ginny branch stellinginterviewswhat's in your toolbox

What’s in Your Toolbox: Ashley Bram-Johnson

by Ginny

Ashley Bram-Johnson makes really, really beautiful glassworks. In fact, her glass prism boxes and terrariums have become iconic. Ashley’s fresh take on traditional stained glass is elevated by her choice of environmentally friendly materials combined with contemporary designs. The result is magical, and each piece is transformed by light and the subtle changes influenced by time of day and season. Read on for more from this talented designer, and click here for more Design*Sponge articles on ABJ Glassworks !

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

Ashley Bram-Johnson: Scrap paper and pen. After that, my glass cutter, breakers, acoustic earmuffs (to block out the grinder noises), soldering iron, and my temperature controller so I can work at the higher temperatures needed to melt lead-free solder.

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

The interview continues after the jump . . .

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

Ashley Bram-Johnson: I try to absorb and read as much as I can, since it’s hard to tell what will stick. I just let it all stew in my head, and things pop up out of the blue. That being said, I am an avid reader, which I inherited from both sides of my family. My last read was The History of Love. Birds Without Wings and the biography of Gertrude Bell are on my bedside table now. Sometimes I feel like I am just consuming words and pouring them back out through form.

Being surrounded by nature and fresh air is also big inspiration for me. I love open windows. The crisp fall air inspires in a different way than the humid air of summer. We’ve just moved into our first home, and I finally have land to garden. The house was vacant for a long time, so I’ve already been ripping out the weeds. It’s a satisfying feeling, to create something with your bare hands.

4. Design*Sponge: How do you keep yourself organized?

Ashley Bram-Johnson: To-do lists on scraps of paper, which can be dangerous when a list inevitably disappears.  More recently I’ve started making to-do lists on my computer Stickies, which are less easy to lose.

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

Ashley Bram-Johnson: To project a feeling of happiness and contentment. Life goes so quickly, it would be nice to have a way to remind people that whatever they do have is good and worthy.

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 Bram-Johnson: Go for it. If you believe in yourself enough, you can do anything — it’s one of those clichés that actually holds true. And lastly, you’re always your harshest critic, so give yourself a break.

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

Ashley Bram-Johnson: Take a long walk. For me, the motion of walking literally moves me out of any funk. Whenever I feel frustrated, creatively or otherwise, my immediate thought is to get out and walk, bike or take a drive.

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

Ashley Bram-Johnson: Flea markets, forgotten shops, just leafing through a book can spark something.

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

Ashley Bram-Johnson: For glass, I would say Dale Chihuly. I could look at his glass baskets for days. I’d love to see his studio, his process. The physicality of glassblowing fascinates me, literally breathing life into your work. I’d also love to spend time with stained glass conservators in Great Britain. I think that being around their techniques would open my mind to new ideas.

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

Ashley Bram-Johnson: September was kind of an awesome music month for me. So right now I’m listening to new albums from David Byrne & St. Vincent, Jens Lekman, Mumford & Sons, and Cat Power. Anything NPR is good for non-music days, especially old podcasts of This American Life.

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