A Moment with Marlena from Ruco Paints

A Moment with Marlena. A Woman Behind Ruco Paints

As we welcome a new solar cycle and move into the year of 2024, we’ve been intentionally taking some slow moments to reflect on our core values ~ empowering women and supporting sustainably handmade artistry.

When our founder met a group of female artisans in India who shared similar values, it was here the conception of Daughters of India began. Mesmerised by the slow and creative craft of hand block printing, and the dream of encouraging and supporting women in business, a beautiful idea came to life.
 As the old saying goes, when intuition strikes, listen, or the moment may just pass you by!

It was a similar strike of intuition that led Marlena Taylor to create her own handmade artisanal watercolour paints. After working as an illustrator for years and noticing a huge gap in the availability of toxic-free watercolours, Marlena set out to create her own. With sustainability at the forefront of her business values, Marlena built Ruco Paints from the ground up, ethically sourcing all of her materials and even hand-crafting her packaging out of wood and clay

Marlena wears the Kyra Maxi Dress in Azure.

Now a mother of two, and locally renowned for her expansive creative talent, Marlena truly is living a life of making! In every spare moment she has, between packing orders and feeding her newborn, a new creative idea flows into her cauldron of possibilities. Here they simmer until there’s just the right amount of ingredients to bring them to life in Ruco’s realm.

We loved sharing some studio time with Marlena, her unique and unwavering passion reminded us to never underestimate the power of following our dreams, no matter how creative they may seem.

Marlena seen above wears the Poet Mini Dress in Taupe.

What inspired you to make your own slow made, artisanal watercolour paints?

Oh, I love that we’re starting here with a big juicy question. Aside from the need to express myself as a very creative person, my biggest inspiration was definitely starting my family. Previously, I had been illustrating with watercolour, trying to grow that into a sustainable business that could support me. Honestly though, I found that really challenging. I had a few great commissions and collaborations which I really enjoyed, and sold a bit on Etsy but it wasn’t enough to support me - let alone a growing family. So when I had my son, I knew it was the right time to let that go and try something new. I began exploring paint making and ceramics with no real intention to do anything with it,  and then at a clay party for my friends birthday, it just really struck me and the whole Ruco idea came through. I jumped in the deep end and began prototyping and testing and I instantly knew this was it. I had a really clear vision from years of painting with watercolours (firm believer that previous things you’ve done are for a reason) of the kind of quality and feel I wanted them to have. I was so clear in the vision for the aesthetics and my strong desire to stay home with my son and make a sustainable living too. I just really wanted to model for him a life led from the heart and passion while still being able to support yourself too. Living a life of making, instead of just making a living.

Marlena seen above wears the Uma Maxi Dress in Black.

“I want this to be the example I set for my children, that you can and should absolutely follow your heart and do whatever it is that lights your soul on fire.”

Tell us the story behind the name Ruco.

This is incredibly personal to me, and I love it so much. It’s actually named after my Nana who helped raise me. Her name was Ruth and while I was illustrating my handle was Ruthie Creative. I actually started painting as a way of processing my grief at her passing. When we came to name my watercolour business I really wanted to keep that ode to her, so Bruce [Marlena’s husband] suggested we go with RUthies COlours — RUCO. 

What makes Ruco Paints sustainable and good for our planet? 

This is a huge motivation for me, it's one of my core business values. Since I started Ruco for my family, and thinking about the world they will inherit, I wanted to do as much as I could to have a positive impact on the world. Unlike any other watercolour makers I know, I make every single one of my ceramic pans myself, and I don’t have ANY plastic options or any plastic in my whole process. I also (often to my financial detriment honestly) prioritise purchasing from other small, woman led, Australian businesses along my production process. I also only use recycled/recyclable/compostable packaging options. My offerings are always made with the intention of being lifelong art companions, so they are made to last, and presented in such a beautiful way that I hope they are used forever. Little artistic heirlooms if you like. In order to reduce our waste, we often run seconds sales for anything that is still functional, all the ceramics are refillable too and can be sent back to me when you run out of a colour.

Why do you feel creativity is important for us to explore?

Wow, this is a really big one! I believe we are ALL inherently creative, as humans. We simply differ in our expression of that creativity. Society has us believe that to be creative we have to be artists, painters, potters, sculptors, photographers, writers etc. This is just one tiny fragment of all the ways we are creative if you ask me. Cooking, cleaning, gardening, parenting, even thinking and talking is creative. Creativity is simply creating something that was not there before, and if we use that lens and don’t limit ourselves we can appreciate ourselves and our individual creativity so much more. Being creative is one of those things that gets more and more intense the more we use it, like any muscle. If we feed it, nurture it, be kind to it and be expansive with it we in turn get more and more creative. So my thinking is if you “can’t” do something creative, you need to explore it even more.

Marlena seen above wears the Kyra Maxi Dress in Azure and the Nora Mini in Noir.

How does exploring your creativity benefit your life as a whole?

It’s basically synonymous with me at this point. My mental health, my ability to hold my family tenderly, even my physical well being is all enhanced when I have the space to be creative. It's one of those things that makes my soul feel both at rest and fully fired up and energised. When I have “me time” I paint, I photograph or I journal. When I have chunks of time available to me, all I want to do is be in the studio or with my family. All the moments of life (and let's be honest, chaos in this season of parenthood) I find myself collecting inspiration. Those little sparks that eventually turn into something beautiful. So it's less that it benefits my life, and more that it just is my life. It not only feeds my family, but it feeds my soul and so benefits every area of my life. 

What do you love about our styles and which is your favourite?

Ooh definitely the Nora mini in Noir at the moment. I just love the flattering cut, the double lining and the beautiful buttons at the front for easy breastfeeding. I love the Kyra styles too, they’re just so classic and easy to wear while still making me feel put together and elegant. I’m also just really into the brand values as a whole, and love the ethical slow side of it because it so closely matches my own values.

Visit Ruco Paints here.

By Ella Josephine Archer