Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Schwebel.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Ashley. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
It’s been a varied, meandering journey to where I am today. I grew up in NY State, in Poughkeepsie, NY, which is about an hour and a half north of NYC. I lived in Buffalo, NY for three years, where I attended SUNY Buffalo to study Architecture. But after experiencing 50 straight days of snow, and wanting to work on something more tangible than architecture, I decided it was time for a change. I transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, RI, where I graduated from in 2010 with my BFA in Industrial Design. Shortly after graduating from RISD, I rented a small art studio in an old mill building that has a great artist community. After milling around on a bunch of unrelated art and design projects, I eventually found my way to working with concrete and making concrete jewelry and art, which I’ve been making ever since. In addition to art and design work, over the past few years, I’ve had many opportunities for teaching art and design. Wanting to pursue more teaching opportunities, I started this fall, in graduate school at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) in Boston, for my MAT in Art Education.
Has it been a smooth road?
When I first started making concrete jewelry, I didn’t know a lot about concrete or making jewelry. There was a lot of trouble-shooting for about a year after making my first piece. Not only concerning the actual making of the jewelry but figuring out my own style, as well as how to create in my own style in a way that appeals to people. I’m also not the most marketing-savvy person, and I’m sort of shy, so self-promotion has been hard for me. I also want to say that one of the most challenging things I deal with is depression. I feel many people discount or brush it aside as nothing, something that you can just “get over”, or that is “all in your head”. However, even with all the things you could think of to try and make it better, it can still be constant and debilitating and can make even doing simple things hard, let alone working for yourself as an artist.
Please tell us more about what you do, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I’m known for my concrete jewelry, but I’m also a sculptor and painter and just all around creator. I operate under the name “Design WhatHaveYou”- “what have you” is an older idiom meaning “and other similar things” or essentially, “etcetera”, and I find that, even in the creation of more “fine art” work, I continually utilize the design process.
I love working with concrete, learning about and exploring its possibilities. It’s a great material- there’s a lot you can do with it. And it’s everywhere, most people I meet have something to say about concrete, but haven’t encountered it in the way I work with it- making it smaller, wearable, and more beautiful, than people traditionally see concrete. Im proud of that, as Im a fan of concrete even in its larger, more brutalist forms, so its nice to connect people with the material, that maybe they were turned off from previously, or maybe never saw as something that could be beautiful. When I first started making my jewelry years ago, I googled “concrete jewelry” and found some things, mostly concrete inlays, but really found nothing like what I was doing. That’s changed in the years since, but I think my style is still unique- I go for a more “industrial” feel, and I incorporate images on some pieces and use semi-precious stones embedded in the concrete pieces, that I feel make them really stand out and draw people’s attention, even if they aren’t immediately aware of the material.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love that it’s a big city but still very walkable. And maybe it’s because I’m going to MassArt right now, but it got a very college-town vibe to it as well. I haven’t been in the Boston area long, but I’d say what I like least is just the expense of living here. As well as, for a city this size, there are not too many spaces for artists to work.
- Website: www.designwhathaveyou.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: instagram.com/designwhat
Me-Ashley Schwebel (all photos)