By Carl Begai
My Ruin vocalist Tairrie B. Murphy doesn’t subscribe to the mythical glitter of stardom, nor does she believe it’s necessary to get her assets out to sell her music. She’s an artist in the truest sense of the word, suffering both figuratively and – as the need arises – literally in order to get the results of her creative energy out to the masses. And, like many of her kind, she isn’t restricted by the “musician” box checked on her resumé. For sheer love of creativity, Tairre has her own business marketed under the banner Blasphemous Girl Designs, offering up one-on-a-kind custom jewelry for those interested in wearing a piece of in-your-face inspiration. Certainly not as high profile as selling hot sauce by the case or moonlighting as an actor, but it’s another pursuit that gives Tairrie a sense of accomplishment.
“I’ve always been a do-it-yourself girl,” she begins. “Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, when I was a rap artist, I used to design custom pieces of jewelry that I would have made for myself at the Slausen Swapmeet in Los Angeles where Eazy E and NWA used to get stuff made. I was really into two and three finger rings, nameplates and cut out earrings. Before that, I was designing custom jeans and jackets that I would cut, bleach, sew, paint and embellish with various patches, vintage fur and found objects. I remember having this woman come up to me at an underground club I used work at one night, and she was a buyer for a really upscale store in Beverly Hills called Camp Beverly Hills. She asked me where I got my jeans and when I told her I made them myself she gave me her card. Next thing I knew, I had set up a make shift factory in my grandfather’s garage to hand make 80 pairs. It was crazy!”
“I have a lot of old videos of underground fashion shows I used to be a part of at clubs like Scream and Lunch back in the day, when I would design a whole custom collection and get my friends to model for me on the makeshift runways, strutting my designs to early Public Enemy and Malcolm McLaren records. It was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t until I was in my previous band Tura Satana that I started to design various pieces of jewelry to wear on stage and in photo shoots. I began seriously designing my own band’s merch once I started My Ruin. This is also when I started to create specialty pieces for our fans and friends. I think there’s a beauty in making one of-a-kind things by hand and from your heart that you can’t get with sourcing it out to a company to be mass produced, but it’s really hard work and time consuming to do it all by myself. When the time is right it might be nice to take it to the next level at some point and get a few of my ideas backed by a larger company.”
My Ruin fans have seen enough of Tairrie to know that she concerns herself with artistic expression first, income second. With that in mind, the question is raised to whether she’s ever second guessed herself with regards to turning what was a hobby into a potentially lucrative business. As in, if Blasphemous Girl Designs were to become large scale successful, does she worry about the diehard My Ruin fans consider it selling out?
“Not really. I honestly find it hard to imagine the fans of my band ever thinking I’m a sell-out in terms of what those words truly mean. I’ve been so underground in everything I do for so many years now that I highly doubt the term ‘sell out’ could ever apply to me at this point in my career. Musically, I’ve never been the girl looking to make it big on a commercial level because I believe it would mean giving up a great deal of myself and my personal integrity to make that happen, and that’s not what I’m about. There’s a fine line between keeping your artistic credibility and whoring yourself out to the highest bidder in whatever field you’re in as an artist. That being said, it would be nice to have my company grow over time and reach out to more people on a larger scale, while still having a bespoke boutique vibe about what I do. I think the possibilities are there, and I think those who have been with me on my journey would continue to support and stand behind me if and when I made that leap.”
Given the items listed on the website are often tagged as being sold out, as well as the sheer number of items available, it’s clear that BGD’s inventory consists of mostly one-of- a-kind pieces. A potentially painful situation in letting some of them go…
“Most of my designs are one-of-a-kind creations, but on occasion I’ll make two or a small collection that is relative to each other, with slight variations within the pieces to keep them all unique in subtle ways,” Tairrie reveals. “Sometimes I’ll find it hard to let a piece go depending on what has gone into the designing of it and the back story of the materials involved. I’ll admit, there have been times I’ve become attached to certain designs while in the process of bringing them to life. I often feel like I’m letting go a part of myself as I’m wrapping them and sealing the packages to be mailed.”
“I sign and scent everything with my signature oil that I mix by hand and have worn for years,” she adds. “I sometimes sell vials of it in my store as well. It’s one of my most popular items and I’ll have people come up to with a design they purchased months ago telling me they can still smell the oil on the leather, and how much they love it. I love that!”
“It’s a weird feeling to let your designs go but one that I have also come to enjoy knowing the people who will be wearing my creations will appreciate all the time and love that went into making them. I think that’s why I like the idea of selling to fans of my band rather than total strangers. I like having that personal connection and possibility that I’ll someday see them wearing it, whether it be in a photo they send me or front row at a My Ruin show. That’s the part about expanding my company that I’d miss.”
