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Q&A with Ruby Seeto

07 Sep, 2021

We’re delighted to introduce Ruby Seeto’s new Starship tea towel design for 2021, Nana Una’s Carrot Cake. We’ve been working with Ruby since 2009 when she was an 11 year old cancer survivor, designing, creating and selling tea towels to help fund key projects at Starship. Together we’ve raised over $500,000 to help young patients and their families. These funds have supported improvements to the Oncology, Medical Specialties, Neurology and Heart wards as well as the establishment of an ovarian cryopreservation banking protocol to benefit young cancer patients.

Nana Una’s Carrot Cake Tea Towel
You'll be morning tea ready with this delicious Carrot Cake recipe from Ruby. Ruby’s Nana Una’s carrot cake is a firm family favourite and she has shared it on her new tea towel design for 2021 to raise funds for Starship. Proceeds from the sale of Ruby’s Nana Una’s Carrot Cake tea towels and washcloths, will help fund a full time Play Specialist at Starship.

We sat down with Ruby to chat about her new tea towel design, what this year's project means to her and her thoughts on working with Wallace Cotton.

Q: Your fun and colourful tea towels are such a great way to raise money for Starship. How did you come up with the idea?
A: I always loved art and drawing when I was younger, and Mum and I thought tea towels would work as a nice big blank canvas to print my drawings on. Plus, it’s such a useful item – everyone needs a tea towel! I’m so grateful to have people’s continued support, buying my new designs year on year.

Q: You’ve collaborated with Wallace Cotton for 13 years now. How did that all start?
A: I designed my first tea towel at the end of my chemotherapy treatment in 2007. We had a local screen-printer print my sunflower design on a few hundred tea towels and sold them to family and friends. When Wallace Cotton approached Starship in 2009 to see how they could help, Starship paired the two of us together - a match made in heaven!

Q: What’s your favourite thing about working with Wallace Cotton?
A: I’ve loved working with Paula & Bill and the lovely team at Wallace Cotton over the years. Our partnership meant that we were able to take my tea towels nationwide and raise even more funds for the Starship Foundation. I’m so proud of how we’ve raised over $500,000 together to date! Every year, they give me full creative freedom. From the recipe, all the way to the Pantone colours of each element, and colour of the stitching. I love working with Paula & Anna throughout the whole design process. Partnering with Wallace Cotton also meant my tea towels went from simple monochrome drawings that we had screen-printed locally, to full colour artworks printed on high quality cotton. 11 year old me was so excited by this (and I still am)!!

I’m so grateful to have people’s continued support, buying my new designs year on year.

Q: How do you decide what recipe you will feature on your tea towel design each year?
A: I like to look into what the current trends are and also take into consideration what recipes I will be able to make look pretty on a tea towel. A simple recipe without too many steps also helps. Above all, the recipe has to be delicious and something that I would actually make myself!

Q: How do you feel about your Nana’s cake recipe being enjoyed in homes across NZ?
A: Pretty amazing! It’s such a simple but yummy recipe and I really hope everyone enjoys it. I know Nana would have been pretty stoked too! We’ve been having it for dessert every night this week!!

Q: We love that as an ex-patient, you continue to help other kids and their families with your fundraising. Describe what working together with us in support of Starship, means to you?
A: It’s really important to me to give back to the hospital that helped me to recover from cancer. Seeing the positive impact that our partnership has on Starship kids and their families is really rewarding. It makes me so happy to hear how we have made (and can continue to make) patients’ time at Starship just that little bit easier.

Q: The funds from this year’s tea towel will go towards funding a Play Specialist. When you were at Starship, how did the Hospital Play Specialists help you?
A: I loved the visits from the Play Specialists while I was at Starship! They always had lots of different crafty bits for me to play with that definitely helped to distract me from the pain and nausea I experienced throughout my chemotherapy treatment.

Q: Why are Play Specialists so important for Starship kids and their families?
A: Not only do Play Specialists provide a welcome distraction for kids at Starship, but they help patients’ families too. Hospitals can be a scary place, especially when you’re a kid. Play Specialists are experts at creating a space where you can relax, have fun and even learn something – this was the case for me and my little sister, Noon. As a cancer patient, I was pretty much confined to my hospital room. Luckily, this meant I had the Play Specialists visit me! I know this time meant a lot to Mum and Dad as it enabled them to sit back and relax a little, knowing I was having fun and occupied. That’s another reason why I think providing funding for this role in the Oncology department is so important.

It’s such a simple but yummy recipe and I really hope everyone enjoys it. I know Nana would have been pretty stoked too!

Gifting that’s twice as nice
Ruby’s fun, practical and collectible tea towels have developed a dedicated following over the years. Much loved by our customers, her tea towels sell as fast as hot cakes! They make easy, thoughtful gifts and with $6 from the sale of every tea towel and $4 from every washcloth set donated to Starship, it’s the little gift that gives twice.


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