Dear Shaded Viewers,
Nick Ashley is a Legend. He was raised in Wales by two very creative and ambitious parents, part of his childhood was spent on a campsite in a valley living out of a tent along with his three siblings and later on a farm where he quickly developed a passion for motorcycling enabling him to travel to and from school. As his family business (Laura Ashley) grew he was exposed to life on the factory floor, which sparked his interest and fascination in clothing and the power of collaborative work.
He studied at Central Saint Martins University in London and then at seventeen years old he went on to work for the iconic Saville row tailor Tommy Nutter. Nick became the creative director of Laura Ashley at the age of twenty one, he then went on to start his own clothing brand called Nick Ashley, which revolutionised motorcycle clothing and street wear with its high-performance, smart materials and functional yet simplistic design features. The Nick Ashley flag ship store was opened in London and soon followed twelve Nick Ashley shops across Japan. In 2003 he started to design for Dunhill and then in the summer of 2012 he became the creative director and designer of Private White V.C, a British brand that manufactures all of its products in house at their factory in Manchester.
Nick is a family man, he makes sets and costumes for his daughter Lily’s plays, helps wash his wife Ari’s welsh sheep wool and is behind his daughter Edie’s new collection with Bolt London.
When Nick’s not designing, motorcycle racing or making people cackle in hysterical laughter he makes art in his studio in Wales. I sat with him and asked him a few questions about his work and his plans for the future.
Here is an interview I did with Nick:
Where are you based?
Where is your studio?
In my farmyard in Wales
When did you discover you were interested in making art?
I have been interested in Art all my life, at school I only really did two subjects: Art and Sport.
What kind of scale do you work with ?
I like working to a large scale, it allows me to be more free and expressive
What made you start making art on a bigger scale than usual?
I started working large scale for a mural as a backdrop to a theatre production , and I never went back ..
How do you feel about fashion?
Fashion is finished, the future is about styling existing clothes. There is much more scope for the individual this way, why should designers dictate how everyone looks?
People are wanting to have a closer relationship with the stuff that surrounds them, they want to maintain, repair and customise each item, then put them together in a unique way.
Do you think your fashion and art brain cross-over or would you say they are very different parts of you?
Fashion and Art for me are completely enmeshed, clothes are how you feel on the inside, displayed on the outside, Art is how you feel on the inside, displayed on the outside, these feelings and emotions have to come out somehow, it is the best feeling in the World to do this…
The clothing side of my brain is much more logical, they say that design is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration and I’m used to that…art on the other hand is the other way round. There is a way to cross over these two, but it doesn’t involve mass production or a factory.
Is there a particular feeling or emotion you feel when you’re in your studio making art?
When I am in my studio I don’t really feel an emotion until I start chucking stuff around, I don’t plan anything, I just let it happen, then follow the flow, I don’t let my brain or my logic guide me at all, I try to bypass them.
Do you have any plans for the future?
For the future I plan to do more art.. but I can’t just walk away from my beloved obsession with clothes, so I may have to find a way to incorporate both.. probably as costumes.
Can you describe your most recent or favourite piece
What do you like about it?
My most recent piece is a load of plaster that I have been moving around before it set, I now have to throw on some colour, so it’s as though I am building up layers of emotion, I like the way that working on this piece has forced me to not think too much about what I am doing, but then the setting plaster dictates that something has to be done by a certain time, having achieved that, I now have to take on the next stage…which in reality means taking myself on, with all my pre conceived ideas about colour, tones, hues and texture it could end up as a decorative piece, but I am looking for more than that, hopefully, I shall always be looking for that..and getting closer to finding it.
Are you going to do any shows?
If so, alone or group? And when and where will it be?
I don’t have a show planned yet, I would definitely like to have one sometime, but I am currently trying to develop my style so I am not ready yet. I would like to show in Japan and America, they might like my stuff over there.
Your studio is so beautiful, would you ever consider having a show in it?
I would have any amount of shows in my studio, but it is such a remote location that I can’t see any buyers being able to get to it.
Do you have any main inspirations?
I am inspired by my feelings and emotions, they change all the time, and I have a hard time feeling them, I like a challenge / to take myself on, so
it is a lot of fun trying to nail them down onto something.
What materials do you work with?
I like working with building materials from our local builders supply merchant. I find art material shops to be a bit small scale and twee, claustrophobic even.. I like to have access to unlimited amounts of large scale boards, and industrial vats of plaster and paint, the whole idea is to be free.
Is there a specific time of day that you like to make work?
I like to work in the afternoon, I can get all my chores done in the am, then have a clear head for the pm.
Would you say there’s a theme that runs through your work? If so, what is it?
I can’t really find a theme running through my work, after many years of drawing and more academic stuff I have settled on to a certain style that is a hybrid of sculpture, paint and colour. I’m trying to keep it elemental.
What do you do when you’re not making work?
When I’m not doing Art…I’m doing sport!
You can find out more about Nick Ashley and his movements via his Instagram page @nickashley57