An Interview with Olivia Ruess

I’m pleased as punch to share this week’s interview with Olivia Ruess of Redding, California, who owns Petal Mix, a fabric floral accessories shop teeming with ravishing hair clips, bobby pins, brooches, and even a line of vegan friendly options. Below, Olivia shares a bit herself, managing an Etsy shop, and a few things she enjoys about nature. Read on to discover more about this talented woman.

Tell us about yourself.
I was born in England to first-generation Japanese and English parents, and spent the first few years of my life in Japan.  I now currently live in Northern California with my husband, Eric.

I have never considered myself to be an artistic person.  Many of my relatives are talented artists, but after mediocre attempts at drawing and painting, I figured that the artistic gene had skipped over me, so to speak.  It wasn’t until I discovered tsumami-kanzashi that I found my own artistic outlet.  I had been admiring pictures of maiko (apprentice geisha) and their delicate yet intricate floral hair decorations and thought to myself, I would love to be able to translate this into something more wearable for every day occasions.

bobby pins by Petal Mix

Tell us about your shop.
Like many people on Etsy, I started my craft just making things for myself and for friends/relatives.  It was actually my in-laws’ idea to open an Etsy shop, and I am so grateful to them for that.   It hadn’t crossed my mind that I could actually make a living at this, but to my surprise things actually took off and here I am nearly three years later!

Etsy has been a wonderful experience for me.  I’ve had the opportunity to be in magazines and most recently was featured in Etsy’s “To Have and To Hold” wedding event.  None of this would have been possible without Etsy, so I am beyond thankful that such a site exists.

brooches by Petal Mix

Who are a few people who have been influential in your craft?
I was first drawn to tsumami-kanzashi after viewing the amazing photography of Onihide-san.  His portrayals of maiko captivated me and inspired me to create my own style of kanzashi.   He has since passed away but he will be remembered by many for sharing a unique view into the beautiful world of the maiko.

What does a typical day look like for you?
My day always starts with a cup of coffee, and from there I read my Etsy convos and respond to new treasuries and circles.  On a busy day with a lot of orders, my time is filled completing sold pieces and running to the post office.  On slower days and weekends, I get to be a bit more creative and come up with new designs using the endless amounts of fabric that I’ve collected over the years.   After everything is boxed up and I’ve made my post office run, I relax and have dinner with my husband, and catch up on shows we enjoy or play whatever video game I’m currently obsessed with.

What’s your most-prized nature-inspired possession?
I have a few nature-inspired items that are close to my heart, but the most prized are my two Kamakura-bori plates hand carved by my Japanese grandmother.

kamakura-bori plates

Kamakura-bori is a traditional form of woodcarving made from the wood of either the Katsura tree or Gingko and finished with lacquer.  The lacquer is then rubbed down to reveal the carved patterns and to give the piece a mottled look.  I’m amazed at the skill needed to carve such intricate designs, and it is even more special knowing that they were made with my own grandmother’s hands.

What are a few things you enjoy about nature?
I love cottage gardening.  I have dozens of antique and English style roses growing in my rather jungle-like back garden.  I’ve also planted ornamental cherry trees and Japanese maples, interspersed with a multitude of low-growing perennials.  It’s a bit wild back there but I love it.  From where I work I can see the hummingbirds visit the geraniums, and watch the swallowtails floating by.  In the afternoon the sun filters down through the oaks and makes patterns on the wall.  There’s a creek running along the far side, so you can often hear the calls of geese, and at night the croaking of toads and frogs.  All in all it’s a small peaceful oasis of nature for me.

About Donaville Herrick

Donaville is the Founder of Dearest Nature and also Co-Founder and Creative Director of Hello Hello Hi. When visions of nature and web design aren't dancing in her head, she enjoys spending time with her three munchkins, baking cupcakes, and trying her hand at various crafts. Follow her on Twitter to stay updated with her day-to-day musings.

3 replies on “An Interview with Olivia Ruess

  1. So beautiful and nice to know there’s a vegan option! Great interview, too.

  2. The owner of this Etsy store was later convicted for sexual assault and fraud :\ Way to promote a pedophile’s wares, though.

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