Scarlet & Brown Stories

Ashley Fendler Saville '08

April 10, 2023 St. Lawrence University Season 2 Episode 9
Ashley Fendler Saville '08
Scarlet & Brown Stories
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Scarlet & Brown Stories
Ashley Fendler Saville '08
Apr 10, 2023 Season 2 Episode 9
St. Lawrence University

Ashley Fendler Saville ’08 is the owner and founder of ANENOME based in Burlington, VT. A self-taught sewist, Ashley shares her passion for upcycling textiles, specifically quilts, which she re-purposes into beautiful yet functional handmade clothing items. While at St. Lawrence, Ashley was a Psychology major, a member of the rowing team and lived in Java. 

Visit Ashley’s Website:  | Instagram: 

Show Notes Transcript

Ashley Fendler Saville ’08 is the owner and founder of ANENOME based in Burlington, VT. A self-taught sewist, Ashley shares her passion for upcycling textiles, specifically quilts, which she re-purposes into beautiful yet functional handmade clothing items. While at St. Lawrence, Ashley was a Psychology major, a member of the rowing team and lived in Java. 

Visit Ashley’s Website:  | Instagram: 

[Theme Music Plays and Fades]

Dennis:  Hello and welcome back to Scarlet and Brown Stories podcast. I am your host, Denny Morreale. And with me today is returning co-host Megan Fry Dozier back from maternity leave and we are thrilled to have you back. Welcome back, Megan.

Megan:  Thank you. It's good to be here.

Dennis:  It's great to have you. I am personally very excited today because we have a guest that is, quite frankly, just a dear, dear friend going way back. We've been good friends since, at least, my senior year and kept in touch since then and she has been doing some really mind blowing stuff in terms of starting a business that has... Well, let me take us back a bit. I was at a wedding this summer with another mutual friend who was like, "Have you heard about Ashley Fendler who is now Ashley Saville..." Who is our guest today, "...Class of 2008?" And I was like, no, because I hadn't heard. She was like, "She has started this business and it has gotten huge." And I was blown away. I had no idea she had the skillset. Went on further to see that she has been featured in some really big name publications, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire magazine, to name a few. And so, I was blown away and so I couldn't be more excited to have her on the podcast. So welcome to the show, Ashley.

Ashley:  Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited.

Dennis:  So tell me, when did you kind of develop these skills, these passions?

Ashley:  I was thinking about it a lot the past couple days thinking about this and my personality and maybe how it relates to my academic prowess, and I think I was never a strong standardized tester, but I am really strong at open-ended questions and working within constraints like essay testing, academic writing, I was always really strong in, but so when I'm given constraints to work within, I feel like that's where I really excel. And so...

Dennis:  I'm very impressed that you built your website yourself.

Ashley:  It's a lot of work when it comes from... I mean, just being scrappy too. I'm always just of this mindset of... Which is how I started my business too and why I'm doing what I'm doing is, why would I pay somebody to do something I can do myself? It's always exciting to learn and be challenged and I felt, especially in the beginning of my time at St. Lawrence, like my first year, I didn't do so hot because I just didn't really apply myself. And I came from a prep school background, which I think then I was feeling a little burned out getting to St. Lawrence my freshman year, but...

Dennis:  Could I take us back there to... That's right, because you were Emma Willard, if I remember correctly.

Ashley:  Yeah.

Dennis:  Is that right? Who were you the night before you came to St. Lawrence? Who was that person and what was the sort of lie you believed about yourself?

Ashley:  Oh, I just believed that... I mean, I think it came from a place of being young. I mean, I think at 18, we all think that we know everything about everything. And so I think I had that about me, but also mixed in with that was a lack of self-confidence and just feeling like I was going to coast through and didn't really know who I was, and I think it took me a long time and by the time we met that summer before your senior year, I felt like I really started to get to know myself more. So I spent those first few years at St. Lawrence... I made a lot of great friends and I had some great experiences, but I didn't really have an academic focus. I ended up being a psych major and I declared a psych only because I had to declare a major and I was like, "This is kind of interesting. Sure."

