studio visit: cynthia ashby

Most of the apparel we sell turns out to be designed and created by women, for women. Coincidence? Perhaps. Yet so much of what these women care about is evident in their clothing and it is not mere coincidence the clothing speaks to so many of us.

How did you get started as an artist/designer?

I’ve been doing this a long time, my whole adult life. I started when I was 20. I was always making clothes, as a kid, as a teenager. Once I got into college, I decided to try selling my clothes, starting with boutiques. It was an evolution for me.

I went to art school, the Foley Art Institute in Chicago. I didn’t go into the design program. I wanted to explore art while I was in school. I’m glad I didn’t go into design because I think it would have made me a lot less free. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, so I just did my thing. People really responded to my vision, and that’s what kept me going and evolving.

My original designs were much more primitive, and I used vintage fabrics. Half of the process was searching out the fabrics. At the start it was more “costumey,” really primitive, and all tea-dyed. Each piece was one of a kind, dyed in my bathtub. After I got out of school I met a rep who wanted to represent my line. So I made a collection. It was all very weird, pants with screws and bolts holding it together. That’s how I started and it just evolved. I did everything myself.

Are you designing for yourself?

At first, I was only thinking of myself. As people responded to my clothing, I began to see this tribe, and what these women want and need. I really do think about my customer (and I am my own customer, too). My clothing is for individual, creative people who want to express themselves. That’s why Artful Home is such a perfect fit.

Would you say your home is like your clothing designs?

I could talk for three days about my home. We bought a house on a whim; I met with a realtor, walked into this house and knew I had to live there. My husband was on board, too, so basically we felt compelled to move to this house. It’s a 130-year-old brick Victorian, and it has only been lived in by three other families. No one has messed with it. What I’m doing is restoring it by myself, room by room. It is simple, but also very primitive. I’m also a minimalist. I’m very selective about what’s in my home, very carefully placing things in the room. My house is a combination: because it is primitive and old it’s kind of folksy but my sensibility is spare.

By |2016-11-30T12:32:50+00:00January 1st, 2014|artist spotlights|

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