You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2013 Finalists.
Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 27, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.
Up today: Ashley Cooper
If Ashley Cooper likes it, then she'll want to put a pattern on it.
The Mesa-based textile designer creates bold graphics reminiscent of those by Trina Turk, Jonathan Adler, and Diane Von Furstenberg. Clothing, accessories, pillows, wallpaper; she wants her designs all over them.
She weaves her work for Ashley Cooper Design into a maxed-out schedule -- one that includes a husband who's studying pre-med at Arizona State University, two kids, running her style blog design-parlor (www.design-parlor.blogspot.com), and studying fashion merchandising and design at Mesa Community College.
"In any spare moment, I'm doing design work," says Cooper, 26. "I need that creativity to balance everything else."
Working in the evening doesn't put a damper on Cooper's love of color and prints, which she's appreciated for as long as she can remember. That's thanks to her mom, Sandy Carder, an interior designer whom Cooper credits with teaching her basic design principles.
Cooper's foray into fashion is new. She used to work as an aesthetician specializing in skincare (she still does it sometimes as a side hustle), but Cooper always had a keen interest in fashion. The problem? She wasn't sure whether -- or how -- she'd fit in. Then, she took a few classes through MCC's fashion program and discovered textiles.
"In my first semester, I knew this was something I could pursue," Cooper says. "It really fueled my creativity."
That creativity has landed Cooper big opportunities. Based on her fashion sketch of a cobalt blue minidress, she was one of four student finalists selected to go to New York in February in the nationwide Aquafina and Project Runway Pure Challenge. She and the other finalists faced a PR-style challenge during their trip: Make a simple white shirtdress into an original design.
Cooper didn't win that challenge or the $5,000 prize money, but she says the experience was priceless. She got feedback from former Project Runway contestants Uli Herzner, Emilio Sosa, and Bert Keeter. And rubbing elbows with former model and Real Housewives of New York City cast member Kelly Bensimon was a pretty good consolation prize for the Bravo fanatic.
Choosing textiles as her focus allows her to stand out among countless high-fashion designer wanna-bes. Anyone can go online and buy her prints by the yard via Spoonflower.com and her surface designs like laptop skins, tote bags, and stationery cards are available at Society6.com. (Both are similar to Etsy in that anyone can sell through the site's interface.) Want a laptop skin covered in Cooper's purple, pink, and orange Modern Brushstrokes? That's $25. How about two yards of the blue and green, kid-friendly Giraffes print in cotton? That'll be $17.50 per yard.
Because of her presence and accessibility on Spoonflower, Anna Richardson of Lucia Paul Designs found Cooper's orange and white Kim print in a wedding that's being featured in the spring/summer 2013 issue of Weddings Illustrated.
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It's great exposure, but she's ambitious and always looking forward.
"Anything that could have a print on it, I'm going after," Cooper says. Watch out.
Buy a $10 ticket to enjoy an evening of food, drink and entertainment April 27 at the Monarch Theatre in downtown Phoenix. Meet the finalists and learn who won during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia.