A moment with textile artist Ruth de Vos
This month we explore textural textiles and who better to interview than the much loved illustrator and textile artist, Ruth de Vos.
A Western Australian local, Ruth’s talent with both pencil and stitch is breathtaking as she interprets the beautiful moments of small children and their surroundings.
We spoke with Ruth to discover a day in the life of a textile artist.
Can you describe to us your practice/profession with 5 words.
Textile paintings that celebrate joy
What inspired you to first start experimenting with quilting?
I’ve been busy with a needle and thread since I was about four, on my mother’s sewing room floor. At 12, an elderly lady gave me her hand-crank vintage sewing machine, as she’d heard that I enjoyed sewing. Then, in high school I was introduced to the concept of quilts as an art form at the Albany Extravaganza (a permanent exhibition of the late Paul Terry’s collection of art, ceramics, textiles, Japanese kites, and vintage cars). That’s when I knew that I would pursue quiltmaking as a form of artistic expression.
Walk us through a typical day for you in the studio
I try to spend about half an hour drawing in the morning. I have a drawing table set up in the living room so that I can draw while I am monitoring my children as they get themselves ready for school or practice their music. Once the children are at school I try to get into my upstairs studio. I’m currently working on a series where I create one new artwork a week. So if it’s a Monday, my studio task involves cutting out all the fabric pieces for the new artwork. If it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday, my day will be spent stitching pieces back together. On Thursday I will spend some time designing the following weeks artwork. Some days I will also get messy with the fabric paint, screen-printing some interesting patterns into the background fabric of my latest artwork, or even just smearing some nice colours over the fabric with a scraper. When it comes to stitching faces and other details sections, I like to do that by hand, so I will always have a tray full of little pieces of fabric ready to hand-stitch. This is a very relaxing process, and one that I like to work on once the children are home from school and into the evening, in amongst the busyness of life with six children.
I also spend time every day on the business / marketing side of being an artist – posting to social media, taking photographs of finished artworks or works in progress, responding to emails, updating my website, entering exhibitions, packaging orders and lots more.
Your pieces offer such beautiful sensory responses. What is the process for creating the fabrics for your quilt tops?
I love textile art for it’s beautifully tactile character! I believe that fabric as a very nurturing quality to it. Most of the fabric that I use is hand-dyed by myself. I love the uneven textures that result, as well as the infinite range of colours that I have at my fingertips. I also like to screen print some of my fabrics, to add another layer of interest. The images in my artworks are then created by stitching together lots of little pieces of fabric. It’s a bit like stitching together a jigsaw puzzle. It’s a process very similar to traditional patchwork techniques, just applied in a contemporary way. I love working within the limitations of these techniques, and I also love the textural quality of this piecework.
Your illustrations are so vibrant! What works do you most enjoy creating?
Thank you! I absolutely love capturing little children. I love how people always respond with a big smile to my childhood artworks. As I go through my day/week, I love observing how the children in my life are sitting/standing/jumping/crouching and so on. I make mental notes, or little scribbles in my sketchbook for later reference. When I’m able to capture that in an artwork, people invariably say ‘oh, yes, that’s exactly how my niece/child/friend sits or moves’. That gives me a lot of joy – to trigger those connections and memories and observations.
In the creative process, I love nothing more than to watch a little face take shape as I gradually add piece of fabric by piece of fabric to it. And the process of pulling the needle and thread through the fabric, stitch by stitch, is so therapeutic.
What is the inspiration and meaning behind this particular piece?
I have been exploring and capturing childlike wonder in my artwork for a number of years now. I love the way that little children find so much joy in the little things that most adults have long since taken for granted. My aim in capturing some of this is to remind us all to see the joy in the ordinary, everyday things. This particular piece is inspired by little children trying to catch falling autumn leaves (though it could just as easily be bubbles, or raindrops or insects). At around the same time that I made this artwork, I was undertaking a picture book illustration class in which we spent a fair bit of time working at capturing emotion in our characters, so I was able to apply some of that into this artwork. It’s one of my favourites!
Lastly, where can people purchase your work?
I have a shop on my website: www.ruthdevos.com. I also have some other botanical artworks at Aspects of Kings Park.
Thank you Ruth, it was a pleasure to chat to you and understand your work and process.
For our InKind readers, Ruth is generously offering a 20% discount on her fine art. Get in touch with us for further information. You can view her full collection of fine art on the website link above.