Today, I chat with artist, designer and founder of GX3, Ashley Kinser, about her career and starting up the jewelry line, plus her thoughts on both local craft and fashion. (Photos courtesy of GX3.)
Gavin: Hey, Ashley. First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Ashley: Well, hey, there, I'm Ashley Kinser, 26 years old, single, proud big sister and dog owner. I am currently working as a graphic artist by day, jewelry maker and painter by night. I own a small jewelry company based out of Salt Lake City called Glitter Gutter Glamour aka GX3.
Gavin: What first got you interested in crafts, specifically in jewelry?
Ashley: I would have to say that I first became interested in DIY culture 10 or 11 years ago as a maturing graffiti artist and punk rocker. It was then that I started seriously pursuing art, sewing and design during this time.
Gavin: Did you take any formal college classes for art or are you more self-taught?
Ashley: I took a few drawing and painting classes in high school. I dreaded my painting class, which is funny to look back on now. In all aspects of my art and design work, I was mostly self-taught, with some great mentors along the way. I learned to paint by skipping classes and sitting Indian-style on my bedroom floor, painting anything sort of failure until FINALLY a glimmer of success. Repeat this enough and you can become a pretty good painter over time.
Gavin: How did you originally get involved with graphic design, and what was it like expanding that into a career?
Ashley: After high school, I began working for my mom at our family-owned company, Schmidt Signs, where I currently run the Art Department. I learned to design when my mother, who also happens to be my boss, sat me down in front of Illustrator and Photoshop and told me to figure it out by reading the manual. Somehow, I was able to do that and because of that I now have a great job and GX3.
Gavin: When did the idea come about to start applying those skills to jewelry, and what was it like for you first creating these types of pieces?
Ashley: About a year ago, a friend of mine with access to a laser cutter suggested we try a laser-cutting project together and the spark was ignited. It had to be jewelry. I have always had a mad love of jewelry, adorning myself with lots of pieces all at once, every single day, but I also knew I wanted to somehow help our community with my work. Growing up in a male-dominated society, specifically for me in the local art community, I felt I constantly had to prove myself to other male artists. A boy would ask me, "Oh, you write?!" skeptically, until he looked inside my black book, eyes widening a bit; he and all the other boys soon realized, GIRLS COULD BE GOOD AT ART, TOO! Women get a lot of heat from men; I see it all the time, expecting them to look or act a certain way. It is my intent with my designs to uplift women, empowering them to be whoever and whatever they want to be, regardless of what society wants out of them. Seeing my pieces out there, watching women be empowered by these pieces, has been the most rewarding part of this project.
Gavin: What made you decide to form your own business, and where did the name Glitter Gutter Glamour come from?
Ashley: Forming my own business was arduous and difficult and required some serious adult conversations, money and dedication. There were times I felt like giving up, overwhelmed by the amount of work and paperwork is required to get legit. But my passion for it really fueled it coming together as a real-life project. I mentioned earlier that as a kid I spent my days punking out denim vests, sewing patches and customizing my gear to be MINE, which is where I coined the term "gutter glamour" or "gutter glamourous," which is something I strove to be. I added glitter in with that rawness to add a flair of femininity and sparkle to this jewelry line's name.
Gavin: You launched the line about a year ago. What was it like for you first starting up and coming up with a line of designs to sell?
Ashley: IT WAS HARD ! I was on my own to make it all happen, which was both a blessing and a curse. I knew I could count on myself to do the work, but it was a lot of work to do all by myself. The designing part came easily, and it has been very rewarding to see girls rock my stuff, be empowered by it and spread the love around our little city.
Gavin: What's the process like for you when creating a new design, from concept to final product?
Ashley: I find most of my inspiration on the street, from conversations with friends, strangers, images I see in films, on the Internet, and old religious relics. When creating a design, I sit down with an idea, color scheme, or concept in mind, and then it just becomes about making something that pleases me that I know will please others.
Gavin: Considering the work involved, do you change things up before finalizing it or stick to the original plan?
Ashley: Art has a funny way of showing you exactly how it's gonna go once you get it started. My art projects always start out as a concept, and then as they get further and further dialed in, the piece shows ME where to take it. In designing, I've learned that the original plan always needs to be open and loose, to allow the piece its own room to change into whatever it solidifies into. The concept almost always rings true from start to finish, but the image is almost never exactly as my mind's eye as I said it should be in the beginning.
Gavin: You originally started out on Etsy selling your products. What made you go through them rather than set up your own website or sell to shops?
Ashley: Oh, money and convenience, mostly. It was expensive to get someone to design a site for me, and I wasn't ready to go that route until I felt out what kind of market I was heading out into first. Etsy allowed me to do what I needed to do without too much investment upfront. As far as selling locally, its always been on my mind to have GX3 in a few of my favorite local spots; it simply takes time and good relationship building to bring that to fruition, and it's coming slowly as GX3 grows.
