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Best of Phoenix 2015: Ashley Weber Casts Succulents in Metal, Then Paints Them with Enamel

For more of the best people, places and things to do in Phoenix, check out our 2015 Best of Phoenix awards.

It's hard for me to believe I've been here for 18 years. My family and I moved to Arizona from Damascus, a small rural town in Maryland, when I was 12. When I heard we were moving, I panicked. I had so many ideas of what Arizona was. I imagined scenes from cartoons: our house would be in the middle of nowhere with blowing, stinging yellow sand and the occasional tumbleweed rolling by. What about grass? What about trees and plants? How could anyone even survive there? I think I cried the first full month we were here.

I pull a lot of the outside world into my artwork. My pieces are all about struggle and growth and finding the beauty in the parts of life that most people tend to overlook. I leave most of my work raw and unpolished. It has its own glow, and that's what I believe makes it different. I could now, just as easily, say the same thing about the desert. Both are quite simple in their complexities.

Having my roots tangled up in both the East Coast and the Southwest has helped not only expand my mind on the idea of what beauty and nature can be but also has greatly helped me in being more creative. It's shown me that a blend of worlds can be something really fantastic, that I can pull something rough and rugged and place it in a contemporary setting and create something full of modern flair, combined with something organic. By doing so, I can suggest a new way of seeing something while I'm pushing the comfort zone of those who enjoy my work.

I love the desert storms and that soul-gripping silence that the mountains can have. It's such a different experience than being on a mountain lush with plants and wildlife, birds, and bugs. It's a place where you can truly feel alone without any distraction. The storms to me are utter magic. The sky gets that beautiful blue and orange glow from the dust in the air and the wind is wild and unforgiving. I love that about the desert: It's unforgiving, and that's part of what makes it so beautiful.

My work can be found around the Valley in local stores and boutiques, and in those places, I love to push smaller pieces that represent the city, like my "602" area code necklaces and dainty saguaro charms. The locals who love Phoenix really love Phoenix, and these pieces are a great, wearable representation of that pride they have for the Valley and the desert they call home.

It took me a long time to see the beauty of the desert, but now that I have, it's something I can't deny. The variation of green is unlike any other place I've been. The harsh landscapes and the way life adapts and thrives is inspiring. It's an art, all on its own. Everything is so delicate yet so tenacious. The desert is so strong-willed. — as told to Robrt L. Pela

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