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PENDULOUS PLEASURES - following Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd's creative journey.

Being a creator of sculpture myself (even though on a much larger scale - architecture) I am always on the look for inspiration. This week I came across the work of Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd, an industrial designer from Cape Town.

When I planned this entry, I wasn't really sure how to approach it, but when I opened her Instagram account it became very clear that I had to talk about her work through her own pictures.

Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd

Kigamboni. Tanzania

Ashlee has traveled quite a bit and as any artist would know, our creativity is stimulated when we're in an unfamiliar environment. Somehow, we are just much more in tune with our senses and we store this information in some kind of a creative repository that we later access when coming up with new designs.

"The trip to Tanzania was a trip made possible by another passion of mine, I’m a fire dancer and we were performing at an international event. What struck me most was the inner city poverty, yet the atmosphere and people were so vibrant and rich in culture. Tanzania opened up my creativity mind to think even more with my hands and what they are capable of. From weaving to bead-work the streets were buzzing with traditional and contemporary pieces of art. Tanzania also showed me that working together as a community along with the same passion and drive is a beautiful action.

My trip to Zimbabwe was a long awaited visit to an untouched part of the country, Nyanga. It hosts the highest mountain range called Nyangani. During my trip, I visited the Mtarazi Falls, which are the highest waterfalls in the country. Through these outdoor adventures, I was exposed to the various indigenous materials such as grasses, clay and stone sculpture. Zimbabwean culture has a huge variety of raw earthy tones, surfaces, and textures. Throughout my trip, I was continuously feeling inspired to get my hands dirty. After the trip to Zimbabwe, I tried many tests of dying my own fabrics and yarns.

In Tanzania and Zimbabwe, the crafters' ability to successfully match many various colour combinations was of utmost inspiration. The creative stimulation from all sides was immense."- AAL

Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd

Tankwa. South Africa

AfrikaBurn is for a lot of artists and free spirits an opportunity to portray their individuality in a unique manner, without the constraints of being curated. It's a gathering and culmination of sharing weird an wonderful ideas, and allows participants to engage with like minded individuals. What makes this experience so unique, is the stripping of all comfort and being face to face with an environment which is as unforgiving as a blank gallery wall.

"At Afrikaburn there is a great amount of inspiration flowing around, talented individuals from all over the world express themselves. But most importantly it’s how you interpret what you find inspiring and it’s how you decide to contribute in order to feel inspired. Recently, many of my close friends have been involved with the most incredible projects. I feel so privileged to be in close proximity to a real dose of inspiration. In my community of friends, someone is always doing something outrageous or daring and giving it their all. I aim to one day build my own structure at Afrikaburn but for past events lending a helping hand to the keen enthusiastic people in my circle of friends has been tremendous. Another perspective Afrikaburn has given me is that nothing is ever perfect and your purpose in life as a designer, homemaker, creator, chef etc. is just as important as anyone else’s. It’s essential to be humble and not take life so seriously!" - AAL

Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd, Megan Wylie

Cape Town. South Africa

One of the most unnerving and unbinding experiences for any person, I think, is to completely expose oneself. Yes... be in the nude. But there is also something very beautiful about it, to be physically and emotionally stripped of all covers and adornments. In doing so, it's just you and the consciousness of your body. When this is married with an artistic process, such as body art, it is given a whole different meaning and depth.

"The body art was a volunteer gig to let my friend Megan Wylie, who is a fantastic prosthetic and special body effects person, paint her artistic vision, which was an underwater creature. It was a liberating experience, as I’ve always wanted to do something that semi-exposes the human body/figure but never found a comfortable opportunity. With this project, the event was hosted by the artist Megan’s at her house, with our closest friends, therefore making it a lot easier to do/ease into. The thread that runs through all my creative practice is to try it at least once, if I feel that this particular experiment or practice is not for me I can at least mentally accomplish a task or fear and that’s significantly important to me." AAL

Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd,

Cape Town. South Africa

Reinterpreting traditional craftsmanship is the foundation on which Ashlee's designs rest. She has combined two very different artistic disciplines [textiles and lighting design] which are not conventionally associated with each other but manage to create a very textural product. In my opinion, she's deconstructed the functional purpose and aesthetic by dissolving what would normally be considered a container and projector of light and instead, turned it into a glowing network of woven knots.

"Well, firstly lighting design has been a passion of mine since my first year of college. When you design a light, a body or frame, it’s only half the process. You have to consider the refracting ray of the light and what the piece will look like switched on, and what it can contribute to space. Secondly, crocheting/knot making and using my hands was another artisan skill I was intrigued by. I had been making necklaces, hair wraps and other jewelry to make money when I was a teenager. Throughout college, I was always experimenting and pushing boundaries making different types of furniture (tables and chairs) and adding a softer texture (crocheting a pocket for magazines/looping tubes of stuffed fabric to make up the seat of a chair). I soon realized that the fabric that I was working with always presented me with interesting negative space. This was the opportunity for light to play a role. To manipulate the light and negative space when I was creating my first lighting installations opened up a whole new world to me. This instantly resonated with what I wanted to do with my life." AAL

Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd, Helena Blok, Luke Moore

Cape Town. South Africa

Defining and explaining a creative process is never an easy thing. Artists and designers all have different ways of approaching a project and very often, it's not the same as before. Sometimes it's analytical, whereby the creator spends a lot of time doing research, building models and calculating the best way forward. The opposite of this would be a more intuitive approach. Very few designers are lucky enough to just feel the design from the start and usually, it's a combination of both ways.

