I live in Brighton, England—I love it here. It’s a very creative, colourful and inclusive city where I can always find some inspiration for my work when I need it. I have lived in lots of different cities, and Brighton is the first that feels like home. It’s the perfect size for me and is full of creative, quirky people, sandwiched between the sea and the beautiful South Downs, which are perfect places to clear your head for a walk or a swim.
I grew up on the edge of London in a town called New Malden with my brother, sister and German mother and English father. Growing up, I loved hearing my mum’s stories about Germany and her side of the family, which was full of determined and creative women, especially my Great Aunt Ruth. She designed, made and sold dresses from her atelier on the top floor of a block of flats in Hildesheim, in northern Germany. Hearing about the huge pattern cutting table and the seven apprentices that worked there was very inspiring to me; I liked to imagine the space and creativity of the group of women working together. As you can tell, I’ve always had a very vivid imagination!
Creativity has always made me feel grounded and safe, and it is therefore very important to me. I have an early memory from when I was around five years old of drawing at the kitchen table in the middle of the night during the hurricane in 1987. Although it was howling outside and the power was cut off from the house, I felt safe drawing at the table with an oil lamp and my family around me. I think it’s a feeling that’s always stayed with me. Sometimes I find it challenging to articulate myself in other ways so creativity can be a very useful outlet for me to express myself. I think I am much more comfortable expressing myself visually than verbally!
My passion for creating has always seemed natural to me and can best be described as nostalgic, surreal and colourful. I like to be playful with my work as I think children and adults enrich their lives through play. I find the dual appeal of Ruby Ruth Dolls both as a nostalgic link to childhood and as interior objects to decorate customers’ homes fascinating. I like to think that Malcolm, Rita, Jasper and Co. put smiles on their owner’s faces after a long tedious day at work or school. They might do so from a shelf or a cosy chair; their smiley faces appealing to the child that lives inside us all.
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
Visually I love the aesthetic of old children’s TV progr-ammes—the 1980’s like Button Moon, The Clangers and Bagpuss. I have a fine arts background, having studied painting, so love going to exhibitions and collecting art books. Something I particularly like at the moment is Oskar Schlemmer Bauhaus ballet—it’s so colourful and fantastically weird—I love it. I find a lot of inspiration for characters from people I have met, family members, pets and my own experiences.
Turning my designs into a business has definitely been a huge challenge in ways I never expected. Every week I feel as though I am learning new things and growing through both successes and failures. The business turns ten years old next year which I am quite proud. Ruby Ruth Dolls continues to evolve whilst holding onto the common thread since its beginning—my love of creating, art, weird characters and storytelling!