So I think the night before St. Lawrence, I was just excited to come. My dorm parent at Emma Willard, I don't remember what year she graduated, sometime in the nineties, was Bridget Everly. She was my dorm parent and she went to St. Lawrence and just had told me a lot of fun stories about it and had such a great experience...

Dennis:  Interesting.

Ashley:  That really left an impression on her and it seemed like it would be a great fit, and she knew me well and I'm glad I made the choice to go. But yeah, I felt like I just didn't really know who I was and I felt like I dug my heels in around my junior year and figured out a bit more. And really, I mean, my career path has evolved so much. I started an M and A in 2020. A lot of people were starting new things in 2020 when we were all home.

Megan:  Thank you so much for sharing that. And I have maybe two questions to follow up on that, but were there any St. Lawrence experiences, maybe outside of the classroom, that helped you find your way or became those defining moments for you?

Ashley:  Yeah, I mean, really, that summer that I spent with Denny, when we met, I stayed at St. Lawrence. It was when folks were staying townhouses for the summer and doing their individual projects they were working on, I wasn't one of those overachieving people.

Dennis:  No, but you were there and that's what mattered.

Ashley:  I was there. But no, so I stayed on campus, I was working in the archives in the library and I just wanted to stick around for the summer. My parents had moved down to North Carolina and I never lived there, so I didn't really know anyone. I went back for one break and one summer after my freshman year and I just felt like I didn't really have anything waiting for me there. And I was like, "Oh, I can stay at St. Lawrence for the summer? Sure, that sounds awesome." So it was a really great experience. I mean, I worked and earned some money and enjoyed Canton in a time when, you know, you endure it all winter long, it's like, why would you leave? Stay and enjoy the beautiful weather. And I just really had no idea what was to come that summer and connected with Denny and Rob Menard, who ended up being one of my best friends and just this whole crew of us there.

Dennis:  It was a lot being on an abroad semester or something, you're just totally thrown in with some people. There were very few cross lines and then by the end of the first weekend, you've got a whole new crew of people. And particularly in the summer, you go from being kind of in a big well of students and there are a small portion of international students there. To the international students suddenly become the big population of students on campus in the summertime. And so, getting to meet so many different people in that way too was cool, and it's still my favorite summer I've ever had, officially, in my power rankings of summers.

Ashley:  Same. And I mean, there's been some epic summers, but...

Dennis:  There have.

Ashley:  It's not the same. I feel like the older you get, you lose your memories, things become a little soft but that just felt so formative for me and meeting these people, because we were, it's like I wasn't that... I dabbled in different things, I was on the crew team for a few years, but I wasn't going to do the sorority thing. No shade, but it's good for you, not for me. That sort of thing just wasn't me, and so I think that's why I struggled, especially the FYP I was in in the beginning, I just didn't have my people and I met some amazing people through the crew team. Like Chelsea, Isdell at the time, now Sweeney, is still my very best friend and we live less than a mile away. Our kids are at the same school...

Dennis:  Oh, that's lovely. I didn't realize you guys were that close now. I knew you were very, very good friends back in the day.

Ashley:  Yeah, so Kate Olson, Shelly Martin, Amanda Dudley. I met some amazing people through my years, but then I really felt like I figured out the crew team wasn't really for me. That level was pretty intense and I just started to fall away and then got involved with Java and was going to see music a bunch. But yeah, so once I transitioned out of the crew team, after the summer with you guys, I just felt like I had found my people and really leaned into that and it was great.

Dennis:  It's interesting because it's kind of blurred because you're meeting so many people first, but I have kind of a mishmash memory of just meeting the whole group is a wave and having like, here's this character, like it's a show and you're just having them all come out on scene. And your character, in my memory of the first time meeting you, is not someone who didn't know who they were or was in any way not a confident person. You were such a dynamic personality and I don't know... Yeah, it's interesting to hear your side of that story.

