Ashley Thurman is a fiber artist from St. Louis, MO. She creates colorful woven wall hangings with lots of fun fringe! Read on to find out all about how she started her shop and her (excellent) advice for all of you small business owners out there.
Being a small business owner myself, I love to hear the origin stories of other makers. When and how did you decide to start your own business? What is your creative background?
Growing up I was always the “artsy” one in my group of friends and a supportive art teacher in High School named Mrs. Schuler was the first person who put the thought in my head that I could actually turn my creative passions into a career. In College I Majored in Fine Arts with a focus in Fibers, but after the birth of my son I purposefully put the art-world on hold for a few years while my husband and I tried to find our footing as parents and responsible adults. Late last summer I was browsing through Instagram and found someone had posted a weaving they had made and I had this overwhelming urge to get my hands on some yarn. I haven’t looked back since.
Etsy will tell you I opened up shop in November of 2010 with some fun antique painted windows, but I’ve only recently started to take this business seriously. It’s been wonderful to see it grow and discover what I didn’t know I was capable of.
How did you decide to focus on your medium & style?
During my first year of college I enrolled in a Weaving Course and quickly fell in love with the materials and the process. When you’re weaving you constantly have a hold of the yarn and the fiber and it’s easy to see the progress being made. There is nothing quite like the sense of accomplishment I get when I finish a weaving that took me 20+ hours to complete and knowing it came from my own two hands. Not to mention, the traditions associated with Fiber Arts and how it bleeds into almost every aspect of your life never ceases to amaze me.
My style is definitely still a work in progress. I rely heavily on color and will often decide on a palette before I even consider design elements. I prefer simple textures and designs over complicated ones, and have a firm belief that in most situations less is more.
Have you set any exciting goals for yourself or your business for 2015? What can we look forward to seeing from you!
New functional products and a website are on the agenda for the second half of 2015. I would also love to get some of my artwork hanging in a shop or two so people can see and purchase in person. FibreShare, an international yarn-swap, is one of my other big passions and we have some big things in mind for that project as well. You can find out more information about FibreShare on instagram at @fibreshare.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out in their own self-made business?
It sounds silly, but one thing I can’t stress enough is to keep going and never give up. I put my art career on hold when I started my family because I thought that was the right thing to do at the time. I can’t help but wonder at what point I could be in my career now if I would have just stayed the course.
Something else I try and do is to keep my head down and not pay any attention to what others are doing. It is one thing to gain inspiration from other artists and makers, but it is never productive for anyone to compare your beginning to someone else’s ending. It’s so easy to feel discouraged when you see someone else accomplishing milestones in their career sooner than you, making more sales, etc. But just keep working, and learning, and the opportunities will find you.
When you're not creating, what do you love to do?
I love spending time with my little family. My husband James and our son Tucker make me laugh so hard, and are always reminding me not to take myself too seriously. We love to hit up all the thrift stores, eat all the chips and cheese, and cuddle on the couch watching Dr. Who.
Lastly, can you share three of your favorite artists?
My husband James is my favorite artist (www.etsy.com/shop/jamesethurman). He started drawing comics when he was 6 and has somehow managed to hold on to his childlike creativity. I will be forever jealous of his ability to throw out the rules and just do what feels right.
Weaving related I would have to say Natalie Novak (combedthunder.com) as she was the one who who I found on instagram who inspired me to weave again, and Meghan Shimek (meghanshimek.com) who continues to inspire me and make me want to keep pushing myself.