Making a Living from Art (part 1) / by Emma Ashby

I had no regrets in laying down a successful career in fashion and textile design in order to raise four children. However, twenty years later, I found myself in a bit of a quandary. I needed an income, but was out of touch with the world I had left behind. Was there a way for me to put my previous training and creativity to work?

My love for the arts was fostered in me at a young age by my mother, who would regularly take me to London to see inspiring art exhibitions at the Royal Academy and the gorgeous window displays on Regent Street.

It led to a BA degree in Fashion Design and then a Masters degree in Textile Design at the Royal College of Art. My career was launched creating freelance designs for fashion brands such as Missoni and Aquascutum. I was then invited to become a full time knitwear designer for Jaeger in London. It was work that I loved. Overseeing the creative process from concept to final production was of great interest to me, even though the work environment at times was not too dissimilar to 'The Devil Wears Prada’!

 Part of my portfolio from my Jaeger days.

Part of my portfolio from my Jaeger days.

Twenty years and four grown children later, I found myself in a different country and a different season of life looking for ways to put my creativity to work. The opportunity came while volunteering my time for a local non profit organization that worked with the homeless in New Hampshire. It was suggested that I might create a series of mixed media artworks to be displayed in Starbucks to help raise awareness. I agreed and called the series "Heartwork"

 A detail from my 'Heartwork' series

A detail from my 'Heartwork' series

In this series I enjoyed experimenting with print and fabric, as I had done at college years ago. I wanted to create more three-dimensionality to my art, so I tried dripping hot wax onto the surface. This was how I inadvertently discovered "encaustic". A friend, seeing my use of wax, gave me a book about this ancient medium. I had never heard of encaustic before, but quickly fell in love with this amazing art form. I made a trip to R & F Paints in Kingston, NY, the mecca for all things encaustic at that time and over the last eight years have taken classes from some of the best. 

But was this something that I could make an income from? 

Stay tuned for the next installment!