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By Elizabeth Harry
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Designer, writer, educator, artist, entrepreneur: Ryan-Ashley Anderson is a whirlwind of energy. She is passionate about creative communities and dreaming big. Her line of jewelry, which you can find in the shop, is designed with sustainablility in mind. Her limited palette of materials - mainly glass seed beads, silk cord, and salvaged leather - are transformed into beautiful, minimalist pieces that showcase excellent design skills.

Read more about the artist, in her own words:


My name is Ryan-Ashley Anderson and I am, by day a copywriter and, by night, a maker. I've been making for as long as I can remember, and for as long as I can remember, I've used 'making' as a way to navigate through the world. It involves constant discovery, and therefore, constant self-discovery, and as a curious, creative person, that process is integral to who I am personally, professionally, and as a craftsperson.


Although not everybody in my immediate family was supportive of my creative quirks, I was lucky to have influences around me who continued to help guide me toward the creative so I could, eventually, become who I am today -- a person deeply in love with the handmade process, the handmade object, and with others who have chosen this maker's path.

When it was time to choose a major in college, I chose Creative Writing because I thought it would be more "practical" than art. Not sure what I was thinking, but I was right to believe that there would be more opportunities to continue growing my craft and learning new skills in the world than there would be opportunities to cultivate a writing craft. While I slogged away trying to get writing jobs, I continued to learn new jewelry-making and knitting skills, and eventually did get a job as a writer. No, I didn't write the next great American novel and I'm sure I never will, but I do get to write some pretty cool headlines.

Most days after I get home from my writing job, I do a bit of cooking and hanging with my pets, then I get to making. That's pretty much my life, and I love it.

What works do you most enjoying doing?

I have to say that although I deeply and obsessively love both the peyote stitch work I do and the knitted pattern-work, I love making my Drift necklaces because each one is made up of seemingly unrelated parts and pieces that, once assembled, fit together in surprising ways. It reminds me of the way we each are, individually -- seemingly disparate characteristics and conflicting values, but somehow part of a whole -- and that we are, together. The pursuit of the perfect object -- often found -- to fit just next to this other object is one that gives me great satisfaction. How does something smooth and shiny look so perfect against something rough and, at first glance, dull? I don't know, but it works, and the pieces are lighthearted. Sometimes you need lighthearted.

I also love teaching workshops, which is a whole other thing.


What superpower would you have and why?

I never know how to answer this question. Last time I was asked, it went down in print that my super power would be night vision so I could always win at midnight tag games, and I don't know where that came from. I mean, I've never played midnight tag in my life and don't really plan on starting now.

Ok, so, super power...

I think I'd have a built-in truth meter. It would save a lot of time knowing up front who's full of it and who's not. As it is, I have pretty good intuition, but as soon as I start to fall in love (yeah, it happens pretty often), or set my sights on something I really want (every five minutes or so), it's like I'm suddenly in the Bermuda triangle and that internal compass just... busts. In other words, it hardly ever works because I feel... a lot.

What is your dream project?

My dream project? Just one?

Well, over the past couple years I've been spending a lot of time thinking of ways I can use my craft for good, and I keep coming back to the idea of mentorship and sponsorship. Without the attention of mentors along the way, I'd be a very different person. In fact, I believe it was the difference between discovering happiness with and passion for life, and continuing to suffer, utterly, without hope for the future.

I'd like to open a gallery/makerspace that provides not only the space and tools for fledgling artists and maker business folks to grow their practices and businesses on the slim budget of somebody who's trying to "make it" creatively, just one puzzle piece at a time. The space would include a curated exhibition/retail area, a studio area, and also act as a workshop venue. Workshops would not only include DIY workshops for the community (which would in turn help cultivate leadership skills in artists and makers), but also professional development workshops for makers themselves.

Finally, I want to be able to incorporate some kind of youth development program into this mix. I love the idea of teaching young folk how to use their hands to make money. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing what your own hands can create from, essentially, nothing. I want to give youths the opportunity to experience that feeling and help them create a life that feels valuable and is filled with satisfying pursuits.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I have to list two pieces. Can you see a pattern emerging? Yeah, I hate choosing! They both came from my grandmother Arlene, to whom I almost totally credit the person I've become.

1. Whatever you do, don't call. This advice was specifically given the moment of panic right before my heart was broken by somebody I was falling in love with. In the moment I tried to convince her that if only they knew how I really felt, all could be redeemed, but it was an important lesson to learn that people don't lie about wanting to leave; and if they do, well, they've got some problems to work through. This practice of letting go and giving space has improved my personal and professional relationships as well as my studio practice. These days, I don't hold on so tightly to designs or ideas that just aren't working.

2. Ask for help every day. Asking for help does a few things, she said. When you ask somebody for help, it forces you to be vulnerable, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable is one of the keys to finding happiness and satisfaction in live. Additionally, it shows that person that you see value in them and recognize their strengths. Finally, asking somebody for help opens a channel between the two of you, subconsciously communicating that, now, they can feel free to be vulnerable and lean on you in the future without trepidation, without the fear that their vulnerability will be judged.


Thanks, Ryan-Ashley! If you'd like to purchase any of the jewelry photographed in this post, visit the shop or email elizabeth.harry@greenhillnc.org. Follow Ryan-Ashley's studio adventures on Instagram @smartandbecker


All photographs of Ryan-Ashley's studio (c) Mark W. Lilly

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