Interview: Tasha Ruocco from Dirty Work

I would like you to meet Tasha Ruocco, the founder of Dirty Work. She is an illustrator and a designer. Over the last few years, she had worked with two different design companies. With the first one, she was designing party stationery, and with the second one, she was designing jewellery. Both her jobs did not involve much drawing, and this was what she had missed. In 2016, she finally launched her own business – Dirty Work.


Mina: Tell us a little bit about Dirty Work? 

Tasha: “I describe Dirty Work as motivational swearing. It’s motivates me, and I like to think it motivates others. I make Fuck it because I need it for myself. Life is a bitch, kick ass. Trying to inspire. I got the idea for it in 2015, but launched it for the first time in October 2016 and still continued working in my full-time job. And in my free time, I worked for Dirty Work. A week back, I went completely on my own.


M: That's wonderful news, congratulations! 

T: Thank you.


M: What made you decide to go on your own? 


T: A moment of madness. I think I finally got the confidence that I needed. How it exactly happened is, me and Dan (boyfriend) were driving up North to visit his parents. That was in September, when I said to him, “Dan, I don’t think I can do it this anymore. I can’t go back on Monday. I don’t want to go back on Monday.” Something completely snapped in my head, and I blame that long car journey that made me go insane. And on Monday, I went in and handed my notice.


M: What did your family say?

T: Everyone around me was so sweet; they said they are 100% behind me. I am so grateful. I feel so blessed my family is supportive. Dan said, that I have to focus on Dirty Work because it is growing, this is all what you need to do. 


M: You mentioned confidence. What made you feel less confident? What pushed you down?

T: I guess a few different things, plus I was never really a confident kid. I don’t know why really, but then a few bad experiences in relationships and a few nasty bosses through the years. As much as you tell yourself you are not going to listen to these people, it eventually gets in – it's in your head. I must say now, on the other side, it did make me a strong person. 


M: Life brings you only that much shit that you can handle. Would you agree with this?

T: Yes, definitely. 


M: My sister, Sanela, said, surround yourself with the right people, who will lift you and love your work – the ones who give you wings. Anyone else will just stop you, accidentally, because of their own fears. Her advice to me was, if you have an idea, do not tell anyone; just do it and tell later. 

T: I definitely agree with this. I hate to tell people things too soon; I don't want to have someone rain on my parade, because sometimes, you get idea in your head and think this will be great. It’s a bit crazy, but I will do it. And if you tell anyone out loud, it sounds weird and not good.

“If you ask people for an opinion, they will give it to you. - Or what I say, don’t ask.” - Tasha Ruocco

M: I think we all learn this, sooner or later. I still get an idea, and I am so excited and want to tell the whole world, and then, nothing happens. So embarrassing. 

T: Keep it to yourself, do it, and tell people later. There is this saying, “If you ask people for an opinion, they will give it to you.” Or what I say, don't ask.


M: I will try, I promise. Can you tell us how you came up with the name “Dirty Work”?

T: I had such a struggle what to call it, but then I started making a list and used the mind map maker. All the words that I like; all the things, all the music albums, all the books, all the artists that I’d ever liked; and I put them on The words that you type the most often will be the biggest; the more often one word is featured, the bigger it gets. And “dirty” and “work” were the biggest that came out. Work is the name one of my favourite photography books (Helmut Newton Work) and one of my favourite albums at that time (Iggy Azalea, Ignorant art). I was also screen printing some of my designs, and that was dirty, because you always got some ink on it. I thought it was fun, and it fit in with the whole thing.


M: When did you start illustrating?

T: I have always been drawing, ever since I could hold a pen; so I’ve always been practicing in that way. My big brother, Eliot (you can find his work on @pencilbandit), was always brilliant at art and drawing, and I thought that was so cool. So, I would be right next to him, drawing. I was always drawing in my free time, and eventually, I started putting some of the things on Instagram. Not sure when I started sharing “Fuck it” and that kind of stuff on Instagram, but at some point, what I did get was recognition. I said to myself, I love it, because I swear all the time. This is actually the most authentic thing I could put on. 


M: You are freshly self-employed. How does your day look like now?

T: To be honest, even the most stressful day doing Dirty Work is better than less stressful days at my previous jobs. It is the best, even if it’s so hard, and I put myself under pressure to make this serious and viable income. I am much better off in the morning, and I am definitely a morning person. I get up quite early, at 6.00 am, because I like being up before anyone else. Its the best bit of the day. 


M: Coffee or tea?

T: Coffee person. I am half-Italian; it’s all about coffee for me. It’s very different. I am someone who can work too much, and I can overwork, and then I will have a little breakdown. I am trying to be mindful not to overwork, but on a good week, when I do not work too much, I will get up and go to the gym, come home, have breakfast, try to do my emails first after breakfast. Emails are my least favourite; I hate doing them. So, I always do them first – the worst thing first. 


M: What’s next, after emails?

T: I try to divide the day by morning and afternoon. In the morning, before lunch, I will be at the desk, doing admin work, and in the afternoon, I love doing design stuff, photographs, drawings. I call it admin half and creative half. Otherwise, I would do creative half all the time, and never do the admin side. I had to give myself this structure.


M: Does anyone stop you?

T: My family keeps an eye on me. If I am doing it a lot, Dan or my mum will say something; they will stop me, because there was an occasion when I was working all day, from 6 am to 10 pm and burnt myself out. I try to finish at 5 or 6 – longer is not ideal – because if you overwork yourself, you are not able to think properly. You are not gonna work so effectively. 


Tasha recently launched Christmas Shop and on her website, you find new products, such as: Merry Fucking Christmas Hand Painted Christmas Bauble, Personalised Hand Painted Heart Christmas Bauble and Christmas Greetings Cards.


M: Can you name a few favourite Instagram accounts?

T: @tina.yu.artist @me_and_orla @feralcatbox @jeannedamas @alicecatherine @jamesjeanart 


M: What inspires you?

T: So many different things; most random things, sometimes. I Love vintage things, coffee table books of art. I have a box full of clippings, birthday cards, and if I feel really stuck, I just go through this box that I’ve used to collect things since I was, like, seven.


I just want to say a huge thank you to Tasha for taking the time and welcoming me to her family home in Royston. I had such a lovely day. To shop for all her products click here.

ps. If anyone is thinking to get me a Christmas present, this is my favourite.