by Lee Harris

Growing up in Ireland’s capital city of Dublin, Tina Ashmore was a perennially happy child, playing in her family’s fruit and vegetable gardens, watching her mother turn the abundant harvest from those gardens into delicious food, and always loving the burst of colors provided.

Add a few decades and a change of venue, and you’ll find little has changed. Ashmore is still inspired by color and as motivated by nature as she ever was. This time it is Tina herself who turns the harvest into something more, for here is an artist so totally overwhelmed by nature’s magnificence, that her website heralds, “Inspired by nature – made with passion.”

While her medium is neither one of watercolors nor oils, she is an artist nonetheless…a jewelry artist, surrounded by the flowers and fruits and berries of her youth; yet this time they take their shape from semi-precious and precious stones, embellished and set in silver and 18 karat gold. From earliest childhood Ashmore loved designing jewelry. “I used to use tin foil to fashion rings and bracelets, and I’d chop up insulation to get to the colored wires to make beads.”

Blossoms and Berries Lariat, Photo by Edwina Stevenson

Blossoms and Berries Lariat, Photo by Edwina Stevenson

Those who don’t believe in the power of genetics should study Ashmore’s lineage. “My Dad was an illustrator and singer, both my brothers are musicians, my sister is an illustrator, and my mother could knit and sew and make beautiful clothes. Always in the background there was baking going on, using the colors and flavors from our garden. The weather is so bad in Ireland, you have to keep yourself busy. It’s a survival tactic,” she laughs.

It was a visiting aunt, one who created and sold jewelry, who firmly cemented the young girl’s future of putting colors and pieces together to create something beautiful and unique.

Today little has changed. While Tina has grown into a handsome and confident woman and now lives in the United States, she is still very much that little girl, fascinated with the experimentation of color. Her cut up wire “beads” have been replaced by beautiful stones, yet the passion has never waned. Ashmore says simply, “I design and make jewelry,” but those in the know say it so much better.

Richard Freeman from EF Watermelon in Old Lyme has said upon first seeing Tina’s work, “This isn’t silver or gold. This is art.” Thereafter an association was quickly cemented with Ashmore who now showcases her work among the fine jewelry, estate pieces, and objets d’art at EF Watermelon. “It’s a privilege to be there,” Ashmore adds appreciatively.

It’s now been some 20 years that Ashmore has been creating her wearable art. Although right now it is sold exclusively at EF Watermelon, it’s previously been in New York galleries and is well known throughout Europe.

Trained in Dublin as a goldsmith after first dabbling in hairdressing, electronics, and graphic design, Tina works with both precious and semi-precious stones that are custom cut for each individual piece. Her art is created in silver, 18 karat gold, and glass, each piece lovingly tended to in the private gallery of the Madison home that she and environmental consultant husband, Craig Benton have shared since moving to the U.S. three years ago.

Summer Harvest Necklace, Photo by Edwina Stevenson

“Generally I create one piece at a time, taking anywhere from two hours to four weeks to give it life.” And each piece is Ashmore’s “baby,” as she creates a “birth certificate” for each ring, necklace, or earrings. “That birth certificate stays with me. I write it all down…everything I’ve done to create them. I figure we spend so much time together, I owe them a good home, so I really care about the people who buy them.”

Ashmore’s font of inspiration comes not solely from her childhood in Dublin, but these days from her dreams. “It started about ten years ago after a trip with Craig to Tuscany. I loved Tuscany. We visited wonderful vineyards, drank great wines. Shortly after returning, I started having dreams that I was in the middle of a beautiful vineyard making jewelry. The dreams were quite vivid and had great detail. Berries – flowers – grapes. All very colorful, romantic, and feminine. They have since become my signature pieces.”

So, does Tina still dream? “Yes, not constantly, maybe every couple of months. I’m a certified lunatic! Yet I don’t feel too weird. I’ve spoken with other artists who have had like experiences that fuel their inspiration to create.”

It does not matter how Tina Ashmore is inspired, whether through childhood memories or dreams. The results are unique and quite wonderful. Using only custom cut stones, leaves, berries, and grapes are colorfully sculpted into one-of-a-kind wearable art looking good enough to eat. “I call my new collection, Jeweled Harvest; it’s absolutely delicious!” Tina says animatedly.

Looking ahead, Ashmore plans to unveil a brand new collection for Christmas 2017. “It’s all based on ice; I’m very excited about creating those signature pieces.” For the time being, however, Tina Ashmore’s signature imprint is being made on the colorful fruits and berries in her current collection; yet the artist freely admits, “It will change and evolve as I do. Right now I am 100% inspired by the gentleness of my pieces.”

Dolce Vita Earrings, Photo by Edwina Stevenson

As to the future? “I would like to open a store, I would like to once again be part of a New York gallery, I would like to get my work displayed on the catwalk and create jewelry that goes completely around the body. I would like to create my art in a cave-like setting like they have in the Italian vineyards. I would love to do that, with a nice glass of Prosecco by my side.”

Tina Ashmore’s work is both simple, yet elaborate. It has been thoroughly born out of happiness and a real zeal for grabbing all life offers. “I love where I am right now. I can’t complain. Life’s good.”

And with that, the interview ends, the artist delving back into her day’s work. Soon, however, it will be night.

Perchance to dream?

Capture the art of jewelry and view the new collection at www.tinaashmore.com

or visit EF Watermelon, 24 Lyme Street, Old Lyme

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