For our second Artist Spotlight for our upcoming LeucadiART Walk on August 25th, we got to ask Ruby Geisler of Sarah + Ruby Design Studio a few questions! Sarah & Ruby specialize in handmade wallpaper, pillows, art, and pattern design. They have studied the old-world ways of mindful making and have reinterpreted the traditions to make simplified, modern designs with an organic twist. By individually making each sheet of wallpaper in their California studio, Sarah & Ruby not only create individual, compelling pieces, but also minimize waste and foster sustainable living. Keep reading to learn more about Sarah before stopping by her booth at the LeucadiART Walk on Sunday, August 25th!
1. How did you first get into art?
I’ve been making art since I was little kid in the ‘80s, drawing mermaids and side-ponied girls in dangling earrings and crop tops, ha! My parents recognized that I was most happy and zen-like while creating, so they made sure I had every opportunity to experiment and try new art forms. They are both quite creative in their own way, and I am grateful to have always been encouraged to be an artist. I was also lucky to grow up here in Encinitas in an era in which art making was a daily thing at school, and I had excellent teachers to support me along the way.
2. How has your work evolved since you first started?
I’ve worked my way through various mediums — painting, ceramics, sculpture, botanical illustration, life drawing, jewelry making, woodblock printing and lithography — all the way to textile design. I co-own a small design company called Sarah + Ruby Design Studio (www.sarahrubydesign.com). My business partner, Sarah Schwartz, and I have evolved so much over the last few years. We started out creating custom wallpaper and fabric for interior designers on the computer using digital printing; moved onto pattern licensing work while developing our own signature style (simple, bold, organic designs); fell in love with the subtle, perfect imperfections of artisan made textiles, launching a line of colorful hand block printed wallpaper made in India; experimented with fabric marbling and chunky needlepoint for throw pillows. This winding path led us to the realization that we love to be hands-on, making our products ourselves here in our California studios. Our thing is finding ways to put a fresh spin on traditional, time-tested artisan techniques. We now primarily create hand painted, domino-style wallpaper using a centuries old paste-paper technique. It’s textural, durable, and versatile, and we love that the sheet format (each piece of wallpaper is 22” x 30”; wallpaper initially began as sheets, aka “dominos," long before it was possible to manufacture rolls of paper) ensures that each and every install is unique. I also still paint fine art (my current go-to medium is gouache and ink on wood panel) and use our paste paper method to create abstract art on paper. I like being able to switch back and forth between fine art and functional art/decor.
3. What inspires your art?
Traditional artisan processes are the driving force behind our Sarah + Ruby collections. Nature — time in the ocean, sand patterns, leaves, shadows — provides us with organic motifs, textures, and color palettes. Memories and travel inspire my own artwork. Real landscapes — Santa Cruz and Big Sur, Italy, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil — seep into the imagined landscapes that I paint. I don’t use photo reference but rely on intuition. I’m also very inspired by my art materials. I prefer materials that are a bit harder to control, allowing room for surprise.
4. What are your favorite kinds of pieces to create? What is your favorite piece you have created so far?
I like to create work with texture and layers. I like surface variation and unexpected bits of color to pop through, something you’ll see in both our wallpaper and my paintings. I can’t say that I necessarily have a favorite piece — I think my favorite part is the actual making!
5. In your eyes, what role does art play in building community?
I think that art can spark a deeper connection to community on multiple levels. I love seeing artwork on murals, in restaurants, in galleries around town — it informs the way I know my town geographically and culturally. I am currently working on a public art mosaic project with a talented local artist, Mau Domingues, for the pedestrian and bike-friendly underpass on Santa Fe Drive. This mosaic gives me a sense of pride in my hometown and its efforts to improve life for its people, and working on a project with another artist is always eye-opening — you get a glimpse of another’s perspective and skills and enhance each other’s ideas. Collaboration keeps you flexible and reinforces that fact that there’s always another way to do something. I also belong to an awesome group of female artists, the F-ing Fierce Woman’s Sacred Art Circle, that meets every month or so. We don’t all know each other well outside this group, but we discover that we share many of the same doubts, fears, fascinations and emotions. It’s almost like therapy. So many invaluable ways to connect through art.
6. What does being part of LeucadiART Walk mean to you as a member of our community?
I love Leucadia! I’ve spent much of my life here and it’s a big part of “home” for me. We spend so much time running about focused on our own day-to-day lives, so it’s refreshing to slow down and interact with other artists and art loving friends/strangers at this event. I’m honored to be included.
Check out her website here and follow her Instagram, @sarahrubydesign!