We see thousands of photos a day. Our Instagram feeds are filled with the perfectly polished coffee table and pumpkin spice lattes have made their cameo appearance in every fashion blogger’s ootd. We drool, we scroll, we repeat. It’s not often when we stop to notice something different.
In the overwhelmingly huge Javits Convention Center, I stopped.
This past spring, I flew to New York to get inspired by the National Stationary Show. The work of each vendor was exquisite. Though, after walking aisle by aisle, I began to notice a lot of similarities around me. I could easily spot the top five trends in the stationary biz.
Getting lost in the maze of the convention center, my senior designer and I found ourselves wandering into the SURTEX marketplace. Surtex is the global B2B marketplace for sourcing original art & design—where artists, art agents, licensing agencies and licensors connect with manufacturers and retailers to create the next best-selling products in every category imaginable.
The first booth I saw was Ashley’s. My senior designer and I both stopped – yes, physically stopped and looked (a rarity at these shows). Ashley Rodriguez Reed had something that the others didn’t. She had flare. Originality. Spunk. Complexity. Her work was captivating.
This summer, I got to know a bit more about Ashley and the inspiration behind her unique patterning. As an artist and designer, Ashley has set her goal on a surface pattern line full of textiles, wall paper, and more. As a teacher, she continues to inspire young artists and designers.
Tell me about your brand. What do you stand for as an artist?
I started to develop my brand in 2015 when I committed to building a business around surface pattern design. My style is meant for people who love art, color, and fun! I make artwork that is inspired by many different things, but my artistic style of using layering and texture brings a unique element.
I want my artwork to bring joy, inspiration and a sense of play into people’s lives.
I couldn’t agree more! When did you know you wanted to pursue art as a career?
I knew very early on that I wanted to be an artist. In elementary school, art was my favorite subject. It was the only class I could easily focus on. In college, I thought I wanted to do fashion design, but that changed to fine art. I liked the freedom that a BFA would give me. I studied printmaking and textile design before going on to my MFA in Fiber and Material Studies. Now I am a designer, teacher and fine artist.
That sounds like quite the full schedule. What are your day-to-day activities like?
Right now everything has been all over the place due to my move to San Fransisco. When I get back into a routine, my day to day would be teaching art, drawing or painting at my home studio, continuing to build collections, and working on my overall brand. With my fine art practice, finding time to work on art projects varies. If I have a show, I might be in a larger studio space screen printing and building on the weekends. The past 3 years I was teaching undergraduates as an adjunct professor at Tyler School of Art. That was an amazing experience!
This year, I had worked toward SURTEX by building my brand. I’ve always found ways to piece things together and continue to balance work and art making. It can be nerve-racking at times to have a lot of unknowns but it’s also freeing.
How would you describe your style? What inspires you most?
My style is a mixture of geometric + bold meets texture + illustrative. I’ve always gravitated towards pattern, lots of color, and layering. Nature is my favorite place to look. There’s so much interesting beauty in nature. There’s also the relationship we have with nature from how we cultivate it, shape it, and sadly destroy it. I’m interested in cycles in nature, growth, and transformation.
I also love fashion. Fashion is interesting because it changes all the time and it’s a way to express ourselves. I love seeing people take creative risks and wearing bold prints with confidence!
I hear ya! With several creative outlets available at your finger tips, you have to have a favorite. Which medium keeps you loving what you do?
My favorite creative outlet is printing. I love screen-printing without a plan. For example, I might make a few screens and then overlap and layer different patterns and create different compositions from them. I also like to play with different materials and see what they can do. In graduate school, I found that cardboard was in an abundant supply. I decided to work with it and see how I can sculpt with it. It was a challenge but the more I made, the better I understood how to push the material. I like that kind of process.
You have taken patterning to another level. What is it about patterns that you enjoy?
I’ve always enjoyed how patterns express so much. For example, if you see a certain type of pattern, you may be able to identify the culture and/or time it comes from. It is like another language that can tell us about a person, place, or thing.
Creating pattern is very stimulating. It is mesmerizing as well. Even though surface pattern is so prevalent, there is still a skill to designing a very interesting pattern. I like playing with structure and color. A good pattern has to be considerate of this.
I’m in love with your cod pattern (above pillows)! What made you decide to work animals into your new line?
Thank you! When I first started, I made patterns that were less illustrative, with only abstract shapes and designs. Then I realized how much I love and adore animals and illustration. About halfway through designing my collections, I really began to draw animals because they make me happy! I thought, why not start to draw them and see where it goes. A lot of pattern for children has animals but I wanted to make animal patterns that adults could enjoy just as kids do.
What goals do you have for your artwork? How would you like it placed in the design world?
I would like to have a line of fabric that people can buy yardage from and make anything they want with it such as bags, pillows, or clothing. I see my work as many types of products and it would be amazing to see what other people do with them. I want the patterns to be used creatively by people who like to make, style, and design themselves.
What advice do you have for emerging artists?
Keep making no matter what! It’s hard to find time when we have other jobs and life obligations. Creating a space that you can work in is also helpful. If you don’t make a place or set aside time, it will slip away. Stay connected to other artists and ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there’s something you want to know. It can be scary to put yourself out there but it’s the only way. Don’t be afraid of what other people say. I’ve had many moments where I’m thinking to myself, I must be crazy for making/drawing this. What am I doing? But then, I just keep going. You have to have faith that it will work out through the process if you stick with it.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years, I think I’ll still be living in the Bay Area and probably doing a combination of what I’m doing now. Teaching is a passion of mine and I want to continue to be an artist/designer and educator. In five years, I want to have seen my artwork licensed on a line of textiles and see how people have been inspired to use them. I would love to see my pattern on home interior textiles or wallpaper. I’m excited about where it will go! I’m looking forward to more collaborations with businesses, artists, and students!
The Quick 5!
A musician/band you never get sick of is: Pink Floyd
Your favorite outfit in your closet is a: jersey knit tank dress. So simple and easy!
Coffee or Smoothie? Coffee!
Beach bum or Mountain climber? Climb the mountain to get to a beach.
Role model: My mom
Find Ashley online: