Next Generation: Finalist, Ashley Buchanan

Next Generation: Finalist, Ashley Buchanan

Ashley Buchanan in studio

As it comes together, Buchanan’s work is a balance of labor and concept, tradition and innovation. Photo: Joshua Dudley Greer

Ashley Buchanan’s jewelry is elegant, restrained – and yet anything but simple. Those sleek, contemporary designs? Buchanan, who holds a BFA from the University of Georgia, is calling on the history of jewelry and iconic decorative motifs. In the studio, she combines labor-intensive, old-school handwork – cutting each silhouette with a jeweler’s saw – with modern technology, such as powder-coating and digital photography. The result is a body of work that reflects the present and speaks to the past, as it propels art jewelry into the future. 

Why jewelry? 
I actually began in sculpture in college, but after taking the introduction to metalsmithing class, I changed my major – I felt I could better control my work in jewelry. I’m also interested in how jewelry relates to the body and how that then relates to society, culture, and relationships. I also respond well to metal – the strength, the delicacy, the movement, the history. 

Four years ago, you quit your side job at a restaurant and became a full-time jeweler. What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? 
I love many aspects of what I do – connecting with people whom I otherwise would never meet, the relationships I have with other artists. 

But most of all, it’s being responsible for all aspects of my work – knowing that it begins and ends with me, that I have to make it happen in order for it to happen. That may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s very exciting and fulfilling.

What’s challenging? 
The same thing: being responsible for everything. If I don’t do the work, it doesn’t get done. I have to wear every hat – making, marketing, accounting, shipping, traveling. It can be a lot sometimes. 

Talk about a favorite piece. What makes it significant? 
Right now I’m in love with this new gradient chain. Sometimes I make pieces that feel different – they turn out exactly how I intended and mark sort of a turning point. My goal, always, is to strike a balance in my work of wearable craft, handmade jewelry, design, and fashion. 

Speaking broadly for a moment: What does this field need more of? 
Tough, honest, and productive criticism. Also, diversity. 

How do you define success? How will you know when you’ve made it? 
Right now I would say being happy, making a living, being proud of what I make, confident in what I make. 

When I’ve made it? When I’m able to make what I want to without worrying about how I will sell it.
 


Read more Emerging Voices Award profiles.