Today we’re catching up with Ruby Talbot-Dunn, Fremantle-based textile artist and fabric block printing queen. Ruby's industrial studio space is scattered with the tools of her trade: blocks, paints, locally-sourced fabrics and all things patterned. Her bright and colourful works line the walls, some of which she has commissioned for well-loved Fremantle brand La Paleta, who are also her studio partners.
We caught Ruby just as she returned from Fitzroy Crossing working alongside the artists at Marnin Studios to teach and learn new printing techniques. Here we chat to Ruby about her distinctive printmaking style, what it is like to be a practising artist and her love of passing on her skills through her popular workshops.
How did you get started?
I got started when I was living in Melbourne. I studied at RMIT, firstly doing a Diploma in Visual Arts and then beginning a Fine Art Degree in Printmaking before realising that Textile Design was what I really wanted to be doing.
I transitioned into RMIT’s Textile Design BA in Brunswick and this is where everything started to fall into place, and my love for pattern and textiles grew. I majored in print, exploring screen printing and digital printing in combination with some embellishing techniques such as embroidery and beading.
What have you been up to this year?
So far I’ve done a mixed bag of projects and workshops as well as working in my studio and the Found shop at Fremantle Arts Centre. I had a great time back in February designing and painting an ice cream cart for La Paleta. I ran some workshops for KickstART Youth Festival and a screen printing workshop with Beau Est Mein.
I also just got back from Fitzroy Crossing working alongside the artists at Marnin Studios, where we were block and screen printing onto fabric.
How do you go about making a piece - what's the process from start to finish?
It varies a lot depending on what I am working on. When I paint I have an idea of what direction I want it to go in, but I like to just start straight on the canvas and let it evolve as I work.
When I’m printing fabric the process is more involved. I start by drawing simple shapes and then take these ideas into photoshop or illustrator where I can play around with pattern layout and colour palettes. From here I will transfer the design onto my silk screen and then get printing.
I’m also doing a bit of embroidery at the moment and the process for this is just to sit and stitch, it’s like my form of meditation.
What inspires your artwork?
Spending some time up in the Kimberley recently has been very inspiring. The colours found in the rock formations, flora, sunsets and wildlife were amazing. I find travelling a great way to get inspired, it’s time to explore the new and space to develop ideas and concepts.
I’m always inspired by traditional craft techniques and processes because I like to work in a similar way with a strong focus on process and play.
What do you find is the most challenging thing about running a creative business?
I think for anyone who owns their own business, being your own boss can be pretty challenging! I’m not the most self-disciplined person so I need deadlines to work towards or I can easily lose focus.
As a creative person, I do find the admin side of the business difficult and my workload can vary so much from week to week - it’s not your regular 9-5 job!
What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Believe in yourself and just get started. I’ve wasted too much time thinking about creative projects that I would like to explore and then shutting them down before I’ve even started. I now know that you should always start to explore a new idea and see where it takes you. From little things, big things grow!
What is your favourite part about running workshops and teaching what you do?
Running workshops is fun! I love being able to share my printing skills and knowledge with others. Seeing how each person responds to the workshop is always interesting. The end results are beautiful and completely unique to each individual.
When students walk away feeling excited and proud of what they have made it makes me so happy!
Have you had any ‘ah-huh’ moments of late?
I think on a daily basis I have 'ah-huh' moments! These moments come from small wins like meeting a deadline, but also from making mistakes and allowing that to change the way I might work in the future.
A really great moment for me happened when I was working towards the Bazaar Market in Fremantle last year. It was a big step for me as it was the first time I was selling my work. What came out of this experience was the realisation that I was so well supported by my friends, family and community. That support was so lovely and empowering.
What is on your studio playlist?
I love almost all genres of music but when I am in my studio it is all about the RnB! Here are the top 10 songs on my playlist at the moment…
Solange Mad | ABRA Pull Up | Blood Orange Better Than Me | Destiny’s Child Soldier | Kendrick Lamar DNA | NxWorries Get Bigger | Miguel Adorn | The Internet Special Affair | Pharrel Williams Frontin’ | Little Dragon Wildfire
What’s next for you? Any exciting plans for the future?
At the moment I am really focused on developing my own printed textiles label for fashion and homewares. I will also be collaborating with Sally Bower from the label Deli, together we will create a collection of Australian designed and made clothing which I’m pretty excited about!
I hope to have a chance at exhibiting my paintings and textile artworks at some point in the near future too. I’ve started an ongoing artist-in-residence program with Marnin Studios in Fitzroy Crossing. That is exciting and a new adventure for me. I’m going with them to the Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair in August to help out, which will be amazing I’m sure!
Her artwork is available online and through limited local stockists.
Interview, introduction and images by Jasmyn Woodford.