BIZ CRUSH: Ashley Mary


The colors, the shapes & her love for a good vintage coat- that's how I stumbled across Ashley Mary & her art on Instagram.

If that wasn't enough, she's creates kick ass installations, teaches a class on Brit + Co, PLUS she's designed products you can buy at Design Loop & Target. So yeah, she basically does it all.

Keep reading to find out how she paved her path in the art world.

Photo by Kelsey Lee Photography

What kind of kid were you growing up?

I was a tiny ham with curly hair and dreams of being a star! I loved to put on plays, sing, and dance for anyone with a pulse. I loved to play with friends but honestly really loved just playing by myself too. I could play endlessly by myself. I did a lot of heavy make-believing.

How did that affect your artistic path?

I think I’ve always had plenty of creative energy and as a kiddo that expressed itself more as a performance and as an adult, it’s taken shape as visual art (unless you toss me in front of a karaoke machine). The energy has always been inside there though. I had a tiny art “room” as a kid, AKA a weird unused space in the basement. I remember making things out of boxes I would collect but I don’t have a lot of memories around making pictures more than the average kid. It was more structural exploration, things for my dolls or me to use for our imaginary worlds. I always loved arranging things into little collections and was particular about my settings and I think I do that now, but with shapes on a canvas instead.

If your story could fit into a 30 second commercial, how would it go down?

For the low low price of a Minneapolis girl born and raised! I went to school where I studied religion and came out wanting to make art. I think spirituality and creativity are deeply intertwined and when I make things, I feel the most grounded. Through a series of the classic 20-something achievements, mistakes, a quarter-life crisis, I left my job and went back to school for graphic design. After school I learned I loved to art direct, prop-style, illustrate and make a lot of things all the time so I decided to freelance my way through life. As time goes by, my art leans most towards painting. Here I am, learning as I go, how to make my art my business and keep my art as my heart and soul. When not painting I love to thrift, travel, dine out, run, and find ways to make things with my hands.

Photo by Kelsey Lee Photography

What ultimately made you decide to do the lovely thing you do?

It wasn’t an overnight choice but rather a slow boil. Art was always on the side, after-hours and it became that my spirit was heavy not spending more time in it. I wanted to move towards a job that allowed me to make beautiful things full-time, not just moonlighting. Being a designer and artist checked off all my requirements for a career choice. It was something I loved doing, something I had natural ability for, and something that kept me energized, challenged, and connected. I’m not perfect at my job. I can barely keep track of my receipts, I have anxiety through the roof but I feel whole in the work I get to wake up and do everyday. So I’ll keep trying it out.

Who’s positively influenced your path the most?

I have two answers. When I was a senior in college I had this instructor, Jen, who taught my Printmaking course. I hated printmaking. We had to etch into metal and use chemicals to print with ink and i was horrible at it and the process was far too slow for me. But Jen also introduced us to another type of printing that involved printing an image in reverse from a xerox copy. Enter in my obsession with collage. And she let me run with it. She saw these weird little collages I would make on paper and sew into and she fanned the fire. Told me to go rogue. And she has no idea what seed she planted in me.

My second answer is my sweet clients and customers. Every single time I make something and someone wants to purchase it or sees the potential for it to become something else, something bigger like a product or a pattern or a mural...every time someone supports my work, I feel encouraged to keep doing it. I not only feel encouraged but I am also sustained to pursue my work because of their financial support, whether it be big or small. Not to mention how kind and encouraging people are who send me sweet emails, come to my shows, comment on my posts. It all matters, all that good energy coming to me feeds back into my work, which I hope only keeps the cycle going.

Favorite part about working for yourself?

I love staying as busy as I want to be with work that matters to me and gives me personal joy. I always got bored, either with my workload or mentally, when I was working for someone else and the solutions were always just more busy work instead of intentional projects. As a freelancer, I can change things up, stay inspired, and take on as many projects or paintings as I feel satisfied to.

Most challenging thing about working for yourself?

Lately it’s wishing I had another person who could project manage, photograph, design, etc Knowing when and who to invite into things that I’m not capable of doing or am not the best person for the job (which is oh so many things)

How do you get your creative juices flowing?

Wake up in the morning! I tend to be short on time, not ideas. :) I’m most excited to make things right away in the morning though and don’t need much to get going. I do love going to art shows and museums and always find that I’m extra energized by that experience though. Watching other people make things is the biggest inspiration for me.

If you could be a fly on the wall to anyone’s creative space {dead or alive} who would it be?

The creators of Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Photo by Kelsey Lee Photography

Talk about a failure you’ve learned from.

I worked on a big collaboration once that I had to sign a contract for. I didn’t write into the contract how many rounds of revisions the client could have with me and I got walked all over. The project went WAY over the timeline and I spent a lot of weekends cancelling plans and working on it. Hardest lesson learned.

What’s one of your proudest accomplishments in business?

Getting my own self-branded products in Target stores nationwide. First cosmetic bags in 2015, then phone cases in 2016. Not as a collaboration with Target but through their vendors. That was insanely special.

What do you wish you knew when you first started that you know now?

Know the worth of your work and don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth. Worse you can hear is “no”.

What has been your favorite project to date & how did it come to fruition?

I got to paint my third mural as a part of a Super Bowl experience called ‘Sota Pop put together by Explore MN and Colle McVoy. Located on 5th and Nicollet downtown, the experience walked you through a series of rooms designed by other local artist, each representing a different season. I was given fall. It turned into this bright, abstract color cave with dimensional shapes and confetti guests could toss at the camera. it’s been really fun to see people post pics inside the space and enjoying it. I’ve been really getting into painting on a larger scale and doing an installation like this felt really special to be a part of. You can see more pics at #SotaPop.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen or experienced thanks to your career path?

I got to go to Paris and Saint Tropez last summer as part of a very special collaboration I did with a company in Saint Tropez. It was one of those once in a lifetime experiences and my first time in France.

What’s next / what are you most excited about?

I have three murals this month I can’t wait to start!

Photo by Kelsey Lee Photography

Time of the day you are most productive:

9am.

The app you couldn’t live without:

Instagram is a big part of how my audience connects with what I’m making, it would be harder to get as many eyes in front of my work without it. But practically speaking, Other apps I use a LOT are Dropbox, Mile IQ, and my bank’s app. Hate driving to the bank!

Social media outlet you love most:

Instagram

Favorite account to follow on this outlet:

I love so many! I follow a lot of interior designers, illustrators, and tattoo artist but my fav guilt pleasure is @subwaycreatures

Favorite internet radio station at the moment:

Last podcast I listened to was “Making Oprah”.

Favorite Netflix binge:

Just finished the latest season of Black Mirror, so dark and good.

Go to piece in your wardrobe:

I just snagged this giant vintage bulky winter cardigan that’s knee length, emerald green with an abstract black pattern on it. I’ve been tossing it over everything and channeling the Grey Garden vibes.

The coolest art supply you own:

Maybe my projector for casting images unto larger platforms.

Favorite medium to work with:

Paper and acrylic paint.

The best “hidden gem” in the community:

I never share this answer. Seriously. Because then everyone will go to it and then it wouldn’t be special anymore. HA!

Photo by Kelsey Lee Photography

See more from Ashley Mary here: Online | Instagram | In Person: Northrup King Building in NE Minneapolis

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