Art From the Heart

Valley couple inspires and supports each other’s creative process

Yai Cecream, left, and Ashley Macias. Photo by Fernando Hernández.

By Alexis Getscher, Aug. 28, 2014.

“Don’t Look Down” by Yai Cecream.

“Don’t Look Down” by Yai Cecream.

When asked separately what they like most about one another, Ashley Macias and Yai Cecream both answer, “everything.”

The Phoenix-based artists met at The IceHouse. And, while attending a concert with mutual friends when Yai approached Ashley to introduce herself.

Although that initial introduction was more than three years ago, the couple’s individual paths would not lead them back to one another for about another year.

“I think the tension was always present but neither of us ever acted on it due to circumstances and life basically,” Ashley said. “We just clicked having finally had real one on one time. We fell in love and have not separated since. I moved back and we decided to live together.”

Yai was born in Spain but left her parents behind and moved to Phoenix five years ago. Ashley was born in California but grew up in Tucson and Phoenix. Though there were thousands of miles between their upbringings, it’s no surprise that 24-year-old Ashley and 26-year-old Yai found each other.

Their love for art, and one another, is undeniable and they blur the two realms together into the creative masterpiece that is their relationship.

“We just recently got a new art studio, but prior to that it was very chaotic. Our living space became our art studio — drawings all over the wall, canvases all over the floors, one room was really chaotic and one room was our bed,” they collectively recall. “[Now] we have a designated spot for art.”

Both women are part of Palabra Art Collective, a jack-of-all-trades hair salon and studio that features a variety of artwork from creatives across the Valley.

“Although we both experiment in the same mediums — acrylic and spray paint,” Ashley said, “[Yai’s] style is more associated with a psychedelic pop art with a cartoon touch. My work is more organic and surreal psychedelic.”

And, just in time for the annual fall influx of First Friday patrons, Yai will have her next show at the downtown studio in October and Ashley in November.

“I have been thinking about it recently and have decided that I’m just going to do a combination … superficial things like the summer, swimming pools, umbrellas, very nice looking things,” Yai said. “[On] the other side I want to do something very focused on sacred geometry and consciousness of the mind. Make them sort of matching so people can see what we’re all made of.”

And Ashley plans to expand outside of her typical creation.

“I’m going to be doing my usual intricate work,” she says. “But there’s going to be a lot of hands-on mixed media, oil, acrylic, three-dimensional artwork, going into an actual experience instead of just a visual art show.”

Aside from creating their individual art, the couple is also doing their part to create positive change in the community, especially among female artists.

“There could always be a bigger female presence,” Ashley said. “But places where artists have more access to tools and things, can help [female artists] be more consistent in the community.”

Part of that access comes from influencing and inspiring children to be creative at a young age.

Both Ashley and Yai are passionate about working to bring skills, knowledge and inspiration to the community. They volunteer together with Neighborhood Ministries, a nonprofit that gives children a safe place to go after school and keeps them out of trouble by providing fun and interesting things to do.

“We just wanted to show them that they could be themselves, if they think they like art or are good at it, to keep going with it,” Yai says. “Because they probably don’t have an example of a person who does art.”

The couple is currently working with the ministries’ summer program, provides a group of kids wit the opportunity to work on mural projects. Currently the murals are small and located indoors, but they have plans to expand to outdoor spaces around downtown eventually.

“Untitled” by Ashley Macias.

“Untitled” by Ashley Macias.

“The idea is just to teach them beautification,” Ashley says, “especially because, unfortunately, the neighborhood isn’t very nice to look at.”

Although Ashley and Yai live and create together, each artist is very much her own person, and one look at their artwork is proof.

Ashley’s creations are darker and very elaborate — the kind of artwork that takes multiple viewings to notice every miniscule, calculated detail. Yai’s creations tend to be luminous and fun, the kind of artwork that brightens the walls it’s displayed on. Commonly, both artists’ works have themes of universal consciousness and a connection to nature. 

“Her art is something just so absolutely different from what I do that I admire it a lot,” Yai says. “It’s amazing, her graphics are ridiculous … I see the process and I just always get mind-blown seeing that her mind can make something like that happen.”

While talking, both Ashley and Yai list numerous reasons they support, push and inspire each other’s creative journey.

“As much as she’s beautiful and special in her own unique way, it’s watching her create that really enthralls me,” Ashley said. “The fact that she gets it, and she gets me, and the whole process of technique and her connection with her work.”

And vise versa.

“She pushes me to become a better Yai, I grow a lot with her,” Yai said. “We obviously have the same lifestyle, which is art. We both want to make it, we both want to be able to live from our art, be able to travel. She makes me focus on that. I’m gonna get cheesy, she just makes me so happy in my life … I just feel like she completes me.”

“Nature is Ourselves” by Ashley Macias.

“Nature is Ourselves” by Ashley Macias.

While the couple is looking to continue to grow and expand artistically, by exploring as many types of art as possible, they agree that creation will always be at the center of their lives and relationship.

Although they have yet to do collaborative art pieces, they agree it’s something they’d be interested in down the line because they work well together. But, for now they are both focused on their own personal growth. 

Yai paints, draws, does illustration and digital artwork, and recently completed a children’s clothing line with Baby Teith. She’s worked in jewelry and sculpting, both of which he hopes to return to one day.

Ashley currently makes her living off her art; a lifestyle she admits has its ups and downs and sometimes requires her to take on other jobs. In the future, she plans to expand into galleries across the country, but says she’ll always call Phoenix home.

It’s impossible to know where art will take both Ashley and Yai, but what’s clear is that together they are more focused and more passionate than either of them could possibly be on their own.

Despite all their aspirations, “together” was their only reply when asked where they plan to be five years from now.


Palabra Art Collective
630 E. Pierce St., Phoenix
palabraphx.com