Tell us about yourself.
My name is Ruti, I’m 26 years old, born and raised in Jerusalem, Israel. I learned the art of paper folding from Jonny, my grandparents’ Filipino caregiver. In the Philippines, they teach paper folding at some schools as a way to instill discipline and accuracy. I fell in love with this art because it is colorful, unique and environmentally friendly. Ever since that moment, six years ago, I haven’t stopped folding papers and constructing.
Currently, I live with Assaf, my boyfriend for the last 7 years, who is a musician and student. This is a great opportunity for me to thank him for putting up with 50 paper swans in a rented apartment of 40 square-meters, and for helping me develop my art.
Apart from creating, what do you do?
I’m in my 3rd year at the University of Haifa where I study occupational therapy. As part of my studies, I engage in practical work with children who suffer from developmental disorders. I also really enjoy staying in, reading and watching films and spending time and talking with good friends and family. I love listening to music and attending live concerts; 3 years ago I started playing the violin.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
Swan Song. The phrase comes from the ancient myth about the mute swan, who utters no sound most of his life and only on rare occasions sings in a delicate and heartbreaking fashion. I relate to the swan because I’m shy and in certain situations, it’s difficult for me to speak. My art is a way for me to express myself.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I draw inspiration from looking at the colorful pieces of paper around me. I don’t buy papers but collect them carefully, keeping the environment in mind. When a lot of scraps of colorful paper accumulate, it stimulates me and I begin to imagine my next work.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade work is warmth with a personal touch. It’s an immediate connection between the artist and the customer, with as few filters as possible. Handmade is an opportunity to achieve self-expression, self-fulfillment, and to leave a personal mark.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My mother. She enjoys taking pictures during her free time as a hobby and the results are stunning. I think she has extraordinary talent and her photographs decorate our walls. Actually, there are many hidden artists in my family: my aunt used to create beautiful clay sculptures, while another aunt makes amazing earthenware and painted tiles. My cousin decorates wood and my brothers are talented artists as well.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I’ve loved painting since I can remember. Later in my life, I started working with beads and Fimo. Despite my love for art, when debating what to study I went with a discipline that isn’t art, perhaps out of fear that I would not be able earn a steady income. I’ve always loved helping and working with people, and occupational therapy really fit that bill. But eventually, I found myself folding papers during class, on the bus, and while studying for exams with friends. The urge to create tickles my fingers, my soul.
How would you describe your creative process?
Creating a swan requires a great deal of patience. In my work, I use different kinds of paper scraps such as ads and magazines, old maps, chewing gum wrappers and tea bag covers. People from all over the country — family, friends, and strangers — save their paper scraps, and when we meet they proudly present me a “surprise.” One swan alone requires about 480 tea bag covers! After collecting enough papers, I cut them to the right size, fold them into triangles and separate them by color. Once there are enough pieces, I plan the specific structure, pattern and colors for the swan and then start to construct it. I love the irony of how a collection of “garbage” turns into a symbol of beauty and perfection.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I greatly admire an artist named Vik Muniz. I recently watched the movie Waste Land, which documents Muniz’s work with employees at the world’s largest garbage dump, located in Brazil. Muniz created portraits of some of the employees using materials from the dump itself, sold the portraits, and donated the money earned to the community of the employees.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
A curtain made of hundreds of chains of beads, each one designed by a friend or a family member. I started to put it together about ten years ago, and its abundance of colors and patterns inspires me even today. Thanks to everyone who took part in it!
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
When I find myself in a creative rut, I engage in the more technical aspects of the creative process. Sometimes it’s best to leave it alone for a while, do other things, and then return rejuvenated with ideas and energy. I try to remain open-minded at all times and allocate time for trying new things.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would be happy to be an artist as well as an occupational therapist, and to have my art published. I would like to be surrounded by my family and close friends, and perhaps become a mother too.