Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Ruth Pullen - Makers' Fair Festival Special - Q & A

Tell us about the work you do and the types of materials you use.
I make handstitched leathergoods from British hand dyed vegetable tanned leather and stitched using waxed linen thread spun in Chester. The bags are finished with brass buckles which are cast in Walsall at the last remaining buckle foundry in the UK. I am also currently designing a range of bags which takes things back to the basics, using undyed leather, natural linen thread, hand plyed and waxed by myself and hand forged buckles and also exploring the ideas of including had woven textiles. Watch this space!

Where do you produce your work? Does your working environment form part of the inspiration for your art?
I live in Ilkley and have a small workshop at home. I can look out over the valley on one side and towards the moors on the other so it's a very inspirational place to be and one which has been the foundation of my creative endeavors to date. The Wharfe and Aire valleys have a huge amount of history in them, both in the countryside and the towns, you can't help but to be enriched with ideas for new projects!

Is your art your main job? How did you get started?
As well as working in leather, I also work at Salts Mill at Kath Libbert Jewellery Gallery where I have worked since coming out of college. It's a pleasure to be able to represent talented jewellers and silversmiths from all around the UK and to show their work in such an iconic building of this area, I'm very lucky. Working part time has given me the chance to explore other crafts all around the country and this is how I found leatherwork. I've trained with a saddler of the old school in Penrith, David May, who is an inspiration not just in his work but in his approach to life. Being a maker is not just about making, it's about all the fantastic people who you meet along the way too!

What work will you be exhibiting at the Saltaire Festival Makers’ Fair Special?
I'll be showing a range of satchels, bags, journals and accessories all made with the artist, craftperson and explorer in mind.

Do you work in any other mediums besides the work you will be exhibiting at the Makers’ Fair Special?
Anyone who knows me would laugh at this question! I have a certified addiction to making things so at the weekend you will find me making clothes, weaving baskets and hurdles for the garden, dyeing wool and fabric with plant dyes, laying a patio and making the odd chair! I love to work with raw, natural materials with few tools.

Where else can we see and buy your work?
I have been taking private commissions up to date while I have been finalising a collection. At the moment I am putting the final touches to my online shop, ready to launch my work in time for the fair and to approach stockists. So my work is exclusive to the fair, it's quite exciting really!

Tell us about your most exciting or memorable commission?
Last year I was helping out on a self-build project in a middle of a wood in the middle of Herefordshire. I set up a little woodland workshop in the outdoor kitchen and made a set of sheaths for the owner's woodworking tools. It was such a beautiful setting and great to be able to set up and make so remotely with just my knife, needles, thread and awl.

What was it about the Saltaire Festival Makers’ Fair Special that made you want to apply to exhibit?
All sorts of reasons! The quality of the fair has always been really high so to be able to show alongside makers of such caliber is a real pleasure. Also, it's great that there is a platform for talented makers to show their work in this area, I think it puts Saltaire on the map as a centre for local craft and design and a forward thinking attitude which it continues to be famous for since the days of Sir Titus Salt.

What is unique about it and how does it differ from other events?
I think there is always a buzz about this fair with it being part of the festival, everyone always has a great time and it will be fun to see it from different perspective.

Could you leave us with one more interesting fact about yourself or your work?
Many people can't believe that when I mean handstitched, it really is stitched by hand. I don't use any machinery at all, just an awl, two needles and linen thread. That, coupled with playing the fiddle very badly mean I can't really feel my fingertips anymore!!

Ruth Pullan will be exhibiting as part of the Makers' Fair Festival Special

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