Ashley:  That's funny because now, I mean think I used humor a lot and I'm glad that came across.

Dennis:  That's what I think of you most. Even now, I have a very hard time keeping a straight face in your presence for more than a minute or two. Even when you're not saying anything, that's funny. I don't know why, but that's like my essential, when I think of you, I think of in underlying just smirking kind of something's going on under the surface that's sort of funny.

Ashley:  Well, that's a hell of a compliment.

Megan:  I'm a little jealous that I missed out on this summer. I may have been in middle school at the time, but...

Ashley:  Making me feel so old.

Megan:  I missed out on it. I'm curious, was there a defining moment of that summer for those of us who weren't there? For me, I think of, when I first moved to St. Lawrence, doing a sunrise hike with some of the slew GA's from athletics on Mount Arab. Was there something that kind of encapsulated that experience for you?

Dennis:  I've got one but I want to hear yours.

Ashley:  Yours first. I wonder if it's the same, I bet it is.

Dennis:  I bet it's not. So mine actually is... I'm just going to be straightforward. There was a lot of fun that was had, a lot of non-academic fun that was had throughout. We'll call it a work hard play hard summer. The defining point, to me, came when... There was one particular townhouse that was exactly across from ours and it was almost like ours was the boy townhouse and that was the girl townhouse, and there was a fancy grownup dinner night that happened and everyone had on nice clothes and sat down very politely, civilized after a lot of just shenanigans going on for a solid week. And it was just like, huh, it felt like a bonding in a different kind of way. I don't think anyone was even having a beer that night because it was a Sunday maybe, and just making a really nice dinner as this big group and sitting out and eating together. Am I fully fabricating this memory or does this ring a bell?

Ashley:  No, that rings a bell. That's legit. It's different from the memory I have. Not of that night, but the solidifying memory for me, it is different. You're right. Mine's less classy.

Dennis:  Is yours Sandbanks related?

Ashley:  Yes.

Dennis:  Yeah, that would've been my second. Yeah.

Ashley:  We just had a great time.

Dennis:  Yeah.

Ashley:  Sandbanks, very integral. A lot of trips down there.

Dennis:  It's true. There really were. Yeah, one of my fan favorite photos that I have from college is, I think, this place down there with a big bonfire and 25 of us all kind of having a great time. So that summer that we've been talking about, so far, happened, really, at the halfway point in this really elegant way, between your sophomore and junior. Thinking forward the night before graduation, who were you then and what was the lie you believed about yourself?

Ashley:  I was living in Java and I'm trying to remember when the job that I got out of St. Lawrence, I don't think I had gotten yet. So I think I felt more sure of myself. I had met my people and I had had a great last two years. The lie that I was telling myself was, I was more confident, but then coming from a place of insecurity differently, not so much in myself, but about... Even though I was about to graduate, I remember kind of feeling like I was failing because I didn't have these concrete plans. I didn't know if I was going to go to grad school. I didn't know exactly what I was going to do. I was getting this degree and I felt very proud, but I still was like, "Ugh, I don't know exactly what I'm going to do. Does this make me a failure in this way?"

And it certainly does not. I think that's the thing that comes with age. It's so cliche, but the older you get, the more time you realize you have, even though it's less, but it's like, you realize how young you really were then, and it's like, oh, nobody, barely anyone really knows what they're doing basically, unless you're going to be a doctor or lawyer or something like that. Most people don't know exactly what they're going to do going to do, and you don't have to know then. So I wish that I had been more confident in that moment being like, I'm going to have these experiences and they're going to contribute. It's great to have that foundation of a degree, but you really got to learn some things about yourself in the world to figure it out.

Megan:  So, I feel like maybe we're burying the lead a little bit here, but I am really curious, Ashley, about your work at Anemone. Could you explain, for our listeners who maybe don't know your work, what it is you do and sort of how you arrived there?

