March 26, 2019 5 min read

Any fan of Nothing Too Fancy knows that we love our local artists. Our city is teeming makers and creatives, who often have a pretty unique perspective on life. For NTF’s first ever Artist Spotlight blog, I sat down with Ashley Sheridann Hessler of Ash Attic Co. and her baby boy, Braxon. An East Tennessee girl through and through, Ashley hustles hard, plays hard, and loves hard just like any mother with a house of six kids under the age of 10 would have to. She’s friendly and bubbly and has a sweet, ever-present smile that is copied exactly on her son’s face. Read on to hear from Ashley about making art for a living, raising kids, and juggling both at the same time.

NTF: Tell me about you, about your family
ASH: “I grew up in Seymour, TN and I live there now - in my parent’s old house, actually!”
Image: Ashley Sheridann Hessler of Ash Attic Co. with her youngest baby, Braxon

Ashley’s whole face lights up when she talks about her kids: Case, Lilly, Haylee, Bella, Jaxon, and Braxon. Ashley and her husband Jeremy, Fire Captain for Y12, grew up in the same neighborhood and spent a lot of time playing street hockey together as kids. They reconnected as adults when Ashley joined the fire department - she is a firefighter, advanced EMT, and 911 dispatcher - but for now, she’s focused on her babies, a nursing degree, and her art.   
When asked about her inspirations and how she got started, there was no hesitation before her answer: “My mom is a super awesome artist, she’s amazing. I’ve always made little crafty things, we used to make our Christmas ornaments every year. When Haylee was born I started making hair bows. Before then it was just whatever would pop into my head like ‘I’m going to make jewelry now, or I’m going to make diapers?’ I don’t know what I was thinking. Then I got into woodburning and I’ve stuck with it for quite a while! I’ve been woodburning since 2015.”

Image: Ashley's woodburned Sunsphere ornaments

Ashley started woodburning with a tool she found on sale at a craft supply store and used that same tool for two years until her husband insisted she should invest in a nicer one - “It was actually after one of my first commissions from Nothing Too Fancy when I bought my big woodburning set and it’s awesome. I can do so much more so quickly… and not burn my hands,” she laughed.  
NTF: How did you get started, what’s the first thing you made?

ASH: “My first woodburning piece that I made to sell was a Sunsphere. I did ornaments and magnets. When I was a kid I spent every day with my Nana. She’d pick me up from school, we used to go to the Sunsphere all the time, it was just our thing to do. She had little trinkets there in the museum that she had collected and donated. It was super cool. As a kid, I thought my Nana was famous because her stuff was in this museum - ha! The Sunsphere has always had a special spot in my heart.” Her Sunsphere pieces started it all, and they’re still her favorite because making them always brings back those memories. Ashley also takes inspiration from her time spent living and hiking in the mountains of Gatlinburg, and (of course) from a love for the University of Tennessee. “My mom is a huge UT fan, so my UT stuff came from making gifts for her.” Ashley started a Facebook and an Etsy store - she credits the Knoxville Entrepreneurial Center for their Etsy workshop that helped to launch her shop. “I was in the middle of this Etsy class and the Maker City Instagram found one of my pictures and they posted it. My phone was blowing up in class from people liking one of my Sunsphere pieces.”

Image: Four of Ashley's woodburned magnets inspired by life in East Tennessee

That was Fall of 2017, around the same time she started selling at Nothing Too Fancy.
ASH: “I’m full-time momming it right now, which I never in a million years thought would be my life. There’s a lot of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse happening at my house. I love to color with the kids, but I catch myself trying to make them color inside the lines like my mom used to do with me!” Ashley’s daughter Haylee, who just turned seven, is already showing signs of following in her mom’s artistic footsteps. “She wants to be an illustrator when she grows up. She colors and draws and makes little books all the time. She just won the yearbook cover contest at her school!”
Ashley makes signs, magnets, ornaments, coasters, and more - all of her woodburning is done by hand at home. “Normally I cut my own wood slices and dry them out in a heat process and then sand them. I draw out the basics of my design on the wood slices...there’s no room for mistakes in woodburning. You can’t erase it or go back, it’s just ‘oops! Chuck that one into the burn pile.’ I usually try to work after the kids go to sleep. My studio space is an old armoire in our dining room.”

Image: Ashley's home studio - where the magic happens

The success she’s found in Ash Attic Co. somehow still surprises Ashley, even though it’s so easy to recognize her hard work and progress from the outside.
ASH: “Lisa [of NTF] was the first vendor to take any of my stuff and really work with me. When she reordered the first time, I was in tears. It was such a huge deal to me. That was the first time I was like - ok, I can do this. I still cry when she reorders!”  
Thanks so much to Ashley for her awesome art, and for taking the time to sit down and have a chat - and for letting me snuggle that sweet baby! Ash Attic Co. products can be found at Nothing Too Fancy on Union Ave. You can find more of her work on her Etsy site, and inquire about custom orders through Etsy, email, or on her Instagram (@ashatticco).

Image: Ashley Sheridann Hessler with her youngest baby, Braxon


Blog written by Shelby Sparks of Nothing Too Fancy.