what’s in your toolbox: ashley lloyd

Ashley Lloyd is not your average milliner, not by a long shot. Drawing inspiration from reliquary collections she discovered while studying in Italy, she couples delicate materials like flowers and feathers with macabre elements such as insects and animal skulls. Her avant-garde headpieces are quite spectacular, and her workspace is a fantastic extension of her creations. Continue reading for a glimpse into the surreal world of Ashley Lloyd.

1. Design*Sponge: What is in your toolbox?

Ashley Lloyd: I always have two glue guns — a cordless one and a mini one. Also a steamer I found in the trash, my MacBook, gold scissors from Chinatown, wire cutters, latex gloves for handling questionable items, Krylon clear spray to aid in preservation, needle-nose pliers, Ziploc bags and recycled jars for storing all of my materials, head blocks, hat felt, deer hooves, bear teeth, jute, chicken wire and sewing needles. I think I’ll stop there, as this could go on for days.

2. Design*Sponge: Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ______.

Read the rest of the interview after the jump…

3. Design*Sponge: What books are on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?

Ashley Lloyd: I recently saw the Werner Herzog film Cave of Forgotten Dreams (in 3d) and walked out feeling more inspired than ever. It felt like going to church minus the preaching. Ever since, I’ve had a hard time putting down Gardner’s Art through the Ages. It’s one school textbook I won’t be getting rid of.

4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized? Time management is often one of the biggest obstacles for creative minds. Do you have an agenda book, and do you make to-do lists?

Ashley Lloyd: I have too many to-do lists to keep track of, scribbled messily on whatever was accessible to me at the moment . . . paper scraps, napkins, gum wrappers. I also use this wonderful free app — Evernote. It allows me to keep all my research and images grouped together as opposed to moving them into different folders where they eventually get lost. It’s stored online, so I can view my notes anywhere I can get Internet or cell service.

5. Design*Sponge: If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?

Photo credit: Manolo Ceron

Ashley Lloyd: Time travel because I am most inspired by history and times past. The first place I’d go would be Paris in the 20s (loved the Woody Allen film!), then I’d make a stop in the 80s, and then last but not least, the Victorian Era.

6. Design*Sponge: What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist/designer?

Ashley Lloyd: I often feel anxious that I’m stagnant and not growing as a designer or artist. Living in the city doesn’t help. Everything and everyone moves so quickly. A friend once told me that what she does to calm the feeling is to look back to just the last two weeks and list the things that have happened (contacts made, supplies found, hats planned). I can’t think of an occasion I’ve done this and it hasn’t helped. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this exercise helps me to keep that in perspective.

Advice I would give young designers: Protect yourself. Make contracts/agreements for everything up front. Even when you think it’s unnecessary. Clarity never hurt anyone.

7. Design*Sponge: How do you combat creative blocks?

Photo credit: Manolo Ceron

Ashley Lloyd: I do one of two things:

a. I make lists of items I would like to add to my collections and seek them out. In the search, I’m bound to find something that captivates me and pushes me out of the block.

b. Walk away.

8. Design*Sponge: Where do you like to shop for inspiration?

Ashley Lloyd:

  • ffffound.com — This website is wonderful! You find an image you like, and then the site recommends more based on your preferences and which photos you click on. I’m so impressed with the site’s fluidity and its uncanny ability to read my mind.
  • Google Image Search
  • The Met’s Ancient Art wings. Tourists rarely venture there, and it’s almost always empty and so quiet. You can think there.
  • Ebay, I have a serious addiction.

9. Design*Sponge: If you could peek inside the studio/toolbox of any designer/artist/craftsperson, whose would it be and why?

Ashley Lloyd: The American photographer Joel Peter Witkin. I’m not sure one could find more grotesque yet beautiful photographs. I can’t begin to imagine what his studio must look like.

Photo credit: Ned & Aya Rosen

10. Design*Sponge: If you could make a master mix-tape of music that is inspiring you at the moment, what would it include?

