Ruth is a freelance Melbourne-based creative director and stylist. Her style is distinctive, driven by colour, form and story-telling. Her styling looks effortless and functionally elegant. In fact, Ruth somehow makes the whole process of styling (often for major clients including Haymes Paint, Tide Design, The Sunday Age, Southwood Home, Inside Out, Cantilever Interiors, FIGR Architects, WOWOWA Architects, Globe West, House and Garden.) look effortless.
Always laughing and always up for a story, Ruth works under intense time restrictions but every time we see Ruth it is clear she really loves what she does. Her work is beautiful – yes, she is innovative and on-trend, but under her direction spaces come to life and the eye never settles in one spot. Instead, she can further a space from being an architectural feat into an inhabitable place which suggests a story and a lifestyle.
She trained in fine art at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London and then kick-started her styling career at House and Garden magazine before moving on to become Style Editor of Kitchens Bedrooms and Bathrooms magazine. She left England with her partner in 2008 and settled in Melbourne, where she jumped into the freelance world. She currently styles, art directs and consults on a huge variety of editorial and advertising projects in Australia and internationally. Check out one of her latest projects we featured in this editions Design Inspiration!
It's always a joy seeing you in the showroom. Thanks for answering our questions! We would love to know more about your process and inspirations. So chronologically thinking...what led you to the styling industry?
Are you sure you want to know this because I can go WAYYYY back! I think my entire styling story began when I was little. Being the youngest sibling, I inherited the smallest bedroom but I didn’t let size get in the way of my lofty ‘styling ambitions’. For a good while, I asked my Dad to rearrange my bedroom furniture every month. Growing tired of this and after throwing his back out numerous times he decided a way around this was to build all the furniture in, from the bed to the desk to the wardrobe! In his defense, it was the 80’s and I was probably very annoying. Functionally it was a masterstroke and made the most of the small space. For the record, my bed and wardrobe are still ‘built-in’ and still going strong, thanks Dad! After my foray into the furniture rearranging business was scuppered I turned my attention to the decorating business and my tiny room underwent many a transformation. Fast forward a few decades and I still loved interiors and design and creating but I also loved painting and that’s what I trained in at art school. I often think styling for photography is a lot like creating a painting, it’s all about composition and flow, colour and light. After I graduated I decided I wanted to work in magazines and interiors magazines to be exact. I didn’t have a clue how to go about it so I just started calling around and emailing the mags to see if I could get any work experience. It took 6 months before anyone responded (in London it’s a tough industry to crack) but I finally got the opportunity to go on a shoot and that was it, I was sold! I spent the next few years assisting anyone and everyone from creative editorial shoots for Elle Decoration to big advertising shoots for furniture companies. I used to assist a lot on bed linen shoots and I’d end up with blisters on my hands from ironing so much! I learnt so much in those few years, invaluable knowledge that would help me as I landed my first styling job on a magazine.
Now you are an art director as well as a stylist, has working through the specific lens of styling helped with the broader canvas of art direction?
The area of creative direction I work in regards to photo shoots is in transforming creative concepts into a reality. Sometimes clients come to me with a clear vision for their brand and a concise brief but other times I create the brief and concept myself which is where the ‘creative direction’ comes in. Not only do I style but I also direct the shoot, create the sets, source the locations and the products.
Can you tell me a bit about how the move from London to Melbourne was for you? Were there some immediate, perhaps jarring or exciting, differences in the design world of the two cities?
I remember arriving in Melbourne and thinking ‘where is everyone’? The streets were super quiet by 10 pm. In London, you can get stuck in a traffic jam at midnight! The differences in my industry are pretty massive. All the interiors magazines are published in London but over here they’re all in Sydney so I knew straight off that I’d have to be freelance in Melbourne. London is obviously a much larger city so the industry is bigger and you’re on the doorstep of Europe so it’s really easy to get your hands on the latest design products in a flash. I love working here though because everything is on a smaller scale I can get really involved from the start to finish on projects. I love working with local companies and makers, it’s really rewarding to see them flourish.
You have mentioned to me how great the energy on shoots can be. What do you think helps make a dynamic, fun and focused shoot?
A great brief, a great location and time! Often shoots are super busy with a massive shot count so the luxury of time enables us to play on set which helps to create beautiful, memorable images. The relationship between the photographer and stylist is really important too. It’s important to trust each other and collaborate. Great music and lots of coffee also helps on set!
I suppose ideas and aesthetics are recycled for different projects, but your projects are all so diverse and unique. How do you keep evolving your work?
It’s so hard! Obviously trends change over time so that naturally influences your work. I work on a pretty wide variety of projects which helps to keep things fresh too. I just try to keep things moving and evolving and trying things I haven’t seen before which is so hard with Instagram these days.
Are there any go-to references you like to use for inspiration? What kind of platforms, such as Instagram and magazines do you use? Do other elements such as music, travel memories or a piece of writing ever play a part when conjuring up ideas?
I love looking at international magazines and art books for inspiration. Travel is fantastic too, it’s great for sparking ideas!
You often have back-to-back projects yet always seem so composed and relaxed. Do you have a stress release or would you say it’s more of an attitude/ approach that keeps you level and present?
I’ve always felt that it’s a pleasure and an honor to do the work that I do. I’m so lucky I get to do something I love and that most of the time doesn’t feel like work. Also my experience probably plays a part in my relaxed attitude, I probably wasn’t always like this
FROM US TO YOU
Spring has arrived! Time to spruce up and shimmy down the street in linen!
Owner of Combes wines, northside bar Romantica and all-round great guy Oscar is joining forces with us to give one human a very happy spring moment!
Go into the draw to win a pair of Lapuan linen robes and cotton slippers as well as a beautiful 2017 bottle of Combes Rose!
Follow both Instagram and Facebook pages of both Combes and Southwood and tag 4 friends on our Instagram post!
It'll take a minute and be oh so worth it.
Life's too short not to have quiet moments of luxury.
Silhouette Hytte House
Stylist | Ruth Welsby
Zaha Hadid once said 'I don't think architecture is only about shelter...it should be able to excite you, to calm you, to make you think.' The Silhouette Hytte House, designed by Figr and styled by Ruth Welsby does just this. This beautifully designed home really feels like a retreat in the midst of Elwood.
Each space in this considered design has an outlook onto another area of the home, quite often featuring a view of the garden framed by paired-back materials such as timber or iron. This flowing aspect of the house, which is a real feat considering the constraints of the narrow and small block, inspires a feeling of tranquility and openness. The A-shaped roof adds to the feeling of expansiveness and also makes the Silhouette Hytte house fit perfectly into the surrounding neighborhood composition in a restrained and contemporary way. With it's carefully chosen raw, structural materials and gently hued furnishings, the house induces in you a state of calm and provides plenty of places to sit and ponder. We are envisaging wearing crisp linen smocks whilst gliding from the Nakki sofa in the living room to the Southwood cane lounge in the garden with a cup of tea...or perhaps sitting in the bay window propped up by the Southwood velvet cushions reading in the afternoon sun. You know good design and styling when you start to see moments, not just the creation.