Within and Without


© Noël Ashby


Short Essay by Noël Ashby


When making surface patterns and working with fabrics, boundary becomes a defining factor in the character or personality of the piece. Not only is there a mathematical restraint that requires where something begins and ends, there are also the elements themselves. The edge of each element adds expression to the pattern, acting as the skin, holding in and defining the mass of a thing. Structure and area of activity are both part of this and are contained within this. With selvage on woven fabrics, there can be an added layer, a history applied to the edge that explains what is being kept from unraveling, the origin, and who is responsible for the piece at hand, as well as a distinct boundary. Playing with these edges, bumping them up against other boundaries, is often a starting point for me, and has always driven my art.

A friend recently said that she thinks of a boundary as being neutral. Since I view this as an active thing that is reacted to, I am surprised by this notion and have found great room in it. Perhaps in this lies its neutrality. It can contain, define, enhance, and is typically related to that which is within it.

So, when two merge, as with marriage, what happens to a boundary? Where do they overlap? Must a shared boundary be more responsive or does it take on a stronger stance in its unity? It think it isn’t possible for oneself to not be affected, and therefore the boundary is changed for one and the other, and the commonality and beauty of this change is where the overlap occurs, one area embodying the other. It seems history often reflects on a boundary as something to be traversed, an arbitrary line, a movable border. Yet a boundary is really all that is experienced within.


As a Surface Designer, Noël Ashby works with many different companies applying patterns, color, and textures to whatever is available and in need. When these run out, she makes her own things to add surface to, which she oftentimes does while singing loudly, poorly and happily. One of her dogs has an alter ego named “Roy,” and her husband can take her anywhere if it’s couched as an adventure.

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