I just returned home from London and I was greeted by a beautiful
package from one of my employees from my Newport store in California,
Lisa Dirkes. Inside the package there was a lovely book that inspired me
through my jet lagged sleep, and 2 gorgeous watercolor sketches.
The talent enclosed was amazing.
There is so much I have to discover about the lives of people who
have crossed my path through the journey of Shabby Chic.
Creativity, deep thinkers and seekers seem to be a common thread
between us all. Pink, lace and frill may be sweet and pretty,
but we are a group of substance.
Portobello Road was on my doorstep for the past few weeks during my
stay in London. Portobello Road is a lovely little quiet street,
with pastel painted houses and old store fronts.
But on Saturdays, the street is transformed. It becomes an antique heaven.
Street stalls mainly selling jewelry, paintings, clothes, glassware, books and accessories line the street. Thousands of people from all over the world crowd together and enjoy the treasures.
Record players play crackled old time music.
Yummy smelling crepes which I call "confused pancakes"
have Nutella and strawberries. My daughter loves them.
Cameras click away. A few times I was asked, "Where is the book
store from Nottinghillgate movie". I learnt where it was.
I listened to many stories vendors insisted upon sharing.
I was fascinated by an old jam jar and asked some questions of the vendor
who looked a little like Santa Clause. I asked him if he was going to be
at the same spot the following week in case I came back.
He proceeded to give me his life story, and how he had only not been at
his spot twice in 40 years. He then showed me a torn piece of
newspaper from his back pocket, with a photo of a " James Bond girl".
He told me had dated her for 6 days 30 years ago . Many stories to tell.
I have learnt to build in story listening time into my treasure search.
I started buying some treasures, lovely broaches, fabric and linens with
no real purpose. I am starting to feel my creative juices flowing,
actually exploding. My creativity cannot be kept inside and it is starting
to express itself.
Unlike many, I love the weather in London. The rhythm of the seasons suits my personality best. I appreciate every "weather" for I know it will change.
Along with the structure of working and completing my book,
I had daily walks/runs through Kensington Gardens.
Its rather lovely returning to my roots as a tourist. I explored
London like I never did when I lived there. Kensington Garndens is heavenly.
It joins Hyde Park to Kensington to Nottinghill, connected by pathways.
I spent hours sitting by the pond where the "Queen's Swans" live.
They are magnificent . I had my ipod with me and listened to classical
music as I watched them float around, so proudly.
Some days I cried, some I laughed.
The park is very historical and dates back hundreds of years many kings
and queens lived there, including queen Victoria.
I watched many group sports, cricket and football and many picnics. The minute even a little bit of sun comes out, the British strip down, men take off their tops and take in the rays, quickly, before the rain.
I found myself interested in everything and everyone. I chatted to the English cabbies, ("Hackney Carriage" drivers).
I learnt all about "The Knowledge". This is a four year study program that all English cab drivers need to undertake before they can drive a cab. There are
25,000 streets and places of interest that they need to learn, by driving around
on a motorbike with a clip board for 4 years. I asked if GPS systems have
made that not a necessity anymore and was told that nothing can out beat human "knowledge". English cabs and their drivers are wonderful.
A big treat for me is the Electric Cinema. This is a theatre from the Soho House team of hotels that are mainly throughout England and NY too. The Cinema is lovely and old with plaster swags of wreaths and roses. Sitting in big mushy leather chairs with footstools, and you can order "bangers and mash" and a drink. Bangers and mash are mash potatoes and sausages. Yummy.
Monthly Archives: April 2009
The name Shabby Chic was a perfect match for me from the very beginning.
I love and appreciate everything shabby as I do everything chic.
I have questioned over the years if it was due to my…….
not wanting to commit,
not wanting to stand behind what I believe in
not truly having an opinion.
Wanting to cover my bases.
But actually I have learnt I have a very strong opinion of appreciating
things for what they are, and for what they are not.
Once again your comments on my blog have been my source of inspiration.
Someone wrote a deeper explanation of Garth Brook's song,
“Sometimes gods greatest wishes are our unanswered prayers”.
She wrote, “Just because our prayers weren’t answered in the way we wanted,
it doesn't mean they weren’t answered”.
During these past few months I have tried to save Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic
stores in the way I thought was best for the company.
But it wasn't meant to be.
And still the future is uncertain.
But what is certain is that the sadness, loss and pain of this experience
to all has created the most extraordinary bond between me and all of you.
Faith has created the fuel to drive the train, and at some point the train
will be on the track.
I am not a practacing religious person. But I do have great faith.
And that is so comforting and freeing of fear.
Especially for a character like myself. So often I think I know
the answers and I put up a good fight.
But I have learnt the art of letting go and I am safe.
I just have to be quiet to hear the direction.
I am attracted to the opposites in life.
When I purchased this in Brimfield, Massachusetts a few eyeballs rolled.
But to me it was one more example of the rawness of a skull, with the
femininity of a parasol. All sharing the support of a chair.
While 99.9 percent of my employees, my vendors, my customers have been unwaveringly supportive, there have of course been a few that are enjoying my setback.
This past week my manufacturing plant has been selling off fabrics,
much of it of course is plain white.
Some are Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic floral prints.
Most of the buyers coming through have been sympathetic and nostalgic.
However some attempted to steal Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic tags and
labels so they can sell them an authentic Shabby Chic product.
This was disappointing to me.
This feels dirty.
But in the end again it reminded me, how honest and genuine
and pure thinking most people have been through this process.
People of no moral character are great reminders of the beauty of goodness.
While the fabric is of course Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic,
the products that they will be made into are not.
So for any of you who care whether you are buying authentic
Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic products, there will be some impostors for a while.
I have always wondered what if feels like being in the head of person
that copies. To me that is life as a destination without a journey.
Why would anyone want to create something that wasn’t their own heart
Just for money I suppose.
That’s something I don’t understand.
While I love going into my stores and seeing the end results of the efforts of design, it is the process of design, reworking, rethinking that is the fuel.
I have always said mediocrity has no place in my world.
Unique and authentic are what I am attracted to.
That doesn’t mean a beautiful velvet floppy flower is less beautiful
than a beautiful rose…
But they are both the best they can be. No short cuts to create.
Unfortunate circumstances happened in the past two years that caused me to fall.
But for 18 years we were strong, surviving earthquakes, divorces, economic downturns. I do hope for anyone affected negatively will remember the years of strength and support Shabby Chic offered and supplied.
The biggest lessons of my life have been learnt this past year.
As I have said tears have been plenty, hearts hurt.
But my spirit is flying pretty high, trusting this is happening
the way it must.
I am in London at the moment. Writing and designing my book.
I take the bus to and from the publishers office.
I have always dreamed of the life of Jo from Little Women.
And even though I am not writing a novel,
the process feels very true to me.
The publisher's offices are modest but have the warmest of energy.
Funny how often people think of the English as snobby. That can be true.
But they are also humble, real and so very authentic.
And the best part is the kettle goes on for tea at 4p.m. sharp.
(Haven't had that since my lovely Carla left my Shabby Chic.)
That is what I am experiencing, every day.
I have a rented flat with no shower and only a washing machine for clothes.
That does seem to be British to have to dry clothes either on a washing line
or on a rack.
I have not felt so attached and involved in my day to day living for
such a long time.
And that is a gift for sure.
Life seems to be in Technicolor for me, with surround sound.
I am living in my life.
And without the risk of sounding schmaltzy, it is all because of you.
I am humbled that you thank me and love me for the beauty
that I have bought into your lives.
But your gift to me is far superior.