The Ruby Project is a small New Zealand ceramic enterprise run by Kate Fitzmaurice out of her home in Wellington. Kate is a 27 year old woman who began this amazing project while working full time, and who still is in the lead up to her launch on March 20th. The Ruby Project exists with the kaupapa to raise awareness aount sex trafficing and sexual assault, alongside giving a voice to survivors. It does all of this while giving her customers beautiful handmade ceramics to drink your morning tea/coffee, or to keep your flowers in. Each of the pieces available are one of a kind and represent a brave survivor who shared their story with the company. This project is a one woman team, but Kate has said that she receives help from her family and friends when needed. While it has been a busy week for Kate getting ready for her launch she was kind enough to answer some questions for us about the project.
Was there a defining moment that pushed you to start this initiative?
I came up with the idea behind The Ruby Project when I was living in Greece in 2015 working in an aftercare shelter for sex-trafficking survivors. I was overwhelmed by the number of people in the world affected by sex-trafficking and modern day slavery, but spending time and getting to know each of the woman I was working with - all who had their own story, personality, background and family. I came up with the idea to start an enterprise that sells something beautiful with just one person's story to personalise it and help hit home that these issues affecting millions were all individual people with their own story. The idea kind of sat dormant when I went back to Medical school and got tied up with work, and then it wasn't until I had some time off work in 2020 and took up Pottery that I decided to tie it all together. In the 5 years between coming home to New Zealand and starting the Ruby Project I had seen far too many people affected by sexual assault here in New Zealand and have come to realise how much doubt, misunderstanding and judgement there still was for sexual assault survivors, many of which were close friends and colleagues of mine. So I decided I wanted to tell their stories too and raise awareness both of what's happening across the globe, but also what many brave New Zealanders are facing here in our own backyard. Because from the brave women I worked with in Greece who were trafficked across borders and forced to work in the sex industry, to the people we interact with every day here in New Zealand with their own stories - all of them deserve to be supported and given a voice, and all of their stories deserve to be heard.
It is inspiring you that you have started up a business such as this while working full time, how do you manage it?
It's been a busy few months getting things started. I love my job and working full time makes it possible to start The Ruby Project and give all of our profits straight back to organisations making a difference in their evenings, but my evenings and weekends have been busy with various steps of the pottery making process and planning for the launch. Pottery is a great way to unwind for me so I do genuinely love making our ceramics, and I'll just figure out a way to keep up with demand and share as many stories
I understand that you make each piece to honour the story of a brave survivor, what is your process for designing and making each of the pieces?
If I'm honest, so far it's mostly trial and error. I only started pottery around 6 months ago and so I come up with a bunch of different ideas, follow it through to completion and see how it turns out. Generally I'd take something out of the kiln and fall in love with it, then find a story that matches the character of each piece, and then knuckle down and make a whole lot more. Some of my work is made on the wheel and some is built solely with my hands - I really enjoy doing both. Recently I've started engraving the names of the survivors on the bottom of each ceramic before I fire them in the kiln, because I want our ceramics to carry that story for years and not have the story (which is the whole kaupapa of what we do) lost along the way.
How do you divide up the 10% of profit to the three organisations, and can you tell us how you settled on the three organisations you support?
100% of our profits go towards organisations working with survivors. Half of the profits will go to HELP Wellington and HELP Auckland - which are organisations doing amazing Mahi, and they have supported friends of mine in various ways so I wanted to give back to that. The other half gets split between A21 and Hagar. A21 was the organisation I interned with in Greece back in 2015 and I love the work they do so wanted to support that, and Hagar is a smaller organisation who has a central base in New Zealand so I wanted to support Kiwi's who were working in this area as well. The profits are split evenly between them.
Do you have a message that you would like to share with any survivors who may read this?
You are so strong just for being here.
One of the Law for Change Executive members, Maeve Burns, came across the Ruby Projects Instagram page and immediately shared it with myself. I have been wanting to purchase some handmade mugs for a while now, and the idea that I can now make a purchase which will support such an amazing cause is an incredible feeling. Not to mention how stunning the ceramics are. Knowing that the piece will have the survivors name on the bottom as well just makes it so much more beautiful (it is important to note that items from the launch will not have names on the bottom). The idea behind this project is a simple one that holds a lot of meaning to Kate and those around her, and it will continue to hold plenty of meaning to those who make a purchase or share their story with Kate.
Kate Fitzmaurice is an incredibly inspiring woman, who is working every day to give a voice to the voiceless. Embodying one of Law for Changes key values.
Check out the Ruby Project here
- Post by Henrietta Harper, 2021