I’m Ashley Moore. I run Hummingbird Factory, a shop full of small-batch screenprinted goods that I make out of a sunny workroom in my Nashville, Tennessee, home. The first time I lifted a screen, revealing an image I had cut and printed onto a scrap of fabric myself, I was excited right down to my bones. I took that feeling and ran with it, finding time to screenprint and sew in the hours before and after my full-time job as a visual merchandiser.
With his patience and willingness to read instructions, my husband John is the one who actually taught me how to screenprint. He helped open the door to this work that makes me so happy. He is also a maker, and he created many of the devices in my workshop – like a screen register, a lighted exposure unit, and the screens themselves. Love takes many forms, and I see it in all the things he does to smooth Hummingbird’s path. Along with help from my mom (who’s not far down the road) and my brother (who once manned my craft fair booth with a broken ankle), my family has been dedicated to Hummingbird Factory in a way that makes me understand what family is all about. Hummingbird Factory isn’t just me and my screenprinted goods – it’s family, hard work, and love.
I started Hummingbird Factory after losing my job during the recession. Up until that point, I thought a traditional full-time job – working for someone else – was the plan. As scary as it was, being laid off allowed me to see a new path. I do still work full-time, but now I know I can create a future for myself and my family powered by my own hands and my own ideas. My eyes opened to my own resilience and determination, and I realized it really is all up to me. Small as it is, Hummingbird has been an outlook-changer.
The idea for Hummingbird came from a desire to make clothes with fabric I designed and printed. I love fashion design, but what really holds my attention is textile surface design, so I scaled back to smaller projects to hone my screenprinting skills. My plan is to gradually work my way up to printing fabric yardage, but for now I’m thoroughly enjoying the small goods I’m creating.
My background in fashion design gives me the skills I need to create pattern pieces for almost anything I want to sew. Simple, utilitarian, industrial images appeal to me, and that’s usually my starting point for a piece. I like to use images that people might not expect for a pillow cover or clutch: an old moving company sign, my mom’s drawings, or vintage packaging labels. I recently completed a custom order utilizing a Civil War-era Nashville postmark. Depending on the level of detail in the image, I either cut the stencil by hand or create a permanent stencil using photo emulsion. The latter has expanded the possibilities of what I can print, although I still like the imperfections of a handcut stencil.
Just like the images I prefer, I’m drawn to classic utilitarian fabrics, like canvas and ticking. My exterior fabrics are often recycled from jeans, heavy drapes, or tablecloths, but I almost always use recycled sheets as linings. After bringing together the best combination of image, fabric, and end-use, I cut, print, and sew – finishing each piece with a loop of twine, wood beads and a crisp final pressing.
I do what I do because I can’t stand finishing a day without having made something with my hands – even if it’s only dinner. Making things with my hands, whether it’s a clutch purse, skirt, or caramels, makes me feel whole and alive. I’ll try making almost anything once, and have ended up with things I’ll always make (laundry detergent) and others that I’ll never make again (my own pants).
There is an entire community behind the little orange rectangle at Etsy.com, and there wouldn’t be a Hummingbird Factory without it. Etsy is how I’ve managed to connect with customers, wholesale buyers, supply sellers, other makers, and advice-givers all the way from New Jersey to Switzerland. Opportunities seem to have an easier time finding me via Etsy, like brick-and-mortar shop owners looking for custom goods or major retailers finding me for pop-up shops. I don’t need a special representative or agent to garner these chances – Etsy has opened the door.
All photographs by Hummingbird Factory.