I’ve been having a love affair with handmade ceramics for years now, and the work of one particular artist has captured my heart - that of French potter, Thierry Doublet. He has been crafting beautiful objects since the 1970s in an unassuming workshop situated in the middle of nowhere, France. How I was first introduced to his work was by way of a casual alfresco dinner on the stone terrace of a centuries old chateau. The owner of the chateau, a marvelous chef, and his lovely wife, served glasses of chilled rosé and the most delicious piment d'espelette shrimp presented in one of Thierry’s large handmade shallow bowls. Sounds dreamy, I know. And it was. Almost immediately, I became obsessed with learning about the ceramicist that created the gorgeous bowl - and how I could add his pieces to my own collection. The very next morning I found myself driving the backroads of the French countryside, making my way to his studio. In the years since I first discovered his work, I have returned again and again each time I visit France.
I've visited my fair share of local farmstands and independent grocers. Why, there are at least four produce stands within a few miles of my home that I frequent on a weekly basis. But this small, organic French grocery, Les Jardins de Vaissieres, has to be the absolute most charming one I've ever seen. When you step through the door, it feels as if you're taking a journey back in time or walking through a scene from a movie. Their gorgeous displays are overflowing with baskets of vibrant produce, cupboards filled with jars of homemade terrines and pâté, and crates of organic eggs - all under the "watchful" eye of a sleeping shop kitty....
I've just returned from spending the month of May in France. My time there was divided between hosting The Academy, visiting friends, and taking a solo French road trip to see new places and have a little creative down time. What I'm always struck by, no matter where I may be in the country, is how authentic the French live. You won't see homes filled with shiny new items from a big box store or mass produced wares delivered to their doorstep. Homes are collected, well lived in, and speak purely to those who inhabit them. They are unique and imperfect. They are nurturing to the senses and welcoming to all who enter their doors. I had the privilege of photographing one such home belonging to my friend, antique dealer Lou O'Leary. His home encourages me to approach my own decor with a sense of authenticity and meaning. My hope is that it does the same for you.
The shopping in Amsterdam is just so good. You'll find small independent boutiques dotting nearly every street and I made it my mission to try and pop in as many as I could. It was an easy task, considering their creative window displays and eye catching merchandise were continually luring me inside. Hands down, my favorite shop was de Weldaad. Their selection of antiques, home furnishings, accessories, and textiles were so beautifully curated. I loved the gentle wash of their soft muted color palette and worn wood surfaces displayed throughout the store. It was such a relaxing environment to browse. I seriously wanted to dump everything out of my luggage just so I could pack it up with their wares. Instead, I brought home candles and pillow covers. Sigh.
After our successful day gathering props at the brocante, we were ready to begin utilizing those finds in our styling sessions. In addition to what everyone found for their own prop collections, I set up a table with an assortment of small dishes, linens, fresh produce, herbs and spices, and beautiful artisanal bread.
Our first few mornings at The Academy begin with lectures on the proper techniques and aspects of styling. Starting with the fundamentals, the attendees are able to understand the how & why behind creating stunning that resonate meaning and convey the vision they wish to express. They are then able to implement those concepts and skills as they continue to practice throughout the week. But more importantly, upon returning home, they will have an arsenal of techniques to apply in their own body of work and creative pursuits.
Bonjour, mes amies! Currently I'm home and settled back into daily life, after a nearly month long visit to France to prepare for, teach, and host - The Academy. At the moment, I'm finding it somewhat difficult to express how I feel about my experience without using words that make me sound like a simpleton - amazing, memorable, and truly inspiring come to mind. But then, they do accurately describe the time I spent with those who attended, as well as my friends and team that help me pull off such an enormous event. Something remarkable happens when you bring a diverse group of creative women together. Friendships are born, creativity sparked, dreams and goals revealed, and authentic encouragement envelopes the group as a whole.