace our boiler despite how little he had. Learning from him I couldn't not be generous with what I have.

R: Looking at your website, it feels like you are interested in having a story to every project and job you do. Are you always interested in the behind the scenes? 

J: I'm a behind the scenes kind of guy. I love going through people's work and seeing how they got there. I don't share everything, but I like to be clear how I got there, because how I got there might not look the same as the next person so why not be honest about that. 

R: The Dirt Palace window installation is by your studio, how does it feel to see it everyday when you are driving by?

J: Honestly, it makes me feel weird, It feels like I’m dissociating, like who did this, who made this? It wasn't me. But the more I pass by it I feel happy, especially seeing it at night all lit up. I'm able to see that it's good work the more I get comfortable with it. I don’t realize the amount of work I put into something until after, and now I'm able to see it and be like ‘woah I did that’ which feels good. 

What's the after life of your hats and where can people find you? 

J: After Dirt-Palace I'm planning to have a pop-up at Providence Place Mall to sell them, and from there they will be on sale on my website. I want to push all the hats through pop-ups maybe even at my studio. In general people can always just reach out to me and ask me about commissions or hats that I've already made. I'm always down to make customs, but usually I love to just make a bunch of hats and send them out into the world. 


Ryan Cardoso is a visual artist exploring portraiture through photography and filmmaking and its importance in archiving the elegance, domesticity, and relationships of black life.



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