Pittsburgh Technical Council

Get to know the Co-CREATORS:

Get to know the Co-CREATORS:

Article Published: March 31, 2017

We are back for another installment of getting to know the Pittsburgh Co-Creators! This month, we are pleased to introduce  two talented women entrepreneurs. Ashley Cecil is a local artist and entrepreneur who has carved out a niche for herself creating artwork that illustrates our interconnectedness with the flora and fauna depicted in her intricate paintings.  Christine Bethea founded the city's first eco, tech and arts festival--Geek Art/Green Innovators. Now, let’s dive in and get to know these two phenomenal women.

First up, Ashley Cecil:


Q: Describe yourself in one sentence.

A: I'm an artist obsessed with birds, bugs, botany, pattern and Pittsburgh.

Q:  Why did you become an entrepreneur?

A: To work as an artist and visual communicator, entrepreneurship was virtually my only path forward (especially since I’ve carved out a rather unorthodox niche of collaborating with scientists to visualize research about our connections with nature). Decades ago, artists worked on staff at ad agencies, newspapers, magazines, science institutions, for various government departments, and more. As the industry and technology changed, these salary jobs have dried up. Today, a staff job as an artist or illustrator is like the mythical unicorn of the arts.

But despite that gloomy reality, there is good news.

  • With the rise of the internet and platforms that allow individuals to sell their own goods, customers enjoy (and dare I say prefer) to buy artwork and handmade products directly from artists.

  • Technology has also made it possible for artist entrepreneurs to quickly and more affordably manage their own product development.

  • As an entrepreneur, the artist is in control!

Q: What’s been the most unexpected challenge you have had to face since becoming an entrepreneur?

A: Looking back on the three years I’ve been self-employed, the most surprising realization is how little time I’ve spent actually making art. Juggling the day-to-day operations of my studio solo (e.g. meeting with scientists to develop new artistic ideas, product development, market research, sales, event management, marketing, publicity, applying for commissions and shows, bookkeeping, so on and so on) is a challenge because it’s clearly time-consuming. I have to be disciplined to guard time allocated for painting and design. Afterall, if I don’t continue you to make new work, I’ll have no business to run.

Although I don’t yet have full-time help, I do have a wonderful group of fellow entrepreneurs who keep me afloat, including:

Q: What’s your favorite creative space in Pittsburgh?

A: That requires two answers.

  1. My favorite arts venue is Assemble, a bright and cozy non-profit primarily serving youth of Pittsburgh’s Garfield neighborhood through art and technology programming.

  2. My favorite place to be artistically inspired is currently the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Although I just spent six months working there as an artist-in-residence, I can’t get enough of the collections and scientific research.

Q: Who is your favorite local artist or entrepreneur?

A: Local painter Mia Tarducci is certainly among my favorite artist/entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh. Her enormous and expressive paintings remind me (someone who tends to paint fine detail on small boards) of the joy of working on a canvas that exceeds your own height. But Mia is a superwoman in my mind because of much more than her style of work. She’s also the founder and operator of The Mine Factory, volunteers for several arts non-profits,  AND she’s raising four amazing children. As a mother of one myself, it all just blows my mind.

Q:What is a business that has inspired you? 

A:Knotzland is an inspiration because the owner and artisan behind the brand, Nisha Blackwell, has found a stylish way to blend fashion, art, and sustainability. All of fabrics used for her handmade bow-ties are vintage and upcycled and found at places such as the Center for Creative Reuse. Given my love of patterns, I also simply enjoy the beautiful textiles she uses.  

Q: How can people see or get involved in your work?

A: You can follow my work through just about every means of communication short of a message in a bottle or messenger pigeon (although someday I might actually offer the latter). Take your pick:

  • Folks who subscribe to my blog get updates about new artworks, projects, and events in their inbox.

  • You’ll find loads of behind-the-scenes shots on my Instagram and Twitter feeds (@ashleycecil).

  • For those who love snail-mail, I have an oversized-postcard subscription available that delivers a new painting to your physical mailbox about three times a year .

  • And, I love visits to my Homewood studio that’s located inside The Shop. Get in touch to schedule a visit


Next up is Christine Bethea:


Q: Describe yourself in one sentence.

A: I am the embodiment of eclecticism.

Q:  Why did you become an entrepreneur?

A: Because it felt right.

Q: What’s been the most unexpected challenge you have had to face since becoming an entrepreneur?

A: The lack of imagination in other people. I naturally expect others to be as excited as I am about new experiences and opportunities . I am disappointed when I am met with fear but undeterred by it.

Q: What’s your favorite arts place in Pittsburgh?

A: Every facet of this city is art.

Q: Who is your favorite local artist?

A: Sheila Ali of the Irma Freeman Center. The Irma Freeman Center for Imagination is “an arts and green energy community center with a mission to enrich and diversify the local community by building positive experiences in a multicultural, progressive setting”.

Q: What is a business that has inspired you?

A: Most Wanted Fine Art. They are  a gift to the Pittsburgh art scene.

Q: How can people see or get involved in your work? 

A: If you would like to get involved in my project you can simply email me!

Check back next month to learn more about two of our other Co-Creators! 

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