“I believe in an intermingling of aesthetics an ethics. Art has the ability to move beyond mere representations of the success or follies of our search for sustainability. It need not be merely a prediction of the death of our world but rather something that feeds into the creation of a more sustainable society by interrogating the very fabric of our choices and providing alternatives.”
All of her designs are handcrafted in silver and gold reclaimed from circuit boards. She is invested in the e-waste movement: the process used to describe the reuse/ recycling/ salvage of used electronics.
She explains further: “this is one the fastest growing municipal waste streams in the world, it contains both silver and gold, so it made sense for me to focus on circuit boards. Single source recycling has many advantages over more general recycled materials, it is easier to focus on developing more efficient and cleaner extraction processes as well as being able to be more accountable and transparent in the sourcing of the materials. We aspire to create easy wearing pieces that fit in with people's daily lives. Jewelry is not going to change the world but hopefully we can encourage people to think a little more about the provenance of the things they buy, after all our consumption patterns have very real environmental and social consequences. We are also very proud to be partnering with an amazing refinery and working towards cleaner and more efficient e-waste processing strategies. Proper processing is essential, there are just too many horror stories from around the world of the side effects for communities and ecologies as a result of a lack of education and equipment to deal with what is actually a very difficult and possibly dangerous process. All our pieces are handcrafted in our Woodstock studio using age old gold-smiting techniques.”
Ashley’s art is certainly not just aesthetically appealing in it’s uncomplicated attention to the essential elements, her creative journey and resources teach that us “sustainability can really only come from a more equitable and responsible assignment of resources. It is not enough to consume more sustainable products we need to interrogate our consumption patterns starting with buying less and buying better, longer lasting products. I think more and more people are starting to question how their choices are creating their world.”
Ironically, as a young child, I remember an important message in The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho, “At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what's happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That's the world's greatest lie.”
Ashley majored in sculpture at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the studied jewelry manufacturing techniques at Ruth Prowse in Cape Town
She stumbled into jewelry making by accident. She had always discounted it as an option because of the environmental and social issues associated with mining precious metals. Then one day she was visiting a friend and she just happened to be melting a crucible full of silver, she says “I was completely spellbound by its shimmering viscosity. I signed up for a part time course the next day and after one lesson in signed up for a full time jewelry design and manufacture course. Armed with technical metalworking skills and a background in fine art I knew the only way to bring together my dual passions of sustainability and crafting precious metals was to go it on my own and so 'Ashley heather' jewelry was born.”
Ashley certainly did not rely on fate to decide her course in life. She made a choice to follow her passion to give people jewelry pieces not only precious, but examples of an equitable and responsible utilization of resources that resonate their purpose.