Devin Vasquez turns what some view as junk into renewed treasures.
The Albuquerque artist reinvents objects that owners have deemed useless, such as worn luggage and broken radios, into accessories with a vintage twist. Her pop art style is unique and vibrant, bringing a sense of joy to people who visit her booth at vendor fairs.
“It’s very colorful and eye-catching. … It appeals to everybody, which I think is great,” said Vasquez.
Part of that appeal is the way Vasquez blends classic and modern eras. Though only 28, she has a master skill set, and that’s partially due to the fact she has been creating since her early teens – the same time she started her first business. Vasquez crafted handmade jewelry at 12, but then her art evolved into pinstriping, painting cars and now recycled artwork.
She says her most popular items are the luggage and purses she creates. Vasquez will frequent garage and estate sales, thrift and antique stores, and even spot something atop a fence or that has been tossed to the side of a dumpster to acquire certain items that grab her attention.
Vasquez explained that the first step of the process is to check the object’s value online. That is the collector in her, and after bringing home a $15 piece of furniture from a garage sale, she almost found out the hard way the importance of research.
She said about the furniture, “I got it home and almost didn’t look it up and see if it was worth anything. It was a piece made by Paul McCobb back in the ’50s or ’60s and it was worth a lot of money.”
Vasquez’s most creative process could be how she reuses old Bakelite radios. As with all her items, she makes any necessary repairs, and then guts and cleans the inside of the radio before finishing the exterior with her vivid pop art.
The artist has always found appeal in the vintage look from the ’50s or ’60s, saying “everything’s so beautiful” from that classic era.
“The architecture, the clothing, the cars, everything just had its own style and I absolutely love it,” she said. “I think it’s a style that never really goes out of style.”
Her admiration for the time period is partially due to the influence her father bestowed upon her as an airbrush artist. Not only did his eventual work on cars inspire Vasquez’s style, he also taught her about managing the industry.
Fortunately, both of Vasquez’s parents are creative business owners. Her mother is a nail technician and business owner herself, so Vasquez was gifted with the best of both the creative and business worlds.
“They’ve always been super supportive,” Vasquez said about her parents. “It’s just awesome having both of them there to kind of bounce ideas off of because they also have that artist’s mindset.”
Vasquez has found similar camaraderie in the local art community, saying she’s thankful for the network that has welcomed her and connections she’s made.
She says she hopes to open a small studio, and then eventually expand to a low-pressure retail store – more of a hangout where artists can come connect and showcase their talents.
“I feel like no matter where you go, as long as you have something that you make work, people are going to be drawn to it. I feel like my work is very approachable.”
Vasquez displays and sells her art mostly at vendor fairs, but also does commissions for patrons interested in her style. Her work will be on display next at The Women’s Art Show on Oct. 2 at the Pete V. Domenici Education Building located in the National Hispanic Cultural Center.