Mako shark teeth and Megalodon teeth rings. Photo credit: Mike Schalk
Mako shark teeth and Megalodon teeth rings. Photo credit: Mike Schalk

The Resiliency and the Alchemy of Ashley Flynn

Updated June 27, 2023 at 9:12 p.m.

The Alchemy Outpost, Ashley Flynn’s workspace and showroom in the 100 block of East 40th Street, has a comfortable, bohemian, hippy vibe: overstuffed armchairs, rugs, plants, crystals, and of course, her beach-inspired, bespoke jewelry. Only open during First Fridays in Starland and by appointment, most of Flynn’s days are spent fulfilling wholesale orders, prepping for street fairs and pop-up art shows, singing with her band, and caring for her family.

Relocating from Brooklyn when she was seven (“after the third chalk-outlined body outside our apartment building”), Flynn was raised in Long Beach, New York and attended Long Island University at Southampton. “Very similar to Tybee,” the Long Beach barrier island, where her mom had grown up, was the setting for idyllic summers with her grandparents, hunting for shells, and riding her bicycle all over the little beach community. In fact, moving to Savannah at 35 years of age is the first time Flynn has not been within walking distance of the beach. 

The daughter of an interior designer, and “a numbers-guy Dad” who worked on Wall Street, Flynn was active in swimming and softball while always creative: dancing, singing, and drawing throughout her childhood. Her art portfolio earned her a college scholarship and she graduated with a bachelor’s in fine arts. Taught by adjunct professors from FIT, Pratt and Parsons School of Design, Flynn describes her arts education as both enjoyable and well-rounded and finds it ironic that she now makes a living selling jewelry. “Jewelry was a craft, and that was a four-letter word,” she says wryly. “I was a painter, I did ceramics, I liked sculpture…so it was not something I saw myself doing and was actually something I was incredibly resistant to doing.” 

After college, she started a business called LB Locals creating artwork on skateboard decks and surfboards and freelancing for local companies like Long Beach Surf and UnSound Surf. Invited to participate in art pop-ups, but unable to bring huge surfboards with her, she started selling beach-inspired jewelry and soon found her pieces almost immediately sold out. Such was her success, that after her move to Georgia, she rebranded LB Locals into the jewelry company, Alchemy and the Sea. “The ocean has always been my muse,” Flynn says, “As a kid, we used to collect large oyster shells and paint them, and I would gather seashells and beach pebbles. They became the raw materials for my jewelry line, though it’s gotten a little more crystal heavy as people don’t connect with the ocean quite as much as I do. I personally want to look like summer all year long!” she laughs. 

click to enlarge The Resiliency and the Alchemy of Ashley Flynn
Flynn in her homey showroom. Photo credit: Stephanie Forbes

Flynn “blindly moved” to Savannah’s Whitemarsh Island in 2018 after her husband accepted a job with a car dealership here. That was a stressful time: “He quit after a month, after we’d moved 850 miles away from everything we knew and loved, and all of our support.” He took a job as a server at the Pink House while he began to build up his own business, Truth in Evidence Paranormal, a tour company on West Congress Street which was a finalist in this publication’s 2023 Best of Savannah walking tour company category. 

Meanwhile, Flynn was at home with two small and hyperactive children who are now 11 and 8 years of age. “And then COVID happened, and I home-schooled them.” All this while committing to a fulltime career in jewelry making, traveling to art shows, and building a local network of vendors, makers, and other artists to create Makers Market Savannah.  Originally, markets were held at Moon River Brewing Company but have grown to include The Stables, The Thompson Hotel, Shuk restaurant, and other venues around town. 

Oh, and did I mention her band? She’s been singing in the cover band Victory Drive for about four years with regular gigs in all the usual spots: Savannah’s Southbound Brewing Company and River Street’s Warehouse, Thunderbolt’s Tubby’s Tank House, Pooler’s Wild Wing Café, Tybee’s Huc-A-Poos, and even Daufuskie Island. 

After being in Savannah for about six months, “I decided I could no longer make jewelry out of my garage!” and Flynn committed to a space at Abode Studios on Skidaway Road. But, as if her plate was not already full enough, the young creative tells me, “My brother died of an enlarged heart at age 27, and then three months later my husband had his first of many seizures and was subsequently diagnosed with grade 3 brain cancer in February 2022.” Flynn’s good friend, artist Stephanie Forbes, former Rule of Three Gallery owner, says, “Ashley is like a fire that will never give out. I have seen her walk through the inevitable pains of life with the most passionate humanness and perseverance.”

Tearing up, the fast-speaking New Yorker tries to stay flippant and witty, but the stress is evident: running her husband’s and her own business, mothering two kids (and a dog), the deaths of an uncle and several close friends, and then, “They sold Abode Studios right while my husband was starting his six and a half weeks of chemo-radiation: seven-days-a-week chemotherapy and five days-a-week radiation.”

click to enlarge The Resiliency and the Alchemy of Ashley Flynn
Laser cut palm earrings and shark teeth and opal necklaces. Photo credit: Mike Schalk

Despite the terrible timing, Flynn pivoted and immediately rented her current Starland space, Alchemy Outpost, which she shares with fellow jeweler Tara Youngquist of Foxlark Alchemy and Moss & Moon Apothecary. In the rear of their cozy and welcoming studio, is the work studio where Flynn produces jewelry for such wholesale clients as Broughton Street’s Element Tree Essentials and  Starland’s Superbloom, Anderson Mercantile in Richmond Hill, and Little Hippy Chick in Tifton. Folks can also buy directly via Etsy and her beautifully photographed Instagram account (@alchmeyandthesea).

To meet high demand, Flynn has recently  added laser-cut jewelry to her portfolio: “I’m able to design and do graphic art and have that visual art component. The copper work is more time-consuming and meticulous of a process, but after making an initial laser design, I can produce a much higher volume of jewelry.” [For her shell and stone pieces, she uses copper from Re:Purpose Savannah, sourced from historic Savannah homes.] And, of course, she sells crystals, which she has long combined with shells in her work. “I do think everything has energy. I believe the power of positive thought is a miraculous thing and if you change your mindset, you change your mind. Everything in this world, whatever power you give it, comes back to you. Crystals can help focus attention to change a negative mind space or to give people a way to empower themselves in a situation where they might feel powerless otherwise.”

The definition of alchemy is a seemingly magical and mysterious process of transformation and creation. This seems fitting. Building community through strong networking, transforming locally gathered shells, stones, crystals, sea glass, fossilized Megalodon teeth, and shark teeth found on Tybee into funkily beautiful jewelry, and transmuting stress into creativity, this hustling, resilient artist deserves our support!

Visit Ashley Flynn’s Alchemy Outpost, located at 104 E. 40th between Drayton and Abercorn, during First Fridays, on Saturdays starting in July, and by appointment. Discover her jewelry and upcoming shows on Instagram @alchemyandthesea; learn about her next art market @makersmarketsavannah;  and catch her next gig with the Victory Drive Band  @_victorydrive

Published June 27, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

Beth Logan

Born and raised in Northern Ireland, Beth Logan had a career in healthcare HR and marketing. An artist and former gallery director, she serves on the board of nonprofit ARTS Southeast and has a passion for showcasing Savannah’s arts community.
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