Tairrie offers a look inside her creative process for Blasphemous Girl Designs:
“I’ve been creating what I call my Blasphemous Girl Designs since 2001/2002. It started with making a few pieces for one off shows we played in LA on Valentines Day or Dia de los Muertos and then branched out to my making custom clothing and jewelry for our tours to go along side of our merch. I also used to sell pieces to a store in Hollywood called Blest, which was a really cool place to find custom designer one-off pieces that were a bit more high fashion and even couture. In 2009, I opened my first online store and things just sort of took off from there. I create about five collections a year at this point. I was heavily into deconstructing clothing for a while but I really prefer making jewelry these days, although every now and then I will stud a jacket or paint a shirt or vintage slip. It’s become a nice little fun side business.”
“I believe, as an artist of any kind, you have to create when the muse speaks to you and the mood strikes. It’s the same with song writing; I feel a cathartic energy and an almost inner therapeutic release when designing. I often incorporate found objects, vintage keepsakes, classic images and religious icons within my pieces to help each tell its own story, and I suppose in a way, my own story. When I write a song, I usually do a few re-writes before I am ready to record it, and even then, when I’m in the vocal booth things always change at the last minute. There’s a long process when it comes to lyrics that goes from structuring the subject matter in my own mind, to arranging the words line by line on to the delivery, and ultimately the mixing with the music before the final master. I think you need to know when to let go. I think many musicians have trouble with this and will work on a song for months and months, re writing, recording and mixing it again and again until it loses that special something it had when it was first conceived. The same can be said when it comes to art. Sometimes you just need to go with your gut and feel with your heart rather than over-think it all with your head.”
Religious imagery is a common element in Tairrie’s songwriting. It bleeds down into her art, to the point that it’s become something of a BGD calling card. And, of course, depending on the mindset of people outside of the My Ruin circle, some of her jewelry designs have bee branded controversial.
“I can’t really explain my attraction to religious imagery,” Tairrie admits. “It’s something I’ve often tried to understand in my own mind but have never really been able to define verbally. While there’s an unspoken comfort for me found in the beauty of certain images I’m drawn to, there’s also a fear and loathing behind the ideas of what many of those images and icons are meant to represent. This is where the dichotomy of the struggle within my own head lies when it comes to how I interpret them at the time. Whether I’m writing a song or designing a piece of jewelry, I’ll usually let the images guide my subconscious mind to the darker side, whether metaphorically speaking with words or color and concept combinations.”
“I don’t set out trying to be shocking or controversial. I never have because that’s not what I’m about as an artist. I do what I do based on what I feel. That’s really all I can say. I think the fans of my band that listen to my music and purchase my designs do so because they feel a connection with me. I’m sure there are some people who don’t get it as much as others do but I think they all understand and appreciate the blood, sweat and emotion that goes into everything I do. I love the freedom of creating something new by recycling something old and combining images and ideas that would not necessarily go together. I’ve always been a fan of mixed media art on a larger scale, and for many years I’ve painted religiously inspired statuary and created assemblages that have hung on the walls in my home or the homes of my friends. I’d love to put some of these types of things in my store, but the thought of shipping them scares me when it comes to their size.”
Not surprisingly, My Ruin’s music and song ideas play an important role in the pieces she produces for Blasphemous Girl Designs.
“It happens all the time, but it’s usually with my art imitating my life, which more often that not means my lyrics. After spending months writing and recording a new album, it’s not unusual for the theme of that album to resonate with me for months and sometimes years after, so I’ll find myself drawing on songs and subject matter that I can make tangible and flesh, so to speak, in the form of wearable art.”
On a business level, Blasphemous Girl Designs continues to develop because Tairrie is able to turn a profit. It’s a baby steps project with legs that she remains dedicated to between writing, recording, touring, and having a personal life.
“I would like to continue to create custom designs and eventually take the next step with a few of my signature pieces,” Tairrie reveals. “I think it’s a soulful and heartfelt process that just doesn’t happen overnight, and in order for me to be able to devote the serious amount of time and energy I would need to do it the way I’d want to. I think I’d have to make a few changes in my life that I’m not ready to make at this moment.”
“I’ve just launched my latest fall collection for September, but I’ve actually been keeping something under wraps for the last few months,” she continues, “but I’m about to make the official announcement soon so I can’t go into all the details yet, except to say that I have recently been contacted by a UK based jewelry company and designed my first high-end custom ring. It’s nothing like anything I’ve ever seen. I just received the prototype last week and it blew my mind. I’m planning a photo shoot for it now and will be introducing it in the coming months online. All I can say is that it has seven pieces and was designed in honor of My Ruin’s new seventh album, which is coming out in December of this year. It will be available in my store and each ring will be hand made and shipped from the UK.”