Holland street performer inspires renowned designer who won big at NeoCon 2014

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CHICAGO — Haworth’s showroom is always a buzz at NeoCon, with designers and journalists checking out new products at the office furniture trade show.


But this year, the space at Merchandise Mart in Chicago had a little different vibe.


Cowboy Joe strummed his guitar in the Haworth showroom, as he sat in The Openest, a furniture collection that impressed NeoCon judges who gave it Best of Competition, one of the top prizes of the contest.


The award-winning Haworth furniture is the creation of Patricia Urquiola, a renowned designer who has spent some time in Holland as part of her collaboration with the office furniture maker.


She found some creative inspiration after bumping into Cowboy Joe performing along Holland’s Eighth Street one day. They ended up chatting about music and life.


Cowboy Joe, for his part, didn’t realize that the random encounter would turn out to be so productive. He just remembers the Spanish-born Urquoia telling him how much she enjoyed his music.


“We just had a moment of creativity,” said Cowboy Joe, whose real name is Joe Ramirez.


The 63-year-old musician has his own connection to the office furniture industry. Years ago, he worked in a factory, building furniture for Herman Miller, a competitor of Haworth.


It was Urquoia’s idea to include Cowboy Joe in an Openest photo shoot that featured her as well, said Adam Russo, a Haworth spokesman.


That led to Haworth inviting Cowboy Joe up to Chicago earlier this week to perform for a day at NeoCon.


“Patricia and Cowboy Joe embraced like old friends and were clearly on the same wavelength,” Russo said of the reunion.


The designer listened to the impromptu concert for several minutes, before reluctantly returning to her busy NeoCon schedule, he added.


In the past, Cowboy Joe has taken part in Downtown Holland’s popular Street Performers series but decided not to do it this summer.


“I’ve decided to just play around on my own,” said Cowboy Joe, adding he still plans play his music downtown “if it’s a nice day.”


Cowboy Joe is pursuing his own creative endeavor. He wants to record an album. His gig playing in the Haworth showroom put him a step closer financially to making that happen — and let him experience his first train ride.


“I don’t know if I can become a rock star at 63, but people say ‘I rock,'” he said.


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