Ashley, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far. I grew up on Drummond Island, a tiny island in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My mom raised my 3 sisters and I to be very creative. She was always letting us paint on the windows, make homemade play-doh sculptures, sell our hand-picked flower bouquets at the end of the driveway, and basically make a mess wherever there was a mess to be made. My passion for art grew all the way through high school and beyond. When it came time to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up, I felt like the only thing I knew well enough to make a career out of was art.I moved to Chicago in 2010 to pursue a career in fashion design, but after a couple of years of studying, I realized I wanted to get back to my fine art roots. With that in mind, I dropped out of college for a few months to figure out how I would move my career forward. That Summer I decided that I wanted to apply to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago just to see if I could get in. It was rated the number 2 art school at the time, so I told my mom that if I got in I would finish my degree, but if not I would just continue to work until I could invest in other opportunities. I surprisingly got in, so I attended classes to obtain my BFA emphasizing on fine art and knitwear. I graduated in December of 2014 and while I had some jobs teaching art here and there, I ended up participating in street shows and nannying to make a living. In the Spring of 2017 I decided it was time to take a big jump and open a home daycare focusing on fine art for infants and toddlers. The concept was better received than I could have ever imagined and before I knew it, I had a waitlist. By the Fall of 2017 my daycare was up and running and since then, the kids have really taken to making art. I always intend for them to have a piece of art finished to take home at the end of the day so they not only get to show their parents their masterpieces, but also learn about an element or principal of design now and then. They have a sense of pride about themselves and how much they can accomplish that develops with each project even though they are so little. We love to take nature walks and read some of our favorite children’s books to draw inspiration. Through art we have had a great opportunity to work on vocabulary and sharing as well. The kids are very excited that I now get to be a part of the Andersonville Galleria, so they have been giving me pointers on what kids like and sometimes they try to place a custom order. In the future, I hope to start a children’s gallery with the intention of inspiring families to make together. Even if something turns out sloppy, the process is great for spending time together and making memories, which to me is the most important thing.
Can you give our readers some background on your art? In my personal art, I make each piece with a whimsical intention and a technical aspect. I love using nature as subject matter in most of my work because nature is what we all come from and it is the most basic and beautiful thing in this world. I think we need to appreciate the earth more, so art is one outlet for me to do that. In some of my pieces I also add industrial elements for the play between natural and man-made.In the pieces that I put together for the kids to make, I follow the same idea of including whimsical elements and technical elements. This makes the pieces that they are making more unique to each child, and it also gives me a chance to teach them about art terminology and reasons to make art. By including something serious with something more light hearted I think they can remember the things that we talk about better and I hope that all of this will help them transition easier when they go to school.
What would you recommend to an artist new to the city, or to art, in terms of meeting and connecting with other artists and creatives? My advice for other artists is to say yes to new opportunities. The best thing that I ever did for my career was apply when I wasn’t sure if I would be accepted, talk to people even if I felt like they might not understand me, and say yes when someone has a new idea to try. All the connections and opportunities that I have are because I will give most opportunities a chance. “In the end we will only regret the chances we didn’t take.”
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support? Readers can find my personal work at the Andersonville Galleria, My Etsy Page (Fall but Once), or on social media. I use Instagram and Facebook as well, and can be found by searching Fall but Once or Itsy Bitsy Artists.