When I discovered Eurotrash last spring, I loved right away every helmet and every dress. Then, I quickly discovered that I was not the only one, that everything was sold out before I could even think about it, and that the ET helmet commission list had a vertiginous length!
I am very honored today that Ruth accepted to do the first fashion designer interview of our series. She has been creating, sewing, knitting, felting, embroidering, embellishing for Blythe for five years with so much talent and success. So let’s all celebrate EuroTrash 5th anniversary this month!
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Ruth and I am 33 years old. I live in Helsinki, Finland but I grew up in Northeastern Washington State in a very rural community on a dairy farm. I have lived in Finland for the last 10 years. I am by profession a florist, and graduated with a degree in greenhouse management/nursery management. I also enjoy working as a barista now and then and one time competed for Barista of the Year in Finland. In the past I have been involved in community theatre, singing, dancing and sewing costumes. I played the piano for nearly 20 years and currently am learning how to play the guitar. I love music, movies, traveling and cycling!
I currently have 2 part time jobs: One in a flower shop and the other in a newly opened coffee shop. The rest of the time I sew and create helmets for EuroTrash. I also have a bit of a love for fabric and Blythe dolls!
How and when did you discover Blythe?
Ironically, back in 1992/1993 I remember reading something in the local paper about how Blythe was quietly becoming an icon in the alternative/music world and had been used in album cover images etc. This was before Gina Garan made her famous. At this point in time I remember thinking ‘Cool! A doll who’s eyes change color. I’d like to see that!’ I never had been interested in dolls before and of course this was before I ever was active online with the internet, so it never crossed my mind to go and FIND a Blythe doll, and in fact doll collecting was the last thing on my mind then. Later in March of 2005 my friends Tomoko and Yoko came to visit Helsinki and brought me a Pinafore Purple Blythe doll as a gift. They knew my love of vintage things and slightly quirky things, and thought that Blythe was a good gift for me. I had no idea at this point in time that Blythe had ever been reproduced by Takara and that she was a pop icon in Japan. Little did I know how my life would change!
How many Blythe dolls do you have in your own collection?
I currently have 44 Blythe dolls. I can give a rough estimate of about 4 BL, 12 EBL, 5 SBL, 20 RBL and 3 Kenner Blythe. I think that is correct!
What kind of dolls do you prefer?
Obviously from the amount of dolls I have, I love them all for different reasons. I don’t really have any heavy customs though, and while I find some extreme customs really beautiful I love the original ‘Mona Lisa Smile’ of Blythe’s original features. I love that her expression is ever changing in the photos depending on her surroundings. I like that mutability of Blythe. For me its part of her magic and when you re-sculpt the face into a permanent expression, that magic is lost.
I adore Kenners and their vintage magic. Each one is different and special. I love their patina and that they have a story to tell.
SBL’s are the mold that I struggle the most with and yet as time goes by I realize that I have love for them too. Especially as they were among the first Blythes I ever purchased. I would not add any to my family, but the ones I have I do love.
I think RBL are among the most beautiful of them all, they come as close as possible to emanating the Kenner girls. The EBL/BL have a fun quirky personality all unto themselves which makes them really sweet and unique. FBL and I have still not ‘made friends’.
Where and how do you store your own dolls?
My dolls are in my living space, as I live in a studio apartment that has a separate kitchen/dining area. I recently got some shelves installed on my walls to hold them all. Until then they would live around the house, on the edges of my sofa, on the table, and in my fabric storage shelves. I like to have the dolls around and I could not imagine keeping them in boxes or in a cupboard.
Why did you start to create clothes for Blythe?
Right away when I got my first doll. Well actually it took me about a week or two since I had no idea of forums or internet presence of Blythe collectors…in fact, at that point in my life I was not very active online at all. Anyhow once I discovered ‘This Is Blythe’ Forum, I began to immediately sew clothing and make things for my Blythe dolls. I only did it for myself or as gifts for my friends. I was really lucky and immediately met about 2 (and created a 3rd) collectors here in Helsinki. I also began to knit and felt hats for my dolls right away as about the same time I came across this lovely rainbow wool in a shop and knew then that I HAD to learn to do something with it. This evolved to the helmets that I am known for… and I’m still… humbled and shocked at their success.
I wrote an article about my helmets and their inspiration.
How did you learn how to do it?
I already knew how to sew as my mother taught me when I was younger and ever since Jr. High School I sewed my own clothing and also was a quilter. I just took the techniques and pattern reading ability into it. Although a lot of trial and error has taught me quite a lot about new technique too. I’m always open to finding a better way to do anything!
