While the coronavirus pandemic has upended the lives of many, Santa Clarita resident Raul Ruelas has taken advantage of his newfound free time, using it to revive some of his passions.
“With the virus, I’m only working two days out of the week, so I have more time to do projects that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” Ruelas said.
As a baseball fan who enjoys collecting cards, Ruelas was eager to find a display rack to purchase, but couldn’t find the kind he’d envisioned.
“I just thought the cards needed an art piece fixture for them, and I never really found something that I liked, so I thought, ‘Man, I should probably just make something,’” he said.
So, when a series of reimagined baseball cards came out just as the pandemic hit, he decided now would be as good a time as any to pursue that project.
PROJECT 2020 is a year-long collection where 20 artists, ranging from designers to tattoo and graffiti artists, each recreates one of 20 iconic baseball cards that are only available for 48 hours.
“The series caught a lot of buzz, and a lot of people really liked how the artists were recreating some of these cards,” Ruelas said. “The first couple of cards blew up. They went from $20 cards to, like, $2,000 cards within a month. It’s crazy.”
Ruelas, who has a background in woodworking, first began creating custom display racks that held three to four cards, but soon had a number of people asking for larger ones to fit all 20 cards.
“There’s a lot of work that goes into making each one, and certain ones take more time than others,” he said. “I’m still learning.”
Inspired by some of the artists releasing cards, Ruelas began watching videos on different design techniques, picking a few to replicate, and enlisting his 7-year-old daughter’s help.
“She likes doing the (paint) splatter,” he said, chuckling.
Each stand Ruelas makes is customizable, with various baseball-themed designs, such as baseballs, the Yankees grandstands, a specific player’s rookie card stats or a team’s colors.
For Ruelas, making the displays is a way to get back to his woodworking roots, which began back in high school when he started learning how to repair his own guitars.
“Out of high school, that’s kind of what I wanted to do is to repair and build guitars,” he added. “I went to school in Hollywood to build guitars.”
Ruelas went on to work for Schecter Guitars, working his way up from assembly and quality control to custom-building guitars. “That’s where I got most of my experience.”
With two kids, Ruelas soon decided to change career paths, but still had his own shop in Fillmore, where he’d repair guitars in his spare time, before moving the operation to his garage.
“When you have a family, it’s kind of hard to go head first … (but) it’s a good side gig,” he said. “I have my regular job 40 hours, and then on the weekends or after work, I do repairs to help pay bills because we’re a single-income family, so it’s tough.”
Even so, Ruelas used that time woodworking as an escape, and now finally has the opportunity to spend more time pursuing his passions.