Ashley:  Sure, sure. I would be surprised if people knew really, it would be cool if they did. It's pretty niche but I work with old antique and vintage textiles, primarily old quilts and transform them into wearable pieces. It started out as coats and now branched out into many different things for the sake of using up all the scraps. So making bags and hats and mittens and all kinds of cool stuff and stuff from unfinished quilt tops, old feed sacks and rice and grain sacks, all sorts of cool stuff. So to back up a little bit, I grew up in southern Vermont. My family owned a bed and breakfast for 20 years, so it was an old 1890s Victorian house. I grew up just thinking we had a lot of friends that slept over, had breakfast every day. Like, legit that's what I thought was really... It was a cool way to grow up.

So I spent a lot of time, I mean, Vermont has some old history here, and I remember going to raise the paddle auctions and antique stores with my dad and looking for old things to fill the bed and breakfast with. So I have long had an appreciation and love of old things. So it's that, and then it's liking clothing and thinking about how things are made, but also thinking about the environment and sustainability and the state that our world is in right now and making a difference in a small way. I think so often, people become paralyzed in the same way that you look on the street, you'd see somebody hurt and nobody ends up helping because they think someone else will help, I think a lot of times people get overwhelmed by this thought of, "Oh, there's so much that needs to be changed in the world to help our environment, but oh, it's all just too big. There's nothing I can do. Or even if I do something small, it won't really make a difference so I'm not even going to try."

But really, it's like if everybody made all these small changes, it would really have an impact. So the fashion industry, and textile industry in particular, are very problematic to our environment. So thinking there's already enough of this in the world, we don't need any more new materials. So looking at these old materials and using them to create something new. And for quilts in particular, so many quilts were made from old clothes that were worn out. So folks would cut them up and sew them into quilts to stay warm, and now it's really coming full circle with that and transforming them, again, into wearable pieces.

Dennis:  This is the part of it that sort of gets me in terms of the brilliance of what it is you're doing. I had a big stack of t-shirts and for 10 years, I entertained this idea that eventually I was going to turn them into a quilt or something, because I feel like that idea is very out there in the culture and it never happened, but I always thought that I was going to, and that seemed to be just sort of a natural order of things, that clothes become quilts and I feel like you did it the other way. I've never heard or seen anyone do what you do and to be perfectly honest with you, just hearing the description, it was kind of a head scratcher. I was like, "How does that work? Turning quilts into clothes?" And then I saw, and it's like, it speaks for itself. It's like your work is breathtaking, it's incredibly, and your Instagram is a great follow, I should add. We'll provide a link in the show notes.

But this idea, I've never seen anything like it, I've never seen anyone do it. Where did the inspiration for this come from?

Ashley:  I've thought about it a bit before, the idea of... I mean, just in mending things you have. I mean, in my own life, outside of that mending clothes that you already have, and if things aren't wearable, making curtains out of something or cutting up t-shirts and making dish rags for your kitchen, whatever the case may be. So I had the idea in mind and then it is... I'm not the only one doing it. There's other folks that are doing similar things with quilts or with old towels or upcycling other things. So upcycling, I'm certainly not the first one to do that. But to that end, I was like, why would I buy something when I could very reasonably do it myself? And I learned to sew on my grandmother's sewing machine when I was a kid and I've done a lot of knitting and embroidery and all sorts of things.

So I've dabbled in different textile arts just for fun hobbies. But then sewing, I mean it just really clicked for me. And I think for this season of life too, which I think is important, is like, revisit things because maybe it's just not the right time in your life. So I'd done sewing projects here and there, but it was really with this that I leaned in. So for that first quilt, I just found a quilt on eBay that I liked and bought it and I was like, "Here I go. I'm just going to give it a try and see what happens."

Dennis:  That's great.

