Tootsies will soon unveil a mural that encapsulates its image and history through an uplifting blend of fashion and art from Haylee Ryan. Ryan worked to collect stories and images of the shop’s history and seamlessly wove them together for the site-specific piece, which spotlights founder Mickey Rosmarin and his inspiration for Tootsies. Here, Ryan chats with us about the project...
Tell us about your creative process.
I love people and stories. My work is rooted in memory and nostalgia, but for the sake of making us be more fully present now and noticing the small stuff and candid moments. My process usually involves using realistic techniques in the figure to draw attention to them, but then incorporating significant patterns and color blocks that contribute to the story or memory.
For this project, I gathered stories from the Tootsies team about the store’s start, its iconic founder and owner, and its inspirations all along the way. I then gathered images, historical and from the different themes, and I began piecing them together like a collaged story. My work typically has layers, all painted, but layers of flat shapes, negative space and realistic portions. Tootsies’ founder, Mickey Rosmarin, is in his natural state, barefoot and approachable, in the top right corner as if the rest of the image is being birthed from him and layered on and through him, just as most would describe Tootsies’ and his relationship. The other inspirations of his journey that you can find throughout the mural are things like tropical botanicals, Italian art deco references, the Biba movement, and Acapulco and Miami in the late ’70s to early ’90s.
Let’s talk shop—how did this project come about?
This collaboration came through a new friend, store director Nerissa von Helpenstill. We met at a friend’s party and got chatting about this artistic collaboration! When I met with them and heard about the previous collab with Mione Plant, I was so thrilled. I was so excited that they wanted to give me creative freedom to tell this story of the iconic Tootsies and to also just contribute a beautiful piece for this gorgeous store. And the transformation of the window displays is insane! The layering that goes into my painting concepts will be peeled apart and displayed in the massive front windows. I have had such a blast collaborating with the store’s regional visual director, Matthew Gilley. He has such vision and can make installations happen how I have never been able to experience my own work. I can’t wait for everyone to see. We will also have T-shirts that will be from my initial sketches for the mural. There will be a variety so that they represent different aspects of the Tootsies story and inspirations.
What’s next on your horizon... do you have any activations set for this summer?
This summer, I am pondering taking a workshop under Mark Tennant in the south of Spain as a catapult into the next steps in honing my craft and learning new things in figure painting. I have plans for giant murals in a new, massive project in Grapevine called Grapevine Main. I also am pursuing a fresh mural for the entrance of Main Street Historic District in Grapevine. Many murals and hopefully many things to learn and perfect this summer!
Note: This interview was conducted before the COVID-19 crisis. As Tootsies is now temporarily closed to the public, the mural unveiling was postponed. Follow Tootsies on Instagram for updates and announcements.
Photography by: illustration by Haylee Ryan