Ashley Dedin - Artist Study
This is part of an ongoing series on the how, where, and why behind some people making amazing things in the Midwest.
I've known Ashley Dedin for several years now and I'm lucky to call her a close friend of mine. She started Aendee, a shop where she makes and sells neckties, bowties, and other goodies all made out of reclaimed fabric.
Zach: Tell me who you are and what you do.
Ashley: My name is Ashley Dedin and I make neckties and bowties.
Zach: How did you get started making ties?
Ashley: I taught myself how to sew when I was really young and sewing was sort of in my family. My grandmas on both sides sewed and someone gave me a sewing machine for my fifteenth birthday and I remember trying to follow patterns and I just couldn’t understand them. I didn’t have the patience for them so I just started taking clothes apart and figuring out how they were put together and making my own patterns and my own clothes from the process. So I’d always sewn that way, but sewing wasn’t really a big part of my life. It was just something I did for fun on the side.
After I graduated college I got an art studio downtown Fargo because I was an art major and I didn’t want to stop making stuff which I knew I’d do if I didn’t have a dedicated space. So I got myself this cute little art studio to keep me productive and I ended up using it to sew way more than I ever used it for fine art.
And a friend of mine asked me to make him a necktie and I said, “sure.” And so in my usual fashion I just went to the thrift store and found a tie and cut it apart and figured out how it was put together and made him a necktie from an old shirt. And then within a year’s time I was opening my store. It was never a planned thing. I never had a passion for men’s wear or fashion. It was more like there was an opportunity to pursue something that was way more interesting and way more fulfilling than getting a job I hated. And that was always my goal. That was always the whole purpose of going to college, to not get stuck in a career that I was really unhappy with. So when the neckties became really successful I guess I saw it as an opportunity to be able to create and make things for a living so I did it.
Zach: Describe your shop and your workplace.
Ashley: I am super super super super lucky and am very blessed to have a pretty much perfect little space here on Eighth Street. It is the most adorable little store and I hardly had to do anything to it. It’s just the right size where I have a big enough studio but I also have a nice sized little sales area. It’s constantly evolving. I look back at pictures of when I opened it a year and a half ago and I laugh at how janky it was. But I was just so excited, I don’t think I even noticed. It’s been fun to see how far I’ve come since then. It’s definitely been refined within the past few months and it’s come to a place where it’s very cozy, but it took me a little while to get there.
Zach: Walk me through the process of making a tie from start to finish.
Ashley: The tie starts with a shirt. The shirt has to be the right kind of shirt, you know. There are a million shirts at thrift stores but only some of them end up becoming ties. It’s really about pattern and color and the actual fabric material. It can’t be too thick, it can’t be to thin, it can’t be too shiny. After I find a shirt that’s gonna make an awesome necktie, I cut it up into pieces. Sometimes I cut it all the way up into all of it’s different components and make each product from each component and then other times I get really lazy and that’s why I have a bunch of shirts hanging with no sleeves cause I’m just like, “screw it, I’m just gonna cut the sleeve off and turn it into a bowtie.” But yeah, you cut the shirt up and sort of start as though you were using by the yard fabric. The back panel is the piece that the tie is cut from. The back panel is usually two or three pieces and they’re sewn together and they’re lined with more shirt material and then stabilized with a lining that comes from a secondhand tie. So almost all of the material that goes into a new tie is coming from a second hand source, except for the thread and my label. So they really are super, genuinely reclaimed.
Zach: Why do you feel compelled to use reclaimed material?
Ashley: Well, when I was young, it started out because it was the most affordable way to make my own clothing and I don’t think I had realized the environmental impacts of sustainable fashion or the waste within the garment and textile industry. As I got older I started seeing that value in using second hand materials so that’s a big part of why I continue to do it. We just already have so much stuff on the planet. We don’t need to keep producing and producing and producing when we have so many things that aren’t being used. That’s a major motivation for using second hand. Having a background in philosophy and art as well, I’m really interested in materials themselves, and the fact that materials, artwork, objects, clothing, items…they have a story to them, they’ve been to places we’ll never know and have experienced things we can’t even imagine. Especially if I get a really, really ugly shirt, I love just trying to figure out, who wore this shirt? One, why was this shirt ever created because it’s horrendous, and two, what kind of person bought it thinking, “this is a great shirt!” And it ended up at the thrift store so obviously they realized how bad it was. I love thinking about those things, and because of that whole background, it’s lead me to do a lot of heirlooms for families. It’s really great. Most of the time I have no idea who’s shirt I’m using, so when someone brings me their shirts that belonged to their husband that passed away or their dad, whomever it may be, it’s really kind of like the pinnacle behind the meaning of using those materials.