Ashley:  Trying to make something wearable and it was like I made that first one and I felt like things clicked into place for me. I felt like this is what I'm supposed to be doing and I felt like... I hadn't thought about it from a professional perspective at that point. I didn't do it thinking... I was like, "I just want to make a coat for myself." I didn't think about making it into my job. But going back to what I was saying about the way that my brain works academically, I'm also a very visual, photographic memory, so I love playing with pattern and design and geometry, and I really like working within something finite. I like working with a set amount of material and a set pattern and then working within those confines to create something that's entirely my own, honoring the original pattern and fabrics used by the maker, but also playing off that in a way, maybe an unexpected way to make it my own at the same time.

So I made that first one and then I was just kind of hooked, and in my personal life, I'm not really a social media person. I haven't gone on Facebook in many years...

Dennis:  I haven't seen you post a personal post in...

Ashley:  In a long time, and then for my personal Instagram, I haven't posted in two or three years. It's just pictures of my kid. And then I got to the point where I was wondering about... I mean, that's a whole nother thing with social media and putting my kid out there and making those choices for him so I stopped posting on my personal. It's not like I have this big social media prowess or whatever, but just for myself as a visual diary, I mean that's what Instagram's all about. So I just created the account just to really document for myself and it started taking off, which is cool. I mean, people then started asking me if I sold them. And so, I actually ended up selling that original coat. I was like, "Yeah, sure. Why not?" And so, I started driving around looking locally at antique stores and stuff and when I could, and looking online too, where my parents live in North Carolina now, so there is plenty of old things down there, so they'll go to estate sales for me and stuff.

So I just got a couple at a time and then folks asked me, if they had a quilt, if they could send it to me, if I would make it into a coat and I was like, "Yeah, sure." So it was all organic, which is really cool. And now it's become this kind of inner competition with myself to never pay for marketing or advertising or anything, and just having it grow. I mean it's all a learning thing because again, I didn't have somebody to build my website. It all just happened over time. It all felt very scrappy, which I enjoyed about it. I love the challenge and I love doing things myself, and I was being cheap because it's not like I had capital. Nobody was investing in the business so it was like, I'm just going to build my own website. I bartered with somebody locally, a photographer, so the main photographs of my website, somebody...

Dennis:  I was going to ask...

Ashley:  Do that for me.

Dennis:  Yeah. That had to have been professionally photographed, I assume, unless that's also a thing that you did and you had a tripod and that stuff, but yeah.

Ashley:  Oh, I do now. Now, I take all my own photos for Instagram and whatever, but for the website, they're really nice pictures. A local photographer, somebody who had commissioned a coat connected me with her local photographer friend who shoots for some big brands. And so, I made her a coat and then she did a little photo shoot and then my friend and I... I'm not super comfortable in front of the camera, but yeah, my friend and I just modeled the stuff and made the website. Same with the Instagram. I mean, really, it's just me taking photos here in my backyard with a tripod and I bet my neighbors think that I'm crazy. Like this girl jumping around in her backyard taking a million pictures. The neighbor has dogs that have dug under our fence and tried to yap at me while I'm taking pictures.

Dennis:  So, I mean, I will say it's funny to hear you say that you're not really comfortable in front of the camera because I feel like your personal charisma, in the image, is such a big part of what makes your Instagram such a charming follow, honestly. And your work is obviously the core thing, but you have a knack for it that I think is really cool to watch. It's cool to see you grow into this persona.

Ashley:  Well, thanks. That's so nice to hear because it's so hard. I think when you're on the inside of something, I don't get a lot of feedback. I don't have this perspective of how I'm perceived or whatever, and maybe that's part of it. People have asked me before and people have interviewed me, not for a podcast, but for some other things, people getting degrees for their doctorates. A couple of folks have interviewed me about what I'm doing for their textile research projects or whatever.

Dennis:  Oh, that's great.

Ashley:  And just asking strategy on growth or how to do this or that, or what's the secret sauce? And really, I just think it's being yourself even through the veil of the internet. I mean, there's so many great things about the internet and so many not so great things. But on my little corner, I think the reason why I've grown a following is just being myself and, honestly, not caring. I really don't care and I'm just trying to be true to myself and I don't know what works so whatever. I just do what I'm going to do and I try to let things speak for themselves. That's why I don't partner with brands or influencers or any of this stuff because it just doesn't matter to me. I'm like, "Why would I do that?" I hope that my work speaks for itself and I hope people get a sense of who I am and that's why they follow.

