Hey there, friends! I have another big time treat for you because today we're talking to someone that I admire and look up to a LOT. Like, probably somewhere in that top 5 area. Her name is Ashley Walton and she's an art-director, graphic designer, ex-architect, counselor-in-training, amazing friend and all-around wonderful human being. We worked together for about 6 years at Journey Group in Virginia, where I basically just tried to mimic everything Ashley said and did. And wore. It's fine.
Ashley has a way with people. She really listens, gives incredible advice, and communicates so incredibly well, always at a level far beneath the surface. In fact, Ash, I'm not sure if you know this, but I credit so much of this business's existence to your advice and encouragement. Ashley's people skills were evident long before her recent pursuit of counseling, but watching her identify and develop the gifts that she's been given has been so inspiring to watch. I can't even imagine the number of people she'll impact moving forward.
Oh, and did I mention that she's a crazy talented designer and hand-letterer? And that she BAKES? And BLOGS? And that she's one of the bravest people I know? Honestly, there's nothing this girl can't do. Except for saying idioms correctly (inside joke, sorry).
Let's get into the interview, shall we?
Give us a quick background on who you are and what you do for work.
I am halfway between my 30 and 31st year of life, realizing that I am officially in adult status. Scarytown. Even though that means, for me, holding fast to my gold nose ring, showering fewer times and still believing that cereal makes for an adequate dinner. Most of my roots are in the state of Virginia, my parents living in Richmond, while my brother and I hold down the fort an hour west in Charlottesville – the best, most littlest city on the East Coast. You can quote me on that. I went to the University of Virginia, studying Architecture. But, after a few (grueling to the tenth degree) years in that field, I jumped ship and hopped onto the Graphic Design boat. It has been a wild ride the last six years. I’ve learned a ton about being patient with myself as I discover a new industry, about taking visual risks, and learning my unique voice. Which, has led me to discover my love for working with people, ironically. I am currently working remotely and going to school out in Seattle, for a Counseling certificate program. My hope is that understanding and being attuned to people better will help my work with clients (and duh, friends/relationships/family) as I continue to try to be a curious, purposeful listener. One can hope!
What about your work brings you the most joy and fulfillment?
There is something about the spark in a client relationship that brings me the most fulfillment. That moment when, hot off the press, you can deliver a beautiful and unique annual report that successfully speaks to their hopes and desires you spoke about several months ago. Makes me believe that the process is ultimately more important than the product, at least in the ways that matter. The process of being about to speak, feel heard and have someone take on those sentences to imagine on your behalf something crafted just for you. When done successfully, the trust that is built up there makes me have a big ol’ smile. Makes me want to keep building upon that with each project, continuing to innovate and imagine on their behalf. And though, seeing a building you worked on for three years be completed is a pretty bad-ass feeling, standing next to the pressmen as you see the pages fly off a huge press machine is a pretty satisfying result as well. Ink on paper fumes, hmm hm good.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
Great question. I’ll do a little list-icle (as I affectionately call it) and than chat about perhaps a few: Edith Piaf, Refinery 29 art direction, poet Mary Oliver, Seattle geography, Darling magazine, pure 100% yellow, Arley Cakes, and brightly colored sneakers. Random, huh? I have a major crush on the art direction found over at Refinery 29. It is fresh, bold and colorful, filled with shapes/textures/patterns that are so inspiring. And, somehow they find a way to make each little teaser box and feature article fresh each time. The special feature on Lena Dunham especially caught me off guard, in the best way possible. Their use of a bold color palette, dimension, set design, and movement all enhance the concept of the story. It’s amazing. Check it out. Secondly, I’d have to say my brightly colored sneakers phase is in full bloom, especially amidst a rainy (albeit stunningly beautiful) season in Seattle. It is unexpected and charming. Definitely puts pep in my step. And, helps to not take myself so seriously. Lastly, my dear friend Arley is taking on a courageous and and heart-warming journey to establish her own bakery phenomenon, Arley Cakes. She is working as a pastry chef at a local Charlottesville restaurant while taking on ‘free-lance’ opportunities on the side. All in hopes to one day open her on bakery that supports the jobs and story of young, low-income women. I mean, besides being completely adorable, she is a total rock-star and inspiration for many years to come.
What has been difficult lately?
Oh man. I’ll concentrate on the ‘lately’ portion of that question, as it’s been a growing but trying last nine months or so. As I mentioned earlier, I left the cozy confines of Charlottesville the first week in September and drove 3,200 miles to Seattle to start a Counseling certificate program. I had never been to Seattle, had only one contact, and was moving from a teeny-tiny city, to a much bigger one. Like, much bigger. Besides the obvious difficulties with moving to a new place, studying something so intense brought on the necessity for close friends, but who were many miles and three time zones in the future. So, I clung to the anonymity that comes with a new place for a sense of comfort and freedom. I adventured in the wilderness, gazed onto the water and scurried through the city with all its possibilities (and donut shops, duh). As I look to leaving in just two weeks, my current difficulty is the sadness of leaving a place that has gifted me with so much refreshment, space and comfort to play and settle into my own skin in a new way. I’m totally looking forward to those warm, familiar faces; but, I’ll miss this city and all its rainy glory. Where else can you walk a half mile and snag a vegan donut and amazing coffee, take a sailing lesson and sneak a peek of an enormous, snow-capped mountain (aka Mt. Rainier)? Not many places, I’d suspect.
What makes you different from everyone else in the world and how does that uniqueness manifest itself in your work and life?
This is a question that every person right out of college needs to ask themselves. Also on their 30th birthday. While I’m past both of those things, I’ll do my best. I am deeply, deeply curious about people and their interaction with each other, within conversations and within spaces. People’s way of relating to the world can tell such a deep and rich story if we are curious to engage them. My hope is to get better at recognizing where to be more curious and how to be open to engaging stories. Perhaps this will make me a better listener with clients, more sensitive to the needs and opportunities of friends/family/co-workers. I think my eyes are pretty wide-open and aware of about everything, every line on someone’s face, every fleck in their eye. I love faces and the expression and story they tell. I think the world is full of people who see (or maybe only want to see) one, maybe two notches below the surface. I’m more of a 30 notches below kind of person, if I’m allowed into that place.
What's your guilty pleasure?
I gotta put myself out there on this one. You’d think I’d be an intentional and artful music connoisseur, digging into the web blogs to find new, blossoming artists. And, while, on my best days I do listen to some unique talents found on my own, I absolutely love pop music. It’s all that plays in my car, typically, besides NPR (which, I realize is a stark contrast). Specifically, I’m loving Selena Gomez’s new album. It’s unique for her, has sweet beats, and I can’t help but dance on my own in any room in my house to it. Like, all the time. Pop music has a way of allowing myself to not take every nook and cranny of life too seriously. And, while I acknowledge I’m not a high school girl trying to find her sweet-heart captain of the football team, I sorta am that person. Which is playful for me to think about. With my bright pink sneakers on, duh.
Ashley, thank you for the impact you've had on my life and for taking the time to share a little of your story on the ol' blog. Love you lots.
Love & Respect,