Ruthie Bosch Makes Life More Fun
by Nina Rossi
Up at the end of a road in the little hill town of Hawley, Ruthie Bosch fashions her playful clip-on ears in a sewing studio that would make any crafter drool with envy. Shelves of fabrics are color sorted into rainbow stacks, with satins shimmering and brocades glittering, as well as fake fur and thread arranged in many colors and patterns. A bulletin board above her worktable held an artful display of little triangles arranged in a spectrum of color, all cut from Ruthie’s ear pattern. Baskets full of dozens of completed ears sat on the floor by the table, with others at various stages of construction.
Since seeing these ears at a festival three years ago, Ruthie has worked to perfect her design and process. The remaining part of the business is to get them for sale online, perhaps on craft giant Etsy.com. “The girl who made the first ones I saw had the best tagline—‘Be the animal you are.’ She and her boyfriend were both tall and willowy and had blond dreadlocks, with his down to his knees, and with fan radiance from the head,” said Ruthie. ”With ears nestled in them, it was so great. But, you don’t need much hair to wear these; they will stay right there without falling over.”
Ruthie was inspired by the festival encounter to go to a convention in Boston. There, she saw “unbelievable, fantastic creativity, enthusiasm, and fun” — but the quality of craftsmanship at the many vendor booths there left a lot to be desired. “They had mostly stuff that was from China that was glued together, kind of crummy, with sets of paws, tails, and ears, but —they were not very interesting,” commented Ruthie. The most important things she noticed was that people were very happy wearing ears, “and the endearing factor…a bunch of people wearing ears is pretty cheerful!
And “sew it began”: whipping up these sparkly creations is mostly done by hand, due to the particularities of sewing with the fur. She trims the fur back around the sewing lines, and then after the pieces are sewn and turned right-side out, she needs to pick out the fur that was caught in the stitches to fluff them up again. Then they are stitched closed at the bottom around a hair clip. She estimates that it takes three hours per pair, necessitating a fair wage price of 40 to 45 dollars, though the ones in stock at the Coop are priced for the local market at $30. Market research that Ruthie did prior to launching her own version showed that the most expensive ears were Japanese Mickey Mouse ears, selling over a hundred dollars; the creator had sold 6000 pairs.
Ruthie described coming in to the coop to check her inventory and encountering three women who were trying to decide which ones they wanted. "I had a bag with 60 pairs in it, and I saw her and just knew what she would want,” said Ruthie. “I dug into the bag and handed them to her, and she gasped.” This is the fun part for her, when people squeal with delight when they try on the right pair. And Ruthie confesses to having a knack for zeroing in on the right pair for the right person.
Do men buy these as well? “Yes, and it’s good for them,” said Ruthie. “I have this camo fur and orange reflective material, and I could make hunter ears…” She elaborated on the idea until the vision of a camouflage ball cap embroidered with the words “Listen Up” had ears emerging out of slits in the cap, taking into account male heads with shorter or no hair to clip individual ears to.
The old farmhouse Ruthie rents is as charming as Ruthie herself, and each room seems to hold a focus on a different project of hers, and our conversations circled around the great wheel of her inventive mind, starting in the kitchen where cats claw herbal tea started off a discussion of bee sting therapy for arthritis and other ailments. Ruthie knew Charlie Mraz of Vermont, an early pioneer using apitherapy to help people who suffered from chronic inflammatory diseases.
The rest of the downstairs seemed to be given over to ephemera featuring fans and images of circles and parts of circles in art, a research project of hers that she has pursued for several decades. Just encountering a handful of images and listening to Ruthie talk about the Mikado and its influence on fashion and design was enough for me to get the idea that this would be quite a fascinating rabbit hole to fall into.
Upstairs, a second workroom was a painting studio and project central for her Tactical Chaos enamel pins and matching stickers project, which just went on Etsy under the shop name Babelundique. The project rotates around a simple graphic Ruthie created, of a pair of pants with flames coming out of them that illustrates “liar liar pants on fire.” The pant loops and fly topped by streaks of flame bear a resemblance to the face of someone whose name we don’t need to mention here.
Part of the project involved making two small tempura paintings, one of a circle of fire, and one showing the capitol building glowing by the light of some sort of sinister inferno. The capitol building painting, though only measuring 3 by 5 inches, took Ruthie hundreds of hours to complete and was the first painting she had done in many years, she reported. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, she stopped painting after being hurt by an incident of artistic theft by a beloved mentor and teacher.
Ruthie was always skilled in observation and copying, even creating detailed drawings at the very young age of three. She did botanicals for a long time, and was starting into a career in children book illustration. In more recent years, she has worked as a personal caretaker, something that has ties to her childhood. Her parents were older, and her father was an invalid from a series of heart attacks. The couple’s creative solution was to buy an old age home of sorts in Concord, NH where they took care of elderly women. “The ladies were fantastic,” remembered Ruthie. “I would visit all ten when I got home from school. It was a 22 room Victorian house. On a block with great big houses with yards that all ran together in the back, brambles and big trees…it had a bow window partway up the stairs with a stuffed peacock in it… so I read and read, and drew. Reading and drawing were pretty much it.”
Ruthie and fellow coop artist Jen Luck Hale both have offices at the coworker space above McCusker market. Ruthie gave Jen’s daughter Emma a pair of ears, and Jen urged her to jury her ears at the gallery just in time for Halloween. But—listen up!— any day is a great day to wear a pair of perky, sparkly, furry ears. It will change you. And you might squeal.