Meet Ashlea, an artistic Adelaidian motivated by any form of arts and crafts. Having been surrounded by art her whole life, Ashlea decided to pursue it as a career in the form of makeup artistry, snatching up amazing jobs with MAC Cosmetics and Channel Ten. Now well established in the makeup scene, she has recently found another form of art that she absolutely adores; homewares design. Have a read of our interview with this talented homewares designer as we discuss her up and coming business in the field, Copper&Co, and her plans for the future as an artist in Adelaide.
So, what motivated you to start Copper&Co?
I’ve always been artistic. I come from a family of artists; my grandmother’s an artist her dad is an artist and so on, so I’ve been surrounded by art my whole life. As a job, I am a make up artist working for Channel Ten and previously MAC Cosmetics, with freelance projects on the side such as weddings etc. Between each job, I had a lot of time off and I can’t not do anything, if you know what I mean. So, we had just renovated the house and I was doing a lot of art for the house keeping myself busy. One day, sitting on the couch, I was going out of my mind not doing anything and I thought, ‘How about I create an Instagram, pop my art on there and see what happens.’ God knows how I came up with the name – I love copper and working with the colour copper, so I knew I wanted to incorporate that somehow and came up with ‘Copper&Co.’ I ran down to the art store and bought some oil paints and canvases (at that stage I didn’t know I’d be working with wood). I was working with pots and stuff like that which was all very on trend at that time. It filled in the time – stopped me from going crazy. What started as a hobby soon turned into something cool; the reaction the Instagram page received and the followers it gained made me think it could really be something.
What is the process involved in making one of your amazing pieces?
Well I wanted to do something original, something that was different. It took a while to figure out something that hadn’t been done and find my niche. I originally went to the hardware store and looked at some woods, wanting to do round coasters. They couldn’t cut round so they said they’d do some square ones to see what I could do with them. I would get the coasters cut by the hardware store then I’d come home and sand them all (it’s the same process with planks and placemats). I always end up covered in sawdust after sanding! Then I’d varnish everything. The process takes a while because you have to wait a while for things to dry – its like literally watching paint dry. Once that’s all ready to go, I paint on them, deciding which designs I want to do. To get the beautiful clean lines, I’ll use tape. Then, depending on the colours, I’ll either work with acrylics and paint tubes or spray paint. Once they’re painted, they then get another varnish to properly seal them and ensure a waterproof casing so that they don’t stain! Then I take photos of them and pop them on the website.
Where do you get the ideas for the designs that you use?
Its hard to say, there’s not really one place that I go to to get inspiration. I love looking at different artist’s work and Pinterest boards. Being a makeup artist, I’ve studied a lot of ‘colour theory,’ so I guess I use the knowledge from that because it’s essentially the same sort of thing, only different because you’re not working with colour on a face, but a plank of wood or canvas. You learn a lot about what goes with what, what compliments opposites and all of that jazz. I guess you could say I’m always drawing inspiration from everything around me, really.
You said you get some inspiration from artists, are there any artists in particular that you would say inspire your work?
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Anya Brock, but she’s Australian and her stuff is amazing. She works with a lot of intense colour – I just love her work. When it comes to drawing inspiration from artists, I’d hate to think that I’d get so much inspiration that it would almost come out as an imitation of another artist’s work, so I really just keep my eye open and have a look at all different things.
What are the challenges you face working from home?
Well it’s certainly not ideal working in your living room because it does get a little messy, especially with paint. I also use the courtyard a lot, but the number one challenge would be space. I’d love to have a big studio where I could just wreak havoc, make a mess and not worry about having to scrub the floors or cleaning it all up afterwards. I definitely tend to get paint all over the living room floorboards and walls which isn’t fun! It’s lucky to have a bit of an outdoor area because of the fumes though, so I guess even if I did have my own big indoor studio, I’d still require an outdoor space. The fumes get quite intense during varnishing and painting. I’ve got a lovely mask and goggles that I tend to walk around the house in; it’s a good look…a little bit Breaking Bad!
In terms of expansion, what are your plans for the future with designing homewares? Are you looking to expand into other kinds of homewares at all?
There’s always ideas happening – there so much I want to do. One of the things I’d like to focus on is wholesaling to stockists, so not only selling from my own website, but being able to have my stock all around Australia. I’m stocking in two stores at the moment and I’ve just had a New Zealand store ask to stock stuff, so that will be my first overseas stockist which will be cool! Markets have been another big thing for my business. When I first started out, I was approached by Alpha Box and Dice, the winery down in McLaren Vale, and they were the first ones to really see something in me. So they said, “Come around and let’s have a chat about some sort of cross promotion.’ I did a weekend at the winery, managing the market side of things. Working with them was when I first started really getting into it and getting people asking me about my online stock. It was a really cool feeling because here I am, making something out of my own home, and there’s this complete stranger coming up to me telling me they’ve seen my products online and are planning on buying some. So, that’s when I really got the market bug. I’ve done the Gilles Street Markets twice and have a market this Sunday called A Boutique Life, which is held up in Belair. So in terms of selling, markets are definitely something I’d like to continue and expand on. When it comes to bringing in new stock, there are a few things on the go… but we’ll see what happens! There will be a few sneaky peeks here and there on my Instagram so be sure to check it out.
It was a really cool feeling because here I am, making something out of my own home, and there’s this complete stranger coming up to me telling me they’ve seen my products online and are planning on buying some.
So, where else can we buy your stuff other than your website?
Other than the website, I have the local markets as previously mentioned. I find the markets really good for business promotion because a lot of people respond better to seeing your product in real life than just in an image online. Then there’s also the stockists. Funnily enough, one of the stockists is in Port Fairy, and my latest stockist is in Cowell which is, again, far away. So it’s quite funny how country towns are interested in stocking my products. Definitely the focus is now moving a little bit closer to home, getting some stockists nearer to the city and getting the name out there.
Do you think you will continue being a makeup artist as well as this, or do you think if you had the option you would prefer to pursue Copper&Co?
It’s funny, if someone had told me even at the end of last year that I’d be doing anything like this or even contemplating the thought that perhaps makeup artistry may not be the way I’m going to go for the rest of my life, I would not have believed it. But I think if there was a possibility that if it did become something big and I could potentially just give up makeup artistry and work purely on this, I think I would. I will always love makeup though, so I’m sure I will continue to do the occasional wedding or two. I love working for Channel Ten, the people there are really amazing, so I’d also love to keep a shift here and there because I do absolutely love it.
In the future, would you think about opening a store?
Absolutely. If it got big enough to be able to do that, that would be the dream, and I think then I would be able to do not just the smaller pieces, but the big art pieces too. I’d love to be working on some larger artworks. While that vision may be a little far away, it’s certainly nice to have goals!