Art Valet

Bug in The Box owners Tristan Erickson and Ruben Salazar specialize in artistic insect arrangements. (Contributed photo)

Educating potential customers about the hows, whats and whys can be an important selling tool for artists. For Ruben Salazar and Tristan Erickson, owners of Bug in The Box, soothing one’s phobias and misconceptions is just as important.

The primary medium behind Bug in The Box, in addition to beautiful butterflies, includes spiders, bees, wasps, beetles and all manner of crawling and flying insects.

Salazar and Erickson make ethically sourced, preserved exotic butterflies and insects as art in shadow frames and boxes. The insects come from sanctuaries around the world after they have died naturally.

The duo started Bug in The Box seven years ago and work full-time from their studio in Sawyer Yards. Salazar is the creative behind the boxed Lepidopteras (butterflies and moths) and insects. Erickson helps with designing pieces, sales and social media.

Interestingly, in today’s movement toward ecological preservation and restoration, purchasing a Bug in The Box may help save our world’s diminishing rainforests.

“Raising or collecting insects to sell is the only incentive many indigenous peoples have to save their tropical forests,” Salazar states on his company website. “Villagers plant caterpillar food plants and sell the adult butterflies that develop on those 'extra' food plants (a process known as 'butterfly ranching.') Villagers realize that the forest can be a continual source of income.

“That gives them great incentive to protect their areas,” Salazar continued. “Money earned pays for children's schooling, medicine and simple living needs. They now have cash crops of butterflies which do not require forest clearing and land destruction.”

I met the duo at least five years ago, and have enjoyed and been inspired by their progress in both the art form and business. They’ve expanded from the weekly popups to a place of business, graced the covers of local magazines, and Bug in The Box is available in the gift shop at Houston Museum of Natural Science. For three years, Salazar tells me.

He and Erickson told me in 2018 that they planned to travel to different parts of the world and learn about new butterflies and insects.

“We have been to Costa Rica and visited butterfly farms out there and went on jungle treks,” Salazar said. “We saw lots of cool insects out there. We were planning another trip, this time to Peru and had everything booked right before the pandemic hit, but we had to cancel that. So next trip is Peru for sure.”

Salazar and Erickson also plan to expand beyond Texas by doing shows in places such as Atlanta, Colorado and Las Vegas.

"We just bought a new house this year so getting everything nice and decorated has big one of the recent big plans we just accomplished,” Salazar said.

Friends often refer to Salazar and Erickson affectionately as “The Bug Boys.” You can find them on Second Saturday Open Studios at The Silos At Sawyer Yards, Studio #127, 1502 Sawyer St., online at and Saturday, May 15 at the rain date for First Saturday Arts Market, at 530 W. 19th St.

Cohen is an artist and founder of the First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at for additional highlights and artist’s stories.

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