Ruth Franklin, Sculptor
Mr & Mrs
“It’s only in later life that you become interested in your family,” Ruth Franklin admitted to me when I visited her exhibition of sculpture CURLERS & CUTS in Whitechapel yesterday, “when you are young you want to rebel against them.” Over a century ago, Ruth’s grandparents on her mother’s side came from Russia and her grandparents on her father’s side came from Poland, and they all ended up in the East End where Ruth’s father, Alfred, was born in Leslie St in Mile End.
Alfred became a successful hairdresser and wigmaker in the West End and Ruth remembers her Russian-speaking granny, a seamstress who lived upstairs when Ruth was a child and taught her to swear in Russian. “It’s exciting to be creating work that celebrates my family,” Ruth announced as we stood surrounded by her sculptures, which are vivid and emotional evocations of her forebears’ professions.
“They came with nothing,” Ruth informed me as I leaned over to examine her intricately-wrought constructions, made from humble materials and recalling the tools and working practices of tailoring and hairdressing. The painstaking manufacture of some of these sculptures is a reflection of the care required to fashion clothing and hairstyles, and – inevitably – these objects take on anthropomorphic personalities. They remind us of the intimate nature of such endeavours, since the cut of clothes and styling of hair are the means by which we present ourselves to the world.
Equally, there is a childlike quality to the notion of making models of machines in paper, almost like toys, and of fabricating primitive dolls out of old tools, which imbues Ruth’s work with pathos. We come into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing but, in between, these people laboured with their hands to make others look their best and earn a modest living by it. Ruth Franklin’s tender sculptures honour those whose hard work delivered her into existence.
Sewing machine with dials (waxed architectural paper & thread)
Red sewing machine (waxed paper & thread)
Blue sewing machine (blueprint paper & thread)
Red thread sewing machine (mono-printed paper & thread)
Iron (waxed paper & thread)
Pink hairdryer (waxed paper & thread)
Grey hairdryer (waxed paper & thread)
Hairdressing tools (waxed paper & thread)
Hairdressing tools, 2 (waxed paper & thread)
Hairdressing tools, 3 (waxed paper & thread)
Equipment (hair rollers, waxed paper, card & plastic)
The Salon (waxed paper, hair rollers, hand drill, wood & marking knife)
Tools for the salon (cotton reel, tools, brush & drill)
Tools for the salon, 2 (metal tools, brush & litho print)
Curling machine (metal tools, hair, roller & wooden sleeve board)
Manya (wooden sleeve board, waxed paper & cloth)
Alfy in May, mother’s brogue (paper & thread)
Ruth’s grandparents, Morris Frankel & Leah Passack in Margate, 1906
Artwork copyright © Ruth Franklin
Ruth Franklin’s exhibition CURLERS & CUTS is at Idea Store Whitechapel until Saturday 30th August
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