Old enough to be his…teacher. Ben Ashby, long before FOLK.

This was actually written in March 2010 for my blog, Pillow Book. I thought it might be fun to revisit however, in an attempt to offer insight into your editor-in-chief in our pre-FOLK days…the young man who impressed me with his biting wit, creative essays, tasteful scarves, and respect for the New Yorker. To all you teachers out there: I wish for you 30 Ben Ashbys.


I hate trinkets. Collecting stuff kind of freaks me out. Knowing that I used to own an assortment of troll dolls and beanie babies disgusts me. Nonetheless, I ordered winking owl salt and pepper shakers last week. Quirky enough to be cute, yet small enough to hide in those instances that I decide they make my kitchen, and me by extension, look weird, these silly little owls just make me happy. The thought of using them to "spice up" the Zen feel I was going for in the kitchen, as well as any soups, rice, or macaroni that I put in my Chilly Willy bowls (Get it, "spice up" used two different ways? Hilarious.) is just too much. Oh, the joy that can be found in the completely unnecessary.

Contrary to all logic, however, it is not merely owning a pair of owl accessories that pleases me so. When I opened the priority box in which they so excitedly traveled from Centertown to Lexington, I was greeted with an additional surprise. The 3" tall tan-ish owls were safely resting on a bed of what appeared to be lavender, rosemary, and some chive-like herb or grass. The cellophane wrapping was sealed with a silver twist tab that also kept the old seed package label in place. A wooden close pin and two hazelnut candles topped off the tastefully crafty presentation. It really was as though I had received an early Christmas present from my mom (a sprig of fresh holly, decorative pine cones, and beautiful ribbon are the norm).

As you can guess, I didn't buy my salt and pepper shakers off eBay, or Amazon, or any of the many websites that specialize in owl stuff. … Instead, I found them on the website of a company that happens to be owned by one of my former students: chandlerclark.com (no longer online) First and foremost, how cool is it that a 20 year old not only started a company, but one that values sustainability, local initiatives, and handmade arts and crafts? Visit the website when you get a chance, but for the time being, here is a brief description of the company:

"Welcome to CHANDLERclark. Here we are more than just a store, the vision behind CHANDLERclark is more of a lifestyle. It is about living a good life, or as the French say "Bon Vivant". We believe that living the best life doesn't mean spending large amounts of money or going with big name brands. The good life for us is about shopping locally, being resourceful, always watching to find a deal, demanding quality and being original. In the store you'll find nothing imported or mass-produced. We only carry top quality locally made folk-art, one-of-a-kinds, and home accessories made by some of our favorite designers and artists. We carry unique and interesting vintage and antique pieces, a mix of photography and other curiosities that we find along the way."

The initiative it takes to start a project like this is impressive. I so admire those people, regardless of age, who actually follow through with a vision. So many of us dream, and talk, and maybe even plan, yet allow these ideas to remain dormant. "Perfect time" doesn't exist. These people understand that.

Nonetheless, this isn't necessarily the direction in which I want this post to go. I simply want to point out something much more surface-level: personal touches matter. The fact that my owls have a faint smell of lavender means something to me. It reflects thought, and creativity, and time. It is a hand-written letter, it is a dry-erase marker message on a mirror, it is a canvas painted during Turner gal night. If the priority mail package had been sealed with a puppy sticker, I would resolutely argue that my grandmother secretly works part-time for CHANDLERclark. Sure, one could argue that touches like these are simply good business practice at best, well-planned ploy at worst; and I don't deny the validity of this (obviously I will be more inclined to buy from this site in the future). Perception, however, is often just as important as reality. If I see beauty and inspiration and forethought, profit margins don't seem as corrupt or heartless as they might otherwise.

I typically hate clichés (primarily because I inevitably mess them up via inappropriate combination; Ex. Counting all your eggs in one basket). Nonetheless, here's one that I can't mess up and that pretty much sums up the point of this entry: it really is the little things. Most of you (actually I hope all of you) probably aren't mailing owls anytime soon, but you are sending birthday cards, or grading papers, or making a copy of a CD for a friend. Make sure the recipient knows that they matter, that the item of exchange "looks like them."

Liza's column The Little Things appears regularly in FOLK.


  1. That's so funny. My recent blog post , not as beautifully written, was very similar to this one. I always make sure I add something to my spaces that bring good feelings.

  2. Vintage-industrial-modern-chic (I think I got those in the right order:))...I love this, Amy:) I am so glad you commented, thus provoking me to go to your blog. I haven't had a ton of time to peruse yet, but I'm certain I will be back. I so enjoyed your post about the stories particular objects have to tell (and, I disagree; it was definitely as beautifully written). Check out "The Little Things" article in the upcoming issue of FOLK - I structure a lot of it around a coffee mug:). Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! - Liza

  3. I loved hearing more about 'our' Ben, Liza. He's a guy that's not afraid to go after his dreams. I couldn't admire that determination more if I tried. :)


  4. Thanks for reading (and editing and posting and just being awesome:)), Donna. I couldn't agree more. AND...I do consider him "our" Ben.:)


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