Born in Dublin I came to Limerick to attend Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) which was recommended to me by my career guidance counselor, Ms Conneely, at Mercy College, Dublin.
After sitting my Leaving Certificate I took a year out, in order to decide what I wanted to do with my life, before making a move to Limerick with ambitions to study Fashion Design. I was definitely artistic growing-up. My mother was, and is, very artistic; indeed she worked as a seamstress for years so I think I picked-up my love of sewing directly from her. In fact, I always excelled at art and music in school, my old art teacher once telling me that she could see me taking over her job when she finally left.
Not surprisingly, I didn’t always know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
It was only in third year of secondary school that I decided I wanted to make clothes. I always knew that I was artistic, so it was my safe haven really. I was, and am, happiest when I see a drawing of a design come to life, whilst making it from start to finish. Some people get lost in a book, but I get lost in sitting with a sketchbook, sewing or working with fabric on a mannequin. For me, it all finally clicked when I found something that I was good at and really enjoyed doing. Indeed, I Just recently graduated with a degree in Fashion Design. The course consisted of design in both womenswear and menswear, pattern drafting, grading, and sewing on industrial machines. It also allowed me the terrific opportunity of working in London with couture designer, Ada Zanditon and the couture and menswear brand she helped establish, called; ‘Ada+Nik’.
Amazingly, I recently went to London Graduate Fashion Week, where colleges from all over England showcase their work via stands and runway shows.
Unfortunately, Ireland isn’t fully a part of it, so I decided to wear my graduate collection there to showcase my work and to put my best foot forward. I managed to meet lots of people who were very interested in discussing my work while travelling from Dublin was a big plus for engaging with a global audience. I really love attending exhibitions by other artists, whether it be well known or up-and-coming people. I’m a really big believer in artists supporting other artists. Exhibitions are inspirational, but being inspired ultimately depends on what mind set you are in at a given time (setting the tone for whatever you subsequently design). I’m definitely a bright, outspoken, colourful person and that is reflected in my work.
Being an artist cannot be taught per se but you can be taught the ‘tools of the trade’.
Instead, being an artist, or an artistic person, is something that almost always comes naturally. College isn’t necessary, but it gives you a stepping stone or platform to improve your skills and sets your foot in the right direction. I would always encourage people to pursue what they love, and if that’s art in any form, then that’s amazing. There is always enough room for more people to be artists. You can work with some amazing people and bounce ideas off one another. You also get this overwhelming sense of pride when you start something and finally see the finished product-you can then truly say yes I made that, I did that. Art is not like any normal nine-to-five job, you are always working, always thinking, always looking for inspiration, even in the smallest of things.
Overall, the economic environment is getting better and better for artists right now.
In fact, this country is fast becoming well known for developing artists, and more often than not, people who have travelled away to find work are coming back home once again. Ireland is so different to other countries. We are our own community really, and people always seem to be amazed when you say where you are from. I definitely think everybody should spread their wings and see what is out there first. Don’t be afraid to grow as an artist, and experience as much as you can. Limerick art is picking-up a head of steam and being noticed for its bright new talent. Incredibly, LSAD was featured in ‘Vogue Italia’ this year when they covered our fashion show. Artists from all sectors are being noticed, and the city is gaining a big reputation for showcasing some amazing people, especially in the art sector. LSAD is actually ranked in the top 100 colleges for fashion. That said, there aren’t very many jobs in my field, unless you enter the retail world. So, ironically, I am thinking of heading back to London once again.
Sources for my inspiration are everywhere but I always tend to go for colourful playful themes.
For example, in my graduate LSAD collection my inspiration came via Frida Kahlo and Mexican culture. What resulted were bright colours, amazing prints in traditional dress, and concepts drawn from ‘Day of the Dead’ as well. I definitely like to keep my work playful and fun. I like the idea of unisex clothing too, with my graduate collection being equally about women in men’s clothing and men in women’s clothing. Indeed, my collection can be worn by anybody, and all of the pieces work together cleverly or just on their own. Another big inspiration for me is Jeff Koons, whose work I love, and I was so happy that I got to see his exhibition in London. Overall, my work reflects my own personality, which is bubbly, fun, and probably a bit mad too!
For more information about Eden Ashley please see: Facebook.com/edenashleydesigns and Instagram.com/edenashleydesigns