Standish tile artist Haruko Ruggiero always had a sense that she would develop her own “something” related to interior design and patterns. She began by fashioning together mosaics.
“Finding my tile options lacking in color variety and appeal, creating my own tile line became a new and stronger focus,” Haruko said.
What other things tie you to this space?
Ruggiero: I have lived in Standish for just about 10 years. I grew up in Whittier and went to Andersen Elementary and South High, so I spent many years on this end of Lake Street. Many of my friends were in this neighborhood. What ties me to this space now are my home, garden and studio, and that I have no plans to move. I view my home as a treasure to consistently improve and care for and to pass on to my family. When I see home-insecure people in this city, which is increasingly common, I am ever aware of the notion of the “haves and have-nots” and it is a more than disconcerting situation for our city and for our country to be in. To have safe, clean and private shelter is not something to take for granted.
When did you first start making tiles and what promoted you to do this work?
Making tiles is a way to create pattern, and also a way to create something that enhances a home, both of which have captured my interest for many years.
I am drawn into pattern in textiles, tiles, jewelry, woodcarving, landscape design, plants, animal and rocks, household objects. Essentially, where patterns exist, I am curious and will no doubt take a closer look to consider.
People have been creating patterns since the beginning. There are notably consistent similarities, as well as differences, amongst patterns around the world and throughout time. One such example would be the triangle shape that is prevalent in southwestern patterns in states such as Arizona or New Mexico, yet also present in patterns originating thousands of miles from there, where the Uyghur in
Northwestern China live. The people of those places both use triangles, perhaps symbolic of mountains and/or spiritual ideas, but the two groups do so differently, with their own color palette, line width, and sense of spacing. Another example would be bands of pattern created by lines encompassing a floral or geometric pattern within, and that is shown in the work of the Sami people from far northern Europe and Russia, yet also by the Bedouin of the Arabian Peninsula. Walking through the exhibits at the Minneapolis Institute of Art provides countless opportunities to view objects presenting patterns of all kinds from around the globe.
What inspires you?
In addition to the patterns and designs created by others over millenia, it’s the details in nature that I encounter while walking, in my garden or yard, or in an image in a museum, online or in a book. The designs you see on plants and animals, like a monarch butterfly, a birch tree or a dill frond, are tremendously inspiring and I love how I have an opportunity, in making tiles, to incorporate these elements of our natural world into living spaces. The tiles I make that are imprinted with plant material and bark embrace the intrinsic symmetry or asymmetry, pattern, detail and dimension that the material holds. The tiles that are hand-scored honor the sense of motion that exists from lines.
I am guided by the principle of “quality over quantity” and inspired by the notion of “less is more.” When something serves its purpose thoroughly, draws admiration in its craft, is undoubtedly sturdy and long-lasting, these are the marks of ideal things to acquire for use and/or enjoyment. In our highly consumptive world, I am happy to only have “one” of something and to plan to keep it indefinitely. Through an artisanal lens, I value each time I encounter another person who has developed/is developing their skill – whatever it may be – and presents ideas or things, one single creation at a time. It may be a chair, a song, a belt, a knit scarf or a pie. When it is steeped in the maker’s commitment, interest and knowledge of what they are doing, it is very moving.
Many homeowners in south Minneapolis have relatively small homes, especially when compared to the homes that are frequently built now, which reflect a more than doubling of the average “square footage per person.” With these smaller houses we have an opportunity to make the space very special, paying keen attention to each wall and each little space. I think making the most of what you have is a very worthy aspiration, albeit a humbling one. Updates and changes by way of handmade tile, artistic light switches, refinishing woodwork or adding another window are all efforts that are slightly more subtle initially, yet highly impactful in making a home elegant and no doubt more valuable.
What do you enjoy about working with clay?
You can make so many things! It’s like paper for a watercolor artist or food for a chef.
With clay you can make objects that are used or engaged with day to day; providing daily visual nourishment when encountered, which could be from viewing the tiles on a wall or perhaps the experience of drinking from a handmade mug. When you look at or hold the item, you can sense the humanity, the consideration, and the effort behind it.
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