Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello! I’m Ashley. I am a self-taught paper crafter who recently moved back to East Lansing, Michigan, with my husband and our two little girls. We spent the last three years in and around Chicago, but I am so happy to be back in the city where I attended college – Michigan State University. We loved it so much that we just bought our first house here. I am absolutely a Great Lakes girl who loves snow and doesn’t tolerate humidity very well. I’ve always had a strange love for fresh office supplies and new stationery, so Ashley Pahl is where I create what I’d like to use and send to people myself.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
I chose to stay at home with my daughters and am home-preschooling them right now. Beyond that, as first-time homeowners we are putting a lot of work into our house and learning as we go. I love making a house feel like a home – it’s where I am most myself. I am also trying to garden for the first time. I’ve been writing about all of life’s adventures on my blog since 2008.
What would be the title of your memoir?
The Quiet Factor. I’m an introvert who was once embarrassed that I couldn’t be outgoing like my classmates and family. Over the years, I’ve come to see introversion as an advantage: solitude can provide time for reflection and dreaming – two essential ingredients in creating. I’m a maker, not a conversationalist. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive, but it’s what makes running a handmade business a perfect fit for me. It took time, but I’ve realized it’s okay to be quiet.
Where does your inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from everyday life – the material objects and natural elements that I surround myself with. I love coffee, trees, baking pie, collecting rocks – all of my daily experiences surface in my work.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade means heart. When I buy something on Etsy, I know that I am supporting someone’s true passion. Almost every time that I order from an Etsy shop, I get a thoughtful, handwritten note from the owner – I love that! I do the same for my own customers because it’s important to me that they know how much I appreciate and value their support.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
Growing up, it was my mother and Grandma Peggy. Both women encouraged my creativity and provided me with a huge variety of art supplies. I cherish the memories of doing art projects with them. Without them, I may not have developed the confidence to dive into a new technique and just give it a try. I got into paper cutting and printmaking that way.
In my adult life, it’s been my husband, Aaron. He has been nothing but positive during the process of starting my own business. He never complains when I take over the dining room table for days on end in order to fill a large order. He’s an endless supply of optimism and patience.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
When I was 22, during my final year of earning a science degree, I came to terms with who I really am. I am an individual who wants to turn ideas into tangible items that people enjoy, and I want to earn an income from it – all while staying at home to care for my children. I want to be my own boss, and I want to make my short time on this Earth meaningful on my own terms. That is the joy of being a maker.
How would you describe your creative process?
My ideas just sort of manifest. I’ll get an idea, write it down, and despite whatever is supposed to get done, I’m usually creating that idea by the end of the day. I don’t do a lot of product sketches or brainstorming; the ideas just come in waves. Luckily, I haven’t run out of ideas yet.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Rose Bertin. She was the chief dressmaker to Marie Antoinette, and I would love to have witnessed the design and production process of those masterpiece gowns.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
The artwork of my children. I’ve watched it develop from scribbles and smears to funny little heads with arms and legs, but no body. I’m charmed to get inside the mind of such a young person. I can’t wait to watch their skills and world views evolve.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I give in 100%. My ruts are never about a lack of ideas, but a lack of motivation. It’s burn out, really. Work-at-home moms spend their entire day caring for the children, which really only leaves nap time and after the kids are in bed to get work done. When is there ever time for relaxation, if you don’t make time for it? To get through those ruts, I let myself eat take-out and lay on the couch for a few nights. Before long, I’m sick of doing nothing with my free time and it’s back to work. I’ve learned I have to make relaxation a priority and schedule it in.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
In ten years, my kids will be in middle school, so I aim to be creating full-time. I also see my indie business evolving – I would love to be a mentor or coach for other mothers who would like to be their own boss and find their full potential.