We had the good fortune of connecting with Ashton Burridge and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ashton, why did you pursue a creative career?
I never thought I would be referred to as the “torch lady,” but here I am. What led me down this path?
Joy. Pure joy. When I’m in my studio crafting a piece of jewelry by hand, I am completely immersed in the process. Lighting the torches and setting the flame. Watching the molten melt dance in the crucible. Hammering, forming, and heating repeatedly until the metal is forged. It’s the process that grips me. I started to wonder: why can’t I do this full time?
Truth be told, this is my second career. Previously, I followed a fairly, traditional path. College, graduate school for an MBA and a consulting career. I took metalsmithing in high school, winning an award for one of my first pieces, and didn’t pick it back up until 10 years ago. My two boys were a little older, and I had the time to take a few classes. I started by making pieces for myself. Ones I wanted to wear. Then friends started asking me to make pieces for them and offered to host trunk shows. Ashton Jewelry grew from there.
My jewelry is inspired by my travels and time spent in Italy. I love art history, particularly Renaissance art. I often use a process called etching that was used by Italian metalsmiths and printers hundreds of years ago. Etching adds different designs and textures to the metal using a resist and acid. I have updated the process, printing my designs on a special paper used to make computer circuit boards. I transfer the designs to fine silver ingots that I have melted and formed, using a pancake griddle from Target. The pieces float in an acid solution that slowly eats away the exposed metal leaving a raised design. The process takes eight to 10 hours to complete. The pieces are then fashioned with rich colorful gemstones, brilliant diamonds, and lustrous 18k gold.
The Italian influence spans to my coin jewelry as well. I started my collection with an Ancient Roman coin of the Goddess Salus. She was the goddess of healing, health, and well-being. Now, my collection spans Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coins. I love the stories and symbolism behind each one. Many I cast replicas to ensure the original remains pristine. Plus, it allows me to create beautiful, everyday pieces that are affordable.
I took up an old hobby that I truly loved, as a creative outlet. A way to offset the rigidity of my business consulting job. I wanted to feel the same gratification every day. Wielding a torch; hammering and forming metal; seeing the final piece take shape fuels my soul. So, a few years ago, the torch lady was born, and I’ve never looked back.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Bold. Graceful. Luxurious. My designs are inspired by my travels and time spent in Italy. I craft collections that meld ancient themes with the here and now. Wrought with detail and heirloom quality, each piece of Ashton Jewelry is handmade by me using recycled gold and silver. The diamonds, sapphires and other precious gemstones are ethically sourced when available. Leftover materials go into a scrap jar and are melted and reused to create other pieces of jewelry. I also repurpose customer’s jewelry or family heirlooms, reusing their gold, gemstones, and diamonds. There is inherent value in handmade jewelry as it takes an incredible amount of time to produce just one piece of jewelry; each piece receives the utmost attention to detail; and each one is unique.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A huge Shout Out goes to my family!! My husband, two boys and mother have supported me every step of the way. When I thought I couldn’t get my business off the ground, they encouraged me to keep going. When I work 16-hour days, they come into my studio to see what I am working on and go back to the house to eat cereal and PB&Js for dinner. They even critique my new creations. I love to know what they like and don’t. They strategize with me, encourage me, and are my biggest fans. Their enthusiasm and support mean the world to me. I wouldn’t want to do this life without them.
My cousin also deserves a Shout out! In high school, I visited Italy for the first time with her. She shares a love for Italian art, history and food and has turned her passion into a business planning Italy travel. In recent years, we have made several trips together. Every single day is chock full of art, culture, culinary delights, and laughter. Perfection! Our trips always include special stops for me. We have visited with Italian jewelers, silversmiths, and goldsmiths; mosaic and glass artists; printers; oar makers; fabric dyers; handmade potters; and the list goes on and on. I love meeting other artists and learning about their crafts. Time with them inspires me to keep creating my own art.
Head shots of Ashton = Colby Evans / @colbyevansphotography Studio/process shots = Tabor Aragon / @babydoetabor