Justine Ashbee of Native Line
PHOTOS BY ROBBIE LAWRENCE
Justine Ashbee is one of those talents we’ve been circling around for years — first coveting a fine, copper-threaded special-edition light she did with Iacoli & McAllister, then ogling her beautiful wall hangings in stories like our own home tour with Totokaelo’s Jill Wenger and outlets like Maryam Nassir Zadeh. But we’ve never had a proper introduction to the onetime Seattle-based artist — now living in Brighton, England — until today. A studio tour and interview on Freunde Von Freunden, which we’re excerpting here, gives insight into Ashbee’s process —which she has said is informed by everything from the nature that surrounds her countryside studio to traditional Zuni mythology — as well as where she sources her materials, which often include gold and silver filaments. Read on for her interview with Lilly Wolf, and then click through for even more beautiful photos of her studio, as well as her thoughts on nature, vivid dreams, and Instagram.
Justine, your weavings could be considered both pieces of art and lifestyle objects. Was that your intention?
I would say I am an artist, but I think my ultimate output could be appreciated both as a design object or a kind of artistic lifestyle object. That stems from my past, growing up with someone very close to me saying that they didn’t understand art. I believe that every object you live with should be beautiful to you and have meaning to you. I put a great deal of research and energy into my work and want to infuse it with as much depth, profundity and meaning as possible. I still always want to make sure that it’s a beautiful experience and that it can be appreciated just for its beauty; you don’t have to have a lengthy critical repertoire of why, and how to understand something. I want people to have a visceral response and be able to have a visceral approach to beautiful objects. You were part of Seattle’s creative community for a long time. Why did you move to Brighton?
I lived in Seattle for ten years, it has a great creative community. When I met my husband, who’s the director of an animation company in Brighton, I was more mobile, so I moved over and set up my studio here. I think I underestimated moving away from such a close-knit creative community. However, within months of moving here, I was working on the Ace Hotel project in Shoreditch and with different interior designers for a couple of hotel commissions. All of a sudden, I had a new landscape for what I was doing and a new set of criteria in my approach. It’s taken me time to adjust to England, but it’s like one of your eccentric aunts – once you learn her ways, you start to appreciate her nuances. It was a move for love that ended up being successful on all levels.
It’s taken me time to adjust to England, but it’s like one of your eccentric aunts – once you learn her ways, you start to appreciate her nuances.
That sounds like everyone’s dream come true. What do you ﬁnd are the biggest differences between Brighton and Seattle?
I now have access to North-Africa, which is just a three hour ﬂight away, which means I get to go to Tunisia and Morocco for buying trips and retreats. I think the immediate difference is that America is such a huge country. The land there is so majestic and varied, you know. You go from these canyon valleys and extensive desert plains to estuaries and swamps – there’s just so much to explore within one country.Where do you source your materials and how do you decide which materials to use?
From my travels. I will go to different ﬂea markets and souks or collect different ﬁbers and yarns that intrigue me and I often won’t immediately know why I’m drawn to them – I’ll be drawn to a certain color, or a texture or light quality. I like that you let yourself be carried by your instincts.
Yeah, you have to. You have to stay curious and allow yourself to engage in your uncertainty. We’re all curious. As long as we allow ourselves to follow our inclinations, we keep a fresh energy. I think that it’s really crucial, particularly as a creative person, to allow yourself to not really know why you’re interested in something but just allow that curiosity to lead you. Do you ﬁnd it difﬁcult to part with your work?
Some pieces, deﬁnitely. I’ve kept some, I have one or two hanging in our house that I will never part with and that will always stay with us. Before the weaving, I was doing these line drawings – it was just as simple as drawing lines repetitively, but then they started to morph into weavings of tiny, delicate lines. I was so mobile during my twenties, I didn’t have looms to weave on, so I just took to weaving with lines. It became this extreme act of precise physical discipline. Some of them had this special energy in them and were really difﬁcult to part with. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t making them to keep them, that wasn’t my role. What do you mean by that?
My role is to bring this information into the world and share it with people. They can experience that energy and gain something from the drawings or weavings. I’m in awe of the process and the result and I want to share that with other people. Go to Freunde Von Freunden for more beautiful photos of Ashbee’s studio and surroundings, as well as her thoughts on nature, vivid dreams, and Instagram!