We admit it. We Think.Make.Share-ers all have artist-crushes on Ashley Goldberg. So we were really excited to bring her in to Hallmark for a couple days to workshop, talk all things art, and get to know her better. We thought we’d let you in on our (slightly fan-girl-ed out) conversation and a few snippets from the workshops. (More on that later this week, so be sure to check back!) Read on!
What is your background? When did you decide to pursue a career in art and why?
I am a self-taught artist. And I have been a self-employeed, full-time artist for the better part of a decade. I have wanted to be an artist for as long as I can remember. I am also very practical. I didn’t know the term for it at the time, but I always thought more along the lines of applied arts. Or applied art with a mix of fine art.
I wanted to write and illustrate children’s books. I made handmade cards and sold them to a local boutique. But it wasn’t until Etsy launched in 2005 that I saw a real chance of making art full-time.
I observed Etsy for awhile. And then in 2006 I listed one print, and it sold! Then I listed another and another, and within three and a half months I was selling enough art to take a leave of absence from my bartending job. And then I never had to go back!
Etsy was pivotal in allowing me to make art full-time, but I knew fairly early on I didn’t want it to be defining. I didn’t want to be known only as an “Etsy artist.” I didn’t want any qualifiers in front of my name or title.
The road since 2006 has been a winding one. The economic ups and downs, the saturation of the art market, the changes in taste (both my own and my customers). Life changes. On that winding road, there have been periods of reexamination. What made me happy? What made me money? What could I be excited about to wake up and do again and again?
The answer was PATTERNS. I have always had a love affair with repetition, mark making, and color. Examining my work, I discovered I loved the moments when I filled in the hair on a drawing of a girl. Or I found an excuse to include a pattern somewhere in an illustration. And the timing was right. The world seemed to be growing as pattern-obsessed as I was.
So, with no solid plan, I started making patterns and sharing them on social media in mid-2011. By late 2011 and early 2012, I had jobs! I had created wall art and notebooks for Urban Outfitters in the past. In 2012 we created the “Ashley G for Urban Outfitters” capsule collection of homewares. It was one of their best-selling artist series. I think it really helped legitimize me as a surface designer.
I continue to work with a growing list of clients, and it’s been wonderful to slowly transition once again. I increasingly find myself creating both the pattern and the actual product design. The first time I got to send off a prototype was a really great moment for me.
Tell us a bit about your work. What inspires your look and style? Do you have any rituals when it comes to creating?
My work is many different things. But right now I think the work that is most recognizable as mine are patterns that have energetic marks. You can always see my hand in the work. I love color exploration and tension, and I lean toward simplicity and the abstract.
So many things inspire my work. First, and most importantly, is just what feels like me. What feels honest. Most of us who make art could make many different styles if asked. But it’s about keeping to that handful of styles (or just one) that is most true to yourself. Finding your voice. Staying true to my own voice while evolving as an artist may be an odd choice for inspiration, but it really is where I find the most inspiration.
Other places include nature, the Internet and folk art (most of my art books are folk art books).
My only ritual is emails, coffee, then art. I wish I had a more exciting one!
What tools do you use when creating your work?
Paint, pen, paper and the computer, mostly.
What is one of your biggest challenges as an artist/creator?
Accepting that I am a brand. Some people welcome the idea. Some people seek it out. I always just wanted to put my head down, work and let the art speak for itself. But I am learning more and more that I am factored into my art. That’s great! I am learning to really enjoy it, but as an introvert by nature, those are still waters I am learning to navigate.
Are there any current or emerging trends that interest you?
This may be a boring or obvious one, but I have enjoyed watching the neutral color palette go from cool to warm again: tans and taupes and camels and browns. Grey has had such a long run in first place.
What are next-step goals for your business?
It’s a cliché, but work smarter, not harder. I want to partner with brands I respect—and who respect me—and make product lines that are really great. And with that newfound-dream-free-time, work on personal projects like paintings. I have had a series of paintings in my head for the last year and a half, and I just need to make the time to complete them.
Any advice for aspiring artists?
“Be easy. Take your time. You are coming home to yourself.” – Nayyirah Waheed
I think that is great personal and professional advice.
That and be a good employee, even, and perhaps especially, when you are working for yourself. Set goals. Meet them. You will believe in yourself more every time you do.
Last one. No pressure with your answer. Is there a particular company or genre you dream of working with/on?
There are so many! I love paper and paper crafting, I love home décor, and I love accessories. Really, I love tchotchkes of all kinds. I would really love a craft line and a home décor line that are affordable and accessible. So, for me, that means seeing them stocked at Target. That might be the “big” dream.
I keep a running list of products I want to design and companies I want to work with. Lucky for me, I am writing a blog post for one of those companies on my list : )
Here, Ashley shares a mark-making exercise she uses to get her creative juices flowing:
Thank you, Ashley! It was so wonderful to have you here with us!
Photographs by Jane Kortright.