born/raised: Norcross, GA/Fayetteville, GA
current location: Johnson City, TN
Education Major: BFA in Jewelry/Metalsmithing from the University of Georgia
Ashley mostly works with steel, hand cuts all of her work and then powdercoats in various colors to create her different bodies of work.
A little about Ashley...
How did you come to jewelry: During high school I discovered an amazing bead store in town and started making jewelry – just assembling things together but I really enjoyed it. I didn’t even have pliers for a while so I would just use my teeth and bite the wire to make a closure…yikes. I always knew I wanted to study art in school and entered UGA as a sculpture major. When I returned to Athens after my trip to Cortona (see later question) I enrolled into the Introduction to Jewelry class and fell in love! I thought about getting a double major but quickly realized that my interests were more focused in jewelry/metalsmithing and that it suited me much better than anything else - so I changed my major from sculpture to jewelry and I am SO HAPPY that I did!
Where do you gather inspiration: anywhere!
Does creativity run in your family? Is it supported? Yes, my grandfather was an artist and my father is an artist as well. My grandfather, Ron (Papaw), was a cartoonist while in the Navy and would make the illustrations for their newsletter. After his time in the military he attended art school in Atlanta, GA and eventually made his career as an interior designer for 30+ years. My father has always been creative and owned his own custom furniture/cabinetry business for 16+ years. My family is definitely supportive and have become much more supportive and understanding as I have grown into my own as an artist. It’s nice to have my father as a resource because he understands the struggle the often occurs between the artist and the business person. Having to make appropriate decisions for the business can often be difficult when you are coming at it from an artist’s point-of-view.
What do you do for fun: Making is fun to me. I work a lot but I enjoy working – I feel like every part of my life factors into my work in some way. I do love good movies and good TV…I also love to travel (by the way, I hate the way that sounds – because I feel like it’s the lamest answer). My partner, Joshua, (who is a photographer) travels a lot for his work and I travel a lot for work as well so I have become very fond of the being on the road and visiting new places.
Favorite trip you have taken: Well, I have 2. First would be my trip abroad to Cortona, Italy during college. I grew up in the south and as a kid did not travel much outside of the beach and the mountains, so going to Europe was a big deal for me! It was my first time traveling abroad and being on my own (no parents, no family) and it had a great impact on me. I was about a year into my art program and was staring to figure out what I was actually interested in as an artist – I grew up a lot on that trip as well. Being exposed to a new culture (many new cultures) working all day everyday, being surrounded by artists, visiting the amazing places that I had been studying back home, seeing all of the incredible artwork…paintings, sculpture, architecture…etc. It was very special. I was actually a sculpture major at the time and was taking stone carving and bronze casting as my studio classes, so every time we would visit a new Italian city I was super interested in the history and the art we were seeing. My sculpture professor was also amazing – Chido Johnson, I am really grateful that I was able to meet him and spend time with him that summer, he had a profound impact on me as an artist. Cortona is also where I met Mary and had my first experience in a jewelry studio!
Second would be the cross-country road trip I made with Joshua in the summer of 2011. He is a photographer and has made many cross-country trips in his lifetime - sleeping in the van, “showering” at truck stops and getting ready for bed in the bathrooms of Wal-Mart. I was fortunate enough to make this trip with him; we made a giant “loop” around the country, visiting almost every landmark and important city on our path. Before that trip, I had never been west of Fort Worth, TX so the trip was very surprising and impactful.
Do you have any ideas or concepts for your next body of work: Yes…sort of…I do have bodies of work, but I think everything I make really just fades into the next “phase” of my work – I have been experimenting a lot lately with decorative imagery that is not so specific, playing with size, repetition, simple shapes…form – mixing some formed pieces with the flat pieces. I am also considering laser cutting for some of my production pieces – I think it will free me up to focus more of my time on the one-of-a-kind pieces that I really want to make. I have resisted it for a while but I think it may happen soon…we’ll see.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life? Why: That is a very difficult question to answer but I think, right now…so far in my life, I would have to say my former professor, Mary Pearse. She is the person who introduced me to my first jewelry studio and she is the reason why I became a jeweler. She has had such a huge impact on me, as a teacher, a mentor, an artist, a woman and a person. I really do feel like I would not be where I am today if it were not for her, I owe her a lot! She has played a particularly important role in my life and will always be enormously special to me!