I am SO EXCITED to offer my next (rampantly overdue) Craft Cafe interviewee today. Ruth Singer grabbed my attention when I first saw her, years ago, at a Christmas craft fair at Shoreditch Town Hall. Since then, I have been able to use my limited connections to programme her workshops at the Barbican and (let’s be honest) STALK her fabulous self around craftland. I was even able to give my poor husband a ‘present’ (ahem) of my wedding dress fabric in three panels, commissioned from Ruth and photographed here. Following on from her competition-winning entry in Leicester for a pop-up craft workshop space, Ruth Singer Studio is now up and running on a longterm basis, offering all-level tuition and creative fabulouness for lucky Leicesterians out there. So, without further ado, and do try not to drool or grab any pretty gorgeous objet’s…
What inspires you?
My main inspiration always has been and probably always will be historic textiles. There isn't much I find more exciting than museums - fashion, textile, decorative arts, social history… I love them all, but my first true love is costume. More recently, my inspiration comes from other sources but is always combined with textiles and history; I work with memory, stories, personal lives and material culture when working on my more personal or conceptual pieces.
Probably a commission from a museum to make a piece related to their historical collections. I love private commissions too, but to have pieces in museum collections would make me really happy.
Whose work do you admire and why?
Mostly I am huge fans of friends of mine because I know how hard they work and what their work really is about. My friend Amy Twigger Holroyd is a huge inspiration, as is Jennifer Collier - and pretty much anything she displays in her brilliant gallery Unit Twelve in Staffordshire. I also really love jewellers Clare Hillerby & Nora Fok. I adore Rob Ryan and am in the middle of stitching his collaborative needlework design by Emily Peacock. It is huge & will probably take years!
You work with many different materials including varied fabrics, ribbons, leathers... What's your favourite?
Vintage fabric is always my favourite - I love pre-war fabrics best of all, particularly prints but I don't use them in my work so much. For making, I like cotton - usually organic such as Cloud9 or Liberty Lawn. I use recycled wool felt a lot, that is probably high up on my favourites. Silk is wonderful stuff and amazing to use, but the slipperiness is a pain! I do love antique silk ribbons a lot too.
You do a lot of teaching and workshop leading. Do you find that to be a creative process too, or a commercial necessity or a bit of both?
I love teaching! I suppose I wouldn't do so much if I could sell endless quantities of my work, but realistically, all full-time makers have another income of one sort or another. I do miss teaching if I don't do it, I am a sociable person and love sharing. I get a great kick out of inspiring people - whether they be adults with a love of textile, or kids who just love doing anything hands-on. I wouldn't want to give it up.
What's on your workbench right now?
I'm working on a new fabric manipulation book so there are samples all over the place. I am also working on a huge quilt for myself and there's a dress I started last November which needs finishing!
Radio 4. Constantly.
Are you a 'Pretty Organised' or 'Creatively Chaotic' artist?
Chaotic artist but organised studio manager, events organiser and administrator.
What are your plans/hopes/dreams for 2012? What's next after Ruth Singer Studio?
My permanent studio space opens at the end of 2012 so that will be the start of new exciting ventures - I am planning to expand the workshop programme to cater for kids, mums, professional designer-makers and much more. Also my new book comes out in May 2013 so I am planning a solo exhibition to tie in with it. Plenty to keep me busy!