Her eponymous enamel jewelry line Ashley Duncan is colorful and sweet with a pop-art edge—and the bonus is that her signature heart designs are kid-friendly too, so moms and daughters can wear matching sets. A mom of three kids age 7 and under, Duncan carved out some time to chat with us about embracing “organized chaos” while her kids scooted and skateboarded up and down her apartment hallway.
Give us the crib notes on your career before having kids.
I was a studio art major in college (at USC), and worked in galleries for 5 years in LA and New York before working in publishing—I was on the ad side at Conde Nast for Gourmet and was part of the team that launched Teen Vogue.
How did you get into jewelry design?
I actually started my first line in the spring of 2006 when my son Olin was 6 months old and I needed an outlet. But when my daughter Scarlett was born in March of 2008 – a time when a lot of old school institutions were imploding – I decided to make a more affordable line, inspired by an enamel red heart necklace I had as a child. With some thinking and tweaking, I came up with the large enamel heart necklace on a spin loop – featuring two different colors on each side that would spin with the wearer’s movement and add a pop of color to an otherwise ordinary outfit.
Did you purposely create jewelry that is both mom and kid-friendly?
No, oddly enough. It all started with the larger double-sided heart necklace – and then I did a small version for clients who wanted to buy for their daughters, nieces, and granddaughters too. It was great the day I sold one large necklace and three small ones to a mom and her 3 daughters—she did gray on one side of all of them but chose different colors for the other sides to make them each individual.
Do your daughters wear your designs?
Yes, both do. Scarlett (4 ½) likes to wear the heart necklaces to school and Georgie (2 ½) is into the rings.
How did becoming a parent shape what your business is?
Jewelry was a way for me to be creatively expressive without being invasive in our living space. In NYC you don’t have much space so taking up half of it for painting with canvases, oils, and turpentine with kiddos around was not an option.
Where and how is your business set up on in your home?
A desk in the middle of the chaos of our living room.
Where in NYC do you live? What do you love about it and what drives you nuts?
We live downtown on the street that connects the new Trade Center Site to the Seaport. It’s a very vibrant landscape but at the same time very crowded – I’m always trying to push down the feelings from my suburban upbringing as I watch my kids scoot in and out of pedestrian traffic on our street…I mean, this is their home, what they are most comfortable with, so I have to try my best to let them roam and enjoy.
Do you find it’s unique to be raising three young kids in the city?
Believe it or not, three seems to be the new two. I know a lot of families with 3 kids, but at the same time I know a lot with one (who basically think I’m nuts, ha).
What’s your meltdown-prevention tactic?
Chocolate! Strawberry Fields, the yogurt shop down the street! Sweets!
What’s your lazy-day family ritual?
Watching movies, curling up on our large Fatboy beanbag, and ordering in fresh bagels and lox (Scarlett calls them “Goldilocks”) and cream cheese from Leo’s.
How do you celebrate your kids’ birthdays?
I love birthday parties that involve an activity that the parents can enjoy – last year we had Olin’s at Brooklyn Bowl. The parents were able to feel comfortable and hang out while the kids had a blast.
What’s the best place in your neighborhood for a mom-kid hang?
Imagination Park in the afternoon/early evening.
How do you feel about screen-time for the kids?
I know there are probably a lot of moms that do not agree with letting kids watch much television and I totally respect that. But I, on the other hand, remember shows that I loved and still remember – Gidget (with Sally Field), Brady Bunch, Press Your Luck, Emergency!, Cosby Show, Cheers, and I loved getting lost in them. I definitely think there should be a time limit, but to me, screen-time equals fun time.
What’s your mom uniform now?
Large tent dresses, or jeans with a blazer and tank top.
Do you have a fail-safe fashion/beauty/or style ritual or routine?
Always take the make-up off at the end of the night no matter how tipsy!
If you’re on a date night, where do you go?
Soho on a Sunday night is magical—there are not many people around. We head to Blue Ribbon Brasserie or Raoul’s for dinner, and grab a post dinner drink at Merc Bar – an oldie but a goodie.
If you get a minute of time to yourself, what’s your pleasure?
I love to walk around, tune out the noise, take pictures of the city, pop into some of my favorite shops, and just see what’s going on out there.