Ashley Keeper’s starkly elegant jewelry is more than just a line of pretty accessories. It’s a story about wanderlust, an expression of Keeper’s “journey to find stillness in movement,” inspired by travel and flight.
Keeper conceived of the brand while riding the NYC subways in 2010; her ideas flourished while traveling the world by airplane, in that liminal space where suspension and motion coexist. Keeper’s minimal aesthetic, a collection of classic geometries in peculiar proportions, is shaped by aerodynamic machinery and futuristic architecture. Unisex in nature, the designs are also androgynous, playing with connotations of masculinity and femininity.
The Alchemist’s Kitchen carries one of Keeper’s most evocative pieces: the chainmail bracelet “Point” (pictured above), a sexy piece of handcrafted art for your body to honor the woman warrior in all of us.
I chatted with Ashley about what inspires her, how her pieces transcend fashion and empower the wearer, androgyny, and more.
Photo via Instagram: @ashleykeeper
Your work brings to mind the notion of early 20th century futurism and the art deco style. You mention an affinity for aerodynamics on your site. What is your relationship to that?
Back in school, I studied industrial design. At the time I thought I was going to be working larger scale. I had done some installation work, and I originally wanted to design furniture. But in my first truly professional job out of college, I found myself managing and running production in the garment district for another designer. I fell into the medium of jewelry right away, but I still held onto the aesthetic of those industrial products I was inspired by.
In addition to that, I’ve always had this wanderlust mentality. I started my whole collection right when I was backpacking through Southeast Asia for the first time. After my first run of production, I started traveling about, and at every place and airport I was in, I was inspired to design new pieces in the collection. I know this sounds weird, most people hate airports, but I love being in them. I love being on the plane. There’s nowhere better than being on the plane for me. I’m an idea person, I live in my head with creative ideas coming all the time. Being on the plane is this place where you’re suspended but completely in motion. While my work shows a feeling of motion, there’s a stillness in the fact that they’re stagnant objects. There’s also a big influence, particularly with my upcoming collection, of Japanese zen, wabi-sabi, with imperfections, with meditation and stillness. And there’s another part of me that’s on the go. My brand is based in Brooklyn, New York. I love to travel, but I’m still looking for inner stillness.
At The Alchemist’s Kitchen there’s a convergence of various ancient healing traditions related to consciousness. Do you feel a resonance with any of those in your work?
Yes, absolutely. When I started traveling, the first thing I did was seek out alternative healing. I’ve always been very into holistic medicine and have always gravitated towards Eastern thought. When I was young I worked in a greenhouse. Throughout my life I’ve held philosophies and ideas that I see reflected at The Alchemist’s Kitchen. The Point sits on the pointer finger, emphasizing women pointing in direction. We’re at a time where were really need that tone of being conscious, present, and standing for what you believe in.
“Point” Photo by John Dill
Can you tell us a bit more about your hand piece “Point”? How do you imagine it resonating with the wearer?
It’s about female empowerment. Even though my collection is unisex in general, and everyone, regardless of gender, has feminine energy. The Point and other chainmail styles come from a sensual and kind of erotic place. A common testimonial from people is that there’s an intimate experience with it, the way it feels against the skin. It makes them feel really empowered, really badass, and really sexy.
How do you feel your pieces affect person’s well-being beyond style and aesthetic?
Absolutely. Keeper is about objects that transcend the physical. They’re keepsakes based off memories. My pendants are more-so representative of traveling devices; they’re keepsake versions of those pieces. The chainmail definitely embodies much more than a piece of jewelry, adornment or fashion, or fashion accessory. It’s a story, an expression of yourself and your feminine energy.
Tell us about your interest in men’s fashion, and androgyny. What is the connection between that and these futuristic, aerodynamic elements, if any?
I’m pretty feminine in general, but I’ve always gravitated toward’s men’s everything. I always wanted to wear men’s clothing, always wanted to hangout with the guys. I’ve been very inspired by that. We’re in a time right now where it’s all blurring together anyway. I see a lot of men that are wanting to find more accessories and ways to express themselves; they feel more open to doing that. And I see more women that are secure with themselves and don’t care either way. In an abstract, conceptual sense, there is a connection between androgyny, and the minimalistic and industrial. I have these minimalistic silhouettes that are pretty abstract but also definitive when you look at them.