Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Makers Part 17

Making art is often about responding to what is around you and the final work is drawn from those responses. My next maker, Ashley Thorner is an accomplished artist whose practice includes public art work which involves the exploration of recycled materials and re-contextualising them as both a commentary on place as well as a physical part of it. These  processes are also evident in Ashley's latest project in which her skills and artist's eye for soft organic forms have translated into producing whimsical contemporary hats for babies and toddlers. Made from recycled fabrics, they have the same fresh energy and playfulness that match her little wearers. They can be found in her etsy store ershware


Can you tell me a little about your background? 

I live in Seattle, but grew up in California. My background and education is in Art and Design. I have an MFA in Art from Cal Arts and an MLA in Landscape Architecture from the University of Washington. I have been an exhibiting studio artist for many years, and began public art when I moved to Seattle. I also have a landscape design business with a focus on residential design.

More closely related to sewing and ershware, I worked as a designer and patternmaker for a toy company in Los Angeles. This is where I learned all sorts of nifty sewing and design tricks related to fabric and three-dimensional construction.

What do you make?

I make hip and modern hats for babies and toddlers. The hats are made from upcycled well loved T-shirts. I also started screen-printing as part of the process.

What attracted you to this particular medium? How did you get started?

I basically started my line ershware after making hats, accessories and screen-prints for my son and seeing the reaction of people out and about. Pretty soon, my son (and 
main model) become known for his hats and hip style and was recognized around town in the oddest of places! To me, this was a sign that this wasn’t just my quirky aesthetic, but that I was onto something!

How long have you been making?

I feel like I have been making art forever! Sculpture, installation and three-dimensional design has always been my focus. Sewing and designing with ershware is my newest iteration of making.

How does your practice fit in with your everyday life? Do you have your own studio space and when do you work and where?

In addition to working on the ershware line, I also do residential landscape design and public art (ershworks). And, like most moms, I am trying to juggle work and family – chasing after an almost three-year-old is hard work! My studio space is at home so that helps!

What are the best and worst aspects about working with this medium?
I am a self-taught seamstress and screen printer so it has been fun and challenging trying to create exactly the  designs I have in mind. I love the ability to manipulate a soft fabric into three-dimensional forms, making it a great material both for fine art and fashion. I have always been a three dimensional maker - I rarely sketch or design on paper - I just get to work making! This of course means there is a lot of trial and error, but sometimes these mistakes are so wonderful, and in fact make the design or product truly unique. I have always had a quirky odd aesthetic so I am drawn towards the imperfect.

Who or what inspires you?

Hmmm, where do I begin?! The answer is twofold. Of course I am inspired by my son - finding unique, modern, affordable and eco-friendly clothes for boys can be a challenge. The lack in the marketplace inspired me to get to work on my own designs! 

I drew original inspiration from my well-loved t-shirts! I hated to just get rid of my favorite ‘golden boy’ (Seinfeld reference) t-shirts that had such great imagery! I started with some of my husbands soft but misshapen Star Wars Chewbacca and Japanese anime t-shirts and transformed them into some bunny style hats.

After that, I started going on quests for more awesome old tees. I love the creative process, and especially love the thrill of the hunt to find just the right t-shirt to upcycle. This branched out into screen-printing, other hat forms, and other clothing items that I hope to start production on soon.


Do you get creative blocks? If so, how do you deal with it?

Ershware is still very fresh and new so I am overrun with ideas. But, of course, as an artist I have suffered from creative blocks. I love materials and processes, color and pattern, which are always a rich resource for me. I will try to draw inspiration from anything and everything including the mundane. Books, movies…I even had a sculpture series inspired by vacuum cleaners!

What other mediums would you love to explore?


What do you hope to do next with your practice?

Play with new designs and ideas! Improve my sewing and screen-printing skills - there is always something new to learn!
Thank you Ashley! If you are an artist, maker or collector I would love to do a post on you. Its painless!

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