And it's evolved over time. When I first started, I never photographed myself, I never had my face in pictures and not even for any real reason, more just not being comfortable in front of the camera. And then over time I was like, I don't know, maybe people want to connect more and then people do and it's cool. People really do. I've made some friendships there. People, I think, like to know who's behind the phone, behind the sewing machine and knowing that there's a person there, which...

Dennis:  They definitely do. And so, you are an artist. This is an art object that they want and you are the artist and no one else but you could come up with these designs. I'm fully convinced of that. You do put a lot of yourself and creativity into them.

Ashley:  And I do because other people are doing similar things, but I hope when people are drawn to me for commissioned work, that it's because of the way I'm doing things. And I'm very type A. I like saying I'm chill type A, but the older I get, I'm realizing that I am pretty type A about things and I want things done a certain way. I hold myself to high standards and I hold others to the same. And I realize coming, I do sell things at a higher price point if people look on the website, but I base my rates... I think this kind of goes in the line of sustainability is, I think the world, in the same lens, like my professional background before this, spoiler alert, it was in the beer industry for a long time. So in the same way, even with food too, that there's this focus on local ingredients, buying food locally, micro-brews, drinking and eating what's right around you.

In the same way, I think the veil has been lifted on fast fashion and the way things wear and how things are being made and by whom and what they're being paid. So another way the internet is great for that is it's really lifted the veil on a lot of this. So people are starting to put their money where their mouth is and thinking more about buying things that are thoughtfully made, made slowly. For this in particular, I find it really cool that people are investing a good amount in something that's old and shows it's age and character. It's not this pristine, perfect thing. It's something that shows the life that it's lived and I really love that aspect of it. Now I lost sight of the original question, but...

Dennis:  That's perfectly okay. So many kind of points come up along with what you just said that were interesting in and of themselves.

Megan:  Do you prefer the projects you do with found materials or maybe more of the commission pieces where the quilts are coming from your customer?

Ashley:  So when I started, it was definitely, probably, like 90% the commission work, just because I was focused on the coat. I've collected quilts, but I don't cut everything that I find. I also have a big personal quilt collection, so I just didn't have a bunch and it was just a side project at the time, so I just didn't have a lot of materials on hand. So it started out as mostly just doing the commission work, which I really enjoy. Some people are just finding quilts, but some have some rich family history, which is so cool to be a part of. Somebody's great-great-grandmother making this quilt, her initials are on it, it's dated like 1924. It's crazy and it's so cool to be a part of that history and transforming it into something that can be loved for many generations to come in a new way and become this heirloom piece.

So it started out doing about 90% of the commissions and now it's probably only about 20%. I just took a long break from commissions. I actually just worked on one this morning. So when I started and I started taking commissions, folks would contact me and I was just like, "Sure, if you want me to do it, I'll put you on my list, send me your quilt and it'll take however long it's going to take." And I have a schedule for myself so I ended up booking out for over a year. And so, at that point, I cut off the commissions because I was like, "Oh, it's great to have guaranteed income for a year and can make this my job." But then I didn't really like that first year, I didn't build in any vacation time for myself. And...

Megan:  Yeah.

Ashley:  And it just ended up being a lot. So I learned a lot and every year has been a whole learning experience. So the next year I ended up evening it out a bit more because I also wanted to leave room for more creativity too, because a part of that is making the coats, but then there's a lot of scraps left. So in thinking about that environmental piece and reducing waste, I never ever throw away any scraps. I find a use for everything, so using those smaller pieces. So balancing the commissions with creating different pieces, smaller pieces, but also leaving it completely open because I like working within the confines of that quilt and that pattern but having someone send me something maybe isn't necessarily always my particular style. So it's nice to balance with being given a quilt, like me choosing one and then seeing every step of that process and just really being inspired by what's in front of me to create.

