Amesbury native Ashley Conchieri followed her heart to a career in high-end textiles.
Textile designer Ashley Conchieri spends her days tucked inside a Beverly studio, perched behind a massive loom that looks like it belongs in Old Sturbridge Village rather than on the North Shore. But for the 26-year-old emerging artist, it’s just another day on the job.
“Sometimes, this process helps me think about a lot of other ideas while I’m working,” says Conchieri, as she delicately weaves merino wool through her loom. “I’ll come up with ideas for other fabrics I want to try.”
Growing up in Amesbury, Conchieri was fascinated by “anything that sparkled.” She took a few years off after high school to figure out what she wanted to do with her life and always came back to the same conclusion: She was meant to become an artist. Conchieri enrolled at the Massachusetts College of Art and found her niche in the fibers department.
“The whole time I was there, I was super focused [and] did a million internships,” Conchieri says. But after graduating in 2011, she wasn’t so sure her dreams of being an artist were attainable.
“For artists…it’s such an extreme; you’re in studios, and working all the time and then you graduate and you say, ‘Okay. Now I need to either figure out a way to sell my work and live off it, or get a job,’” she says.
But live off it she did. Conchieri learned the retail business while carefully cultivating her own creations out of felted merino wool and hand-painted silk. Her trademark design is the Armour scarf, a hand-woven, merino wool wrap. But some of her most unique work is done with hand-painted silk in a process she refers to as the “Slow Fashion Movement.” Like the Slow Food phenomenon, Slow Fashion focuses on quality over quantity, and ethically produced goods made of sustainable materials. Each piece is created individually, with love.
“I make all my own colors,” Conchieri says. “I actually try to source whatever I can from New England, and I think once you start to look at what’s around you, there’s almost everything you need. And most of my yarn comes from Maine. You get really brilliant colors with the acid dyes, but I do want to explore natural dyes and [their] the advantages. Naturals are basically made using plants, vegetables, or whatever’s available. Mushrooms, onion skins, indigo plant, even beetles.”
On hot summer days, you can find Conchieri basking in the sunshine outside her Newburyport home, where she can paint up to 50 yards of material a day. “I could paint all day outside,” she says. It’s a far cry from her days fresh out of art school, when Conchieri’s parents were skeptical about the bleak prospects out there for aspiring artists. But these days, their attitude has changed.
“[My parents are] really supportive, but when I first graduated, they said, ‘You need to get a job; you have to pay student loans.’ I think now they’re just like, ‘Wow, look at our daughter!’” ashleyconchieri.com