Ashley Woodson Bailey has a lifelong passion for the mysterious beauty and ephemeral nature of blooms— both wild and cultivated. She spent two decades as a floral designer around the country, including stints at Bergner & Johnson in Houston and Dr. Delphinium Designs in Dallas.
In Austin, she orchestrated lavish weddings with large-scale flower arrangements for her event-planning company, The Byrd Collective. And she spent a year at PaperCity Houston as fashion editor, which is when we were introduced to her unique talents. In 2012, an almost-fatal car accident ended the career she loved but pointed her in a wonderful new direction.
“I’d lie in bed taking pictures of the flowers people had sent me with my iPhone and then posted them on Instagram,” Bailey recalls from her studio in Atlanta, where she now lives. “People started asking to buy them, so I learned how to use an app with filters and layers so they’d have a painterly feel.”
Her romantic photographs, which she now sells on her website (ashleywoodsonbailey.com) are admired for their soft, dreamy qualities — a cascade of peonies, ranunculus, roses, delphinium, dahlias, and carnations, isolated on a dark background, perhaps. Other times, she might shoot a single poppy up close to reveal its transparent and wrinkled petals. She captures flowers in all stages of life, from fresh to faded, and something unexpected always emerges.
“I left these roses outside for days without water, to see what would they would become,” she says of a parade of wilted pink blossoms, drooping on their stems. “When I stood them up, they felt like a row of ballerinas, spinning in a beautiful dance.”
The flower she most identifies with is the ranunculus — she’s had one tattooed on her ankle since 1998.
“They remind me of a beautiful couture gown,” she says. “Dahlias, especially the large Café au Lait, are mesmerizing. But my favorite flower to photograph is the poppy, because it has the best personality, with lots of movement and wrinkles. They look very painterly.”
In 2015, Bailey launched a collection of wallpapers featuring her oversized, luscious blooms, including Dutch Love, the very first photograph she took and posted on Instagram, which has become her most requested image. She works with an artisan in Australia to create the large-scale repeats of her flowers for the papers, and the papers are printed in Connecticut. This month, she debuts a collection of upholstery fabrics in organic cotton denim and silk, along with pajamas, a robe that can also be worn as a coat, wideleg pants, and two shirts — all in her signature florals.