“come to london. kettle on for tea.” said the text that came into my phone at 4:46 am.
a dear friend had just touched down in London on a jet plane straight from LA. it was 4:46 am here in America, 10:46 am in London. this is one of the things i dearly love. texts. texts from friends in far-flung corners of the world…even in the hours before dawn.
it is a simple little gift. a text. even at 4:46 am.
i happened to be awake.
so as I drifted back to sleep, i envisioned her gracefully stepping off the plane in a pair of beat-up cowboy boots. fog heavy in the air. steam wafting up from iron grates on the tarmac. gently throwing an old cashmere sweater over her shoulders and brushing her dirty blonde hair back from her freshly Californian tanned face and smiling as she felt the feeling of home wash over her.
and then i envisioned her getting in a big black taxi, the old-fashioned kind of course, and watching as all the sights of London passed by the window. her gentle grey eyes blinking back jet lag as she anxiously awaited settling into her wonderful English flat.
and then I envisioned the creamy white walls of her flat and the worn-out wood floors as her old cowboy boots shuffled across them , the twinkling of the tiny antique French chandeliers that i know must hang from the tall ceilings and the well-worn, soft pink slip cover that surely swallows up a big down-filled sofa. the hand-written quotes on tiny scraps of paper that peek out from old oil paintings, the photos of her children, and mementos from across the world.
i see all the details of a much-loved home.
all the details of a life well-lived.
all the fineries of a purposeful existence.
i see the beautifully tattered little details that could only be the mark of one person. . . of one of my icons, of one of my dearest friends, of one of the most selfless people I’ve ever been privileged enough to know . . .
my love affair with Shabby Chic and hence Rachel Ashwell began many years ago when I first began my journey into junkdom back in 1998. when i first began hopscotching across the country seeking out all that is tattered and worn and junky and funky. and i will never forget the first time i saw Rachel. it was on the cover of her second book, RACHEL ASHWELL’S SHABBY CHIC, TREASURE HUNTING & DECORATING GUIDE.
i saw this person sitting atop an old table in old jeans and older cowgirl boots and well . . . I fell in love! i snatched up the book and read it from cover to cover! i wagged it around from fleamarket to fleamarket as if it were a bible, alongside wrinkled road maps and scribbled-in journals. it was as if Rachel herself was my co-pilot.
a few years later, JuNK GypSY was no longer a dashboard dream of mine, it had become reality. and on my bookshelf sat every book Rachel Ashwell had ever written. still years later, she was an icon to me.
and then one day, in Warrenton, Texas while selling all things junky at the fleamarket in walked none other than Rachel Ashwell herself. as she said, in her deliciously decadent British accent, “would this happen to be Junk Gypsy?” i looked up from my job of folding t-shirts, as if in slow motion, and said “yes, it is.”
“hello, I am Rachel Ashwell, my friend Mary Emmerling said I should look you up. Would you happen to have dinner plans?”
so that night us three Junk Gypsies, 3 little junk dealers from Texas, dined with junk royalty, with the QuEEN of all things shabby, the world famous, Rachel Ashwell.
then our tremendous friendship ensued. years of texting about anything and everything, phone calls about business, about life, about love, about love lost. about children. about parents. about deaths. everything else falling away except the friendship between two women who set out in search of wonderful junk . . . and ended up finding wonderful lives
and we learned her back story. dropping out of high school. leaving London as a teenager. coming to America. getting married. Having two children. getting divorced. and with a small loan, and two babies, starting something that was a dream, Shabby Chic. building it to a multi-million dollar empire out of nothing but sheer determination, brilliant creativity, and a good heart. a golden heart.
in her exact words, “I never had any formal training in anything, life has been my school.” and for that, all of us can be thankful. Shabby Chic is neither manipulated nor planned, it is organic. it is real. it is built out of Rachel’s ongoing love for the prettiness of imperfection.
Maybe that’s why she loves us, she believes in the “prettiness of imperfection.” 🙂
and in spite of being copied over and over again, the real thing, Rachel Ashwell’s Shabby Chic Couture, continues to survive. and thrive.
her 6th book, Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Interiors: my rooms, treasures, and trinkets, tells the story of a huge transformation in Rachel’s personal and professional life over the past two years. it was written at a crossroads in her life. purchase one HERE (they will also be available in our tent at warrenton)
and now,we three junk dealers from Texas are honored to host her FIRST TEXAS BOOK SIGNING at our JuNK GypSY tent in Warrenton, Texas at the Zapp Hall Show. Come join us 11-3pm on September 30, 2010 for a wonderful question and answer TeXAS sit-down with our favorite London cowgirl, Rachel Ashwell.
Godspeed Shabby Chic.
XOXO, the junk gypsies (sisters in all things shabby, tattered, and torn)
ps – the most recent text I received from Rachel “need good home for my grand white sofa from Malibu house. handing it down to the Junk Gypsies. if you want it. hope you don’t mind – Pamela Anderson, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and myself have all slept on it.”
will someone please pinch me?