[dropcap style=”color: #8f9f59;”] T [/dropcap]extile artist Ruby Richardson has had a life full of twists and turns, but joining a circus was perhaps the least expected.
It was while Ruby, from Warrnambool, was studying costume design at Swinburne University in the late 1990s that she secured a work placement with The Women’s Circus, based in Footscray, and not only created some of their wonderful outfits, but ended up being part of the show.
“I learnt to do static trapeze, which is where you do various swings around the trapeze but don’t leap from it, and acrobalance,” she explains.
“I was so strong back then!”
[dropcap style=”color: #8f9f59;”] A[/dropcap] circus was the perfect – if unpaid – world for Ruby, who was entranced by “the sheer visual spectacle” of costume design and human movement that allowed for so much more experimentation than mainstream fashion.
“One of my lecturers at the time used to ban the ‘f’ word and say, ‘we make outfits for characters – not for the masses!”’, Ruby recalls with a laugh.
During her course, Ruby learnt the tricks of the costume trade – from millinery to creating “fat suits” – and also tried her hand at screen-printing for the first time.
Despite her love for the field, however, the opportunities for paid work were (and remain) limited, so Ruby also became a personal care worker for the City of Yarra, before deciding to return to south-west Victoria in 2002.
It was here that all the threads of her past and present life began to combine.
[dropcap style=”color: #8f9f59;”] A [/dropcap]s a child growing up in Woolsthorpe, Ruby had always been a “good drawer” at school but hated sewing classes, until she decided to try her hand at sewing her own clothes at home.
Her father, a shearer, had a sewing machine in the house to make the calico bags he used to store fresh meat: it was not unusual for old-time farmers to know how to use a needle and thread.
“I bumped him off the machine and yeah, there was a fair bit of swearing about that,” Ruby laughs.
Ruby began to make and wear her own clothes; shirts without collars, skirts without hems, a kind of rustic chic .
“It was very rough, but also quite fashionable at the time, so I could get away with it,” she says.
Ruby went on to study art and design at TAFE, before completing a Bachelor of Fine Art at Deakin University, during which refined her drawing and design skills and began to explore printmaking.
After returning from Melbourne, Ruby re-enrolled at TAFE to study screenprinting under the guidance of Donna Dixon and, a year later, began her own label, Pattern & Print,that combined her printing and sewing skills.
“I decided to start making things from what I was printing, little bags, cushion covers, that sort of thing,” she explains.
[dropcap style=”color: #8f9f59;”] A [/dropcap] decade on and Pattern & Print is well known for its bold, geometric designs and colours that are inspired by Ruby’s deep love of the natural world.
“I can spend hours just looking at a plant, examining it and looking at its structures and colours,” she says.
“If you look closely, you can see how all the tiny pieces of a plant form into one piece and this is repeated over and over: I love that.”
Retro images from the 1950s are another common theme and, again, Ruby uses bold, monchromatic colours and repetition to create her own unique “look”.
These days Ruby has also moved from being the pupil to the teacher, and, three years ago, replaced Donna Dixon as the screenprinting lecturer at TAFE. She also continues to work in personal care, at Lyndoch, where she is known by her first name of Alison (Ruby is one of two middle names).
Like any artist, her work continues to evolve and Ruby is currently working on her first ever collaboration, with ceramacist Clare (Claybody) Fennessy, that will lead to an exhibition of “Prints and Clay” at TAFE on October 20.
“I am loving the process of working with Clare, who’s work I have always admired, and experimenting with different techniques to see what works and what doesn’t,” she says.
Ruby is also keen to produce larger wall hangings of her work, where the print is viewed as a work of art in itself, rather than as part of a functional object such as a cushion or bag.
“I see it as part of a natural evolution, working through processes, trying different things and not really knowing how it may end up: that is the exciting and enjoyable part.”
[box] Ruby’s work is available at the Warrnambool Art Gallery gift shop, The Artery gift shop, the Little Yellow Owl hair salon, W’bool, and at her home by appointment. Commissions upon request. e: firstname.lastname@example.org [/box]
[button link=”http://the-terrier.com.au/subscribe-2/” type=”icon” icon=”heart” newwindow=”yes”] Did you enjoy this story? Please subscribe here to help Bluestone thrive.[/button]
You might also enjoy…