If you’re a jewelry designer who loves gold “the most,” and Dolly Parton’s rendition of “Jolene,” it makes perfect sense that you’d name your company Goldeen. At least that’s how the thought process played out for Ashleigh Devon Ayles Hayes when she decided to take her side passion to the next level six years ago.
The creative wunderkind has a laundry list of venerable skills, from sewing and make up artistry to merchandising and furniture design. She was also a serious ballerina until she was 18! But after making a pair of horseshoe charm earrings at a friend’s tea party, she fell hard and fast for jewelry.
“I think making jewelry became my favorite because I can change it up so frequently. If I get over a piece quickly it's totally ok, no biggie, I just come up with something new,” she explained. “And there are so many different processes, it's nearly impossible to get bored—there are always new skills and methods to learn and hone which keeps you forever engaged.”
Ashleigh describes her jewelry as “a little bit pretty and all kinds of saucy,” which lands her creations in the same irresistible category as Sour Patch Kids—that perfect blend of salty and sweet. With ID bracelets that tout musical lyrics like “Got hot sauce in my bag,” and block letter necklaces that spout “Thug” and “Bae,” it’s no wonder she’s garnered a bit of a cult following. Fans include celebrities like Sarah Michelle Gellar and trendsetters like ban.do’s Jen Gotch.
The Toronto native recently took some time away from mastering new artistic talents to chat with Clementine about all things Goldeen. We can’t get enough of her positive attitude—how can you not adore someone who thinks learning through trial and error is one of the most fun ways to spend her time?
How did you get your start designing jewelry and learning the trade?
While I was studying fashion in Montreal I began looking for another creative outlet beyond sewing. A girlfriend of mine was having an afternoon crafting party and it was there that she showed me how to make my first pair of earrings. Since then, I've continued to take classes on silversmithing, jewelry assembly and the like. Much of the skills, especially in the beginning, were self taught.
Is Goldeen your fulltime job or just a side gig?
I am so excited to say that Goldeen is my full time job now!! I had two false starts making it my main gig, but third time's a charm! I am unbelievably grateful and feel incredibly lucky to be able to focus solely on my own business. I also help out once a week at a lovely, local boutique, Tusk, owned by the magnificent Nicole Freedman. It's fun and it gives me my retail fix!
How did you grow Goldeen to where it is today?
There are so many factors to its growth I think, but the main one—for me, anyways—is the incredible support I have received from local shops, fellow makers, social media personalities and friends. I am constantly surprised by how supportive my community is. Giving it your all is a giant undertaking, but really, it does make all the difference. I believe that you get out exactly what you put in.
What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives entrepreneurs trying to get their start?
Build up your community! Be kind! Be loyal and be honest! Share information and ask questions!! I cannot say enough good things about how supportive the people I have around me are and how easy it is to grow as a person and a business when you put out exactly what you want to bring in. And, obviously, make beautiful things. Make things that make you happy! It sounds so silly and maybe a little cheesy, but for reals, it's the key.
As you know, we are big fans of your ID bracelets. How did you come up with the idea for them, and how do you choose the quotes?
Aww yay! I'm so glad you love them so much! You see so many nameplate necklaces and stamped rings with birthdays and little initials, et cetera, which I love, but I wanted to do something a little more fun—something to make people laugh or smile or feel some kinda magic! Then when I found the plates it was like BAM! There it is! That's my thing.
If you could meet one of the music artists you quote, which one would you pick and why?
BEYONCE ALL THE WAY!! Not only is she the most badass babe EVER, but she's taking her well deserved fame and using it to bring a lot of attention to some big, important issues. And, more specifically, she's all about the girl power, which I am also allllll over.
You also do pieces with crystals—what drew you to create with that medium?
Growing up, one of my mother’s best friends was all about the crystals. I would often walk in and find her lying on our couch with various crystals placed all over her body, “to cleanse the soul,” she would explain. As a kid, I thought she was just the coolest and as I grew up I began to understand their uses and values beyond their beauty. It's also just super fun to pass that love onto new people!
Which piece in your line are you most thrilled about right now?
It's so hard to pick a favorite piece, but I am crazy about the block letter necklaces! Having just introduced the baby size, I've been layering them and having way too much fun. That being said, perhaps necklaces are my fave! You can wear so many at once, or keep it simple and clean with one solid pendant.
What’s your creative process like? What do you do for inspiration for new pieces?
I often work backwards compared to many of my designer friends. I find myself most inspired by findings and things I can hold in my hands. I definitely do my best work by getting out there and digging for treasures. Sometimes I'll find one special item that puts me on a whole train of thought and I'll bang out five new styles from that one idea.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I spend a lot of time on my porch, making things, trying my hand at new crafts or hobbies or just gabbing with my neighbors. Bike rides are also among my favorite things!
What would you say are five items essential to your everyday living?
My bicycle, she's the best. I love her the most.
The tools my big brother has made me (Scott Fraser, you are a machining genius).
Anddddddd I think most people would tell you shoes. I have a serious penchant for shoes.
p.s. Have you met The Stained Glass Artist?