Ruby Geisler is one half of the power house design studio, Sarah & Ruby Design. Their simple, bold, organic designs, will be on hand at LeucadiART Walk, happening Sunday, August 26. Until then, get to know Leucadia native Ruby Geisler as she shares her thoughts on inspiration, being a creative, and how art and community intertwine.
L101: How did you get into making patterns? And how did it evolve into wallpaper, pillows, etc?
Ruby Geisler: As an artist, I’ve always been into repetition and organic texture. I fell in love with wood block printing and lithography while attending UC Santa Cruz, but was at a loss as to where to take it after graduation. A friend (Leucadia’s very own Kellie Shay!) mentioned that my prints might translate well as textiles, something that I had never considered. An impulsive internet search led me to a very small vocational textile design school in Berkeley, CA, and by the following week I was enrolled. I spent the next few years commuting from Santa Cruz to Berkeley to learn how to design and meticulously hand-paint every type of historical pattern you can imagine. It was a little nuts but thoroughly engaging and gave me an even greater appreciation for the skilled artistry behind an amazing textile. Also, I met my business partner, Sarah Schwartz, there! After completing our program in 2011, Sarah and I launched our company, Sarah & Ruby Design Studio. We initially produced custom wallpaper and fabric for interior designers utilizing the latest in digital printing technology. While doing custom work and building up a portfolio of patterns for licensing, we developed our own signature style — simple, bold, organic designs. Digital printing has its advantages, but we found ourselves drawn to the subtle, perfect imperfections of artisan made textiles. We launched our first wallpaper line in 2013, a tactile, richly colored collection of loose geometric patterns all hand block printed in India. Since then we have become obsessed with exploring other hand printing techniques, fabric marbling, needlepoint, weaving, etc, and finding ways to put a modern spin on these time-tested processes. Sarah is especially curious and tenacious when it comes to experimenting with new (old) methods, and our pillow and hand-painted sheet wallpaper collections originate from those explorations. We’re thrilled to be making most of our products in our studios in California now! All of this hands-on work has inspired me to paint and make my own artwork again, and I am loving it.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Traditional artisan processes are the driving force behind our Sarah & Ruby collections. Getting our hands dirty is major inspiration! Nature — time in the ocean, sand patterns, leaves, shadows — provides us with organic motifs, textures, and color palettes.
Travel inspires 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 memory and intuition. I’m also very inspired by my art materials. I am currently enthralled with the way water-based gouache floats on top of alcohol-based ink on wood. I like materials that are a bit harder to control, allowing room for surprise.
Do you have any advice for creative types who are just starting out who may be scared to follow their passion?
Start where you are! Know that your plans will change, your style will evolve, and you’ll have to ditch some ideas entirely. You might not make any real money for a long time. As long as you keep making and experimenting I’d say you’re moving forward. Find a business partner that keeps you motivated, or seek out the company of other local creatives that will offer support and a sounding board for ideas. Networking, right? I can be shy and isolate myself while immersed in my artwork, so I’m trying to make an effort to share more and reach out to other locals.
As a North County local, how do you see the relationship between creativity/art and our community?
I believe that working with your hands — painting, cooking, gardening, fixing or building something— is essential. For me, creating is meditative, intuitive, and cleansing. The process can be more important than the result. It encourages me to slow down, live in the moment, thoughtfully observe my experience and my surroundings, and I am much better off for it. A community that values and engages with art, provides opportunities for children and adults alike to play and make is going to be a happier, healthier community. We live in a spectacularly beautiful place, but it’s changing and growing SO fast. I hope that North County can evolve in a way that embraces individual creativity, mindful consumption, and sustainable, inclusive growth. A huge undertaking, and I’m having a hard time fully articulating my thoughts on the matter. Bottom line: creative expression is crucial to our communal wellbeing.
What are you looking forward to at this year’s art walk?
So much ART! I also look forward to meeting other local artists and art lovers. I moved back home in 2016 after 10 years in Santa Cruz, and I need more artist friends here.
You’re doing live art this year! What can people expect from your demo?
Yes! Along with paintings and prints for sale, I’ll demonstrate how we create our hand-painted sheet wallpaper. It’s a 400-year-old traditional paste paper technique that was commonly used in book binding to create decorative end papers. You’ll be surprised by the everyday objects that we use to make our patterns!
You have friends visiting from out of town, where do you take them in Leucadia for:
Breakfast: Le Papagayo
Lunch: Karina’s or Bird’s Eye Kitchen
Beach hangs: Less crowded spots between Stonesteps, Beacon’s, Grandview