The Toronto Portraits - Ashley Winnington-Ball
Welcome to the Toronto Portraits. Every Friday we're going to profiles young, dynamic Torontonians, and each week we're photographing them in a different Toronto neighbourhood.
Ashley Winnington-Ball, 26 years old. North Parkdale.
A pornographic image knitted onto a sweater, a film about a nun who's also a serial killer...two strong, contrasting ideas in one piece of artwork is a classic formula for success. Ashley is a young woman who makes fine jewelry out of scrap metal. Necklaces of rusty nails.
She grew up in northeast Scarborough, near the Highland Creek. Her interest in jewelry began at an early age; she would sell handmade friendship bracelets to kids at school, she would fashion decorative door plaques from the discarded wood of a nearby carpenter.
"I was in my teens when I began collecting scrap metal; I found quite a bit at the intersection of Victoria Park and Sheppard. I don't know why it ends up on the curbs of intersections...probably car crashes."
Ashley is a manager/ jeweler at 'Shopgirls', an independent artist run craft shop in the heart of Parkdale. They have a unique system called the 'Artists Circle'; in exchange for volunteering once a week the shop offers a generous consignment to local craft people. The middleman is cut out of the equation.
"Of course you're going to spend more if you buy something handmade and local, but you're also going to have a stronger connection to the things you're wearing. Our stuff isn't homogenized."
She puts a two part polymer resin on the metal so they're safe to wear; she's especially fond of old lock mechanisms and dish washer gears. The scraps are everywhere if you know how to look; she found me a snapped off bristle from a sidewalk cleaner as we traversed the back alleys of the neighbourhood.
Parkdale is changing, of course. Artists are being pushed out of their once affordable apartments and lofts. Ashley's store is still a place where they haven't been drowned by the oncoming tide of gentrification.
"It's very hard to make a living in this city. This store is a good fit for me because it gives people an outlet they wouldn't necessarily have."
Photos by Mr. Robin Sharp
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