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Ashleigh George: Jewelry Artist E-mail

 

New Country, New Business

It takes a lot of nerve to start a business, but to mAshleigh Georgeove

clear across the globe to do it is quite a feat.

 

By Bernadette Finnerty

 

Few people would make a comparison between Zimbabwe and Michigan, but jewelry artist Ashleigh George, a native of Zimbabwe,can see the similarities. “I guess it’s the wide open spaces, the vast farms, being able to see great distances into the horizon. That’s what reminds me of Zimbabwe. It’s comforting, and inspiring.”

 

Ashleigh and her husband, Ivan Carter, an African Safari Guide, moved to the United States in 2005. Initially, they came to Florida, but a year later settled in Blanchard, Michigan. Carter still travels to his native country for months at a time to lead hunting and photographic Safaris.

 

Ashleigh stays in her Michigan studio, weaving nature, texture, childhood memories and scripture into her silver jewelry, one piece at a time. Ashleigh gathers influences from many sources, and her designs have changed a lot since she moved to the United States.

 

Ashleigh George JewelryFinding inspiration has always been the easy part. “My fascination started at the age of three, when my grandmother would let me rummage through her jewelry box to keep me occupied. I was always drawn to it, even though I would play with the same stuff over and over. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to create jewelry, and I never considered doing anything else.

 

Ashleigh has been selling her jewelry for a total of eight years; the first four were in Zimbabwe. She says the time she has spent establishing herself here in the U.S. has been exhilarating, and very different from doing business in Zimbabwe.

 

Ashleigh recalls having to create every bit of her jewelry pieces from raw materials, from the wire to the clasp. Artistically, the process was satisfying, but Ashleigh wanted to market her work to galleries and needed to streamline her production time. “I’ll never forget the first time I received a box of shiny silver wire in the mail,” she recalls. “I was ecstatic. I would not have been able to access these materials in Zimbabwe.

 

“Business moves faster here and people have high expectations,” she adds. “So I’m learning and adjusting and changing. I’m keeping an open mind and listening to suggestions.”

 

Ashleigh is marketing her work aggressively and learning at every turn. She exhibits in retail fairs and sets up home shows through friends she has met all over the country. She relishes the opportunity to talk with her customers and learn from their responses to her work. She hopes to take that knowledge and experience to a broader market through wholesale shows.

 

Ashleigh George JewelryAshleigh recently returned from her first major wholesale market – The Buyers Market of American Craft in Philadelphia. She wrote a few orders, and was delighted to meet some of the shows veteran exhibitors. “Never in a million years did I think I’d be meeting some of the artists I had read about since I was in school,” she says.

 

“That was thrilling. Their willingness to share advice and information was so encouraging. That’s the great thing about artists. We are all doing unique work; we’re not really competing with one another. So people are willing to share what works for them, especially in these tough economic times.”

 

New to the U.S., and relatively new to business, Ashleigh says the most important thing she has learned is to keep putting herself out there, keep talking to people and asking for business. “It’s hard to do sometimes,” she says, “it’s easier to just stay in my studio creating my jewelry.” Ashleigh says she’s learned from her husband’s success as a consultant and safari guide to put her inhibitions aside and constantly seek out new ways to market her work.

 

Ashleigh is also in the process of streamlining her website, at www.ashgeorge.net. With her multi-faceted approach to business, Ashleigh’s future looks bright.

 

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