In the second of our Makers in Lockdown series, embroidery artist Jodie Ruffle gives an insight into her world juggling teaching and the importance of making time for her own practice with an embroidery club that has taken on a life of its own.
What have you been doing during lockdown?
As the Programme Leader for Fashion & Textiles at Middlesex University, I’m waiting now for my 22 final year fashion and textile students to hand in their work to be marked. I really needed something to get me away from laptop to force me to do something creative. All my time is taken by students but you can find space and time if you have little goals that don’t feel insurmountable. When a friend invited me to join a 21 day embroidery project, (apparently it takes 21 days to make a habit) I was in panic mode, but making time for my own embroidery practice has been such a lift and lovely thing to focus on in a stressful time. I really geek out from learning stuff.
Experiences and workshops are a great way for people to get involved and stay creative during lockdown. Tell us about the 21 Days Embroidery Club.
Just before I did my MA, I did a short course at LCF on couture and embellishment and Nadia Albertini was teaching it. I was so fascinated by everything she showed us, and that changed the course of my Masters degree. We’ve kept in touch since. She’s Mexican and lives in Paris. She contacted me to say “I am starting this challenge because in Paris there are 21 days left of lockdown and I am going to force myself to do an hour a day and try to learn new techniques.” I started the challenge and didn’t manage an hour a day. I was doing it on a Saturday for six hours. But I used it to test out different things, it was about trying new techniques.
‘It’s made me think about the balance between work and life…’
At the end of the 21 days everybody taking part in the project met on Zoom and discovered we were in 11-12 different countries in different parts of the world from New Zealand to Argentina, with lots of different ages and backgrounds. Nadia said why not continue, and we will have someone different set the challenges each time? So the next will be with Flor Arias, an haute couture embellishment designer and embroiderer based in Madrid. She trained at Lesage in Paris. She is teaching a traditional Spanish technique. I will be teaching the third project. We have enough people to teach new techniques to keep us going until March next year. What’s nice is as soon as things are tagged on Instagram, you get a digital collage of the work. It’s really about sharing techniques.
What has the lockdown taught you?
“I’m lucky I’ve been able to continue working. And lucky I have another strand of work that is like therapy or meditation for me which is the embroidery. It’s made me think about the balance between work and life.”
Will you do more with the idea of workshops?
I started an embroidery club with the students. Maybe I can do short courses as a thing, especially now the students have handed their work in. I could design little courses with a pack. I’ve learnt that you you have to Zoom from your phone and your computer. I bought a proper clamp so I can do overhead filming. Watch this space!