Artist Feature: Ashley Mary

by Nisha Btesh August 31, 2018

Artist Feature: Ashley Mary

 

TBH and borderline creepy, I have been obsessed with Ashley Mary and her art since way before Hola Gwapa was even a thing. I stumbled upon her work on a casual Sunday stroll... I mean scroll on Anthropologie.com when her blush tone shape-shifting wall art caught my eye. I had to know more.

I've come to find out that Ashley is one of those Artists who has her cool factor FIGURED OUT, ok? From her color-splashed vintage style (plug @tandemvintage - if you know than you know!) to her swoon-worthy studio space, scrolling through her IG feed is like my dream Pinterest board come to life. #ArtistGoals.

So when the Minnesota-born and based Artist, Designer, and Illustrator agreed to do this interview, I lost it. Full transparency - she was the first Artist I reached out to (go big or go home!) and although she didn't know this at the time, she responded to ALL of my 393498 emails with candor, humor, and grace. She is an Artist who is boundless when it comes to mixing mediums and a total pro at diversifying her portfolio. Her murals span the side of buildings and office spaces, her collaborations include but are certainly not limited to wine bottles and baby clothes and HELL - she's even a Prop Stylist when she wants to be. When it comes to hustling to turn a passion into a paycheck Ashley Mary leads by example and we could really all take a page from her 2019 Anthro Planner. Keep reading to fall head over heels in love with the lady, because it's close to impossible not to. 

 

 Tell us a little bit about what drew you to your medium. Did you choose your medium or did it choose you?

I’ve always been an arranger by nature. I have an easier time creating a composition with pieces by hand than I do digitally so college is a very natural medium for me to play with.

I love to paint for the control I have over the colors, mixing whatever I want to see. I love layering paint, painting new things over old paintings and see what surprises happen.

I like to find the balance between planning a painting with a small collage and then just allowing what will happen to happen. Leaving space for something unplanned to become what makes a piece special.

What do you want the younger female artists coming up behind you to know about you, your journey, and the art industry in general?

1. Try lots of things to figure out what you are most drawn to do. 
2. Experiment. Play. Be curious. There are no rules most of the time.
3. Constantly make. Making is like a muscle and needs to stretch and exercised to grow.
4. Share your work often. That’s my secret for 10 years. I constantly share my work and that helps people get an understanding of my abilities, my style, and my personality which ultimately then helps the right work come my way.
5. Be gentle with yourself. You don’t need to be like anyone else and trying to do so will ultimately fail. You can only be you, so you might as well celebrate the hell out of that fact.
6. Don't wait for anything to look perfect, there's no such thing. Imperfections are the sweet spot.
7. Invite other people into your journey, it's not sustainable to try to do it all on your own and you jeopardize your business/self when you do so.
 

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a female artist to date? What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made and how did you overcome them?

Typically my mistakes are around not meeting deadlines, which really comes down to poor project management. Not giving myself enough time to work on something or saying "yes" to too many things.

I've rushed concepts before. And sometimes concepting last minute, I create some really interesting things in a rushed mindset because I'm not thinking too hard, I just make. But sometimes I rush an idea and it's just a shitty not-well-thought-out idea. I think with time you get a better sense of how long things take and learn to under promise and over deliver. 

How do you stay motivated? What does your daily routine look like?

The main thing that demotivates me in life is boredom so I'm constantly chasing variety and change to stay excited about work. I try not to create too much structure to my days beyond what is necessary. Every day looks entirely unique for me.

This last week I spent a lot of time designing on my computer but then had a handful of really fun photoshoots that got me off the screen. I prefer days where I'm moving around, painting, doing physical things.

Some weeks I'm working on a mural, some days I'm in my studio painting more, and some I'm locked to my computer. I try to get to my studio every day of the week, that is my happiest place. So there's no routine for me, lucky if I remember to brush my teeth at night.

 
 

Give us three of your favorite/most inspiring things right now. Could be a book, a food, a destination, a song, a person, etc. 