So I like them both for different reasons. I mean, the commissions are a lot more stressful and anxiety provoking, just because you really only have one chance to cut so just being really unsure of your choices. So now, yeah, mostly once or twice a month I do website releases of pieces that I've made and then every few months I'll open up some commission slots to do that as well.

Dennis:  The hesitance about commissions, as much as the time piece and the dress of it, the opportunity cost in terms of what you are able to do your own creative ideas on is definitely a part of it too. And that's been really interesting just recently, in the last two or three months, I feel like the range of garments, the types of things you've been coming out with have been really unexpected and fascinating and you can really see the creativity come out, that you are developing all sorts of interesting new ways to make different sorts of garments.

Ashley:  So everything I make is just something I want or I have this idea for, have a need for or something, and I intentionally don't pay attention to what other people are doing. I don't want to be influenced by anyone and make anything that I just don't want to be really inspired by anyone else. I want my ideas to all be my own. But working with the quilts, have this idea of obviously being vintage and antique and kind of grandma aesthetic, which is kind of in right now, that coastal grandma vibe, but mixing modern silhouettes, it's unexpected. I make these five panel hats. So making those, it's pretty unexpected to think about this cool hip silhouette of a five panel cap, but then made out of quilt or making mittens that are lined with Sherpa, but making mittens from that or these aviator trapper style hats. So it's unexpected so I really like playing off the modern versus the vintage.

Megan:  I'm curious, Ashley, you've talked about fast fashion a few times here. Do you have advice for someone who maybe is experiencing that feeling of overwhelm that you talked about, that the problems of sustainability are so big, what can I do as one person? Do you have maybe steps one, two, and three that a St. Lawrence student or an alumni who's listening to this podcast maybe could think about implementing in their daily lives?

Ashley:  Sure. So, I mean, even just thinking about the things, particularly related to clothes, think about the things that you already have and, can you mend something? Can you alter it? Can you even cut your jeans into shorts? Something like that instead of going and buying cutoff jean shorts. Thinking about if something's past it's life the way it is. It has holes, it's thread bear. I mean, yeah, making some curtains out of it, making a pillowcase, cutting those up to use as dish rags. Small stuff like that. If you're looking to buy new things, don't buy new clothes. Look in secondhand, I mean, there's so many great things in secondhand stores and so much new stuff. There's so much turnover. I mean, even buying, it's like if you're going to buy something new for your closet, buy it secondhand, do a clothing swap.

I mean, those are really small things just related to that. That's not even talking about reducing your use of plastics or using bees wax wrap to wrap your food, that sort of thing, but really approachable things, just looking at what you already have and using what you have and maybe looking at it in a new way. If you think you have a need, look around you and see what you can use. I make these quilt cowls, it's like a scarf. I lost my neck gaiter thing two winters ago, and I was like, why would I go buy something new? I have all these quilt scraps, which has been why I ended up making a Sherpa lined one and it snaps on. But yeah, I mean, I think it can be overwhelming, but really just taking a look at what you already have and how you can use it in any way.

Dennis:  The thing that gets me about the fast fashion bit, as I've tried to educate myself more, are there materials that people should be aware of as they're looking into that, in terms of what makes for a good upcycled piece, if people are trying to repurpose things? Is wool or cotton better to work with than a rayon or polyester or something like that?

Ashley:  Yeah, I mean, you can work with any of those materials, but really, it's like the problematic piece are those plastics, polyester, because really it's just plastic that's melted down and then woven into fibers. That process is so problematic and the plastics don't break down. It's like, cotton, wool, linen, those hemp, those types of materials break down over time and those feel better on your body too. If you're looking to invest in new pieces, definitely, those materials are better. But really, I mean, you can upcycle anything. There's lots of cool stuff that you'll find in thrift stores from the seventies and eighties, and you better believe that's all...

Dennis:  That's true. Yeah.

Megan:  Do you have a favorite piece that you've made?