Zach: Did you grow up in a creative home?
Ashley: Ummm, I guess I was encouraged to be creative. My parents weren’t wealthy growing up so they had to figure out how to entertain themselves, my mom especially. She’s pretty crafty. I don’t think she’d admit to being crafty but she’d make us the cutest little things all the time. And she’s very thrifty as well. And so I think I’ve certainly inherited that from here. And my dad is really smart and he’s really good at problem solving. He’s a construction worker and he built bridges. And I think the combination of the thriftiness and the problem-solver approach is why I’ve turned out the way I have.
My mom and dad never sewed, it was really my grandmothers who did that. But even them, I remember asking my grandma to teach me how it sew and it was just like the most traumatizing experience ever! She’s by the book, everything has to be exact, and that is just not the way that I operate. I just wouldn’t take the pattern seriously and she’d get so upset about it. I remember once I was using her machine and I was going really, really slow on it because I didn’t want to mess anything up and she was like, “if you’re gonna sew that slow, you’re gonna break my machine so you need to just stop.” And that’s probably why I never sew with patterns. I sew super fast all the time and sometimes I think of my grandma and just laugh about it.
Zach: Why do you feel the desire to make things?
Ashley: It’s something I feel like I have no control over. I’ve always made things. I really like to investigate things, whether it’s the world around me or a really good piece of art or a really good song. I love to take stuff apart. And sewing is something that allowed me to, not perfect, but really develop skill in a specific area of creating. I’ve always valued that in other people, especially musicians, somebody who knows how to just pick a violin or a piano and they know their craft so well they can actually make art with it. I’ve always really admired that and I’ve never had the patience to really get to the bottom of something in that way. I didn’t ever think it would be sewing that would lead me to that knowledge. And then once you get to that point you sort of have to keep going, to uncover the way that it works, and then it just opens up another door and it’s just continually opening up new ways to see the world and investigate it and make new things from what you find.
Zach: What’s on your playlist right now?
Ashley: So I have terrible guilty pleasure playlists and then I have actual good music playlists. My guilty pleasure playlists include a lot of Katy Perry, no shame!, and really crazy rap that’s super offensive! And then my good music, I listen to things when people tell me about them but I have a core that I always go back to. Old Iron and Wine I always go back to, I listen to a lot of The Format. I definitely have playlists for moods though, especially when I’m working. Like sometimes I have to listen to Katy Perry in order to get my job done. And then other times it’s more chill, less offensive.
Zach: What’s the last good book that you’ve read?
Ashley: Ok, so I love Harry Potter, and I really them for the first time actually this past winter and I love them! And then I was at a thrift store and I picked up this book just because the cover was beautiful and it was a children’s book. And I was like, as soon as I’m done reading Harry Potter I can read this children’s book. I thought it was kinda funny because in college all I read were really dense philosophy and not fun stuff. And it was The Mysterious Benedict Society and that was the last book that I read from start to finish and it was fun. I think I like reading kid’s books now because they’re just adventures.
Zach: What do you know now that you wish you’d known starting out?
Ashley: I wish that, especially having studied art, I wish somebody would have told me at some point in my education that you can actually make a living doing this. And it doesn’t have to just be a hobby. Because it’s totally possible. You have to really know what kind of lifestyle you want. And luckily the lifestyle I want is very much in line with what I’m able to create for myself. But my best advice would be to not say no to an opportunity if it arises just because of fear. The real reason that I’m doing this isn’t because I was an amazing seamstress or because I was the most creative person ever. It was because I tried something for fun and tried something new and when I saw the potential for it to be successful I didn’t let fear stop me. It was one of those things where I knew I had to try it. That sounds silly, but at the end of the day, I know that even if I don’t continue doing this, or whatever the future may hold, I’m never gonna look back and been like, “you should’ve moved into that store and you should’ve given it a shot.”