Face of Defense: Airman Crafts Art Out of Fruit

Leaning over a table with a sanding mask on, Air Force Capt. Ramon Rosario, the executive officer for the 4th Space Operations Squadron here, smooths the edges of a coaster with a cornucopia of fruit laid out in front of him like a Thanksgiving dinner.

“Strawberries are the hardest to dry the way you want them,” Rosario said through his mask, eyes fixed on the coaster. “They retain too much moisture and are hard to shape the right way.”

One may ask what strawberries and coasters have in common. For Rosario, the question is: What more can he do with both to make art?

At home, Rosario finds time to engage in his passion — using dried fruits as artistic centerpieces for his own creations, whose creations span from coasters and earrings to necklaces, tie pins and lampshades.

‘I Enjoy Everything About the Process’

“I enjoy everything about the process,” he said. “From the idea to the final result.”

Rosario, a self-described chef, said he loves to experiment in the kitchen.

“One day, I was candying oranges,” he recalled. “And when I finished, I thought the oranges looked absolutely stunning in contrast to the bright white color of the serving plate. It was then I thought ‘I could do something with this.’”

Rosario soon graduated from small citrus fruits to larger, more ambitious projects.

“It was a lot of trial and error, but I just kept going,” he said.

His process begins at the grocery store, where he hand-selects fruits he feels would be optimal for his creations.

At home, Rosario cuts the fruit, often in thin slices. He then dries the cut fruit as he prepares an adhesive residue — a delicate process which involves a precise mixture of various components within a limited window of time.

For most of his creations, once the adhesive resin is prepared, he dips the dried fruit into it, coating it in a preservative which helps retain color while giving the fruit a gleam.

Air Force Values

The end result is a preserved dried fruit Rosario uses for whatever artistic purpose he desires. He said the overall process requires attention to detail, focus and discipline — traits he credits to the values he has learned while serving in the Air Force.

“Joining the Air Force has significantly helped guide my unstructured side,” he said. “Everything I learned in the Air Force applies to my craft.”

Air Force 2nd Lt. Alexandra Mangueira, a satellite engineer with 4th SOPS, who has known Rosario for more than two years, said she was intrigued when she learned of his hobby, but was not surprised given his artistic personality and work ethic.

“He is definitely very unique, loyal and reliable,” she said. “You can tell the work he does here at 4th SOPS reflects in his craftsmanship — it’s detail-oriented and organized.”

While Rosario said his art is a reflection of his work with 4th SOPS and his service in general, he added engaging in a personal passion away from the workplace helps him become a better airman.

“This helps round myself out,” he said. “I come home after a long day at work pushing papers, going to and scheduling meetings, and I come back to this and it puts me at peace, clearing my mind for the next day.”

He encourages airmen to find time to engage in their own passions outside of their work life in order to build their resiliency.

“You need something like this, as we often get all caught up in the day-to-day work and it helps to have a hobby you love,” he said.

“Mangueira said she looks forward to seeing where Rosario’s talent will lead.

“While we each serve under the same core values, it is our diversity which gives us strength,” she said.