Ben Riddle – RAT Designs

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You’re a local boy from the Port Macquarie region. Tell us a bit about yourself and where you are now …

I grew up in Beechwood with my family. A simple childhood of sports, climbing trees and learning to drive at a young age, I learnt to appreciate the simple pleasures in life. I moved away after school to study a Bachelor Degree of Communication at the University of Newcastle and later lived in Melbourne to pursue a music career and artistic ventures.

Right now, I’m living back in the area, where I’ve begun a new project I’m very passionate about.

You design eco-friendly unisex accessories and jewellery for your own label, RAT. Where did your great green idea come from?

I’ve always been conscious about recycling and what we buy as consumers. I’m amazed and shocked by what people throw away as waste rubbish. I see such beauty and potential in that rubbish that others so unconsciously dispose off. It’s true, ‘one’s junk is another’s’ treasure’. Always scouting on Council collection days and a keen second hand shopper, there is always something out there to upcycle or transform into a new piece.

I started using old timber offcuts from my father’s workshop and school and decided to make a ring for my sister. I discovered a fascination for using recycled materials, in particular timber, and transforming it into wearable unisex jewellery.

Combining recycling, fashion, design and creativity into a sustainable business, encompasses all things I enjoy.

Tell us about how you got into design?

Design is always on my mind. A day never goes by without another idea for a creative project, recycling idea, house design, photography project, installation work, sculpture, video or documentary, or even a new recipe for a travel cookbook.

RAT is a new sustainable design project that really is something I’m passionate about pursuing and developing.

Did you start as an eco-friendly designer?

No. I started with a media degree and music career, but needed to pursue this compulsion to recycle and encourage others to be sustainable by starting RAT.

All of your products are made from materials sourced from the Port Macquarie area. What sort of materials do you mainly use?

I use mainly recycled timber from waste disposal centres, construction workshops, local businesses and also from around my family property.

Timber is such a beautiful material to work with, as I love the natural texture, the smell and how it transforms during the many processes of treating it by hand. I also use recycled leather, plastic, metal, silver, stainless steel and fabric.

As your products are hand made, are there ever two pieces the same?

I try to always keep designs fresh and new. Therefore I often use a material I find and once it’s finished, I move on to another material. This means that my jewellery will sometimes feature a certain colour, timber or design, but is always unique and different every time.

Each time I get my hands on a new ‘old’ material, I have a completely new design approach and method. This means constantly pushing myself as a designer and sustainable artist.

How can people purchase your unique jewellery and accessories?

I have recently set up an online store to sell my work at rat.bigcartel.com

RAT is also featured on an independent designer website called Young Republic here:

www.youngrepublic.tv/designer/rat.html

All RAT sustainable jewellery and accessories are available at independent artist markets and some specialised stores across the country and in Europe, and you can find out where through the following sites:

www.ecorat.tumblr.com

Facebook.com/RATcollection

You have also recently been recording your own music. How has that been going?

I’ve been writing and producing music for the past 10 years. I’m a singer songwriter, and I record and independently distribute my own original music.

Music has been another passion of mine since a very young age. I’ve recently released my debut album, titled On The Rise.

How would you explain your musical sound to us?

My music is rooted in new Folk styles with honest raw vocal melodies, layered guitars, instrumentation and harmonies.

Where does your musical inspiration come from?

I’m always inspired by those people around me that I’m close to. I write songs about those I love and interweave stories from my past.

My travels across parts of the world inspire me also … travelling to many different cultures and landscapes. I’m moved by simple gestures, honest people and aspire to grand worldly dreams.

Where can people find your music?

I sell my music online via an independent distribution website named bandcamp. You can find it here: benriddle.bandcamp.com

Where are you hoping to go with your music and designs? What does 2012 hold for RAT?

I aim to stock many retail stores nationwide, to encourage people to think more sustainable and ‘green’ when it comes to consuming and the future of design. My label RAT is a step in a greener direction. All products are designed and handmade by using recycled materials sourced from the local area my family lives in. RAT is ecofriendly, unique and affordable.

Off the back of my debut album release On The Rise, I’m setting off on a one month tour across northern Germany, Belgium, Holland and France – promoting my music, making a short documentary along the way and promoting RAT also.

Yes, I’m a busy man.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you and your artistic ventures? 

I’m looking to develop a fashion clothing range and a greater focus on men’s fashion … sustainably, of course. I’m also beginning a collaboration with my mother designing unique men’s fashion and accessories.

One on the special products I design are handmade necklaces that can be personalised with your own choice of words or sayings. This way, the consumer also becomes part of the design creation process.

So if you would like your own personalised recycled natural timber tablet necklace, you can go online or even send me an email at: ratinfo@mail.com.

Thanks Ben.

This story was published in issue 83 Port Macquarie

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