“When I was Young,” Fever Ray

“Litzsomania,” Phoenix

“Take Me Out,” Franz Ferdinand

“Drain the Blood,” The Distillers

“Short Skirt, Long Jacket,” Cake

“Dog Days are Over,” Florence + The Machine

“Home,” Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

“Age of Consent,” New Order

“Inch of Dust,” Future Islands

“Pull My Heart Away,” Jack Peñate

  1. susy says:

    Oh wow. This was such a great interview, and introduction to this artist. Nice to see fashion on D*S! : )

    I had never seen Ashley’s work before. I really enjoyed the peek into the studio and the advice on looking back into the past two weeks…just slowing down…

    Also, the shot of the lipstick on the mirror is particularly wonderful…it just goes so well with the mood and feel of this entire post. : )

  2. This is an incredible feature- her work is insane in the best of ways. GORGEOUS.

  3. Ashley says:

    Correction- last image- Photo credit- Ned & Aya Rosen

  4. Bobbie says:

    This is amazing work!! Very powerful! I love it!

  5. Nicole says:

    For me, this is DS’s most fascinating interview to date! What beautiful attention to detail, texture, color, form, and mood. Ashley, you may already know about her, but check out Sarina’s taxidermy work: http://www.customcreaturetaxidermy.com

    Nice job DS! And absolutely stunning work Ashley!

  6. Dee says:

    Ok, now where do I buy those amazing headpieces?
    I need one for my wedding and these just look magical, I msut to have one!!!

  7. Maia says:

    I LOVE the tooth necklace!! Fabulous interview. Wonderful work. Very inspiring.

  8. Miha says:

    Please tell me you work in the movie industry… Those pieces belong in a film!

  9. Miha says:

    Oh, and a quick heads-up to the d*s team — “What ARE on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?” is ungrammatical. It should be “What IS on the top shelves of your inspiration library,” even if you expect the answer to be plural. Just a little correction of a mistake which has irked me for a while…

    1. Grace Bonney says:


      sorry about that, i think i may have accidentally edited the work “what BOOKS are on the top of your shelves” out of the piece ;)


  10. Miha says:

    Fair enough, Grace. These things happen. However, the reason I pointed it out is because I see this mistake made fairly often on d*s — often enough to suspect that it is not always an instance of sloppy editing. As a proof-reader, I can’t help noticing such things… Cool story, though. :-)

  11. Ell says:

    Very unique pieces, but very breathtaking to say the least. She is a great artist and look forward to seeing more of her work in the near future. Perfect interview!

  12. Clare says:

    Argh. I remember studying Peter Joel Witkin at uni, in a unit on the human body in art. I decided to do an assignment on him, and had to give up. Only artist where I couldn’t look through the entire quarto of his work. I think I wrote about STELARC instead. Implanted ears are infinitely more palatable that Witkin’s more extreme stuff.

  13. Josephine says:

    Really enjoyed this interview. Her work made me think of Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington. And I love her website too.

  14. ge5 says:

    what exactly is the wall-mounted collection? reliquaries? found? intriguing!…

  15. Wow. These are amazing pieces. I loved looking at the artist’s notes. There’s something so fascinating about that moment when the inspiration hits, and those first seeds are written down on paper.

  16. Shelley says:

    A truly interesting, beautifully illustrated interview & she has my kind of tool box. I could probably answer the question “What’s in you’re toolbox?” with “What isn’t in my toolbox?” Thank you for introducing us to such a creative spirit!

  17. sara simpson says:

    Her pieces are amazing!!! I love them!

  18. ness says:

    Seeing what she works with reminds me of markets in Mali. There are vendors there with stall after stall of animal bits laid out for perusing. I believe they are purchased for medicinal (and magical) purposes, but Ashley would likely lose her mind there. Thanks for the profile!

  19. Donna says:

    I’m sure Lada Gaga will be calling.

  20. Kitty says:

    I thoroughly enjoy reading this interview! Very inspiring, especially the part where you mention being anxious over growing as a designer or artist.

  21. Sarah Elek says:

    wow ashley, i’m so impressed! your work is amazing!!!! i loved your show senior year and your headpieces are ten times more incredible. don’t worry about growing as an artist or designer, i personally have so many creative blocks and growing issues that i don’t even get in the studio most days- i think it’s just the natural way of things :)


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