At some point of our childhood many of us are taught how to knit. For Ruth Marshall her experience was much the same, though when her mother and aunt taught her how to knit they never would have guessed she’d go from knitting cardigans for her teddy bears to life-sized pelts of various animals for her exhibition Vanished into Stitches.
Though Ruth has experimented with various art forms after her Fine Art degree and Masters in Sculpture, she came back to her love of knitting after deserting it for a number of years.
“Looking back through my art education I was able to see that I could utilise my skill in knitting for artworks. And also just rediscovering that love of knitting was really meaningful too,” Ruth says.
Her desertion could possibly be pinned on her move to New York; this August will mark 21 years of living in the big city, where she has spent plenty of time discovering a culture which she thought she’d be well-accustomed to.
“New York City is pretty much a place unto itself,” she says. “I’ve travelled quite extensively before I went to live in New York and I was surprised by the culture shock. It was the first time I’d been to America and I was just really curious about America because it infiltrates our culture here so much.”
Amongst her 21 years overseas, Ruth worked at the Bronx Zoo for 14 years to further her passion of animal conservation and preservation. She developed a greater understanding of animal poaching, which her current exhibition Vanished into Stitches is about.
“The impact is not only on the animals, but people and the local community, so there’s a really long education process in understanding and the importance of zoos as well,” Ruth says.
After a wealth of study, hundreds of balls of wool, and nine years later, Ruth has created an exhibition that asks people to question what they believe to be right in the case of animal poaching. Once people see the collection of knitted skins, including snow leopards, tigers and Leadbeater possums, they each take a similar pathway as they realise they are in fact made from wool.
“Everybody sort of responds the same and I think there’s a very real, very fast journey that you go on when you see my work,” she says.
“The first reaction is there is no place for that – why is it here, and if the person chooses to come closer and investigate, then they quickly discover it’s not real and you see a real 180 degree change in people’s perception.”
Ruth has even had people react by crying to her exhibition, but this is all part of getting her message across. She just hopes that people come away caring about the issues these animals face; to share their story and then hopefully do something about it through donations or activism.
Amongst the collection Ruth has a strong passion for preserving Victoria’s national emblem, the Leadbeater possum. She’s even created a knit your own pack that you can take home and where all proceeds go to preserving the iconic animal.
When&Where: National Wool Museum – until December 7
By Amanda Sherring