2016 is here. A new fresh start. A whole year of possibilities. A whole new year to be creative and learn and do things, and a bunch of new makers that I’m excited to share with you over the next few months! One of my favorite things about this interview is hearing how Ashley Nickels of Alphabet Summer started off in her creative journey. I love hearing the stories of how people started, how it’s different and unique for everyone, and that makes me thrilled to introduce Ashley!
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Ashley Nickels, and I’m a modern quilter, maker, and teacher. I grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I lived and worked in Spain for most of my 20s, and now I live in San Francisco. I grew up in a highly creative family and extended family. My mom is a diligent professional quilter and my dad is the ultimate resourceful DIY master, which explains a lot.
What do you make or do?
Besides making quilts, I also make and sell bags through my handmade business, Alphabet Summer. But to be honest, I’ll make just about anything I can put through my sewing machine! This year alone, I have made bibs, yoga mat bags, dopp kits, potholders, cloth napkins, drawstring bags, and have mended several pairs of pants. Right now I’m working on a multi-media series using fabric paint and quilting with black thread that I’m really excited about.
Where can we find your creations?
You can find me at www.alphabetsummer.com, at my Etsy shop, www.etsy.com/shop/alphabetsummer. My online classes are found at www.creativebug.com and www.creativelive.com. I’m also a huge lover of Instagram, find me there at @alphabetashley.
Is there an interesting story behind the name of your business?
Yes! A few years ago, when I was still teaching full-time, I was really in need of a creative jolt. So, that summer, I started my blog, Alphabet Summer. The basic guidelines were that I would do one activity or project for every letter of the alphabet, and then I’d photograph and document each one. I really fell in love with the process, and the most surprising outcome was that I discovered a love for writing. It was a creative outlet that I had never explored until then, and it has changed my approach to creativity.
How long have you been creating and is it your full-time job?
Geez, I really have been creating for my whole life. When I first started teaching (I used to teach English lit and then later Spanish), I started making and selling custom handbags to my friends and colleagues. There are still some of those floating around the world, I’d imagine! It always seemed like a “side gig” that was threatening to take over, but I couldn’t visualize what my life would be like without my teaching job. Then, after a lot- and I mean YEARS- of soul searching, I finally took the leap and quit my full-time teaching job. Now I am a full-time “creative-businessperson-in-the-making!”
When you’re not making things, what do you do?
You’d probably find me eating, or hiking, or playing softball, or watching reruns of Seinfeld…
Did someone in your family, a friend or teacher introduce you to your creative side or have they helped you along the way?
Well, my mom was an inspiration to me because she also quit her full-time job to pursue her quilting career. And she did it with two kids to support! I am grateful to have a family that believes in what I’m doing, even though it’s not an easy life choice. When you take a huge leap like I did, the road can be rocky, especially at first. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t have done it without the support of my family and friends.
Where do you find inspiration?
I truly do find inspiration in the world. Even if it’s not a tangible idea that’s formed, whenever I go on a hike or travel, my brain always starts to fire on more cylinders.
If money wasn’t an issue how would your life change with regards to your art?
Oh my gosh, I would just make things ALL the time. I’d probably take up painting and move to Provence.
What inspiring advice would you give to other creatives be they established or just starting out?
Be brave. Nobody gets the opportunity they never try for! Also, something I remind myself whenever I feel a wave of that oh-so-familiar “impostor complex” coming on is that there is room for all of us! There’s no other you or other me out there. Just keep being authentic and the rest is noise.