Watching paint mix on a palette; hearing raindrops on the window; for some, it’s the sound of whispering in your ear. There are certain auditory, physical, and visual cues that — somewhat inexplicably — bring us a sense of calm. The latest in retail therapy: Hello Ashto, an Edmonton-based jewellery line by 23-year old designer Ashton Wusyk. She saw a rush of sales to her online shop last March when the world went into lockdown and our collective level of anxiety went up. One look at her collection of soft, textured earrings — almost frozen in motion — and you may very well find yourself in zen.
They’re handmade of polymer clay in curves and shapes, and look good enough to eat. At first glance, they appear to be heavy, however, Wusyk — a graphic designer by trade — describes her playful statement earrings as surprisingly lightweight: “They are roughly as light as a few grapes, less heavy than your average pen, more heavy than a sheet of paper.”
In particular, it’s the “Wavy Baby” earrings — seen in pastel hues last spring and summer, and camel, plum and “Stardust” blue this fall — that look to have an invisible hand pressing them into place. Dangling gently from ears in Sweden and France, hovering above clavicles across Canada and the United States, Hello Ashto brings a kind of aerial sense of style to your Zoom calls. Ironically, the jewellery line’s 2018 origins are partially accidental: “I have an obsession with cacti, so what I really wanted to create were little cactus sculptures,” Wusyk says. “I very quickly learned that I am no realism sculptor, and after squishing up a failed cactus and rolling it out into an oval shape, I noticed that it resembled jewellery.”
Now, making earrings takes all her energy (as a one-woman show, she’s colour-mixing, shaping, baking, assembling and shipping from her home-based studio full time). When human interaction returns to normal, she plans on one day offering paint-night-style classes where she might guide people through the process of making their own pieces. “Polymer clay is a very accessible medium, and I would love to share the joy that it brings me with others as well.”