Portland boasts a great many talented women ceramacists and it almost feels wrong to highlight just one of them, but since I am, I’m glad it’s Ashley Hardy. With model good-looks, a pinch of rock n’ roll attitude, and a kind, open heart, Ashley is truly a Rad Lady.
I chanced upon her ceramic work a year or more ago and have watched it evolve from simple (though beautiful) minimalist shapes and colors to more experimental, and dare I say sexy, work. Case in point, Ashley’s latest experiments in organically shaped vessels glazed in dark, shiny chrome.
A former make-up artist, Ashley’s ceramics hobby morphed into her full-time passion while she worked on her education. Now on the cusp of graduating with a license to teach secondary art, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more from Ashley in the near future – and I can’t wait.
VGS: What was your path to becoming a ceramic artist / designer? If you hadn’t gone down that road, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
A: I am not sure I had a direct path to becoming a ceramic artist. My previous background was as a hair and makeup designer for theatre/film. I would have to sculpt prosthetics and make molds, use paints, highlights and shadows to create characters. I suppose ceramics always felt very comfortable to me. I had been accustomed to working with my hands, not afraid of getting dirty. Ceramics was something that I had as a hobby and blossomed into something more.
Currently I am venturing down two roads as I am working on my masters in education. I will be graduating this upcoming spring, with my teaching license in secondary art education. I am beyond excited to begin my teaching journey with art. I chose two paths, having my ceramics business and teaching high school art.
VGS: How has your style evolved since your beginnings? How did you come by your current style?
A: My style has evolved to play on shapes and silhouettes. I used to make more simple, delicate shapes. I feel like now I am trying to push the boundaries of “what is a vase” or “what is a mug”. I want my pieces now, to act as functional conversation starters. I think currently my work is a product of experimentation as well as inspiration I have extracted from what I enjoy about architecture.
VGS: What has been your biggest challenge in your work so far? How did you overcome it?
A: The time management piece! Typically each of my ceramic vessels goes through a 10-step process (sometimes more), so I definitely can get lost on how long pieces take. Some pieces are more intricate and I have tried to remind myself that I always take longer than I believe. I am trying to be more organized and work in a way that makes sense aka being efficiently productive. It is really a challenge.
VGS: Tell us about your typical day …
A: Oh man! My days are never the same! Since I am working on my masters degree as well as trying to run my ceramic business I try to have flexibility in my day. I have most days planned, you know, the goals you have to accomplish, and then have backup B and C lists just in case. I have a lot going on, as most folks do, but I am trying to balance my professional and person life daily.
VGS: How do you stay motivated?
A: I am a perfectionist in regards to my artistic work. I stay motivated by having the mindset of constantly trying to improve. I enjoying try to figure out what works, what doesn’t, troubleshooting ideas. Ceramics is probably the only thing that I have ever enjoyed testing with! Also, thinking about future projects and predicting ceramic trends keeps me on my toes and continuing to move forward. On to the next!
VGS: What are your biggest inspirations currently?
A: I am very inspired by architecture. Currently, I have been collecting inspiration from ceilings in buildings. Especially taking notice of high open industrial ceilings. There are so many shapes and shadows that occur from the beams, pipes, and metal. I am also into textures that have formed from thick layers of paint on the sides of building and alleyways- that has really peaked my interested in using textural glazes on some of my pieces.
VGS: What are your feelings about Portland’s creative / maker scene? What, if anything, could make it better?
A: The maker scene in Portland is really exciting! I think it really brings out a sense of community and allows for artists to be embraced as well as letting an artist’s work have exposure. It is a really special thing to be able to create and do what you feel passionate about. The maker scene is allowing this to be possible.
VGS: What are you doing to prepare yourself for fall + winter? [Ed Note: Interview was conducted in September]
A: Well, I am already in holiday mode. Literally. The holiday started about a month or so ago for me, so I have been making pieces and preparing orders! I am trying to take my own advice and stay organized. I am also thinking about some new pieces I would like to introduce this winter! So stay tuned…
Big thanks to Ashley for inviting me to her studio and for being so lovely! Check out Ashley’s website here and follow her on Instagram to see her newest works and occasional animated videos of her work in action – trust me, they’re worth it!