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ARCHIVE: Tatty Devine X Rob Ryan

March 31, 2023 - Alice Barnes
ARCHIVE: Tatty Devine X Rob Ryan

There’s nothing we love more than a trip down memory lane and our two-decade-strong back catalogue of original designs provides quite the stroll… Accompanied by the most special of guests from friends, fellow artists and previous collaborators, we’re harking back to history with a series of retrospective curated collections, meet ARCHIVE.

Where better to start this journey than with our friend, printmaker and artist Rob Ryan, with whom we first collaborated on a jewellery collection in 2008. Fifteen years on, toast engagements, mark milestones and celebrate first homes with two romantic collaborative designs, handcrafted from laser cut wood and Formica: fly away with our Rob Ryan Adventure Nest Necklace and Rob Ryan Adventure Egg Earrings.

Armed with a box of plump pistachio doughnuts, a list of important questions (what IS Rob’s favourite pencil?! - keep your eyes on our Instagram to find out) and a thirst for Barry’s tea, we popped down the road to Rob’s East London studio where Tatty Devine Creative Director, Harriet Vine, sat down Rob Ryan himself to talk all things collaboration, love and sentimentality.

HV: Hello, I'm Harriet Vine, one-half of the founders of Tatty Devine and I’m here with…

RR: My name is Rob Ryan, I am an artist and… I actually I'm not, I'm a printmaker, that's how I feel I am… I'm a printmaker. Although I paint and cut up paper and do a lot of other stuff, as well, a printmaker is how I feel I am within myself. 

HV: When we first opened our Tatty Devine store on Brick Lane, we had more space than we knew what to do with… so, we hosted exhibitions with our favourite artists and friends! You  had many a show there, the first featured handpainted rulers and your second marked our first jewellery collaboration…

RR: That's right, yeah.

HV: You did a series of paper-cut pieces of work and we made jewellery to sit inside the frame. There was one that had everything that you loved in a  heart.

RR: Was that in a house?

HV: It was a big house and there's a little Rosie and a little me. There's a Rosie heart hanging off it and there's a ‘me’ heart. Out of those pieces that we did, I really loved the birds. The birds are so special, aren't they? I've got a tile of this one at home as well. 

RR: Lorna wears the birds in the nest necklace quite a lot and everybody comments on it all the time. 

HV: Tatty Devine jewellery does that. When we originally did this piece for the exhibition in Brick Lane, the egg was pale blue… this time round it's got a different colour Formica inside it. We decided to pimp it a little bit and add this cheeky little pair of earrings, which has the same text but split over the two earrings, which I really love. It's a really nice little addition to the collection. 

RR: Egg-cellent.

HV: That was good.

With such a romantic piece of jewellery, who better to model the collection than Lorna Ryan… Rob’s wife and the inspiration behind the design.

RR: I was surprised she said yes because she's not one to push herself forward to be photographed.

HV: I thought that Lorna wearing the jewellery was a lovely way to show the collection because the pieces are so romantic and your work is so romantic. The fact that she did it, even though she's quite shy was even more romantic. It's like she loves you so much she would go in front of the camera for you. 

HV: Your love affair so fuels your work. When did you meet Lorna?

RR: We met on Foundation at Birmingham Polytechnic when we were... I met Lorna on my 18th birthday actually, so yeah, it was there. 

HV: That was a proper present. 

RR: Well, that's when we spoke for the first time. We didn't start snogging or anything. We just talked on the bus on the way back from college. It's funny because I've been with Lorna a long time and so many people say to Lorna ‘what’s it like being Rob's muse?’.  But Lorna calls herself the anti-muse, because whatever she suggests, I just do the opposite!

Just like the romantics they are, Rob and Lorna have documented their love throughout the years with photobooth strips scattered with cheeky smiles, kisses and cameos from friends and family…

HV: Oh yeah, I love this book. 

RR: These are just all pictures of me and Lorna when we were kids. 

HV: Such a great record.

RR: Yeah, so it's basically just all these pictures of us. Because we didn't have cameras in those days, we had to go into little boxes and have our pictures taken.

Ahhh young love! Let’s talk more about romance, sentimentality and Rob’s work…

RR: A lot of my work is quite romantic. I quite like sentimental things, sentimental stories and sentimental songs. I think the word sentimental gets a bad rap as if it's a bit of an insult, you know what I mean? 

The thing that people don't really know about my work, is that I'm actually an incredibly insecure person, surprise surprise. And a lot of my work is a positive lifting of myself.

I'm quite neurotic and I use my work like I'm talking to myself, like I'm trying to create the thing that I want and that I need. So when I talk about love I talk about it in a way that's like… it's so hard to explain, love’s a very fundamental requirement of life for me. 

HV: Yes, absolutely. 

RR: It's something I can't live without, it's something I constantly need to re-evaluate, it's something I can't take for granted, it's something that I have to work on, you know what I mean? So my work is about what people do in their lives every day, you know. 

HV: Or should do in their lives every day. 

RR: Yeah, in a relationship. 

HV: Yeah, absolutely, I 100% agree. I love loving love, it's great. 

RR: Yeah, it's a great thing. 

Something we love? Working with Rob Ryan…

HV: I'm just so happy that we're collaborating again, I love coming and hanging out in here. I mean, all the cups of tea are just an added bonus quite frankly. How's it been for you? Has it been a nice project to work on?

RR: Yeah, well I always feel like you do all the hard work and I just do the really easy bit, you have to go off and design it and everything. So I feel as if the workload is quite unbalanced,  I should really be making more tea, much more tea than I really am. But no it's great to work with you, yeah you're the best to work with. 

HV: Aw, right back at you.

Watch the full conversation (plus a sneaky peek into Rob’s studio) here and shop the first stop on our ARCHIVE journey, online and in-store now. Don’t miss out, both designs are part of a numbered limited edition and once they fly the coop, they’re gone!

Alice Barnes