Stepping into ash hoffman jewelry studio is entering the designer’s world: the aroma of candles, the heat of an ultrasonic polishing machine, and the view of beads, gems, metals, jewelry and art draped and displayed—some pieces completed and others occupying a limbo between inspiration and finished product. Ashley Hoffman Hidalgo appears with a warm greeting, affable and confident, ready to tell her story and lead the visitor through the pieces and materials that represent it. The rings, bracelets and necklaces are hand created, each rooted in an idea or experience from the creator herself. The jewelry line is impressive and beautiful, yet Hidalgo herself is equally compelling. In fact, the entire studio is only one manifestation of this artist’s vision and determination. Her combination of creative talent and congenial personality has landed her national recognition and a very hip title: she is Jewelry Television’s Rock Star Designer.
A native of Myrtle Beach, Hidalgo, 32, has been a local’s go-to for innovative jewelry for years. Those who encounter her work on display at Studio 77 in Myrtle Beach admire her talent and style. Tilghman Smith, boutique owner, describes Hidalgo’s work as “well thought out. Her pieces all have a different story. She doesn’t create jewelry just to make something pretty; she has a reason for each piece that she makes.”
However, it took more than artistic ability to win JTV Rock Star Designer, the first-ever reality television series on a home shopping network. It took resolution and certitude, something Hoffman’s mother, Edie Baker, says her daughter has in spades. “Ashley has always had big dreams, big plans,” says Baker. “When Ashley makes up her mind to do something, she does it.”
Hidalgo’s career in jewelry design sprung from the sort of unlikely circumstances that have come to define her. After graduating from Clemson University with a degree in architecture, she embarked on a four-month mission trip to Uganda with Engineering Ministries International. There, she developed a friendship with an African woman named Susan, who asked Hidalgo upon her return to the United States to sell jewelry that Ugandan locals had created. Hidalgo landed in Myrtle Beach in December of 2007 with bags containing $1,000 worth of African jewelry and a promise to sell the items to raise money for Susan and others in her community. Hidalgo spent 2008 selling the jewelry wherever she could: at church gatherings, at individual’s homes and through Studio 77.
“I went door to door. It was crazy—I was the bead girl. I sold the jewelry until I had loose pieces and items left, and then I took them apart and recreated them into pieces that were more in demand,” Hidalgo says. “I took bracelets and earrings and turned them into long necklaces. I wanted to use every last element in every piece.” Hidalgo ended up with $7,000 for her friend, which was used as a foundation to build a pastor’s school, and a new artistic calling for herself. Two months later, Hidalgo was enrolled in a master jewelry program at the American School of Jewelry in Sunrise, Florida.
That determination to take an unlikely risk and see it through is the same quality that made Hidalgo a top contestant in JTV Rock Star Designer. After submitting an application to the contest, she received an email on May 8—the day she married her husband Enoel Hidalgo—with the news that she was one of the top 50 contestants. She made the next cut as well, down to 10 contestants, and was asked to create a film of herself in her studio making jewelry, answering interview questions and going about her daily life. At that point she realized, “I’m in this. And it’s about personality, not just jewelry.” Finally, she was selected to travel to Knoxville to compete as one of five contestants in the reality show, which carried with it a $5,000 cash prize, an opportunity to design a collection for JTV and an appearance on the network to sell the collection. “I didn’t know who the other four were,” Hidalgo says, “but I said to myself, ‘You’re not coming home without winning.’”
Hidalgo spent nine days in July at the JTV studio filming the show and completing jewelry showdowns. In some challenges, contestants were charged with making jewelry in a given amount of time from given materials; in others, contestants went on camera in front of judges to sell their collections. Between her artistic talent and her on-air charisma, Hidalgo won over the judges and fulfilled her own prediction.
Baker says Hidalgo’s achievement confirms what she already knows about her daughter. “She’s got the personality and the drive and the zest for life that you don’t see in most people. Even before the show, people have been saying, ‘Ashley’s going to be famous one day,’ and they’re exactly right. She is.”
If you missed Hidalgo on JTV Rock Star Designer, episodes of the program can be viewed online at www.youtube.com/user/jewelrytelevision.