Big Brain 2012 Finalist: Ashley Eaton

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2012 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 7Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: Ashley Eaton

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Photos by Jamie Peachey
​We all know about  food trucks. But a fashion trailer? Yep. Ashley Eaton runs her vintage boutique Merry May Shoppe out of a vintage 1961 Shasta Airflyte.

Indeed, the concept was born at a panel discussion about owning and operating food trucks, morphed to fit Eaton's interests, which run more to hot dresses than hot dogs. "It's kind of brilliant," she says of businesses on wheels. "I thought, 'Well, I'm going to start a vintage shop.'"

Pulling pieces from her own stash of clothing, Eaton had plenty to launch her store. The only thing missing was the venue.

She drew inspiration from Canadian mobile shops she'd spotted on blogs (some of which have gone on to open brick and mortar locations), and the trailer scenes in Austin, Texas and Bisbee, Arizona. Voilà, Merry May Shoppe was born.

Well, nearly.

Eaton found the trailer she wanted on eBay, and, after some back-and-forth bidding -- she lost.

In a strange twist of fate, the trailer's winners ended up not wanting it, and, long story short, Eaton was soon road-tripping to Oklahoma to pick up her white and peach prize. After some tire and electrical maintenance upon returning to Arizona, Eaton debuted her movable fashion feast at Chow Bella and Roosevelt Row's Pie Social last November.

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Photo by Jamie Peachey

​"I like the idea of traveling, and that's why I chose to do it," she says. "In a way the clothes are traveling through time -- being vintage and in the trailer going from place to place."

Eaton's earliest memories of using fashion as an outlet for self-expression date back to her childhood, when she spent time playing dress-up with a cousin at their grandmother's house in Phoenix, near Lookout Mountain. Those experiences accessorizing and learning how to apply makeup sparked Eaton's love of fashion, and, while attending a high school that required uniforms, she started stockpiling clothes from thrift stores.

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Photo by Jamie Peachey

​"I just started collecting clothes," Eaton says. "If something is beautiful, I'll get sentimental about it." She buys pieces she feels drawn to, regardless of whether she plans to actually wear them.

Eaton, who works in accounting by day, cites Frances boutique owner Georganne Bryant as an inspiration in her pursuit to make fashion her full-time gig. 

She remembers walking into Bryant's central Phoenix shop wearing a hairpiece that she had made. Bryant liked it and asked if Eaton would be interested in making some to sell in the boutique. Eaton agreed and launched Merry May Handmade, which she went on to operate as a craft space in Butter Toast Boutique on Sixth Street in Roosevelt Row.

Nowadays, Eaton has put handmade items on the backburner. Instead, she is focused on beautifying her shop and keeping it stocked with covetable vintage finds. "I try to handpick stuff that fits my aesthetic," she says. That means super feminine finds in floral prints and pastels, ranging from girly '50s pieces to bold '70s styles with a little bit of edge.

But that doesn't mean Eaton will abandon her crafty roots. "My dream is to make a dress line," she says, although that project isn't formally in the works.

In the meantime, Eaton says she wants to take her trailer to as many special events as possible. Making shopping at Merry May an occasional occurrence is fun for her, and it gets shoppers excited to spot Eaton and her trailer -- and whatever new old goodies she's hawking.


Meet the finalists on April 7 during our Big Brain celebration, Artopia. And check out the other Big Brain Awards finalists we've profiled so far: 

Visual Art: 
Lindz Lew
Andrew Hadle
Thomas Greyeyes

Design:
Jon Ashcroft

Fashion:
Greg Kerr

Performing Art: 
Cyphers
The Torch Theatre



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