Rachel Rutt, Tamarama, NSW
Images by Natalia Parsonson
Rachel Rutt is a long time friend of IN BED and one of those people that manages to do an array of different things with integrity, kindness and humility. Cutting her teeth in the Australian fashion industry as a model, and in fact, the face of our very first campaign. Rachel has built on her creative practice over the years as a musician, designer, textile artist, and remains one of our absolute favourite people to meet on a dance floor. We visited Rachel at her beachside home that she shares with her boyfriend Ryan and step-son Vincent to chat about art, music, family and her new knitwear label RUTT.
“We moved to our place at the start of the year after four years on the gorgeous northern beaches, and one year in the Blue Mountains. It’s nice to be back in the mix again in central Sydney, and luckily still very close to the water, which has become very important to us.”
“The apartment is north facing with so much natural light, and I’ve found our plants are very happy here which is always a good sign. I wanted a space that could accommodate two studios (music and textile), and somehow we found a place with two sunrooms that could do just that. I love the old ceiling fixtures. They offer a sense of grandeur to me. Ryan and I are always attracted to older spaces that we can add a little something of ourselves to.”
“Our bedroom was probably the first room in the house that came together, almost instantly. It doesn’t boast much. Mainly books, plants and lamps. All the books in this room are paperbacks, which we read at night, whereas the hardcover portfolio books are out in the living room, for sharing and conversation. There is one artwork by New Zealand weaver Ruth Castle which rests on the wall. I’ve also fallen in love with the italian lighting company Artemide, and one of our reading lamps is a piece from them.”
On the left is a print by Jamie Hawkesworth alongside a Woodblock etching found in a Hamburg market, and a weaving from Rachel’s archive. On the right is a second print by Jamie Hawkesworth and an artwork by Vincent
“We also have photo artworks from friends Natalia Parsonson, Jamie Hawkesworth, Akila Berjaoui, and Billy Maynard, and a shell mask sculpture by Pauly Bonomelli. In the hallway we have a giant painting called ‘Right Wing Fantasy’ by Thomas Jeppe, and a work by Daniel Boyd ‘A Darker Shade of Dark’, on which Ryan collaborated. Both artists are friends of Ryan’s. Otherwise, a few of my own woven wall hangings, and textiles from our travels: zabuton floor cushions from a Shinto temple in my home town in Japan.”
On the left are two images from Rachel’s childhood, the first taken during a month long road trip with her family through Southern China and the other at the seaside in Japan.
“I was raised in an isolated commune in rural Japan. Migrating to Australia at fifteen, it was only two years later that I entered the fashion world aged seventeen. Almost everything I have learned in my adult life so far has been strongly affected by my experience of working in it, partially due to the dramatic change in circumstance, and also from entering the industry at a young age. I’ve grown up amongst it.”
“[In terms of my creative practice] I was taught from a young age that everything can be fixed or improved. Through my mother and other mentors, I learned basic skills and craft that I have relied heavily on in my work and life. One of the key aspects of my childhood was learning to create from found objects and I think it instilled a love of tactile exploration for me. In high school I created a wearable artwork which unknowingly became the basis of my early knitted sculptures between 2010-13. I was very interested in skin as a representation of memory and circumstance. Through my own experience of assimilating to Australian life, I was touching on many questions of identity and belonging which are highly relevant to my day to day existence.”
Two woven pieces from Rachel’s archive.
“Working in fashion at the time meant that I was also looking at knitwear as a garment form and that my ideas were often crossing the lines. I ended up studying hand weaving for two years at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of NSW which led to translating my art practice to a more two dimensional format, while also learning the ropes of an artisanal skill. Weaving taught me patience and method, while knitting taught me how to express freely.”
“I recently started sharing my knowledge through mending workshops as a way to create community based conversation and improve on our habitual mentality of disposability. My experience in fashion led me to understand how much waste the industry contributes and that the equipment of basic information and skills could strongly empower the movement toward more sustainable consumption.”
Rachel’s work in the fashion industry and interest in sustainability also led her to start her new knitwear label RUTT.
“The best knitwear for me is simple and fun. After years of experimenting, and receiving requests for made to order items, I wanted to create a knit focused label that I would like to find in the world myself. A balance between a beautiful artisanal product that could also blend well into the everyday, be high quality, affordable, and extremely comfortable. All the knitwear is made to order, so it sparks a direct relationship between the consumer, product, and maker, which is a key aspect of building a circular economy.”
On Rachel’s wall is an Akila Berjaoui print and on the shelf above is a mask by Pauly Bonomelli.
“Australian wool is some of the best in the world and it’s been such a pleasure to be able to source yarn that has been grown, spun, and dyed right here in New South Wales, then crafted in Sydney. My goal has always been to keep things as local as possible, supporting individuals and small business. I’m working a little against the grain in terms of seasonal collections, only releasing a few designs a year, with colour and material variations being the focal point.”
“Heart People is a project I have with Ryan, and in fact it’s how we met. Ryan comes from a dance and electronic music background and our sound is heavily influenced by the hey-day of late 80s / early 90s Ibiza, Balearic sounds and New Beat. Dancing is the ultimate free form expression and we are deeply interested in music that creates space for this to occur. Growing up as I did before coming to Australia meant that I hadn’t listened to very much popular music, and a lot of references went way over my head. I would hear a song that was 30 years old and treat it like it was hot off the press, and people found that funny. I always felt I was missing out, that a deeper connection with music had passed me by, until I met Ryan. He is the complete opposite to me: he has been DJing since he was 14, studied jazz; music has been a huge part of his life since he was a small child. He was the first person to make appreciating and exploring music genuinely accessible to me, and that was the basis of our friendship and eventual relationship.”
Ryan's record collection sits alongside the couple’s much loved berber rug and Artemide lamp
“So for me, it’s very easy to pinpoint when music entered and more or less changed my life. After I took singing lessons for a year, I realised how much the physical action of singing is related to so many other mental and physical wellbeing exercises such as yoga, meditation, and stress management. I learned how important accessing the breath is, and how much channelling it connects you to your individual power. We are currently working on new music, and in the meantime Ryan has just released a single last month titled Absolute Unity which is killer and feels really appropriate for the current times.”