Minneapolis visual artist and designer Ashley Mary’s abstract, mixed-media patterns bring electricity and fervor to any surface, be it a canvas, a shirt, stationery, or a cell phone case. And now, buildings. She only got into the mural game about a little over a year ago, but has already created a dozen-plus around the country in stores, private residences, and coffee shops.
Since the mind-bending shapes on the walls of Dogwood Coffee’s new northeast Minneapolis location make a cameo in Minnesota Monthly’s spring fashion feature, it seemed like a good time to catch up. (For even more on her many projects, read this interview from late 2017.)
A true multi-tasker, the pragmatic and prolific Ashley Mary answered our questions while walking her dog, a chihuahua-corgi mix named Ren.
What goes into your process to create a large mural like the one at Dogwood Coffee?
With this style, my process happens in a couple different steps. First, I’ll scan in some cut paper images that I have on file, and then collage those in Photoshop over a picture of the wall itself. Then, I’ll add illustrated marks that I’ve scanned in. Another technique I use is a digital pen tool, so I’m drawing right on the photo of the space. I’ll let the shape react to the space versus just collaging something that’s already been made. Quite a few elements are freehanded once I get to the space. I’m shooting from the hip. It’s planned, but also organic where it needs to be. I leave room in my process to make changes once I’m in the space and can react to it. That’s an important part of how I function as an artist on canvas, too. I never want to hold anything so tightly that I end up hurting the objective, which is to make a beautiful image, just because I’m so stuck to my plan. I hold it all loosely.
How long did this one take?
It took about two full days, and a little bit of change. I had a friend, Lauren Callis Erickson, help me. Once I had my collages cut, designing it maybe took a total of an hour or two The more time I spend on something, I’ll usually end up ruining it. I’ve learned with my work, it’s best not to mess with it too much. [Owner Dan Anderson] was really easy to work with and put a lot of trust into my vision for the space.
How does this mural compare to the others you’ve created?
The Dogwood one is maybe the largest overall, but I did a taller one in Austin this past fall. I did a pretty wide one in Brooklyn last summer. It depends on what you consider large. It didn’t take me the longest. I’ve done denser ones that are more like wallpaper. What was fun about this one is that there’s really fantastic white space from the shapes that get to dance around the entire room. Sprinkled around the doorway or coming from the ceiling. I don’t get to paint on ceilings often, but I did with this one. Any time my murals can extend off of a typical flat wall, I get pretty excited. It felt like there was a really nice bouncing of the shapes around the three walls instead of it just being a one-wall art installation.
What’s next for you?
My stationery line was released last fall. That will get fresh updates. I’m going to be doing a commission piece for a Starbucks in Edina as part of the Target over there. Starbucks is a client I’ve worked with in collaboration with another local artist Allegra Lockstadt. We ended up doing three projects with them. I recently worked with Heather and Brad Fox of the HDTV show Stay or Sell that piloted last year. I did something at their property in Palm Springs for Modernism Week. I’ll be collaborating with a couple apparel brands to do limited edition brand launches under my name. Installing a mural in San Diego for a shop called Mona Lizzy’s at the end of the this month. Then a mural for Rosedale Mall in April and another mural installation for Art With Me in Tulum, Mexico in April.