A new series of chats in the kitchen with some of the most inspiring, go-getter women I know.
Join us every fortnight for a chat about work, life and design.
Jenny Mustill, the the creator and owner of a Brighton based creative business called Ruby Ruth Dolls
FIND JENNY AT:
I couldn't quite believe my luck when Jenny got in touch with me a few weeks ago introducing herself... (and Rita, and Malcolm, and Rosa...) Jenny owns a company who creates characterful dolls for your home, that the likes of Zoella have bought to line their shelves, guard their beds and start their collections. As Jenny and I talked on email, I got the sense so quickly that she was a real kindred soul, bouncing with creativity, playfulness in her work, and a damn good business woman with it. I had to snap her up asap for an interview for The Kinship as I just KNOW for a fact you will love Jenny and her gorgeous doll creations.
Look out for the 20% off code available until the end of August especially for you, a gift from Jenny to my lovely readers.
So grab a cuppa quick and come join us in Jenny's studio...
Fi + Jenny
Jenny! I am so delighted you're here to share your story with us today. Begin by telling us a little more about you and this AWESOME creative project you're working on...
I’m an artist currently living in Brighton. I have been here for 4 years now after living in 4 different cities in my twenties. I love it here!
I have designed a collection of weird, eccentric creatures which have a nostalgic handmade appearance which are collectively called Ruby Ruth Dolls. The dolls have evolved from my love of craft, story telling and self expression. There are currently 36 characters in the collection and they each have a different personality. They are sometimes based on people I know, others are fictional. For example; Malcolm who likes to look out to sea for answers, Ingrid who likes to contemplate the size of the universe whilst doing her big shop at Lidl and Oliver who can mostly be found sunning himself on Brighton nudist beach in the summer months.
I originally sold very primitive examples of the dolls on a market stall in Brick Lane after I graduated from a fine art degree 12 years ago. They were completely made from my old clothes back then, much smaller and weirder! Before I decided to make Ruby Ruth Dolls into a business in 2009 I worked as an assistant for Damien Hirst for a few years and sold the dolls at many markets and music festivals around the country.
As the business has grown I now oversee a small team of makers who handcraft my designs in my Brighton studio which are then sent to customers all over the world through the website and stocked in over 20 shops around the country. I’ve managed to hold onto some of the recycling ethos from the early days by using up cycled knitwear bought in charity shops for each dolls hat. I like the idea that the dolls breathe a new life into someones once favourite jumper!
I am fascinated by the appeal of the dolls to both adults and children as although toy like the dolls are mainly bought by adults for themselves. They have a nostalgic link to childhood whilst also being used as interior ornamental objects to enhance customers homes.
Woah, that is so impressive and wonderful to see your ideas launch into life. Do you have a studio space where you create your dolls? Tell us more about what it's like, how you found it and how you decorate it
Yes - I have a studio at the Rodhus Creative Workspace in Brighton. Rodhus was originally a lighting factory which got transformed into studio spaces in 2011 . There are over 30 different artists and businesses in the building which range from photographers, screen printers, musicians, wood workers, fashion and product designers - its great to be part of a community of makers and creatives. I’ve just moved into a new larger space within the building which interestingly partly used to be a huge walk in oven!
I painted my last space with colourful pinstripes but my new studio is all white. I have lots of my large colourful abstract paintings to add colour and of course lots of fabric, buttons, sewing machines and dolls. I am planning to put a kitchen into the space later this year which I’m looking forward to.
It sounds like the perfect space to work creatively in – and only down the road from where I grew up!
I saw that the gorgeous Malcolm + Rita dolls are adored by blogging and youtube stars like Zoella. That's amazing for your business. What have been some of the proudest moments for you setting up Ruby Ruth Dolls?
Yes Zoella bought Malcolm and Rita from my Brighton stockist Pussy Home Boutique a few years ago. It’s been great seeing where they pop up alongside Zoe; blogs photoshoots, an ITV advert and even alongside her waxwork at Madame Tussauds! I’ve tried to get in touch as it would be great to meet Zoe and show her around the studio but no luck yet!
I have had some really sweet letters, paintings and hand written stories from customers based on the dolls they have bought which make me feel really proud about the business.
I adore them too. I love their individual personalities and can't wait for my own doll to arrive so I can dress her up in my home office.
There's something so fun about being an adult yet still owning and collecting dolls.
Now, I'm intrigued... A business this creative and successful takes a lot of hard work getting set up and I imagine you might have had times where you questioned which direction to head in (I often think WTF am I doing on a daily basis working for myself). Have you had those days too? If so, what sort of coping mechanism or pep talk do you give yourself to keep trucking through?
Every day! For me its really easy to get overwhelmed by how much there is to do to keep the business moving forward. I’m learning how to prioritise tasks and not let things get on top of me. Breaking projects down into smaller more manageable chunks is very important and stopping to think about what I have actually done instead of what I haven’t. I’m lucky to have some really brilliant people around me who give very positive pep talks when I need them!
Ah, great advice. We need to hold onto those people who give us killer pep talks for dear life. Where would we be without them.
So, what's next for Ruby Ruth Dolls and what's your grand vision for the business? Any dreams you want to share?
I’m really excited about the new collection as it includes dolls made from fabrics which I have designed. I’d like to use the designs further into a range of stationary and prints eventually. I am also planning a kickstarter project later in the year to fund an exhibition of giant creatures living in sets made from recycled fabrics which will, fingers crossed, be exhibited in a gallery during Brighton fringe festival next year. Also I am setting up a workshop programme which should be up and running in the new studio by the end of the summer- so lots of projects to keep busy with!
My dream is to have a Ruby Ruth gallery and shop- I’m a few years off that though!
Amazing! I will certainly have to look out for you at the fringe next year. How can we help to support you?
You can keep up to date with news on our social media accounts which are:
And if you would like to start or add to your own Ruby Ruth collection you can use the code FIFIMCGEE4 at the checkout to receive 20 % until the end of August 2017.