Ruth Singer is another maker who started early, crafting things in her Dad’s shed. (There must be something about that experience…)
Ruth Singer wears many hats wonderfully. She is a maker of beautiful objects, a writer, an historian, runs workshops, and has worked at the Victoria & Albert Museum as an adult education officer (that is just my dream job and I’m a teeny bit jealous).
As a child, she was always fascinated by historical costumes, and when she left school she embarked on studies to become a museum costume and textiles curator, and although there were not a lot of jobs available in this area, she says it has helped her in many ways to get to where she is now.
Ruth works in a studio packed with fabrics, haberdashery, teaching materials, books, and mannequins. And sewing machines – although as she works mostly by hand, her four (by my count) machines don’t get a lot of use. She has occasionally made bespoke dresses, based on historical designs, but at the moment her energies are focused on writing, teaching, and crafting decorative works for the home, and for the body.
Her crafted objects are typified by the use of repetitive elements, a preference for simple colour, and an emphasis on texture. Importantly, the fabrics she uses are upcycled, vintage, and/or organic. And many of the techniques she employs are those she has learnt from her studies of historical garments and their construction – hand-stitched pleating, appliqué, folding, layering and structured stuffing.
Repetition of elements within a piece appeals partly for its meditative qualities as she is working on it, and also because “the things I find inspiring, like trees, roof tiles, lichen, flower-heads, are all repeating patterns where each element is almost but not quite the same.”
She is a passionate advocate of greening people’s lives, starting with the textiles we use in our everyday lives. To this end she has written a book called Sew Eco, which includes information about using vintage and organic fabrics, and inspiration and instructions for making bags, scarfs, and brooches, amongst other things. She also has another book published, Sew It Up, which covers sewing basics, as well as more advanced decorative and construction techniques.
Ruth also works as a teacher, and if you happen to be in the Leicester (UK) area, you can join one of her workshops, and learn everything from basics to masterclasses on sewing and techniques, as well as textile history.
Ruth is currently exhibiting her work at two exhibitions – Ties That Bind at Unit Twelve, Staffordshire, and Open23 at New Walk Museum, Leicester.