A Vision – and a lot of Practice – makes Ashley Willerton

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1. ​What’s your name and title/business name? ​Where are you located, city, ​state, country location?

My name is Ashley Willerton which is also my business name. I live and work (mostly) out of Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK.

2. What’s your educational and professional background, i.e., college, professional school, high school, apprenticeship, etc.?

I had a bit of interesting journey into the lettering and sign painting work I do now. I went to University to a study Marketing and got my first job as a Marketing assistant at a digital agency that specialised in web design. With my career ambitions firmly routed in the design side of advertising, I made an extra effort to show my boss that this was where I ‘d be most useful, to the point where 90% of my workload turned into designing brochures, mail louts and creating web graphics. I’d practically made a new job for myself! Eventually my boss and I sat down and I was repositioned as a graphic designer at the agency. From there I immersed myself into the design world and became a sponge for everything that most graphic designers will have learnt at University. It was a great opportunity to learn on the job and I thrived on throwing myself into side projects outside of work. The illustrator Mr Bingo sums up this time in my life when he mentions in his talk that selecting a title and direction for yourself is the start of you being that thing. I wasn’t trained as a graphic designer but through deciding that this is what I wanted to be, my boss acknowledged this and gave me an opportunity to show what I had to offer.

My obsession for lettering began with an article on Jessica Hische in Grafik magazine. It was the first time I’d come across this style of work and it really stopped me in my tracks. Previous to this, my design interests leant more towards the clean, geometric style of Swiss graphic design but Jessica’s work sparked a desire in me to get back to drawing, something I did a lot as a child but somewhere along the line let fade away. From that point lettering formed the basis of most of my side projects and I practiced whenever I got a spare 5 minutes. I’ve had no formal training in either my lettering or sign writing work. It’s simply been a case of studying the craft through books and video tutorials and practicing. Lot’s of practicing!

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3. Preferred tool(s) and medium?

I start all of my projects with a pencil and paper. For commercial lettering work I’ll take my sketch into photoshop to tidy up and then if it needs vectoring I’ll take it into Illustrator. For my sign writing work I use lettering brushes and one shot enamel paint. I love the variety my work brings so I don’t really have a favourite medium. I enjoy jumping between disciplines and keeping it fresh.

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4. Where or how do you “recharge your creative battery,” i.e., books, blogs, music, art, exercise, meditation, prayer, hobbies, interests, etc.?

This is an area of my life I’m constantly in negotiation with. Taking time off when you work for yourself is hard as there’s always something you can be doing. I meditate and practice yoga every morning before I do anything else. I feel like this puts me in a good head space before approaching a busy workload. I also run lots and enjoy the simple underrated activity of aimless wandering!

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5. Tell us something about you that might surprise or delight us.

Even though I’ve already mentioned this, I think the most surprising thing to most people is that I didn’t study graphic design and I’ve never had any formal training.

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