(left) A Singing Bowl-Celadon, a limited edition for Ashton Road created by Eugene, Ore., ceramicist Julie Reisner, using ancient Korean, Chinese and Japanese techniques and working in porcelain. (right) A quilt created by Chicago artist Sarah Nishiura. Her quilts have never been commercially sold.

(left) A Singing Bowl-Celadon, a limited edition for Ashton Road created by Eugene, Ore., ceramicist Julie Reisner, using ancient Korean, Chinese and Japanese techniques and working in porcelain. (right) A quilt created by Chicago artist Sarah Nishiura. Her quilts have never been commercially sold.



For every action, according to the universal law, comes a reaction.

As the book world crosses the digital divide, the art of fine bookmaking and letterpress printing persists.

As the Fred Meyers or Walmarts of the world absorb another field, somewhere a new farmer’s market springs to life.

In a world of mass production, real artists push back. Most real artists and artisans struggle, however, to connect with buyers.

Ashton Road, a company founded by three women entrepreneurs headquartered in Magnolia Village, aims to support artists and artisans who are better at creating beauty than marketing their own work.

The company’s “farm-to-market” business model is straightforward: to be a one-stop source for interior designers and homeowners for three-dimensional art, where beauty of form and function is the common thread. 

The business launched a few months ago.

Akemi Sagawa, a former Microsoft executive, lives in Magnolia and keeps her eye on the company spreadsheets; Carol Kipling, also of Magnolia, is a former Hollywood interior designer and artist who works with a stable of artisans, sometimes contributing her own design accents to achieve a more modernist look; Joann Hamick, who lives in Madison Park, is the other founding partner. The former executive for luxury resort real estate communities is the visionary and storyteller behind the art. 

When prodded to mention a memorable Hollywood celebrity, Kipling, though not a name-dropper, allowed Charlton Heston “was one of my favorites. He was a wonderful, sweet man. He even sent hand written notes.”

As a designer creating domestic sanctuaries for high-octane, Hollywood lives, Kipling observed, “Actors are high-strung. I would neutralize that with blues and greens.”

“You can tell everything about somebody by stepping into their room,” she added. 

At home in Japan, Sagawa said she never paid much attention to traditional Japanese ways – ikebana and the tea ceremony didn’t register. After moving to the Northwest in 1995 and experiencing  the region’s aesthetic affinities with her homeland, she had another take on where she came from: Sagawa now teaches ikebana. “The old crafts are disappearing in Japan,” she lamented.

Hamick said of this country’s increasingly fast pace of life: “We’re being asked to give up so much of our humanity.” 

Behind each of Ashton Road’s artists lies a story. Hamick tells of Midwest painter and quilter Sarah Nishiura, who makes a half-dozen quilts a year. Her unique and striking work has gone largely under-marketed.

Seattle glassmaker Robert Woldow’s modernistic pieces, with their matte finish, defy normal conceptions of glass art. Woldow has worked with Kipling on a series of cleanly elegant, glass trays, where, it seems, Piet Mondrian meets Zen.

Seattle artist Akiko Graham is a potter whose tableware has shown up in the restaurants of Tom Douglas and Blaine Wetzel, among many others. She works out of her West Seattle studio, where a scroll of a Li Po poem hangs on the wall while quiet appreciation for her work grows. 

As Hamick said of connecting buyer with artisan, “What we want people to feel is they’ve traveled and gone to another culture.”

Though the three express concern for the health of traditional arts and crafts here and abroad, “We believe in the power of the marketplace to make artists successful,” Hamick said.

Ashton Road website is at www.ashtonroad.com