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Patriot Entrepreneurs: Ashley Begley '07

Today we are sitting down with Germantown Academy alumna Ashley Begley '07, who recently returned to campus to talk with Upper School students who are interested in pursuing a career in visual arts. Already a successful designer for the iconic Lilly Pulitzer fashion line, Begley recently set out on her own and successfully launched her own studio (Ashley D Studio) and brand.

To begin, tell us about Ashley D Studio and what you are doing?
Ashley D Studio is a design studio embracing the delicate blend between spirited watercolor and strong typographic foundations. I create event invitations, custom stationary, personal and commercial logos, textiles and lastly, fine artwork. My work converges both watercolor fluidity and applied design structure. With knowledge from my graphic design degree and the history of a fine arts foundation, I have built an interesting breadth of work through the lens of both a fine artist and a designer.

How did this venture come about?
I attended the Rhode Island School of Design and received my Bachelors of Fine Arts concentrating in graphic design and textiles. After spending a few years on the west coast, I was completely moved by the change of pace and expression compared to that of the east coast. When I came back east, I had the urge to start something new. I continue to evolve my recent work with a firm grounding in print and pattern. The structure from graphic design studies create an interesting dichotomy when combined with the whimsy watercolor hand from my textile work.

What is it like to run your own company? What are your days and nights like?
I went into this company with little preparation. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and how I wanted to communicate it, however I had no idea I would be so busy right out of the gates. Ashley D studio is still very much so in development in terms of our brand goals and company platform. I am still building my brand and the foundations of the company while at the same time managing incoming clients. This job in addition to my part-time job sometimes means waking up extremely early and going to sleep very late, but being busy is a good thing, so I don't complain

What is the inspiration for your work and what sort of products and projects come out of your studio?
I am still constantly creating and searching for new inspiration. For instance, I have been looking at old zodiac imagery and astrological maps. I love the line quality of a vintage map. There have definitely been some mishaps about starting a new venture along the way, but I think I am getting better with my project projections.

My work is dictated by what the clients is seeking. Then, I interpret what I believe their desired aesthetic may be and I put my "signature spin" on it. Usually clients come in knowing my hand and understand what the look will be coming out of it.

Tell me a little bit about your background...What did you study at Rhode Island School of Design?
I studied graphic design at Rhode Island School of Design with a concentration in media studies. It did NOT come as easily to me as the fine arts did. I knew it was a skill that I needed to garner in order to advance my career in the direction of print and pattern design. I continued to take all of my electives in textile design and painting. With that said, I took an internship at Cosmopolitan magazine as a graphic design intern one summer. I did not enjoy the work I was doing and realized this was not the direction for me. It was very valuable in that sense because I identified what I did NOT want to do.

After college, where did you work and what did you do?
I interned with Tibi (a fashion company in New York which used to boast a lot of print design). I also interned with Lilly (Summer 2010) and secured a job from that internship. IF you want to be a print designer, Lilly Pulitzer is the place to go.

I believe you are still working with Lilly Pulitzer on a part-time basis...what do you do there and how do you do it?
That is correct. I am still a print designer at Lilly on a part-time basis. So I go into the office on Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays and still contribute a great deal to the print assortment. Every other season, the print designers choose a place to draw inspiration from. Often times these are places that Lilly, herself, used to vacation or travel to (such as Key West, Capri, Cuba). We all go there together and basically soak up every bit of culture the place has to offer. This is what inspires our prints for the season.

Overall, what has the experience at Lilly Pulitzer been like? I imagine it's like a second and third education.
The company has grown so much since I started at 21 years old. I have worn many hats in addition to being a print designer. At a small company, you learn to do many different jobs for the profitable growth of the company as a whole. For years, my team went around the country to paint the walls of the fitting rooms (appropriately themed to whatever city we were in). I used to work on the catalogue artwork as well (utilizing my graphic design knowledge). I have designed laces, eyelets, and embroideries over the years. Everything at Lilly starts with a drawing or painting. We carry that creativity throughout everything we do. It is this approach which I bring to my work with Ashley D Studio to ensure that the creativity comes through at every stage.

What do you hope to accomplish with your studio work and brand?
I would love to license some of my patterns and invitation designs in the future. Things are in the works.

Lastly, how did your teachers at GA impact you and your career?
Mr. [David] Love had a huge impact on my development as an artist and designer. He encouraged me to explore all mediums and never questioned my means in which to be creative. He taught me so many foundational matters and pushed my passion. He helped me build my portfolio from freshman to senior year. I am so grateful for all that he opened up for me.

Read other stories highlighting GA alumni from our Patriot Entrepreneur series.