Yes, it's really true! CICO Books, the publisher of Rachel Ashwell's gorgeous new book, Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures, recently contacted me and asked if I would be interested in participating in her blog book tour. Of course, I was delighted to be asked, but when I found out that I was also going to be able to ask Rachel some questions, I was beyond thrilled!
What follows is my little interview with her:
Rachel, first of all, let me
say congratulations on your stunning new book, Couture Prairie and
Flea Market Treasures! It is a magnificent book and one that you can
tell was truly a labor of love for you.
Q. I was absolutely fascinated by the portion of the book where you tell the story behind the creation of your Texas B&B, The Prairie. When you first made the decision to purchase the property that would eventually become The Prairie, did you already have a “vision” in your head of what you wanted it to be?
Rachel: Actually, no. The purchase of The Prairie was an impulsive decision which did include moments of buyer’s remorse realizing that I had taken on quite a task, but once I gathered my senses, I articulated my vision and carved out my path. On a side note, I have been staying at this very same B&B when it was called The Outpost for many years and thoroughly enjoyed it. The prior owner is a local Texan lady whose aesthetic was much more traditional to the Texan decorative style and on many visits I had often wondered if ever I were to own a B&B such as this, how would I balance to embrace the Texas culture while layering in my own aesthetic- and I think that has been accomplished now that I have established The Prairie.
Q. The Prairie is a wonderful example of how two seemingly disparate design styles – rugged, rustic country and faded, romantic glamour – can be seamlessly melded together to form something lovely. What were some of the challenges you faced when marrying these two design aesthetics?
Rachel: I think as with any opposite design aesthetics, the first challenge to overcome is to find a common thread so that the end result is cohesive and in this instance, I chose the rugged Texas palette which for me was more of the natural woods and simple furnishings that then would complement the romantic Shabby Chic® elements while I did inherit some taxidermy- and even those, I brought them into my world by giving them floral hats.
Q. Buying and re-selling pretty things is obviously an integral and necessary part of your business. In the book, you talk about some of your “forever-to-keep” pieces and your “treasure box”. What are some of the items that you cherish the most – the ones that you will forever keep?
Rachel: Obviously owning a business that I buy fairly large quantities of vintage for- a lot flows through my hands. To me, every piece is unique and beautiful and has its own story to tell. However, it’s the unique pieces; pieces with exceptional carving, a plate with a beautiful and specific design, I hold back, because after years of shopping I know I will never see them again. Specifically there is a carved vanity of in Lilliput Lodge which is a perfect example of this. I also enjoy finding religious figurines and accessories and also art pieces with profound sayings often written by hand through calligraphy. These are both beautiful and inspiring through their deep meaning.
Q. I have been a huge admirer of your work from the very beginning and it has been so exciting to watch your creative empire grow over the years – from pretty slipcovers and retail shops to gorgeous books and now, The Prairie. Back when you were just a young girl, did you ever imagine that you would someday become this successful?
Rachel: I never really had thoughts or dreams of the level of success I may achieve but I did live my childhood in the world of make-believe and storytelling and at the tender age just shy of 16 I left school to begin my journey and it was never a second thought that my career would somehow be the way I would tell my story.
Q. Anyone who has followed you over the years can’t help but notice the important role that your family and your children play in your life. Do you have any sage advice for those of us who are also trying to balance having a successful creative career while still being “mummy”?
I can’t necessarily say I ever got the balance right, and I still question now after 25 years whether I have achieved that. But I can say that if you’re so fortunate to pick a career path that you love to do, the lines between work and living blend. So work is no longer a chore and for me, outside of my responsibilities of raising children, I did seem to find it relatively easy to include my children in my journeys whether at home doing art projects, taking them to the flea markets with me, even showing up on my TV shows, and now that they too are adults, I see how them being exposed to my day to day life has set the course for them to do the same even though they have chosen different paths.
Thank you so much, Rachel, for taking the time to answer my questions today. I will most certainly be making a visit to The Prairie in the very near future!
Now, my dear readers, I am so excited to tell you that CICO Books has generously given me one copy of Couture Prairie and Flea Market Treasures to give away! I've even wrapped it up with some pretty vintage ribbon and the sweetest (shabbiest) bouquets of millinery flowers! If you would like a chance to win, please head on over to Twitter and follow @cicobooks - then leave me a comment here letting me know. I will keep the entries open until Monday, the 16th, at Midnight and will announce the winner (chosen by random number) here (and on Twitter) on Tuesday, September 17th. Good luck!
Couture Prairie by Rachel Ashwell is published by CICO Books and is available from www.rylandpeters.com. You can also find autographed copies here. More from Rachel is available at Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic Couture.
Thank you again, Rachel and CICO Books. It has truly been a pleasure!