Gavin: What made you start hitting the local fairs and festivals, and how has that impacted your business?
Ashley: Getting involved with Angela Brown of SLUG Magazine and Craft Lake City was really one of the smartest moves I've made thus far. I have had more opportunities open up to me through CLC than any other outside force. Supporting our local culture has ALWAYS been at the forefront of my priorities. Being SLC-born-and-bred, I hold serious value in our locally based art & fashion scene, and it just seemed natural to share it with people who felt similarly in that aspect.
Gavin: One of the biggest pieces in your collections is the “CU Next Tuesday” necklace, for obvious reasons. What made you decide to design that one, and what's the reaction been to it?
Ashley: As I've explained, I'm a bit of a feminist, my mission being to uplift and empower women in a patriarchal world . The “CU Next Tuesday” necklace is reminiscent of the 1970s feminist movement's work to "take the word back" from men, rendering them unable to use this word and other degrading terms against women. The derivative word actually comes from a very powerful place, once meant to uplift women and celebrate their ability to reproduce and therefore regenerate the world. We are trying to get closer to the original uplifting message, and further from making women feel crappy about themselves.
Gavin: Recently, you've started making your way into local shops, most recently with Purse Dreams. How has it been for you expanding the business to actual physical locations?
Ashley: Working with Jen of Purse Dreams has been awesome. She is a true spitfire kind of lady, a real joy to know. It has been very helpful to me to have a physical location here in the city that people can go touch and view in person the pieces they've seen online. I like that it builds community amongst us, driving business into Purse Dreams and into the 9th & 9th area. It feels great to work with other inspired and powerful women like Jen to make our city a better place.
Gavin: You're approaching the one-year mark in March. What are your hopes for the business, and where would you like to see it go in the next few years?
Ashley: I would like to expand a bit, design- and product-wise , but the most important project of this year for GX3 will be a sort of feminist seminar that I would like to put together for young ladies. I would like to rally some very influential local women and have them give talks on what it means to be your own woman. It is important to me to be a good helper. I love our community and I want its next 10 years to be brighter and more incredible for us who live here. I'd like to bring this event to young ladies in hopes that it will inspire our next generation of girls to step out and shine on with whatever they've got.
Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on the local fashion scene, both good and bad?
Ashley: I think people in our city are becoming more and more aware of fashion and experimenting with it in their own lives. We have been called some of the worst fashion offenders by the rest of the country, but it's definitely becoming less so. My own direct focus with fashion right now is re-creating old thrifted garments into new updated garments. I've found that I can stay on point with new trends by repurposing old pieces to fit today's needs.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make things more prominent?
Ashley: What could be done is already happening. As the younger, digitally aware, more fashion savvy generation ages and becomes the adult population in our city, fashion will naturally become more important, because it's been at the heart of that generation growing up. Those individuals pull the focus toward fashion, even in everyday life. It's a process that happens over time.
Gavin: What are your thoughts on the craft scene, and who are some people you believe people should be checking out?
Ashley: Gosh, we have a lot of super-talented people in our city! I am so blessed to know a lot of really amazing builders and artists. What we do here in our city really does affect the rest of the planet! As far as who to keep your eye on, I would like to say that Adrian Prazen is always making really great sculptural work and jewelry in his studio. Isaac Hastings is a very special artist friend of mine who seems to NEVER stop working.
Gavin: What's your take on events like Craft Sabbath, Beehive Bazaar and Craft Lake City and the work they're doing to promote local craft?
Ashley: These events are awesome! Though I've only been involved with Craft Lake City, I have to say that the general idea of a craft festival is so AMAZING! They are special because they open the eyes of the general public to what they, too, could be doing with their own hands. And it gives local artisans a great way to reach out to their community and let them know what they are creating.
Gavin: What can we expect from both yourself and GX3 over the rest of the year?
Ashley: Well, I certainly expect a TON of art to happen this year, I've recently dialed in a killer studio space that has changed my life. A ton of new designs, the seminar to empower young females, and a new guerrilla street art project are already in the works. Can't stop, won't stop workin'!
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Ashley: Yes, I'd love to let people know about two gallery art shows I have going right now. In association with Craft Lake City and the Temporary Museum of Permanent Change, I have created a large-scale public art work called "The Magician" that is currently located on the southwest corner of 300 South and West Temple, just east of Squatter's Pub, until the end of March. Secondly, I have a second gallery show running right now at Mestizo Coffeehouse at 631 W. North Temple called The Art Of Peace Pt. 2. Opening night is part of Gallery Stroll on Friday, Jan. 18 from 6-9 p.m., and the show will be up inside the coffee house until mid-February.
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