Tooya Ritchey & Rosie - Artful Animal
Q - When I first met you many years ago, you and your husband Leif were making clothing together in NYC. Anyone making clothing there, even if they didn't fancy themselves as "fashion designers", could have a bit of a facade or distance to them but you and Leif were the warmest, most generous and inviting people I knew. You're currently making handmade stuffed animals under the name Rosie and I still see the softness, the thoughtfulness, and the playfulness in these little creatures and beings that you make. Could you talk a little bit about the making of things with fabrics over the years? Do you feel like that is and has always been your medium for creativity?
A - Aaaw! Thanks, Hanna! When we met you, we felt like we'd been good friends with you forever, and now you have been such an amazing friend and support - forever!
I love making things with fabric partly because it's so accessible and familiar. I find sewing very soothing and satisfying - joyful. Our clothing company started from my wanting to feel comfortable at parties and art openings. We had so much fun making things for me to wear and it just naturally grew. The animals are the same. They grew from my wanting to comfort my son. I love how somehow the emotions I have while sewing can be picked up on by the viewer and I love communicating this way. I also love how that they are not just viewed, but worn or cuddled. I think that's why sewing has been my main medium.
A - I get surprised by how much my son is his own person. I'm also surprised when I see things that seem to be directly from my husband and I, but I'm astounded by his interests and wonderful ways of thinking and being that are just completely his own. He has always had an amazing intuition and inner knowing which I wasn't fully expecting. I expected to love my son very deeply, but how deeply and the kind of love mothering is has been a beautiful surprise.
Q - I'm sure there are many conscious decisions you and Leif have made regarding child rearing. Could you share one or two and maybe explain why you may made that decision?
A - I think the main thing we've done (which everything else has been built on) is that we deliberately slowed way down and moved to a quieter paced place to have him. We wanted to have the chance to really focus on him and to know him. Through doing that we can really listen to him and we trust him. There's no pressure for him to be a grown up or to be getting ready to be a grown up. Amazingly, we've gotten to know ourselves and each other even better in the process. So we naturally see him as a full person and by protecting that, we get to live more fully too. I feel very lucky to be parenting during this time of aware and conscious parenting. Things like holding space for all emotions, shadow work, no punishments, and finding solutions where everyone wins have all been so healing for me. Seeing (and living) proof of how you really can live in a "power with" instead of "power over" is beautiful and liberating. It gives me so much hope for our future!
Q - I love what you said, "power with" instead of "power over". I don't mean to diminish the added complexities and depth of human-child-parent relationships in saying this but there are lots of parallels between human child rearing and the rearing of and developing relationships with animals. We used to say "dog owner" or "master" and now we say "dog guardian" and call a dog and their human a "team". High fives for progressive parenting and progressive dog training!
I have one last question. Do you have any new or upcoming ideas for Rosie or something you hope to do creatively in the near future?
A - Totally!! I was thinking that too! High Five! I remember talking to you years and years ago when there was a buzz about this man who could get dogs to go from aggressive to obedient. I asked you about him and you said his methods didn't sit right with you, that he overpowered the dogs and it felt cruel to you. He was being celebrated as progressive and gentle, but when I watched something with him working with a dog, I totally got what you meant! And I saw how in contrast you work with dogs in collaboration and communication. This awareness has helped and informed me so much! Years later I could spot the same methods of overpowering even in "gentle" parenting advice books and not follow it. And beyond not following it, I could see how the whole mindset of control felt wrong and cruel to me. I was so happy to find some books and speakers whose only advice was to deeply listen to your child and yourself, to see behavior as communication, and your own strong reactions as invitations to heal yourself.
Rosie is a fun project because it really inspires me. It's a great container and focus for all of my ideas and interests. Right now I'm working on dolls to add to my online store. Early next spring I plan to add some clothes, maybe tea sets... I'm looking forward to a cozy winter of enjoying making what I make and finding ways to offer it. I would love to open a studio store... Rosie is a bit of a department store in my mind which frees me to try a bunch of different things. I also love doing pop ups and fairs. I'm looking for ways for Rosie to show up places and I am so glad you asked me to be a part of this.