July 2019 Maker of the Month: Ruth Mae Martin

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This months maker is ceramicist and print maker Ruth Mae Martin. We discovered Ruth when she applied for Welcome Home’s advent window last year and her brilliant window carried us into the new year.

Ruth studied in Dundee at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, and is currently based in Glasgow. Her work is playful, graphical and illustrative. There is a pleasing cross over where her ceramic pieces are represented in her printmaking, giving them a sort of narrative context and capturing the imagination. 

Find Ruth’s pieces in the shop and online now…

1. Were you a creative kid? What lead you in the direction of making?

 I was! I really liked making comics and copying the covers of books I had read. I also went through all the different phases of what I wanted to be when I was older - fashion designer, interior designer, painter... It was always something creative though. I enjoy learning new processes and I think that’s what’s led me in the direction of making.

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2. How did you find studying in Dundee and given the time you spent there what would you recommend to someone spending the day there?

 I loved Dundee. I was initially just excited to move somewhere new, but never expected it to suit me so much. Due to it being a smaller city you get to know all its areas and good wee spots really quickly. It’s also just a really welcoming place with loads of opportunities.

If I was suggesting how to fill a day there, I’d definitely say visit the V&A and the DCA for some great exhibitions, then the Bach for some really nice coffee and brunch. I think Dundee is great for charity shopping, as well as having some great small independent shops for clothing like Cartocon. I would also suggest walking along the Tay Bridge to get a great view of the whole city and the huge river!

3. What do you like about working in ceramics, what drew you to the material?

 I actually initially wanted to study Sculpture at art school, but changed my mind because I liked the idea of Design more, so chose Illustration at DJCAD. I still liked the idea of working in 3D and saw that ceramics was being used within illustration more and more. I decided to start playing with clay and trying to learn about its qualities, and just really fell in love with it. I did an exchange to Poland in 2016 and was able to take a functional ceramics class whilst studying there. It was amazing, I learnt so much, and that was when I decided I wanted to pursue ceramics in some manner. I made sure to spend as much time as possible when I got back working in the great ceramics facility in DJCAD, which has an amazing technician. It’s such a diverse material and definitely one of those ‘the more you know, the less you know’ subjects!

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4. What does your creative process look like?

 I always start new projects with a decent dose of research, and then a lot of sketching. I like to play with colour palettes a lot as well, so lately I’ve been painting up loads of different paint swatches, cutting them up and then collaging with them. It’s actually really therapeutic and a good way to play with composition. I use collages to experiment with shape as well, and often my ceramics pieces are inspired by the shapes found in my print or collage work.


5. Your print work often hints at a narrative, do you have book illustrating aspirations? 

 I have actually always found narrative really tricky! We had a lot of narrative book briefs in art school and I always found it hard to get into them. I realised I prefer working to word prompts or creating work in response to a situation or object. I did a whole project for my degree show that was based around food cravings and had a great time with it.

I never thought I’d want to get into book illustration, but I think illustrating a cookbook would be amazing! I love eating, cooking and drawing food, so I think I could have fun with that.


6. What’s your relationship with Glasgow? What keeps you in this rainy little city?

 I was born and bred in Glasgow so it’s home to me. I have learnt to appreciate it more by moving away as well, I think. It’s got such a thriving artist community and so much going on to get involved with that it’s hard not to enjoy living here. It was really good coming back after four years to rediscover the city and get involved with some cool new groups and projects that have popped up in that time. I did forget how much it rains here compared to the east coast though!


7. We always ask our interviewees to pick something from the shop that’s on their wishlist…

 Everything is amazing, but if I had to narrow it down to three, I’d say the David Hockney and His Dachshunds print by Tom Bingham, the Kate Trouw’s Grey/Olive Speckled Loop Earrings, and any pot made by Viv Lee! 

Mhari McMullan