Ashley:  I get so connected to the first things that I make. Up until two weeks ago, I only owned one quilt coat, one of the original ones that I made. So they feel like my children, in ways. I feel this emotional attachment to everything I make because as Denny knows, art is so personal and that expression of something that comes from inside your heart and your head, that then you put out into something that you can feel and see out in the world, it's deeply personal. So I feel that connection to everything I make, but really, that coat, and then I made a coat for my mom from a quilt made by my great-grandmother over in Germany. So I made that into a coat for my mom, so that's...

Dennis:  Oh, that's great. Yeah.

Ashley:  But yeah, just these different... I made a seal, a stuffed animal. Sometimes I'll do other silly things. Like my kid, Henry, he's four, but I made him a big 20 inch long seal for Christmas, and so, he brings that to school and I told him that I filled it with all my love and so... Stuff like that.

Dennis:  That's wonderful. What advice would you give to, let's say, a senior who is getting ready to graduate later this year, who is interested in these kind of things but has no background, no skillset in it, but wants to do more of these kind of things and maybe dreams of trying to incorporate it into their professional life?

Ashley:  Sure. I mean, YouTube, really.

Dennis:  Yeah, that's right.

Ashley:  I mean, there's the internet, but YouTube, you can teach yourself just about anything. I mean, that's not joking, but sort of. But really, don't be afraid to lean into stuff and make time for yourself. I feel like we're always... I had this tunnel vision on what I thought success was and trying to get there as quickly as you can, or maybe not listening to things like your deeper interests too, or these fringe interests. You don't need to monetize everything you're doing, certainly, but leaning into other interests and carving out time for that. I'm a strong believer in, you get out of things what you give, so being intentional with your time and learning, it doesn't need to be the focus, but carving out some time every day, every week, every month, whatever the case may be, however you can fit it in and how it fits into your life in whatever season of life you're in.

I think, really, doing that for yourself. We live so much of our lives, professionally, for other people and trying to make a living in this grind culture and really finding something that makes you happy, whether you pursue it personally or professionally. But yeah, reading books, reaching out, anybody can reach out to me. I'm always happy to talk about this. But yeah, networking with folks and folks are always happy to talk. Anytime somebody reaches out and asks me questions, "Would you like to talk about this?" It's like, "Oh, this is so fun. I would love to do that." But yeah, being intentional and you're worth it, so making that time for yourself. Yeah.

Megan:  Awesome. Where can people reach out to you? Where can we find out more about your work?

Ashley:  My website, My email is there as well, I believe. It's And then on Instagram, I'm on there a bunch at Anemone.vt, or if you come to Burlington, Vermont too, I'm always gearing up for a beer. I might not work in beer, but I still love it, so...

Dennis:  This morning, in our group meeting, a colleague, Carly Stein, class of 2015, was in the meeting, and we were saying that we were having you on the podcast today, and she said that she met you at a craft fair in Vermont at some point in the past and didn't know you were a St. Lawrence person.

Ashley:  Oh, really?

Dennis:  Yeah.

Ashley:  That's so funny.

Dennis:  Yeah.

Ashley:  That's awesome. Yeah, I love meeting folks in person. This past year was the first year I did any sort of in-person markets since life felt a little bit more back to normal but it's so nice to connect with people out in the world like that. So tell people to always come up and say hi. I'm always happy to chat.

Dennis:  So if you're passing through Vermont, keep an eye out. Well, Ashley, this has been an absolute delight. Thank you so much for coming on.

Ashley:  Right back at ya. Thank you so much for having me.

[Theme Music Plays Over Credits]

Beth Dixon:  Scarlet and Brown stories is produced and edited by Amanda Brewer, Beth Dixon, Megan Fry Dozier and Dennis Morreale. Our music was written by Christopher Watts, inspired by Eugene Wright, class of 1949. Subscribe to Scarlet and Brown Stories on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Consider leaving us a rating review as well. If you have a story to submit to us, you can email us at