Ruthie L. designs started with a simple idea – the desire to design and produce beautiful bespoke rugs. Its founder, textile designer Ruth Lazerson wanted to translate her passion for colour and texture into unique and timeless statement rugs.
Her creative journey has taken her from her native South Africa to studying art at the Sotheby’s in London to working at the art galleries in France and Israel, and finally studying Surface Design at ISCD in Sydney. With her strong background in arts, it is no wonder that every ruthie L. designs rug starts as a piece of art that is drawn and painted by hand. Every rug is then hand knotted by the skilled artisans in North India. And the result is a wonderfully unique high quality rug that looks more like a piece of art than something spun and knotted.
And the story does not end here – all rugs combine great design with a strong social conscience. They carry GoodWeave label – an organization that strives to prevent child labour and advocates social change.
Ruth has recently launched her beautiful debut rug collection “Secrets of Nature” at the Décor + Design Show in Melbourne. And I can bet you top dollar that it is just a beginning for this inspiring creative lady and her company.
In this interview, Ruth talks about her creative journey, the challenges she faces and what makes her tick.
Enjoy the read – it is not every day you get to meet a rug designer, right?
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a textile designer, mum of two, wife and business owner! I wear a lot of hats most days and juggle all these roles constantly. Its not always easy but I wouldn’t change it for anything!
How did you become a rug designer?
I’ve always loved rugs and I feel that my personal artistic style lends itself beautifully to designing rugs. During my first year at college we were given a rug brief and I started designing them then and I haven’t stopped since!
How is the rug born? Where do you start?
The rug really starts with my inspiration. Mostly I’m inspired by the world around me especially nature, patterns and colours. I then start painting using all sorts of mediums, materials and tools like inks, watercolours, gesso, sticks, sand and whatever I can find to make marks. I then scan the painting or artwork into Photoshop or Illustrator and play with it there until I’m happy with the design. The design then needs to be converted to a rug CAD to be woven by the weavers.
Where do the designs for your rugs come from? What inspires you?
I’m inspired mostly by the world around me. I love nature in all its glory and the patterns, shapes and colours I find there are just an endless source of inspiration.
What is the most challenging part in creating a rug for you?
Mmm… that’s a tough one! There are quite a few challenging parts. I guess for me the most challenging thing is the colour selection and making it all work together. I know how I want the rug to look and how I want my design to be woven but the colours that are eventually selected are really what draws it all together into a cohesive whole. Recently I’ve asked other creatives to come and thrash it out with me and its been an amazing experience as we all bring something totally different to the table.
What is the most rewarding part?
There are so many rewarding parts. I guess that feeling I have when I first see the rug with my design on it is just awesome and I never seem to tire of it! When I’m in India, I love visiting the looms and talking to the weavers who are making my rugs. They don’t speak English but they love it when I sit down with them and they teach me how to knot (something I’m afraid I will never ever master!). I love seeing that their children can go to school in the local village and that they can live as a family together – that is very special for me.
What is the proudest moment of your career?
Gosh – I hadn’t really thought about that! There have been quite a few proud moments – the first was when I actually got on a plane and went to India the first time (for someone who hates to fly, I was exceptionally proud of myself for just getting on that plane!). Then it was a very proud moment when I saw my very first rug for the first time. Opening my showroom earlier this year was another very proud moment for me.
As a fellow mum, I know how challenging it can be trying to get your business off the ground while carrying for your family. How do you manage it?
It’s unbelievably challenging. There is never enough time in a day to do everything I want to do and I’m often exhausted but I’ve learned to accept that and I’m ok with it now. I do the best I can at everything I’m doing and remember to be kind to myself and not beat myself up about not doing everything perfectly. I’m very organised, try to do things as efficiently as I can, multi-task all the time, make endless lists and spend a large part of Sunday getting ready for the week!
Do you have any advice for women trying to embark on a creative career?
Believe in yourself and your ability. Follow your dream and shove that ranting parrot off your shoulder (the one that’s telling you that you can’t do it). Surround yourself with like-minded, supportive and creative women who are always there for you to help hold you up when you feel like you can’t hold yourself up. Those are the people who will get you through the tough times when you’re feeling unmotivated or exhausted.
What do the kids think of your job? Do they contribute to the creative process?
My kids call me the rug lady and sometimes my son even calls me ruthie L. designs! My son is 14 so we have some amazing conversations about the business side of it all. He’s quite the entrepreneur and has lots of great suggestions for a 14 year old! I often spend time on weekends with my daughter painting and engaging in various messy techniques which she loves.
