Today in the spotlight: Ashley McCally, the talented artisan behind “Lily and Gus” – a company specializing in unique & lovely toys and clothing for children.
All lily & gus plush items are made using primarily repurposed fabrics (from denim to wool) and lovingly constructed from Ashley’s own designs & patterns with sustainability in mind. Each plush toy comes to life with a distinct personality as Ashley works with the textures, colors, and quirks of repurposed fabric. She loves to bring unexpected fun to her animals with surprise embellishments taken from the original clothing items (beautiful stitching, a fun tag, a touch of suede).
Each lily & gus clothing pieces starts with an original design that Ashley hand draws on the cloth using a dye resist technique. She then hand dyes each piece using bright, high quality fiber reactive dyes.
We caught up with this talented artisan and asked her a few questions; here is what she told us:
What’s the story behind your company?
I’m Ashley, the chaos wrangler at lily & gus! As a new mom I spent my days chasing after our high-energy dachshund (Gus) and finding ways to entertain my darling daughter (Lily). On one stir crazy day I started designing plush animals and clothes to go with some of my daughter Lily’s favorite words (rhino, whale, octopus); this rainy day fun has blossomed into a shop as I decided to share our favorites with others.
Lily is always requesting new designs, and I love stretching myself by fulfilling custom requests from customers. Our home is an ever-evolving zoo and I can’t wait to share our friends with a larger audience. I love what I do and I create each item I sell with love and care. I hope that you love them as much as we do!
What inspires you?
Most of my ideas come out of conversations with Lily. She is in love with animals of all kinds (not surprising as my husband is a veterinarian & I am a biologist) and when she gets excited about a particular animal I end up with days on end of paging through picture books looking for elephants or “mommy draw rhino….pleease”. When a particular obsession lasts long enough it usually leads to a new design for the shop. I always feel like I have captured the essence of an animal when Lily sees one of my new drawings and instantly identifies it. Who knew the approval of a toddler could be so gratifying?
What is your favorite product to make?
The newest animal in my shop is usually my current favorite. I love the feeling of creating something for the first time, and sharing our new animal friend with people. It is so fun to see the look in Lily’s eyes when a new friend joins our family. Right now I’m in love with the upcycled penguins in my shop.
How would you describe your style in 3 words?
Classic, Thrifty, Joyful
In your opinion, what’s the best part of being an entrepreneur?
I love spending my days with my daughter, so she can see how important it is to pursue your dreams. I love what I do everyday, and I love sharing my creations with the many friends and fans I have met during this adventure. I hope that Lily sees that if you do something you love, with great passion and joy, great things can happen.
If you were to start all over again, what would you do differently?
I’m not sure I would change much. I am still making adjustments to my business daily, but I learn from each decision that I make, and I’m enjoying the process. I am sure that when I look back years from now I will have all sorts of advice I will wish I could whisper in the ear of my former budding entrepreneurial self. But for now, I’m happy to continue to learn, and grow from all of my experiences.
Any advice for other entrepreneurs who are just starting?
I recommend you ask questions, do your research, and reach out. Just because you choose to be your own boss doesn’t mean you need to do this alone. I have learned so much by listening to and collaborating with the friends that I have made in the artisan community. They have kept me going on tough days, alerted me to amazing opportunities, and helped me remember to take time to step back and enjoy this adventure.
What’s next? Any plans for the future?
I have several exciting collaborations with fellow artisans coming up (in addition to my recent collaborations with Shanna’s Tie Dye & Heaven’s Earth which are available in my shop). I have ideas for several new plush animals that I cannot wait to find time to work on, and I am looking forward to expanding my clothing line to include pieces for older children and adults. Exciting things are coming for lily & gus, stay tuned!
*** If you are a successful artisan with an online store and fabulous products and would like to be “In the Spotlight”, feel free to submit your info. ***