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UO at Home:

Ashley G

Photos and Interview by Angelo Spagnolo

Ashley Goldberg shows us around her Portland home and talks about how the Northwest gloom inspired her new collection for Urban Outfitters.

This house is incredible, how long have you been here?

I bought it in June of 2010, so coming up on three years, which is pretty crazy.

Do you have a philosophy for decor?

My only rule is I really kind of hate contemporary things. It’s a lot of thrift shop finds and vintage — anything that's affordable and my animals can paw at.

Then I usually find like one piece of furniture a year that I absolutely love, usually mid-century, and slowly build a collection that way.

Are there similarities in the way you design a piece of art to the way you design your home?

I differentiate between patterns and even illustration or painting, because it's so much freer for me. Making patterns is the one thing I do that I can lose hours and hours to and there's no part that I don't like. Even if it's a disaster, the experience was fun. How it overlaps in decor is that in both I let things develop organically. I let both happen and they're both two of the most fun things I do. They both count as hobbies. When I'm going to thrift stores, which is so much of my process and inspiration, it’s that searching for something you didn't know you were missing in your life.

What did you do before moving to Portland?

I'm from Missouri. I was always in food service. I wanted to do something in art, but I waited tables, bartended – for a brief period I was a buyer for a vintage store. I made jewelry. I always wanted to do artwork but I didn't see that as my career, because definitely Missouri wasn't a very happening art scene. Then when Etsy came along it was like "Okay, anyone can do this." Especially if you were a person who was nervous about showing your work, it was a passive way of people accepting or rejecting it. They bought it, or you never knew that people thought it was dumb.

What did you start with on Etsy?

I started just with illustrations and prints of my work. Etsy also forced me to evolve and stay relevant. Like a musician's sophomore slump, I had to say "What's next?" and that led to the patterns and design.

So Etsy was the thing that changed art for you?

It definitely made it possible. It's hard because, nobody knew at the time, but you can get pigeonholed as an "Etsy artist," which is kind of like "Nuh-uh." But at the same time it's this platform that helps so many people who wouldn't be discovered otherwise. It was a really important medium, and continues to be important.

What are some of your artistic influences?

When I saw [Yoshitomo] Nara, I was like "Oh my God." It was both heartbreaking and wonderful. Then seeing Camilla Engman, I think her work is amazing. I think of all the people who have made careers on the Internet, I feel like she's definitely going to stand the test of time. And I love Bauhaus movement women's textiles. I don't love the art that came out of that period, but so many of the textiles, and the women's in particular, I love.

Your kitty doesn't come out at all?

She does. She'll sit on the couch and yell at us. Not in here, in her "studio apartment."

That's a great cat.

I think so, but other people don't.

What's your process for the patterns?

Typically it's either just drawing and scanning or using the Wacom [tablet] in Photoshop. I like to check my emails during bad TV. That's my one reward for myself. Painting, drawing, shipping, deadlines.

Do you do illustration for publications?

I have, but not as much. Right now the biggest thing is more selling to galleries and shops. Really trying to do more pattern design, with stores, with textiles. The process is really different depending on the project. I know there's always going to be two printing and shipping days. That's a constant. Every day a few hours of email, but I try to have some days of just creative stuff, where I don't have to worry and can just pattern for no reason. I make trips to the thrift store because I need to be visually overwhelmed with stuff, without having to actually having to own the stuff. Look through things, take pictures of vintage clothes and scarves for pattern inspiration. Then there's the boring part. Tax stuff, and budgeting, just the normal, what every business owner has to do.

That's the thing artists never realize about becoming "working artists."

Yeah, the creative ends up being the smaller portion of your work.

And you're working with people all over the world, in different time zones.

Yeah, my accountant is in New York and he's like "Call me at 9." Nine o'clock your time? But I keep the craziest hours, so sometimes it's convenient because I can talk to someone in Australia and it will seem totally normal.

How did the project with Urban Outfitters come along?

I worked with them in 2008. I did some wall art and journals. I definitely wanted to work them again, so periodically I'd shoot some emails like "Hey, here's some new work." And this new stuff resonated with the team, so I was really excited. I love to see my stuff out of my hands, brought to life. I can look at it more objectively. I can see their spin on it.

How does the rain of Portland influence your work? Does it contribute to the brightness of your prints?

It probably does. I really like it. I'm probably one of the few people that moved here in part because of the weather. I don't love the rain, but I love the grey. I love the eternal fall feeling. How the trees stay green. Back home the summer is hot, the winter is freezing, but it's also always really bright. It was so nice to come here, I literally didn't know that things stayed in bloom for so long, like "Why is that thing still on the tree?" The palette of Portland's nature seems more sophisticated than somewhere where you’re getting just harsh sunlight. I like to tell visual stories. I like color exploration, so I strive for sophisticated and subtle palettes, and that's parallel to what the nature of Portland presents me.