Welcome! + Studio Visit with Rachael Ashe

Welcome to the STUDIO VISITS blog series! I can't tell you how excited I am to launch this series...it's been a dream for a long time and I'm thrilled to see it come to life.

So what is it all about?

So much of making art is not actually about sitting down and making the art, it’s about all of the stuff that you have to do beforehand to get to that point. There are so many mental hurdles to jump (often set up by yourself), not to mention societal pressures, financial worries and whole slew of other reasons why your pen might not actually touch the paper, and your creative dreams remain caught up in a cumulus cloud somewhere over Vancouver. What I’m interested in is the different  rituals, strategies and support networks that makers have to get them to that place where they can actually create. How they let themselves have their heads in the clouds for a while, but they are able to pull themselves back down to the rich green landscape of action.

Where ideas are flowing through your veins, making your heart beat.

I believe in the importance of sharing and supporting each other in the creative community. That inspiration can be gained from seeing other people take their dreams and put them into reality, and that having some insight into this process is what can make it more real for you if you are sitting on the edge of fear, wondering if you should step into the unknown territory of the creative process. To borrow a line from my favourite podcast (Where's There's Smoke)... We are all in this together. Oh, and it also gives me an excuse to hang out and chat with some pretty amazing and inspiring people.

Stay tuned for more interviews with a variety of creatives, posted 2 times per month.

Photographs: Sarah Clement

Please meet RACHAEL ASHE! I was first introduced to Rachael's work when I saw her speak at Creative Mornings Vancouver back in 2013. Being a paper lover, detailed oriented person with a love for x-acto knives, of course I was immediately drawn to her work. Her delicate, precise, and skillful work with paper is breathtakingly beautiful. So without further ado, let's hear from Rachael herself.

Studio Visit: Monday November 2nd, 2015


Introduce yourself. How would you describe yourself as a maker/creative? How do you spend your days?
I describe myself as a maker, artist, and craftsperson working with paper to create intricate hand cut designs, and 3D installations. I split my time between a part time job with a tech startup, working on my own artwork projects in the studio, and dedicating time to volunteer obligations. My schedule is a bit all over the place at the moment.
On the days working for myself I typically start with twenty minutes of yoga, then breakfast while journalling, and a forty-five minute walk. When I get into the studio (which is the second bedroom in the apartment I share with my partner, Boris) I start by writing a to do list of tasks I want to accomplish. It’ll include things like writing a blog post, putting together a monthly newsletter, important correspondence, posting an item to the Creative Mornings Vancouver Instagram account, and notes on the piece of art I am currently working on. I try to spend the morning working on art and the afternoon working on administrative tasks.

Briefly describe your journey. Were there some pivotal things that helped propel you to where you are now?
Up until about seven years ago my creative outlet was photography, with a focus on creative portraits and self-portraiture. As I transitioned from film to digital, I felt drawn to more tactile work because suddenly everything I did was based around a computer, and I needed to do something more hands-on. I started by exploring collage work and over a number of years this eventually led to altered book sculpture, and paper cutting. I think the pivotal moment was realizing I did not need to limit myself to a single medium. I could be more than a photographer, and whatever medium I work with in the present doesn’t forever define what I do as an artist.

I think the pivotal moment was realizing I did not need to limit myself to a single medium. I could be more than a photographer, and whatever medium I work with in the present doesn’t forever define what I do as an artist.

Have you always had a love for paper? How important are the materials that you use?

Oh yes, I’ve always had a love of paper. In the days before it became the focus of my work I was always drawn to paper goods, and would collect things like notebooks, stationery, and random bits of paper I found interesting.
I’m inspired by the materials I work with rather than getting inspired and then finding the materials I need. I often prefer to work with white paper because the designs I create are so intricate they become overwhelming when colour is added.

Do you have any rituals or a routine that helps ground you & primes your creative mind?

I do a crazy amount of walking to the point where it’s how I get around 95% of the time. It’s an important part of my daily routine, and I get antsy if I haven’t had a walk. I think it keeps me mentally healthy on those dreary fall and winter days. It’s also a great time for working through problems, letting go of stress, or even thinking through ideas. If I’m stuck on a problem with something I’m working on I can often figure out a solution by going for a walk.

Fear and uncertainty seem to be an innate part of the creative process. How do you confront your fears, instead of letting them stop you?

Confronting fear and uncertainty is something creative people have to do on a regular basis. I think we all feel only as good as the most recently completed piece of work, and the more time that passes between projects the less certain we feel about how good we are. The time between projects is as important to the work as making the art.
I confront my fears in different ways, depending on what I’m worried about. Sometimes I talk to artist friends because I know they have similar struggles. At other times I just sit down and work on something and put aside my expectations. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I make art because I love it.

Confronting fear and uncertainty is something creative people have to do on a regular basis.

What kinds of activities/interests do you have outside of your actual art practice, that you feel informs or inspires your work?
I’ve been a volunteer with CreativeMornings/Vancouver for almost three years, and my involvement with the organization has inspired me in many ways. I learned how to overcome a lifelong fear of public speaking through the process of putting together a talk for Creative Mornings in December 2013. It’s led me to organizing my own speaker events, including an evening of eight artists participating in the Eastside Culture Crawl. Artists often hate to speak publicly about their work, but we need to do it because it makes what we do more accessible to our audience.
I love making things outside of art, and for the last few years I’ve been part of a Sewing Bee that happens every few weeks. I’m interested in textile work and sewing, and would love to become better at it. This past summer I was inspired by Sewing Bee to learn how to make yarn from old t-shirts, and I ended up making two braided rugs for our home.

— Rachael Ashe

 Any exciting projects that you are working on?
I have two projects that got sidelined earlier in the year because of the artist residency I did over the summer. One is a paper cut installation made from a 7 foot roll of tyvek, that is only about a quarter started. It’s the second of three pieces I want to eventually create.
Another project is one I started during the residency which involved exploring pattern design centred around Japanese block prints, and designs used in Islamic architecture. This will eventually become a modular installation made up of small individual paper cut pieces.

Thank You Rachael!

You can find more of Rachael's beautiful work here: