BIXBY — There is a square white canvas set atop a small corner shelf in Ashley Reagan’s home work space. In black and rainbow-colored words it reads: “I am a maker.”
“I’ve always got to be doing something with my hands,” explained the 29-year-old Bixby woman.
This year, Reagan will celebrate her fifth anniversary of opening her own business, ibleedheART, and will be making her first appearance at An Affair of the Heart this weekend, July 14-16. Both milestones are a little hard for her to believe because she’s experienced a lot leading up to where she sits now.
She was home-schooled until she was enrolled at Bixby High School for her junior and senior years. She was placed in an art class, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Reagan remembers how difficult it was to adapt to public schools as an anxious teenager while at the same time coping with family problems, so she dove fully into art.
“I could just get in the zone and get lost in creating something,” she said. “It was my healing time.”
It sparked her interest in all facets of art — drawing, ceramics, pointillism and painting, to list a few — and it became her goal to attend college in pursuit of a fine arts degree.
“If it weren’t for art, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college,” Reagan said.
She attended Oklahoma Baptist University, where she studied art and developed her personal style. She traveled to India, where she fell in love with henna, and it became one of her passions. She started by doodling on mugs and practicing henna on her own hands in her free time. When she finished schooling, she saw an ad for a Style Your Own Sole event hosted by TOMS Shoes in Oklahoma City. She applied and, to her surprise, was invited to be one of seven artists to paint and sell their versions of the popular shoes for a day.
Seeing the lines of people who wanted a pair of shoes painted by her was the catalyst that started her business in 2012. She started selling her work on Etsy, participated in craft fairs at her church and in the Indie Trunk Show, where she sold her shoes and her latest creation of feather earrings made with embroidery floss.
While the shoes are the bulk of her store, she’s been making the feather earrings for about year now and is working to bring a full stock of colors and designs to An Affair of the Heart, starting Friday.
This will be the first time for An Affair of the Heart to host the Makers’ Market, which will focus on 16 vendors who are artists and craftspeople. The goal of the new addition to the biannual shopping event was to attract new artists to the show by offering them a deep discount for a booth, said Anita Hinkle, co-owner and founder of An Affair of the Heart.
The artists in the Markers’ Market come from Oklahoma, Arkansas and Nebraska and are included in the nearly 500 vendors that will be set up in the River Spirit Expo at Expo Square.
“This will be the inaugural Maker’s Market. Tulsa has always had a lot of makers — people who do everything,” she said. “It’s a good fit. Tulsa loves their art and artists, and they love to support them.”
The Makers’ Market will place the artists in the center of the River Spirit Expo during the show. It’s a place where shoppers will have a chance to meet the artists and possibly see them at work, Hinkle said. She also has plans bring the Maker’s Market to each of the show’s locations.
A few years ago, Reagan attended An Affair of the Heart in Oklahoma City. The show is the largest she will have ever participated in, but she’s hoping it will be a positive experience. Had it not been for the discounted booth price, she said there was no way she could’ve afforded it. While she says her business has been successful enough to keep her from needing a second job, it was an investment in herself she wouldn’t have made otherwise.
“I submitted my shoes and earrings to show them what I do, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up,” she said.
A few weeks ago, Reagan was surprised to find out she had been selected to be part of the show. Leading up to the event, she had been working on her inventory of colorful feather earrings and painted shoes. She still paints TOMS shoes and Bobs, and a lot of her work consists of custom designs.
“Everything is original, and I have about 45 to 50 designs now,” she said.
Working from home to create pieces to sell through her store has also given her a chance to care for her family. When her grandfather suffered a stroke, she was able to care for him, and more recently, when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, she could do the same.
“Art has allowed me to be there for my family. It confirmed this is what God called me to do,” she said.
Jessica Rodrigo 918-581-8482