- Ruff built these Jordans out of cigarette packs, cardboard, duct tape and straws. Image: Jason Ruff
- Ruff uses Newport Menthol packages in most of his sculptures. Image: Jason Ruff
- These Air Yeezys are constructed out of cigarette packaging, plastic food packaging, poster board, straws, and cardboard. Image: Jason Ruff
- Though the Newport menthols are his cigarette package of choice, Ruff also uses Marlboro. Image: Jason Ruff
- Ruff says being without a wood shop or a metal shop has really changed the objects he creates. "Now, instead of a horizontal bandsaw and a welder, I am using an Exacto knife and super glue," he says.Image: Jason Ruff
- Yeezys from the front. Image: Jason Ruff
- American Spirits have a very distinctive pattern, but they're harder to find in carton form. Image: Jason Ruff
- Air Yahoos! Image: Jason Ruff
- Ruff's first challenge was finding enough cigarette cartons to create the shoes. "But now I have a hook up, so that's no longer a problem," he says. Image: Jason Ruff
- "I have a dude that goes by the handle 'Fab' to hold them for me at my local drugstore," Ruff says. "He'll collect them for a couple of weeks and I'll come scoop them up when I'm out of toothpaste or toilet paper." Image: Jason Ruff
As kids, there were all sorts of things we weren’t allowed to have, from the lighter your father carried in his pocket or a bottle of perfume your mother kept on her vanity. The fact that you couldn’t have them made them all the more interesting. For Jason Ruff, it was Air Jordans and cigarettes. “One was either respected, busted-on or jacked for the things on their feet,” the NYC-based art teacher recalls. “At the same time, trips to the local gas station mini-mart brought a curiosity for the packages behind the counter.” Years later, Ruff still finds himself enamored with the two forbidden objects of this youth, so much so that he’s spun that attraction into an unexpected art project: building miniature sculptures of high-top sneakers out of cigarette cartons.
It sounds bizarre, but the pieces found in Mixing the Unattainable Objects of My Youth actually really work. The leather detailing of the sneakers replaced by geometric strips of paper. Surprisingly, patterns of the cigarette packs translate seamlessly into high-tops. If you’ve never spent any time with a pack of Newport Menthols you’ve probably never noticed it, but down in the corner is the logo that looks uncannily like an upside-down Nike sign. “The mixing of the two started when I found a bag of cigarette cartons put out for recycling on a walk home last year,” he explains of the unexpected pairing. “I saw the swoosh, and the project was born.”
Ruff begins building the shoes with a cardboard sole. From there, he adds the signature “air” pocket built from straws. He uses this template for all of his shoes, though he’ll customize each pair with a different pattern and slightly different structure. He says his favorite carton is the Newport Menthol—”Besides the obvious logo resemblance, the colors pop and the design of the package has great lines,” he says. “American Spirits have a good palette but the cartons are much harder to find.” He’s also a fan of pairing up the Marlboro and Newport cartons—”the classic Marlboro red glows when complemented the Newport green/aqua.”
Ruff has long been a tinker and maker, but after he found himself in New York, he quickly realized that space would be a more limited and he’d have to scale down his operations. “Now, instead of horizontal bandsaw and a welder, I am using an Exacto knife and super glue,” he says. “I am currently working on a set of gold teeth made from wine bottle corks, craft store rhinestones, chocolate bar wrappers and of course, cigarette packaging.”
And for those of you who are worried about Ruff’s health, he’s quick to clarify that he doesn’t actually smoke the cigarettes himself. “I have a dude that goes by the handle ‘Fab’ to hold them for me at my local drugstore,” he explains. “He’ll collect them for a couple of weeks and I’ll come scoop them up when I’m out of toothpaste or toilet paper.”
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