The Flylords met artist and Florida native Ashley Weber. Ashley’s love for marine species and fishing began as she fished the flats along Florida’s Space Coast as a kid. With her hard-earned degree from Ringling College of Art & Design and her talent, Ashley recreates Florida’s marine creatures in stainless steel. Read more about Ashley and her work below.
Flylords: When did you discover an interest in fishing and art?
Ashley: I grew up along the Indian River Lagoon on the east coast of Florida, specifically in Satellite Beach and Melbourne. I have been saltwater flats fishing for most of my life but fell in love with fly fishing about five years ago. My family had a 15’ skiff for a few years growing up, which is how I was introduced to our lagoon and to the flats. I was young when I became obsessed with our redfish, snook, sea trout, and juvenile tarpon fishing. When we sold our boat, I found a way to continue to get out on the water in a kayak during my college years. In more recent years, I have been living on trips to experience other fisheries and ecosystems. I am about a six-hour drive to the lower keys, which I frequent as often as I can to chase tarpon, permit, and bonefish.
I attended Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota, FL, where I received my BFA in Illustration. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to pursue art. I was fortunate enough to have the example of my parents that also lived a life in which work was doing what you loved. Happiness was always placed ahead of chasing a higher-paying job. I honestly never even considered that is wasn’t the path I would take, even if I didn’t know how I would get there. I knew that it would be a major financial burden and struggle to attend art school, so during my high school years I buckled down and took art courses and internships at the community college in the summertime. I quit sports to focus on building my portfolio and preparing myself to work as hard as I could. There was no other option in my mind.
Flylords: What is your favorite aspect of fly fishing?
Ashley: There are many memories and people within this sport that are so near to my heart. There is nothing like finding people that are equally passionate about the thing that matters most to you. It is so unbelievably special to have someone share their part of the world with you. I don’t think that there is anything out there that will win my heart over as much as sight fishing a big tarpon with tiny flies.
Flylords: Tell us about your conservation work in your local community.
Ashley: I have been working with an amazing team of passionate guides, anglers, and scientists this year to start up the Lagoon Waterman Alliance. I am an executive board member for this organization that will be focusing on combating water quality issues in the Indian River and Mosquito Lagoons here on the space coast of Florida. Our main focus will be on the reduction of nutrient loading within the Indian River Lagoon system. I am beyond excited for our community to come together to bring real change to our unique and beloved ecosystem which is in desperate need of protection and restoration.
Flylords: How have you developed your skills as an artist?
Ashley: I attended Ringling College of Art & Design and earned a degree in Illustration, specifically painting and mixed media pieces. I focused pretty much exclusively on fish and marine life, which led to statements like, “Oh, that’s the fish girl,” from my professors and peers.
Around my junior year of college I was really craving working in a more hands-on medium. There was a metalworking class available in the Fine Arts major, but I had no pre-requisites for it. I begged to get into it mainly because I wanted to make myself a metal tarpon. After some persuading, I got myself onto the class roster. After just a few weeks, I completely fell in love with the way that I could bring out the luminescence of fish in this medium. I loved working late nights in an empty studio with the sparks and flames and figuring out ways to get certain effects with the sheet metal. There was no hand book for how to make it look certain ways, and it was very playful and experimental—I loved that challenge.
I switched around my senior thesis project to include half-metal works along with my paintings. After graduating, I took a part-time job as an environmental surveyor and announced that I would be accepting art commissions. Within a few weeks, I had enough orders to quit that job and focus on building my business. That was six years ago and I’ve never looked back.
Flylords: Where do you draw inspiration for your pieces from?
Ashley: I am absolutely addicted to chasing these experiences. I go through intense periods of working nonstop so I can take time to completely immerse myself in these experiences. I always tell people that I work to fish. When I’m home, I don’t take time to go out or to spend much time doing anything else. To soak up the full detail of each experience, I immerse myself into a project, then immerse myself completely into fly fishing trips.
Flylords: How would you describe your artistic style?
Ashley: I think playful experimentation is the best way to describe my path to where I am now. I think that I envision the way I want something to look and then work backward from that point. Color, movement, and luminescence are always at the forefront of my thoughts when beginning a new project.
Flylords: What is your process for creating a new steel piece?
Ashley: I almost exclusively make custom orders. I start with a conversation with the customer. From there I create a sketch and then a detailed drawing on a raw sheet of stainless steel. I use a plasma cutter to cut each piece out by hand, then grind and polish the piece down. After this, I shape the piece out to a “half mount” relief. Next, I color the stainless with a torch and occasionally will Dremel back in more detail at the end of the process.
Flylords: How can folks get in touch with you about commissions?
Ashley: I work primarily through custom orders, although I do have an online shop for smaller items. The best way to get in touch with me is through email at email@example.com. People can also reach me at www.ashleyweberart.com and through my Instagram profile.