I can’t remember how I came across Ruth Thorp now (I think it may have been via Twitter), but it feels like she is an old friend! Ruth hand illustrates and digitally prints beautiful cards and art prints in a series of collections – Wilderness, Journey, Winter Trees, Winter Garden and many more. Her prints have been the best selling items in my collection so far and I have two large ones (Home and Winter Forest) framed in my own home. I asked her to share a bit about her story and what inspires her.
What made you decide to be a maker and how did you get started?
I’m not sure that becoming a maker is something that you decide, but rather something that just kind of happens. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making something. In fact one of my earliest memories is going into nursery when I was 3 or 4 and teaching all of my friends how to make tissue paper flowers after watching it on Blue Peter the night before! I spent my whole childhood making and creating and I guess I just never stopped. My making in its current form came from years of exploring what I wanted to do after studying architecture and realising I didn’t want to be an architect! I tried my hand at a lot of things; went on a whole host of creative workshops and learnt to sew; but in the end it was my skills developed in my professional role as an architectural designer combined with my original love of art and making that led me to illustration.
What inspires your designs and colour combinations and how has that changed over time?
Inspiration is hard to define, I’m always surprised when it happens and never sure whether it will ever strike again! I’m currently experiencing a bit of a creative slump and just can’t seem to get inspired to create anything new. But having been here before, I have to trust that something will come along soon (fingers crossed!). My inspiration in the past has come from specific briefs; pieces of writing and poetry; flicking through coffee table books; watching my niece; and my most recent Northern Sun collection was actually inspired by a single word! Most of my work is produced with quite limited colour palettes. I find that, with all design work, having constraints can be a really positive creative tool and so I use the colour combinations to give each collection a strong and unique identity, one that has grown over time as my work and style has become more refined.
What is your favourite thing to design?
Probably my personal illustration collections as this is when I feel I have the most freedom to produce work that is 100% me. I don’t think I will even get over the buzz of someone choosing a piece of my art to hang on their wall. I often have people tell me that my illustrations have reminded them of a certain person or memory and I love that people attach their own stories and experiences to them or are inspired by them in some way. I like to think that in my own small way I am brightening someone’s day and adding a bit of beauty into the world.
What do you love most about being a maker?
The freedom to create without restriction; the variety of work and endless possibilities; and of course the lovely creative community that I am part of.
What advice would you give someone getting started?
Keep practicing and developing your skills; do what you feel passionate about and stay true to yourself: accept challenges and try new things, but also don’t be afraid to say no! Connect and talk to other people. It’s amazing how inspired you can become from just having conversations with new people. Surprising and unexpected opportunities seem to arise when you just have the courage to talk to people about yourself, your work and your interests and the bonus is you meet some really lovely people along the way.