Sunday, December 7, 2008


Shop name: willywaw

A little about you: When I was growing up, my Dad would tromp us out into the woods with our Peterson Field Guides in hand to discover and identity what was growing there. So it’s by nature that I still find inspiration for my art and designs. My name is Ashley Van Etten and I live in Narragansett, R.I., with my husband, Joe, and our rescued border collie/Alaskan husky, Cody. Joe is a marine engineer, avid diver and kayaker. I love the ocean and the creatures that inhabit the shore but I also have a passion for mountains and snow.

I've worked as a freelance illustrator for over 15 years and enjoy creating just about anything. My favorite mediums are oil, watercolor, screen prints and wood. I have a B.A. in studio art and background in fashion design. At one time I designed couture under my own label and after volunteering on a trail crew in the Tetons lead to a move out west, I designed ski clothing and outdoor gear for five years.

My Etsy shop shares the name of my web site,, and my design studio. Named after the ferocious arctic winds that sweep down coastal mountains and slam onto the ocean (I like reading non-fiction arctic adventure), Willywaw is the creative outlet for my own work.

A little about your
products: A few years ago I became a master gardener. The program teaches sustainable gardening practices and reinforced my concerns about the environment, so choosing organic textiles was a no-brainer. My tote bags are screen printed on organic cotton canvas, and I use hemp webbing for the straps as it wears better than cotton. I am trying to buy only fabric grown and milled in the U.S. and get most of my fabric from NearSea Naturals and their blog but I've had to make some compromises. For now, my t-shirts are not organic and the decision to offer a t-shirt with great cut, style and colors won out. The dye house does have a state of the art water treatment recycling system and is in New England so they get some points.

What about the organic mission inspires you?:
When I swim in the ocean or dig in my garden, I think about how what goes in is going to come out, or go somewhere, or end up back in me. I’d like to be part of a solution not part of the problem.

What’s your current project?:
My big project right now is building a bigger light box so I can burn very large screens. My tote bags are screened as one piece and then sewn so I am limited by the size of the tote I can create. Customers have expressed a lot of interest in bigger bags, pillows and new styles. I’m also working on multi-colored prints and paint as often as I can.

Where y
our products can be found: Right now I am only selling on Etsy. I will be at the URI East Farm Spring Festival next May and the Coastal Growers Farmer’s Market at Casey Farm throughout the summer 2009. Both events take place in Rhode Island.

Blog, under construction:


Brenda said...

Thank you Ashley for letting us get to know you better, I loved your interview and found it really interesting to read. I have a passion for the sea also, I find it to be such a calming influence on my life.

Ecoleeko said...

Really nice interview. It's really nice to take a peak into everyones worlds.. And I love her unique print subjects, really awesome!!

GreenWorks said...

Love the fabric prints for the bags. Interesting read - one multi-talented lady!


Excellent article, I want one of those bags!!

willywaw said...

Thanks for your comments! I just re-ordered a huge bolt of organic cotton and can't wait to print, cut and sew new bags. Cheers.

BlossomingTree said...

Great feature!

Gabrielle said...

A very inspiring interview. Those fabric bags look great! Thanks for sharing!
Herb Friend