She can’t think of any way it didn’t change her life. The accident. From deep inside the creative passion that drives the photography of Ashley Woodson Bailey, the thought of what happened to her is never far from her mind.
How could it be?
Ashley Woodson Bailey in her studio.
By Michael J. Pallerino | Photography by Erin Gray Cantrell
The near-fatal car accident in 2012 rendered her helpless with life-altering injuries. A broken back. Broken ribs. Seven months of intensive recovery.
And yet, what nearly took everything away, in the end, helped show her that anything is truly possible. The accident taught her to see the beauty in everything. From the ashes of the twisted and tangled metal that nearly destroyed her grew a more determined, more dedicated artist and person.
“The accident changed my art in every way, because I was a full-time florist,” Bailey said. “Once I broke my back, I was determined to continue my work with flowers, but in a less physical way.”
That way became photography. Self-taught, she sought to create lasting flower arrangements through the lens of her camera. The floral photography – florography – gave her a second chance.
“The flowers are my therapy,” Bailey said. “I talk to them. I arrange them. I watch them die.”
In the beginning, the darkness was all Bailey could see. As she freely admits, she was in a genuinely dark spot mentally. But as she began to heal and find herself, the darkness of her work became more of her signature than an attitude.
“As an artist, I very much hide behind my work,” she said. “I prefer to honestly spend time with my flowers and my family and my dogs than I do on any of the marketing or selling.”
Growing up with dreams of being a fashion designer, Bailey read and savored every single issue of Vogue and Elle magazines she could get her hands on. She ended up studying art history at the University of Texas in Austin, eventually working as a floral designer for two decades in Dallas, Houston, New York City, Savannah, Atlanta and Austin. Inspired by her favorite artists such as Dries Van Noten, Erdem and Marni, she fell in love with the movement in beautifully made clothing.
The accident ended up changing her career plans. Only able to focus on healing, Bailey began taking photographs of the bouquets that surrounded her with her iPhone. That’s when a single flower caught her attention. The image went on to inspire her “Dark” collection, which documented the transition of the flower from a lovely blossom to a dying stem. The collection expressed her desire to preserve the beauty of what she sees.
These days, Bailey is working on new wallpaper patterns, launching a textile collection and her first AWB clothing collection. And there’s always new images of flowers, more travel, more collaborations and more products to seek out.
“When I began sharing my work, and when I received such an incredible response about how it touched so many different people, it just moved me to want to do more,” Bailey said. “I want people to feel an emotional response to my work. I want them to see that everything has meaning and everything is special, whether it be a blade of grass or a flower from their wedding bouquet.”
Up close and personal with Ashley Woodson Bailey
Ashley with husband, Brad.
Best piece of advice
To just be myself and do what feels right to me
Best advice for young artists
Try everything and something will end up feeling exactly right
Katherine Sandoz, Susan Hable, Rinne Allen, Michelle Armas, Lindsay Troutman, Landon Nordeman, Megan Morton
Best thing about Cobb County
Book you’re reading
“All is Not Forgotten,” by Wendy Walker
Most inspiring music
I grew up in the 80s, need I say more?
Favorite place to visit
I love going home to Corpus Christi and Austin, Texas, to see family and friends. And I love going to Sydney so much it hurts when I am away from it.