Community. Engagement. Advocacy. Humor.
Ashley Buchanan is a jeweler living and working in Johnson City, TN. She is currently represented by numerous galleries and boutiques including: Light: Art + Design, Quirk Gallery, Heidi Lowe Gallery, and The National Ornamental Metal Museum. As a 2009 graduate from the University of Georgia, she gives a very honest take on her journey as a emerging artist working full-time selling her work. The majority of Ashley's sales are through craft shows, galleries, and boutiques, with supplemental sales through her website. For Ashley craft shows have been a great opportunity to reach a broader audience, gain immediate feedback (through seeing what customers buy and gravitate toward), meet other artists, and hear about future opportunities.
1. Please give a short bio of the path you have taken to your current state in life through education, employment, residencies, and other artistic ventures.
I grew up in Georgia and went to school in Athens at The University of Georgia where I studied art. I started school as a sculpture major and then eventually ended up getting my BFA in Jewelry/Metalsmithing. During school I waited tables, bartended, worked at a bakery, worked in an office…etc, and then worked as a studio assistant for my professor Mary Pearse - I also lived off of my share of student loans. After school I continued to work for Mary for a bit and then moved to Tennessee where I was able to obtain a “residency” in the metals department at ETSU. Basically I was allowed to use the studio in exchange for some studio tech work, etc. This was wonderful because it allowed me to do certain things that I wasn’t yet set up to do such as soldering and working with some larger pieces of equipment. During this time I was able to set up my own studio at home, which is where I make all of my work now. I will say that I think having a studio is definitely the most important thing, no matter the situation I have been in I have always tried to have some sort of “studio” – even if that just meant an old coffee table with a bench pin in my college bedroom.
Brooch 399, Hand-cut brass, powder coated charcoal, 2011
2. How where you financially able to make things work during your journey to where you are now? (teaching, unrelated jobs, selling of your work, financial support from a partner or family, loans…. please be as general or specific as you are comfortable with)
I waited tables and was a bartender for a while and then during the last couple of years of school I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to assist my professor, Mary Pearse, in her studio. This was the greatest because I was gaining tons of invaluable experience as well as making enough to money to live, along with my student loans and other ventures. I also always tried to sell my work wherever I could – in school I did all of the local craft shows and also sold in some local boutiques. Now I am selling in galleries, boutiques, online and I do shows around the country (mostly the East coast). I have always worked because it was and is very important to me to support myself as well as have the ability to make my work. I was able to save enough and finally quit my restaurant job last October, so I am now full-time!
5 pendant neckpiece, Hand-cut brass, powder coated yellow and grey, 2012
3. Please estimate the break down of the percentage of your time (in a week or month) spent in your studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, marketing, working with galleries, craft fairs, time with family and friends, or other relevant categories.
I always work in the studio and because of where I live right now, I don’t have too many distractions so I am able to work all the time. I spend at least some time every day in the studio and when things are busy the days get pretty long. I would say at least 60% - 70% of my time is spent in the studio making, drawing, scanning, powder coating…etc. The “business” stuff does add up though, I feel like I spend a lot of time on my computer and then I travel A LOT. I do around 10+ shows a year so that is at least 10 weekends on the road. Basically jewelry exists in every part of my life right now – it’s about all I do, the good thing is that I do a lot of shows in areas where friends and family live so I am able to see them when I travel for work.
4. Looking back at the opportunities you have had which do you feel have directed or benefited your current path the most? Are there things you would have done differently, opportunities you would not have taken, bigger risks you would have made, etc?
I still feel like I am in the “opportunities” stage of my career. I would definitely say that working for Mary during and after school would be the best thing so far – I really learned so much from her and from that experience.
I really feel like at this point I do and/or take advantage of anything that comes my way, within reason. I am trying to become more selective now though because of some of the experiences I have had - with selling and such. I would also say that studying abroad in Cortona, Italy was a big influence on my life. I was still studying sculpture at the time and was working with and amazing artist, Chido Johnson, who really helped me understand my passion for the arts and for making. Cortona was also the place where I was first introduced to a jewelry studio (and Mary) and realized that I wanted to be a maker forever.
SHNK038, Hand cut brass, powder coated charcoal with vintage dark chains. Necklace hangs 11'' from neck, 2012.
5. Where do you hope your career will be in five years? (Especially in relationship to the breakdown of your time spent in the studio, at related jobs, unrelated jobs, teaching, with family. Are there galleries you hope to be in? Have a solo exhibition? Have studio employees, bookkeeper, etc?)
I am still young, in years and career, so in five years I hope to be pretty established as a studio jeweler and have the ability to be selective. I love working and being busy but maybe it would be nice to have some interns or something to help out a bit. There are definitely a few galleries that I would love to show/sell in and I definitely want to have a presence abroad; that would be one of the biggest goals I have right now, to have my work in Europe, Asia, etc. I hope to have a huge studio space where I can spread out and get messy and then possibly be in a bigger/better city with more opportunities/culture! Also, I would love to eventually hire someone to do the “business stuff” for me - I can totally live without that.
Feel free to ask questions in the comment section. Also, be sure to view more of Ashley Buchanan's work on her website at http://ashleybuchananjewelry.com/section/227942.html.
First of all, there is nothing you can do about where you have been except to use the memories to your advantage. As far as where are you going, just go. Don't hesitate to take on new environments and new friends. In my 74 years, I have lived many places, done many things, travelled over most of the world, and met many people. I keep looking for more to go to, which includes things to do, places to see, people to meet and the unexpected is always welcomed. The more we put on our plate the better we are as an artist.