Ashley Tibbits is a writer, stylist and all around creative woman. Barbara Sueko McGuire recently sat down with the LA local to talk about what inspires her, how to pursue creativity, and what it means to be a domestic goddess.
It’s hard not to watch Ashley Tibbit’s hands when she talks. Her petite digits aren’t distracting—rather, they animate her language and speak to the passion behind her words. Ashley is a woman who says what she means and means what she says. She’s one of the easiest humans to have a conversation with, and when she’s discussing her creative pursuits, or helping you suss out your own, it’s as if her fingers are conducting the dialogue.
The Wisconsin native first moved to Southern California in 2007 to pursue a career as an art critic, and has called Silver Lake home ever since. While her life’s direction may have altered course, her love for all things beautiful and creative has never been stronger.
“I’m continually fascinated by Los Angeles: how full and vibrant it is and how it somehow still allows for quiet moments. The jacarandas in spring, the year-long bougainvilleas, the massive agave plants and just this kind of landscape that was nothing like where I grew up,” she explained. “But the main thing that keeps me here is the creativity I’ve found; I meet people daily that are pursuing their dreams and there’s undeniable and palpable magic in that.”
So read on as Ashley’s words—and hands—orchestrate a symphony about her unique niche in this world, and discover why she, herself, is a very real part of the magic.
You excel at a variety of creative pursuits, from being a fashion writer and editor to working as a freelance stylist. What draws you to each different outlet?
I joke that “if you can’t do, write” like they say about teaching—also horribly untrue. I’m able to see that writing isn’t something that’s as easy for some people as it is for me, and I don’t mean to be too self-deprecating about that, but to some degree I’ve always been a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
I think I’m pretty clear now that writing is what I do best, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love to style when I get the chance. When I tried to switch to full-time styling I realized it was never the same passion I had for writing. It’s such a hard industry and you have to love it 100 percent. For me, that part of my heart was just reserved for writing so I couldn’t push that out of the way. Now if I’m blessed to be offered a cool styling job—even if the money is terrible—I’ll take it because I really do like being artistic in that way. But only when I get some creative freedom! The alternative is no fun.
You also describe yourself as a “domestic goddess.” Can you talk a little bit about how you came up with the moniker and what it means to you?
Yes! It’s very tongue-in-cheek to call myself that. If you actually visited my apartment you know I’m no Martha Stewart. My ex is a very talented cook and got me excited about doing things like shopping the farmer’s market, cooking, setting a nice table, etc. When we split up, those types of things were too tied to him for me to enjoy anymore. Then one day I decided I deserved to do beautiful things for myself—for no other reason than to make myself happy and that I could make my own memories and experiences.
So now I like to do things like always have flowers around, visit the farmer’s market a few times a week and I love to geek out cooking breakfast or making a cocktail. My mom, bless her, raised us on a lot of convenience foods, so it’s a new world for me to be playing with recipes the way I do now! And the produce in a place like LA makes it so easy.
How do you keep your personal life and your work life balanced and organized in a way that actually let’s you turn “off?”
I wish I could say I do, but it’s a constant struggle. I’m not wealthy and no one else supports me, so I kind of have to say “yes” to a lot. I’m not in the position to just follow all my creative pursuits 100 percent of the time, but I do love a lot of work that I get to do at the moment and I feel really lucky about that.
There are days I feel like I am totally brain-dead and that I’ve used all the words in the English vocabulary and I have no energy left for things like laundry or cleaning the apartment. That’s the tricky part. I spend a lot of time working and when I’m not working I’m unwinding from work (read: sleeping). That makes it hard to keep up with chores and do personal creative projects. I think moving forward I need to be better about saying no when it means keeping me more sane and happy. That’s something I might always battle with!
What’s some advice you’d give to budding creatives looking to break from their 9-5 and pursue something they’re more passionate about?
Number one, I’d say don’t necessarily hate on your 9-5 unless it makes you totally miserable. There’s no shame in paying your bills with something that’s not your dream job—as long as you’re following your passion in your other time. I hope to one day support myself completely by writing, but until that happens there’s no sense in torturing myself for not being able to!
Be patient and kind with yourself; we’re not all given a trust fund and surrounded by “yes” people. Figure out what brings you the most joy and do what you have to do to make time for it, even if it’s before or after your 9-5 and even if you can’t figure out if it will ever make you money. Believe me, if you don’t you’ll feel you’re missing out.
You’re exceptionally good at connecting with people—seeing what they’re really about—and then using that knowledge for good, whether it be introducing them to someone in their industry or suggesting an online resource that could be inspiring. Is this something that comes naturally to you or is it a skill you had to cultivate?
I’m blessed to be in an amazing group of creative women that I can call friends. When I pitch someone as a subject, it’s probably because I’m already admiring them from afar. Very rarely has meeting these women been disappointing and very often we end up being friends! I’m drawn to women who are creative and hard working and they tend to have like-minded friends so it’s a domino effect. LA makes it so easy to connect. From what I hear that’s what’s cool about our city versus New York. For me, it’s never competitive, and that’s great because I’m not from a competitive city. It’s very organic to say, “Oh you do this cool thing? You need to meet so-and-so.” And others do the same for me.
It seems like you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the uniquely cool market. Is there an author, coffee shop, fashion trend or band we should be paying attention to? For instance, what do you think might be the next avocado toast?
Hahaha! I hope avocado toast is a forever thing. In fashion, I’ve been noticing a huge shift towards sustainable brands that create in small runs, use deadstock or reclaimed fabric and manufacture locally. Paying a bit more, but investing in pieces that are more conscious and well-made to last you longer and stay in your closet more than a season. I love brands like Reformation or the recently-launched YSTR for that.
Of course “mom” jeans are having a moment, but I refuse to call them that! I was told by a vintage denim vendor that there’s going to be a shift away from 501’s. I have a pair of Lee’s from Fair Season which are a bit higher rise and more slim-fitting than that style, so they have less of an ‘80s mom vibe.
I’m super snobby about writers. I’ll watch any horrible reality show but I can’t be in book clubs because I’m so picky. That said, one of my favorite contemporary writers is Tao Lin. His last novel “Tai Pei” is an incredibly accurate portrait of detached youth. The writing style is so modern and the story is sad and funny and very relatable.
How do you stay inspired? Who or what keeps you on your creative toes?
I make sure to make time to get inspired. That might mean taking a stroll around Echo Park during lotus season or going to a matinee showing of some indie movie or doing candlelit yoga in my living room while Lemonade is playing. I think honestly it’s about disconnecting in some way for me.