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Rachel's Blog

Monthly Archives: March 2010


    Lee Alexander McQueen (1969 - 2010)


    True mesmerizing art seems never to be born from artists comfort zones. Sometimes art is created from the space made in a cracked soul, sometimes the space from a jubilant joyous experience, but one thing for sure is when an artist creates something that people have a connection, passion and intensity is usually at the core.


    Lisa Dirkes is an artist you have seen me blog about from time to time. We continue to sell her art in Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture stores. Her art is both thought provoking and whimsical. I watch customers read her words and study her paintings until they find one that they connect to.


    I value my gift of artistry and of recent times have connected with how vital to me every detail of my work is. All of my senses seem to have jelled.

    I find myself pottering in one of my three stores making magical moments with the treasures of my travels. As I potter I have met so many "lovely yous"


    As I combine elements to tell stories I feel as though its my way of writing poetry or a story. There is always a thread of meaning for me, even though its a feeling that draws me to create my visions. I recently had a heady conversation with my son who is at art school. I was asking meanings behind his paintings. We discussed how differently we process.

    My heart is often filtered from my brain.....his has a direct path. True evolution for me perhaps will be one day to create with no thought.


    Certain theatrical pieces are irresistible to me for my story telling. While I don't know if these wings will ever be used as part of a costume again, from the moment I saw them big meanings came to me.

    The fragility of the lace, still so beautiful but strong enough to hold the frames together......the threadbare gold trim covering the metal structure, still shimmering ......

    My mind found such meaning and power in this little tattered, discarded pile of angel wings. How to move through life, at a level that we can see all points of view, that only wings can take us to. And to always try and maintain our grace, beauty and sparkle. Even as we get a little tattered.


    Much as though I am the biggest culprit of shorthand blackberry talk, I still greatly appreciate the purity of the English language. Spoken and written correctly.
    Words do after all, hold the meaning of communication, I am always looking out for inspirational reminders of "life". Quotes are powerful moments to recharge our meandering thoughts.
    Whenever I see words placed together in a way that makes a difference of how I feel, I try to find ways to share. Either through my books, moments in my stores...
    or sometimes within my products.


    It is very important to me to create an experience for customers when they come to a Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic store, whether in New York, Los Angeles or London. Cultures vary, the weather most certainly does. But I try to be consistent with our message.
    And that is to create magic, a unique product with a unique way of telling a story.
    Because my mind works in stories it is challenging for my associates to always know what to do when they receive a box of "vintage magic" as we call it.

    "Rachel, tell me about this swan," Danielle, the assistant manager from the New York store asked me.........


    I looked at the swan carefully again. I placed it in a few settings in the New York store. It was certainly pretty enough to just "be". But where for me it came to life...was when I placed it on a raw wooden lazy susan, nestled amongst our smokey blue overdyed tablecloths, not yet seeing land represented by the white linen ruffle of our darcy chair.

    The story.......
    The beautiful swan found a safe resting place on a floating piece of wood that twirls for easy viewing.
    Surrounded by beautiful peaceful blue waters of the pond.
    The swan will eventually find its way to the pure land of the white.........when its ready.

    Or maybe Danielle will just let it "be."

    We also sell a lovely chandelier called "Penelope." I'm sure there is a story to why, but I will spare you another......


    Being an artist, obsession is never far away.
    Looking for balance is a daily ritual. The challenge is to know what elements we need for balance.

    In the case of Penelope and the Flower...... the glass may be a hard material but it is also easily breakable and transparent.
    The little flower, may get stained and tattered, but it has a better chance of survival due to its flexibility and ability to not reveal all the time......
    So while we need both for balance, perhaps the little flower can be counted on more.


    This painting had his own story written. He just wanted to find me. I am so grateful my eyes were open on March 19th 2010 at the Shepton Mallet Flea in England.
    I bought very little that day as it was pouring with rain. But this painting felt like a little treasure with a big story and I didn't leave disappointed.

    As it turns of March 19th was the Patron Saint Day for St Joseph.
    He was the Patron Saint of humble work, working with hands. He was a compassionate man and is seen as a guardian of dreams. He is often pictured holding a white lily, a symbol of purity.

    Could I ask for anything more?

    The end result to this, while I am in a business of materialism and commerce. I do hope my legacy will be more about the philosophical values of these treasures that I believe find me, looking to be part of a story of mine or yours.........

    For those of you attending this spring's high point market next week I will be at the following locations:

    Sunday, April 18th, 12 - 2
    IHFC Green Wing 11th Floor, Ballroom B
    Space is limited. Email hallred@ihfc.com for registration.

    Monday, April 19th, 5:00 - 8:00
    Cocktail party and book signing
    Miles Talbott Showroom, 1690 English Road

    Please note:
    Highpoint is open to the trade only, attendees must have a valid attendee badge.

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  • English Life


    One of my first purchases as I have frequented the English fleamarket world was this little box of horse shoes. And while life has thrown out the usual frustrations and hurdles, luck has graced my daily life.

    Proof of luck being on my side is how I stumbled on this white "everything" flat. (Not such a common find in the grey wet world of London). My bedroom view looks out onto an English garden square surrounded by the backs of many houses.


    I can't help but believe at night Peter pan and Wendy are flying past my window. My imagination is very alive.



    Portobello antique market is literally on my doorstep. I am fed with inspiration everyday as soon as I open my door.


    Still so very affordable I am able to pick up vintage pitchers and cups that I scatter through my temporary nest. Toothbrushes, flowers or gravy for Sunday dinner is well housed.

    But I have also gone further afield from my doorstep.

    My favourite so far is at a racetrack called kempton park. Funny because sometimes I forget where I am and realize I could just as easily be in Marburger, Texas or Brimfield, Mass.

    Treasures and tales of discovery are the same the world over.
    Even with the freezing cold rain and snow the "shows go on".


    While I have continued to be quite busy getting the London Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture store running I have stolen a few weekends to go to my beloved English countryside.


    This beautiful town doesn't particularly embrace my "beauty of imperfection" value.

    But its perfection is pretty close to perfect. Local honey coloured limestone is yummy. Gorgeous homes, landscapes, grazing animals make distinguishing a postcard and reality quite tricky. I connect better with wilder and more rugged surroundings, but somehow the Cotswolds is an exception. Worth going to if you ever pop to England.

    Amongst all my travels and excitements of events, wherever I am, I have a little artists corner of a painting I love, and a space to create new...........for now this is occupied with a painting my friend Laurence gave me. (similar ones are available at my shops.)


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