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Featured Shop: Ellen Ruben

Sep 14, 2015

by Ellen Ruben

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

My name is Ellen Ruben, and I design leather handbags and shoes in Tel Aviv, Israel. I live in a colorful neighborhood filled with veteran craftsmen, designers, artists, actors and musicians.

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My story as a designer began at a crossroads in my life: I had been living in Jaffa and working as a video editor, but I was hungry for something different. I quit my job and set out on the road, not knowing where I would end up. After three weeks staying with friends in Chicago, I flew to New York for a visit. New York struck me from the first second I got there; my “visit” became a stay of six years. One summer, a friend came to visit me. During his stay, he noticed my obsessive urge to feel almost any material that I passed. One morning, he took me to Parsons The New School of Design and said,”This is what you have to do: study design and meet interesting people!” Within a few days, I applied for a course in shoe design.

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I studied at Parsons for a year. After graduation, I was frustrated by the fact that the instruments and machines required for making shoes were no longer available to me. Nonetheless, I couldn’t stop creating, so I bought materials from leather and supplies shops and went home to play with them. Suddenly, bags were the answer: they were much easier to make at home, and they didn’t require any special machinery. Over time, I refined my practice. Then one day, a friend introduced me to someone who worked as a stylist for  TV shows in LA. She saw my designs and took some samples; thanks to her, one of my purses was featured on the last episode of the TV sitcom Frasier.

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A short while later, I fell in love with an Israeli guy who was visiting New York, and I decided to follow him back to Israel to start over. I took my designs to several boutiques in Tel Aviv and worked to establish my brand. I also opened a concept store, which helped me gather the momentum and courage to finally begin my first shoe collection. I opened my Etsy shop in 2014. Etsy taught me that the world is bigger than I thought; alongside industry giants and chain stores, there is still a place for us independent designers. Most of all, Etsy allows me to be original and strengthens my belief that there isn’t just one method — and that you should always bring yourself and your way to the table.

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In the future, I hope to experiment with design for films and theater. I’m inspired by the psychological aspect of studying and researching a character’s personality and starting to design from there. Another goal of mine is to have a small studio where I can teach students about being an independent designer. My slogan would be, “If you’re looking for a pair of shoes and you can’t find them, that’s the perfect motivation to make them yourself.”

Follow Ellen Ruben on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Maker and studio photographs by Ilya Melnikov.

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