As for knitting, I did not learn to knit until I turned 25 and my friend taught me as a birthday gift. I learned to knit in Finland so I ‘pick’ rather than ‘throw’ my yarn. My sister has always knitted and felted items so she was my inspiration to knit something and felt it. At the time it was not an extremely popular technique but I was intrigued by it. Especially as free form felting was very popular in Finland. In the end I guess I ended up with a technique that was inspired by people around me and the culture around me. I knew the basics of felting but it was a lot of trial and error. I guess I am self-taught in that regards.
What gives you inspiration?
*Street fashion, display windows. Interesting details in clothing, seam lines…pockets.
* Fabric contrasts and textures, patterns and color. Sometimes I will fall in love with a fabric and create a garment to bring out the best features of the fabric. Be it print, texture or whatever.
* Going outside the box. Using a print or fabric that someone would not normally thing suitable for dolly stuffs. I love seeing a fabric that seems totally inappropriate and pushing myself to find a way to use it.
*with the helmets I am always inspired by the wool texture, how the colors and texture come alive in felting. I keep my box of deco treats sort of mixed up with all the beads and stuff all together. It is terribly disorganized but it keeps the deco process quite organic and inspired.
What is your work rhythm?
I am much more productive in the morning vs. evening. I tend to wake up and do ‘paperwork’ aka internet stuffs, answer e mails every morning while I drink my coffee. I try to keep it to under an hour, but that rarely happens. I usually sew for 3 hours, take a break, then sew some more. Sometimes I will sew for 12 hours if I am really on a roll. I like to sew in small batches of 3-6 items depending on the complexity of the pattern I am sewing. I really dislike sewing commissions because sewing requires SO much focus on the detail at hand that I have to feel really inspired about what I am sewing. With the helmets it is very different. I like to knit while I watch TV and am on the bus or public transit. I moved this fall and I have still not found a very good rhythm with my knitting schedule. Sometimes I just sit down, put on a movie and get some helmets worked out. I often will cut out my day’s work the night before, or pick out fabrics so that in the morning I have my work laid out for me so I cannot procrastinate and waste my time. Because I hold down 2 part time jobs, any time I have ‘off work’ is usually spent on EuroTrash. I notice that if I work too much away from EuroTrash I get really crabby and have this need to simply sew and create. I call it the ‘sewing meanies’. Those are the days you might find me on the machine for a 12 hour stint just to get my ‘fix’.
How do you like to work?
I prefer to work alone because sewing at this scale really demands concentration. You can’t be distracted by chit chat too much. I like to listen to podcasts and audio books while I work. It keeps me entertained and focused so I am not tempted to go waste time on the Internet. Working at home requires strict discipline with yourself and you do have to treat it like a job, giving yourself strict boundaries. Sometimes if I need to build up some energy and light a fire, I will put on my headphones, some heavy metal in my Discman and go for a quick walk about outside, come in and I am ready to rock and roll and get some work done. I also am really good at working with short term goals and rewards. If I meet my goals, I reward myself in some way. Whether by watching a favorite movie, or spending a couple hours online, or maybe even buying fabric if my funds are enough.
How does your studio look like?
Like it has been hit by a tornado! I like to keep my supplies for the most part organized. Trims in one box, and buttons and fasteners in others (I use zip loc bags A LOT to separate notions by color)…I have some organization going for me, but I do tend to tear the place apart searching for things, or just being in a hurry…I try once a week to return stuff to where it should go but sometimes it goes to about once a month and I get a lot of ‘residue’. I also get stacks and mountains of fabrics that are all over from current projects. I do have shelves and I am still working on some storage/organization solutions. I recently moved (well 4 months ago but still…) and am in the process of finding working solutions for myself before I buy my furniture. I think I need a chest of drawers next for organizing lace/trims and small notions.
Where do you sell your creations?
It has all been a process of trial and error and finding what works best. I am still in search of the right shopping cart software for me, but I am more than willing to invest in EuroTrash because in the end it is like investing in myself. It is really important to me to have some level of control regarding the service I can offer my customers, and so even though I have not found the perfect solution yet, I am working towards that. I am simply so grateful for the support of the community, my regular customers and new ones. It inspires me to keep going, keep sewing and keep making things. I certainly never expected EuroTrash to be what it is today. I never imagined when I made my first helmets and dresses that it would turn into this. Even though I sell out, time and time again, there is not a time before I list something that I don’t feel nervous or apprehensive… and ask myself ‘Will people like this?’
Also, I am always thrilled to see a new name in my inbox from new buyers, and new customers… I love my returning customers and am so grateful, but I am so pleased when someone new gets a chance to get something. Sometimes its really hard to read about disappointment after updates, when people don’t get what they want, because if I could…I would want everyone to get what they want. Sometimes I am really conflicted about this and just feel guilty, but I am working on that! I know that I should not take it personally and that people are just venting and it is nice to see feedback and a desire for products. It gives me directions in which to take my sewing and what people like to see.
Many thanks Ruth for spending your time with us and sharing your passion. We are all looking forward to admiring your new creations this year! Happy Anniversary!