I just got back from LA. My first time really spending time there exploring. I left smitten. I felt incredibly inspired by all the colors I saw, all the textures of the plants, all the hand-painted murals, and typography. The streetwear was fantastic too, I was swooning over all the men’s and women's street fashion.

It’s a really energizing city and I’d love to see how I could start to work with some brands and/or spaces out there. Travel, in general, is always a huge source of inspiration for me. I always geek out about color, organic shapes, and good type when I go to a new place.

 I recently started to learn how to skateboard and I am feeling very inspired by that culture as a whole, and by my friend Terease, who is giving me lessons.

Watching her skate put me in the best mood, like “Hell yes! I wanna do that!” Even when she falls on her ass, I’m inspired by her boldness to try something physically challenging. That whole world is super interesting to me though and I’m finding myself paying attention to it a lot recently.

  

What are your future plans for your work? Where do you see yourself going 1,3,5 years from now and how do you plan to get there?

First and foremost, I really want to set myself up to be able to paint more. That's my first love and priority so I try to create systems that give me more space to do that.

Beyond that, I’d love to see my artwork in more environmental spaces: outdoor public spaces, restaurants. Making something super structural I get really jazzed about, I dream broadly about what that could look like.

I see some fun potential for textiles with my designs (pillows, rugs). Obviously, need to design socks, mostly so I can wear them. I have some pie-in-the-sky ideas for an Air bnb that I’m keeping in my back pocket but I don’t want to give away too much. I’m always dreaming of something! Not short on ideas, just time always.

 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Get ready for the most adult-y boring answer ever! Pretty much anything my accountant tells me to do to better prepare for taxes every year is a game changer.

Bookkeeping is not for the faint at heart and keeping track of everything has been CRUCIAL to not F-ing things up when it comes to tax season. It’s seriously no joke and a very unglamorous part to being a freelancer/business owner.

And how to save money for retirement as a freelancer and all that who-ha?! It's a lot to navigate as a single female business owner and my accountants and financial advisor are the people I try to keep close.

 

I’m always curious about this... do you have a team? Photographers, Painters, and/or other creatives that help you on a daily basis? If so how did you assemble that team and can you share with us a little bit about them and their roles. 

Honestly, for about 10 years I just did everything on my own. Design, paint, project manage, bookkeeping, marketing, processing, photography, editing, etc. Not only did I burn out but I also am not the best person for every task nor do I know how to do everything that needs to go into running a business and sales.

It’s only been in the last year that I have finally asked some talented folks to come around me and my vision/dreams. Some of that has looked like one-off business development conversations where you are really bringing some strategic vision to your 1-year, 3-year, and 5-year plans. Those conversations really energize me and can also leave me like “Holy hell, what is life?! How can I possibly do all of this?!” I’m a dreamer though, I thrive when I'm busy and always have lots of ideas. But also have to be very aware of my personal limits that could jeopardize my business or self.

 I have a few fabulous ladies who have come unto my team in the last year. I started by asking what are the things I CAN do, but that doesn’t NEED to be done by me and that I could delegate to someone else. I think it's also beneficial for everyone to give people space to soar in what they're best at. From that list, who could do those tasks really well and even take them into a new exciting space?

So I hired a studio assistant for a few hours a week, @gracekbeck. She focuses her time behind the lens and helps me handle all my style-inspired content, most of my art photography, and product styling/photography. It has been huge to have someone who can own all things photo for me because for one, I’m not a photographer but all of that eats into painting/design time for me. Styling, shooting, editing...it’s a lot of damn work! She also helps with everyday tasks like packaging, cleaning, organizing.

Also, one of my best friends who is an Artist herself @playscriptionsbymindyb helps with hands-on tasks more seasonally like making earrings, goofballs, and keeping my studio in shape when it goes through the ringer.

 Lastly, I recently hired someone to help me navigate the murky waters of all things social/brand collaborations and partnerships. It’s all mostly over my head, nothing I've done much of before! She’s the mega-manager and helps me dream big and put things into motion. Everyone is really just a few hours a week but it makes a HUGE difference to how much time I then have to paint and do the things that I do best.

To learn more about Ashley and her work please visit www.ashleymary.com




Nisha Btesh
Nisha Btesh

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