Apiece Apart Woman: Julie O'Rourke

Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke
Apiece Apart Woman Julie Orourke

Born and raised in Maine, artist and designer Julie O’Rourke now lives on a small mid-coastal island with her family, where they live in a house they built by scratch from the ground up. Julie, who is the founder of the children’s line Rudy Jude, lives simply but thoughtfully; she is a builder of a self-made life. As the seasons started to change we visited her at home — below, a conversation on the influence of landscape; feeling your depth; defining your own routine. 

As part of the Apiece Apart Woman series, a portion of sales from each story will be donated to an organization of the featured woman's choice. At Julie's request, part of sales from this story will be donated to Grameen America, an organization that works to provide micro-loans to female entrepreneurs in the US.
Photos by Greta Rybus, styling by Brooke Beaney, text by Leigh Patterson

Apiece Apart Woman Julie ORourke

Can you share more about your upbringing and background? What might a stranger be curious to learn about you, or what background might give them context into who you are today? 
I grew up in rural Maine, a loner by location not by choice. I spent most of my time walking down long dirt roads waiting for someone to discover me. Me, the "world's youngest bohemian artist, singer/songwriter, gymnast, comedian," hidden amongst the tall pines and deep woods. By the time I was 12 I gave up on wistful chances and asked my parents if they would take me to California to audition for the ensemble cast of "All That." They said no. And so I was forced to go with my plan B, my last ditch effort to “get out of this town.” I collected all of the money I had and went to the hardware store to buy all of the parts to build a tightrope. I vowed to practice everyday until I could join the Cirque du Soleil and finally spread my wings. But it turns out tightrope is really hard, and I never actually took a balanced step. But I did eventually get out of that town! And now when I look back at my childhood, I can see how wholeheartedly my parents believed in my ability to create my own reality, to try something and fail, and then try again (or try something new). They pushed me to build and make all of the things I needed and trusted that I knew how. 

What has living in the countryside taught you about yourself and your creative process? 
To me, the essence of creativity lies in the ability to problem solve. It's being scrappy. It's having enough clarity to be able to step back and see where a hole needs to be filled or an idea needs to be elevated. It’s not being bogged down with stuff or tools or all the answers to everything. The only place for me to find that space is in the country. I feel totally invigorated by open spaces and fresh air and my lack of access to things. And this sounds like a joke, but I like knowing that I could spend a whole day making something that someone else could just walk out their door and grab at a corner market. 

Apiece Apart Woman Julie ORourke

What about starting your own business has changed or informed your approach to making, more generally? 
I described myself today as an “under thinker” as apposed to an “over thinker.” I come up with ideas and want to execute them right away without thinking much about steps or obstacles or any actual planning at all. When I started Rudy Jude the importance of organization and documentation became integral. Running a team became dependent on me being able to communicate verbally rather than visually, which is a constant hurdle for me. Today, sitting down and making a game plan has become part of my creative process. Basically I’ve thwarted my heedless ways for the betterment of my team and the growth of my business. 

What do you love most about coastal Maine? Describe your environment in colors, shapes, smells, hues: 
I grew up on a rocky Downeast beach, some of my earliest memories are of getting my feet stuck in beach clay, or the feeling of accidently scraping my toenails on the pavement while walking home barefoot. I can easily recall the way light moves through tall spruce trees, or what it feels like to step on a fresh moss sponge, I can smell lobster boats without thinking. I can actually conjure up the smell memory of every boat I’ve ever been on if I think a little harder. Maine is magic in this way; it sits with you, it stews in you. I 100% wear my love of Maine on my sleeve...you can see it in everything I make. Every item of clothing I create, color, or shape is directly connected to a memory, a smell, or a color of something right outside my door. 

 

Apiece Apart Woman Julie ORourke

 

 

How could you be softer with yourself, embrace more fluidity, more water? 
I had a miscarriage recently and like so many have experienced, it’s this crazy mix of deep sadness and disappointment and grief. Afterward, when I was asked “What do you need?” I wanted to say “I DON’T KNOW” but actually I said, “I want to go swimming.” Because I did want to, but I didn’t know why. So I swam, hard and fast, in very cold water. And as it turns out I really needed this water. I really needed this full submersion into the deepest recesses of my emotions, to feel totally disoriented and far away, to pop up involuntarily and see that the world had not stopped and to somehow feel revived and a little more like myself before I had even become pregnant in the first place. It certainly didn’t heal me but it got me close. Since then, I’ve been feeling the need to be more attuned to the fluidity of my emotions, more capable of taking this deep dive into the scary, sad water of my brain, and less anxious about letting people go with me. 

Alternatively, what area in your life is craving a bit more edge, more fire? 
I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son, and in the first two or so years of motherhood I felt like I existed in this big fluffy cloud of soft voices and gentle swaying. I only wanted to be around other new moms with the same needs and hormones and we would whisper together and coo and it was the most amazing time. 

But then I stopped breastfeeding and my hormones became my regular old hormones from pre-pregnancy and my baby stopped really being a baby at all. I’ve started easing back into my own body again, focusing more on my own needs emotionally, physically and mentally, and found that I’ve been craving more time with my loudest, most hysterical friends. I’ve been craving staying up late, and doing weird dances and slapping my knees while singing with my eyes closed, and I’ve been craving hot drinks and spicy food, and maybe I want to start swearing a little more? 

Apiece Apart Woman Julie ORourke

Where do you look to draw more perspective or clarity? 
I’ve written the answer to this and erased it and written the answer and erased it. I’m feeling apprehensive because I don’t want to seem sappy or co-dependent or lovey dovey or something. But its true, so I’ll continue. My partner, Anthony, is my equilibrium. He is the most introspective and emotionally sound person I’ve ever known. He is always working hard to become healthier and more open and to heal himself both spiritually and physically. He helps me reconnect with myself when I feel like I bend to far into motherhood or my business and forget to bend back into myself. 

Tell us about a habit or personal self practice that serves you. 
I’ve never been someone to hold tightly to routine or practice, both in my work life or at home. I relate it to where we live, the climate, the seasonal changes (I refuse to believe that it is my own mental incapacity to stick to things, but its probably the latter). Our seasons are all drastically different, our summers are short and indescribably beautiful, and we have an abundance of fresh produce and activities. Subsequently my summer routine becomes completely reliant on long swims and walks and veggies. In the fall and early winter we become religious about making fires and “getting back into a routine.” I spend most afternoons talking about how I cannot believe how it gets so dark so early. In the winter every day is a surprise. You never know when you’re on the brink of not being able to leave the house for three days because the plow guy never showed up, so we become completely reliant on home life and movies and making things. Essentially, I try to make it a habit to be as flexible as possible with any given day.