"I spend quite some time thinking about what I’m going to do (maybe too much time), then I start concept sketching in my journal. Once I’m happy with a design I start exploring various colour combinations and what textured materials/fabrics/yarns I’m going to use that suit the design. I like to work initially with materials I have lying around and start the process of prototyping. This key part of the process allows me to visually see what works together and what doesn’t. I’m an extremely visual person, therefore, my workspace is usually covered in experiments. It’s quite often that my end result and my concept sketches are very different due to the natural occurrence of spontaneity. My favourite part of the process is sourcing materials, visiting small businesses with their original products, exploring the city, being outdoors, thinking and especially playing. It’s important to always play and find joy in your work." - AAL

Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd, Adriaan Louw

Cape Town. South Africa

This work of art is what grabbed my attention when I started looking at designs to write about in this month's design section. It's still difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes me go back and look at it again, but I guess that's the beauty of it... that it is impossible to define the "wow-factor". It's never easy to achieve just that because it's a combination of a brilliant concept, trial and error in design and applying just the right amount of detail.

"The molecular chandelier was a great project. The Southern Guild Gallery in Woodstock approached me after I got selected and submitted my portfolio to exhibit at a show they were curating called “ A New Wave”. It was a collection of new unexplored local designers from Johannesburg and Cape Town. After meeting them, I had decided that I was going to design a light and a very large one it ended up to be indeed! After conceptualizing in my head for a few weeks (as a designer you spend most of your time thinking – it’s part of the process) I knew the basic shape of the internal structure. Heading over to my one of my favourite inspirations I looked to nature’s all shapes, forms, and permutations. Researching the molecular and cell-like inconsistent structure of the bridal mushroom initialized the inspiration for the hovering frame. I wanted to create a floating, primitive and virtually conscious formation whose textured shape is reminiscent of ravines and abysses found in dramatic natural earth formations that are present on this beautiful continent. I emptied out my garage at home and started the process of soldering the copper frame’s tubing together. Once completed, I grouped all the yarns, rope and lamb shorn roving I was going to use and tried to get a good ratio going. When the crochet process started I lost all control. I was crocheting upside down, left, right and diagonally. I worked out and taught myself what worked and what didn’t. I had never done a piece of such scale, which was daunting yet significantly challenging." - ALL


Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd

Cape Town. South Africa

"God is in the detail" - Mies van der Rohe

"Detail is god." To pay attention to detail is extremely important. Not everyone will see it yet most will appreciate it. To pay attention to detail is an important attribute to pick up in life. I spend a lot of time trying to decipher how I’m going to complete, finish and add detail to a product. When you pay attention to detail there is a contribution to the capacity to foresee challenges and address them proactively." - AAL

Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd

Cape Town. South Africa

As a designer it's important to grow, adapt and ensure that your designs keep up with local and international trends. It's also necessary to ensure that your work retains a timeless quality. This is difficult to achieve when there is pressure from consumers to produce what the media sells, yet stay true to your artistic values. Ashlee succeeds in capturing this timelessness by making use of natural materials and textures. She enforces this by implementing neutral colours and organic shapes.

"My latest range is a combination of lights called Echru & Ovaluna. The lights were manufactured from metal shades and mild steel custom punched plates. Both had a contrast of soft warm t-yarn material that was hand-crocheted along the edges of the hard metal form. Echru & Ovaluna exists of classic neutral colours such as beige, crèmes, black, grey and copper. The fittings were all finished in copper to give a warm glowing effect on the interior, which was a visual continuation of the Molecular Chandelier. The next collection I’m designing for coming August’s exhibition – 100% Design South Africa in Johannesburg by Decorex is going to explore different techniques such as weaving and the use of raffia. The lights are also going to introduce the more frequent use of colour such as burnt oranges, yellows, deep blues and soft reds." - AAL

Photo: Ashlee Ainsley Lloyd, Conrad Bester

Cape Town. South Africa

I think that Ashlee has succeeded in blurring the boundaries between sculpture, lighting and textile design. Her work resonates with me because of its abstract nature. Following her creative process through a visual diary has proven to be a lot more insightful than I ever imagined. It shows how different landscapes and people influence our creativeness and library of ideas. Even though we share a common interest as designer/artist/architect, there are so many other influencing factors that have led to Ashlee being considered one of Cape Town's top young artists and participant at the Design Indaba.

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