Tell us about your recent collection. What inspired it?
My recent collection is called the Secrets of Nature and in it I’ve tried to capture the essence of nature in all its glory – from its transient side right through to its rugged aspect. Nature is really a treasure trove of inspiration and this collection is a testimony to that.
Do you have a favourite rug from your collection?
My favourite rug is probably Depths of the Ocean – purely because it has a very special place in my heart. It was the first rug I designed and had made and was really my initiation into the whole rug making process. It has been made several times since in different materials and colours and always just looks spectacular!
Your rugs are handmade in India. Can you tell us about the production process and the people involved in it?
Yes, my rugs are handmade in the north of India. There are a lot of stages that go into the making of a rug. Once the yarn has been spun (either by hand or machine) it is dyed. We try and use vegetable and natural dyes as much as we can. It’s quite a complex process and requires highly skilled people to do this. The rug then goes on the loom where it is hand woven. Depending on the size and quality of the rug, this can take anything from 12 -24 weeks. It is then washed, bound and finished. Each of these stages requires highly skilled artisans. We work with a community of weavers who all have looms in their homes. I love this because it means that families can stay together and parents are not leaving their children to go and find work for months at a time. There is a small school in the area so children are learning during the day. We try and contribute as much as we can to the resources at the school.
What is the rug weaving industry in South East Asia like? Why did you get involved with GoodWeave?
Unfortunately child labour in the carpet industry is very prevalent, particularly in South Asia in countries like India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan although China is also to blame.
In India, about one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. India’s carpet industry is an age-old, very well-established manufacturing sector, employing more than two million rural workers. Over ninety percent of carpets produced in India are exported to the USA, Europe and Australia creating a high demand for these luxury items and unfortunately, the cheaper these items can be produced the more can be sold increasing the use of children for such work. When child labour is prevalent in a country’s primary economic sector adult wages are then in turn drastically reduced, children are not educated and this then keeps communities trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty.
GoodWeave is a global non-profit initiative working to end illegal child labour in the carpet industry in India, Nepal and Afghanistan. It rescues and frees children from their work at the looms and offers viable alternative opportunities to these children through education and vocational training.
Regular monitoring at all stages of the rug making process ensures child-labour-free supply chains in India, Nepal and Afghanistan. Only licensed rug importers whose supply chain has been monitored and approved by Goodweave may place a GoodWeave label on the back of their rugs, assuring that their brand is not associated with child labour. I wanted to be affiliated with Goodweave so I could have the assurance as well as give the assurance that my rugs are produced responsibly and conscientiously.
Your rugs come with strong social credentials. What about environmental credentials? How sustainable are your rugs?
Both my manufacturer and I are strongly committed to producing sustainable and ethically sound rugs. Our yarn is naturally dyed and free of chemicals which is better for the environment and for the dyers. It’s a longer, more time-consuming process and also requires more skilled people. It is also more expensive however we feel that this is of paramount importance and have proved that there are people out there who share our values and are willing to pay a bit more for an ethically sound product.
What is in the future for Ruthie L designs? Is there anything you would love to do or achieve?
Well my new collection for 2018 has just gone into production so that is really exciting. I reached 2 of my goals this year and that was to open my own showroom and participate in Décor + Design which is wonderful. I would love to build onto the school in our weaving community in India with all the necessary resources it needs to educate the children (and even the adults).
Running your own business can be all consuming. How do you relax? What brings you pleasure?
I make time every day to either walk, do yoga or go to pilates. I love reading and of course spending time with my family. We are quite an active family and with a teenager and a preteen who don’t particularly like to spend time with their parents we really try to ensure that we do active things that we can all do together – like a ski holiday and a bush walk or a bike ride on the weekend.
What is on your bucket list?
I really want to take my kids back to Africa on a safari and to see the migration in Tanzania. My husband and I grew up in South Africa and the African bush is still the best place on earth as far as I’m concerned! I also want to go to Alaska to see the northern lights.
Describe yourself in one word? Why is this word?
Perfectionist! I don’t stop until I have something absolutely perfect.
What is one thing people don’t know about you?
I’m scared of flying and I absolutely loathe it!
If you want to connect with Ruth and find out more about her beautiful rugs and how they are made, head over to her website. You may fall in love with one of her designs and become a proud owner of a custom made unique rug!
If you are thinking of buying a rug but you are not sure where to start, please get in touch with me here.