Inspiring Stories

Arline Rubin: Crafting Her Way Through Quarantine

Dr. Arline Rubin is always creating. A retired Brooklyn College professor, Arline now quilts in colorful fabrics, presses dried flowers into lampshades, assembles brooches from old buttons, recycles photographs into decoupage on rocks, and has sold her handmade cards in 22 states.

If it’s crafty, Senior Planet NYC member Arline Rubin has probably tried her hand at it (and maybe even taught a course about it too). A frequent participant in our Monday evening discussion group Creative Creations, Arline brings her craftiness to Senior Planet and beyond, using technology to meet with other artists virtually.

Besides photos of her beautiful work, we love sharing Arline’s story of groundbreaking work in the field of human sexuality, her passion for education and determined spirit.

SP: What have you been working on lately?

I’ve been making masks. I made 36 of them for family and friends. 

SP: Is that how you’re staying busy during COVID-19?

You know, I didn’t leave my apartment for 87 days but I didn’t mind being in quarantine because I just have so many interests here. I always have a project. Whether it’s my quilting, (picture at right), my card-making, sewing masks, the computer, Zoom…. 

SP: I want to talk about your craftiness, but first was that always what you did full time?

No, I taught at Brooklyn College for 35 and a half years. I was taking courses in home economics and they hired me to teach sewing, clothing construction and costume design. I was a good technician and they needed someone, so they asked me if I could teach it.

At the same time I was getting my doctorate in the Interdisciplinary Study of the Family and I was interested in human sexuality. So I wound up also teaching child development and human sexuality courses. I actually introduced the human sexuality courses to the college in 1967. The law changed that sex education was supposed to be taught in high school. And so my main focus was “who was teaching the teachers?” It’s not that they wouldn’t know the information, but how do you become comfortable talking about the subject with younger people. So I was doing a lot of sensitivity training.

Then I was doing research on open marriage in the 80’s. I had the largest study of anyone doing research in the area at the time.

SP: What’s it like being a student with Senior Planet after being a teacher for so long?

It’s so great! Now I go to classes in Senior Planet @Avenidas, in Montgomery County, in San Antonio- all over. But my favorite right now is Creative Creations (link is here). People come up with all sorts of things that they’re doing.

SP: What do you get out of Creative Creations?

I get ideas! And I met another participant who I can connect with over genealogy. He is computer savvy, so we email about it and it spurs me on.  I’m also part of a group called Auspicious Stitches. I write the newsletter and host the weekly Zoom meeting. What can I say, I’m comfortable in groups!

SP: Seems like you’re always creating something.

I am. I make my throw pillows…I make my decoupage. I used to take just an eye from a picture in a magazine and put it on a rock in such a way that it doesn’t just look plastered on it, it looks real. I would sell them in a shop in Woodstock a while ago. It’s interesting- Once I made a decoupage with a black rock and this picture of a couple in an embrace, partially clothed on a black background. At the time I was going out with different guys and one guy came up to my apartment. I showed him some of my crafts, including that rock. He said not only did I take that photo, but that is my ex-girlfriend!

SP: Let’s talk about your beautiful pressed flower cards. How did you start selling your cards?

I used to bring them to dinner parties, instead of bringing wine or cake, I’d bring a packet of my cards (example at right). One woman sent one I gave her to her mother in law. The mother in law bought the cars from me for 17 years.   Whenever I traveled I would take a box of my cards with me. I would go into a store and see if they wanted to buy some. My cards cost $10 each so if I saw that the store had Hallmark cards I knew the store wasn’t for me. At one point I was selling them in 22 states.

SP:One more question- what does Aging with Attitude mean to you?

It means that I am interested in lots of different things and I have the time now to pursue them.


See more of Arline’s pressed dried flower cards on her instagram: @Arline_Rubin




9 responses to “Arline Rubin: Crafting Her Way Through Quarantine

  1. Arline – what a treat you are and a beautiful gift to our world. I live in Boston and found your beautiful cards in Curio Spice (so glad you found Claire … or she found you). I anticipated and was looking forward to closing my eyes and inhaling the amazing fresh spice scent when I walked into Curio that day… what I wasn’t anticipating was a natural beauty before me when I opened my eyes and they landed on your exquisite creations. So drawn and inspired by you ! Thank you for sharing your gift.

  2. arline rubin is one of the most talented crafters i have ever met. i am lucky to have her as a friend and neighbor. she has been kind and generous with sharing some of her amazing goodies with me, a fellow greeting card maker and artist.
    so nice to see you feature a story on such an amazing gal. she is one of a kind!

  3. I’ve been a flower gardener for years but this is the first year I’ve tried pressing my blooms for gift making. I have lots of ideas! Ornaments made from baking soda and corn starch with a beautiful bloom or petals modge poddged in, a pressed flower including leaves glued on a miniature planting bucket, bouquets pressed into frames I’ve made myself, and the note cards as well.
    It’s such a satisfying feeling being creative!
    My notebook full of my pressed flowers and botanical information is something I’m looking forward to this completing winter!

    1. Hi Arlene, My name is Anne Marmar. My husband and I came to your Manhattan apt one evening several years ago to select and purchase beautiful dried flower and dried leaf greeting cards.
      I didn’t save your contact info but remembered your name and so happy to have tracked you down. Please write me if it would be possible to make another visit to your apt to purchase more cards from you.

  4. Great to see the crafts dr. Rubin is doing during quarantine. I agree that its not boring to stay home if you have crafts and hobbies! Ive been staying home and painting designs on furniture and purses, and just began learning the art of mosaic! Ive also been knitting holiday scarves for family gifts and just completed my 12th scarf.

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