Crafting a Life

How one furloughed bartender kept her finances—and spirits—afloat by turning her hobby into a small business.

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Pile of folded paper boxes in various shades of blue with string lights inside.
Ashley Adams keeps the lights on, even when she's been forced out of work due to COVID. / etsy.com

The hospitality industry is full of multifaceted, talented, adaptable individuals. We’ve certainly proven that over the last year and with the challenges 2020 and 2021 have brought, the importance of creative pursuits that sustain us outside of our day-to-day work is more crucial than ever. In this series, we highlight people who stand out not only for their contributions to our industry, but also for the passion projects that fuel them creatively.

Ashley Adams is currently a furloughed from her job as a bartender at Urban Farmer, but she has used the uncertainty of this pandemic to push her into the risky territory of selling her art online. To her delight, it sold—and continues to sell—fast. 

Close up of woman wearing a face mask held on by a gold chain with dangling metal embellishments.
Adams’ mask chains make up the bulk of her Etsy shop. / etsy.com

Adams always had a love for creation. She made art just to give it away (frequently giving her artwork and other handmade items as gifts to industry coworkers) until forced unemployment pushed her to think of that work as a realistic source of revenue. She started her Etsy store, TheStudioEntropy, making COVID-inspired face mask chains adorned with beads, tassels, charms, and feathers (they’re adorable—go buy one now!) and expanded into painting, hand-folded stationery, resin coasters, wildflower art, origami fairy lights, and a million other little projects. 

Maintaining a creative practice under any circumstances is challenging. Add to that a pandemic, being stuck with your family in a 1,000 square-foot, two-bedroom apartment, and the feeling of constant adjustment and readjustment, and it’s easy to see how this undertaking can be consuming and draining. However, Ashley makes herself “go to work” every day, and the results have been worthwhile. 

“My career as a service industry worker has been so rewarding,” she says, “but I’ve always known deep down in my heart that if I could make a living and support my child by being an artist, I would do nothing else.”

Adams acknowledges her work in the industry and her creative endeavors really came together when she was given the opportunity to run the bar program at Denver’s downtown ChoLon: “I gained business and spending knowledge that has translated into personal success for my small business, and I believe my ingenuity was a big part of the success of my bar program. I can say without a doubt that my creativity as an artist, and my success in running a bar program downtown absolutely go hand in hand.”

Arrangement of green and yellow leaves and blossoms laid flat in a blue picture frame.
Bring the outdoors in with wildflowers and foliage preserved in resin. / etsy.com

“I’m shocked that it took a global pandemic to push me to make all of this come to fruition,” she continues, “but the universe moves in mysterious ways, and I’m beyond grateful to have discovered a new sense of purpose throughout all of this.” 

While it’s uplifting to know someone who turned the really crappy situation of being out of a job into an opportunity to explore a business idea and passion that lay dormant in the back of her mind, it’s bittersweet to think of all those who never explored those passionate pursuits and potential side hustles, who never knew their full potential because life was going along on autopilot and work was a necessity. 

Adams’ biggest takeaway from the  madness of 2020? “We have all been brought down to our most basic form this year, tested, and pushed to our limits—but only after the plague came the Renaissance.  It might take some hard work, it might take a little time, but a new opportunity can usually be found waiting in the ashes of what was once all we had.”

Keep pushing, my friends.

P.S. If you did not use this time and forced upheaval to explore and push the limits of a passion, that is more than okay. Today, I put on “hard pants” (i.e. not pajamas) and I feel pretty damn good about that. 

Jen Mattioni started working in bars and restaurants as a Philadelphia high school student and never left the industry. She moved to Denver in 2008 and was a partner in Q House. Currently, she’s the GM at Denver’s Ash’Kara. She spends her free time eating as many breakfast sandwiches as humanly possible, creating oddball cocktails with ingredients she’s never used, fiending for dumplings, and reading too many books simultaneously.

Talk to us! Email your passions (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to askus@diningout.com

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