“Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Original illustrations from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, drawn by John Tenniel.

I often hear people mention MacKenzie-Childs and Alice in Wonderland in the same sentence. I used to dodge this discussion because in many cases, I was uncomfortable with what popular culture has made of this masterwork of Victorian literature. At the very same time, I took it as the highest compliment for our company. My admiration of the works of Lewis Carroll has been lifelong and very deep. If someone saw affinities between what we do and that remarkable looking-glass world of his, then perhaps we were doing something right.

The lovely Charles Dodgson hid behind the pen name Lewis Carroll for his Alice books so that his fantastical creations wouldn’t be confused with the books he wrote about mathematics. He was an incredibly complex man; the son of an Anglican minister, he was himself a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church Oxford (a position he held until his death in 1898), a photographer, an inventor, and as we all know, the author of two of the most celebrated and fantastic books ever written in the English language. Bullied at boarding school as a child, his health was precarious and he suffered with a stammer all his life. It is said that the character of the Dodo bird in Alice was a self-portrait: socially awkward, shy, and somewhat stiff in his manner, but very lovable.

For me, his appreciation of formalities and the social niceties, a well laid table, fine china, the ceremony of tea (door-mouse not withstanding), celebrations of birthdays (and unbirthdays!), the spirit of adventure and rising to a challenge, the importance of friendship, the notion that the back garden can be a universe all unto itself…and above all, good manners…these are all things that speak to me. It’s his point of view that’s so refined yet doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Yours truly,

My costume for a tea party at the Fashion Island Neiman Marcus, April 13, 2013. Designed by Tricia Lancia, costumer extraordinaire.

My family thinks I have a problem with pillows, as in they think I have too many. Personally, I don’t see it as a problem. It’s just another in my long list of passions. But I do seem to keep collecting them.

What can I say? I like them. I have pillows on the sofa and pillows on the love seat. I have pillows on the arm chairs, pillows on the bench in the front hall, on the dining chairs, on the floor, on the beds, pillows in the Tiny House, and pillows on the garden furniture. These are just the ones you see…this doesn’t count the pillows I have in the closet, in the attic, in the basement, or in the storage locker which my husband claims we’ve had to rent because he thought the pillows were taking over the house. Can you imagine? How silly of him! I appreciate pillows like the composer Eric Satie appreciated umbrellas (they found a number of them in his apartment in Paris–I think the count was around 600). I just don’t really see any reason to stop bringing them home. How can one resist? Just think about all the incredible individual personalities of pillows…special qualities such as embroidery, beautiful passementerie, tassels and trims, rich fabrics like velvet, unique details, and the list goes on.

I mean, look at this pillow! Look at these poppies! Isn’t this the greatest pillow ever?


And these?! My son made these for me by hand when he was 10! I think we have a budding designer in the family!


Remember this one? Vintage MacKenzie-Childs!


And then you need your basic pillows. I’m so glad we at MC decided to create a collection because it gives me a good excuse to acquire a few new ones. Courtly Check certainly works with everything. Come to think of it, I actually might need few more of these.


And what about this one? I bought this on a family trip to Keene Valley in the Adirondacks. How could I have not brought this home?


Oh! And these! Just like the mossy floor in a forest!


I don’t expect my husband to understand, but I know you will.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve stopped carrying a camera and have been relying on my iPhone to capture elements of my travels. I don’t pretend to be a professional photographer, but I love the idea of documenting my travels in the most candid way possible. Nothing beats this handy little device that fits into your pocket and is ready instantly with a minimum of hassle. For someone as technically inept as I, it’s an absolute gift! I’m finally able to take vivid (and relatively in focus!) photographs without having to worry about f-stops and shutter speeds.

Two weeks ago I was in India working on our textile and garden designs. My wonderful hosts, Ruhi and Komal, love to share their visually stunning and culturally rich country every time I visit. My colleague Julie and I spent several days crawling the open-air markets and absorbing the sights of India. These photos were all taken between January 31 and February 6.

My best,
Rebecca


In Delhi. This effigy of Ganesh blesses the people walking past on a busy street corner. Ganesh is one of the best-known and most widely worshipped deities in the Hindu pantheon. He is revered and consulted on nearly every facet of daily life.


Dilli Haat, Delhi:

Open-air market with permanent food stalls representing all 28 states of India. It also features craft stalls that change every 15 days.

Beautiful handmade puppets of papier-mâché and fabrics. The hand-painted faces regard the passersby with keen interest.

This lovely smiling merchant is surrounded by her offering of hand-sewn textiles, tapestries, bags, and bed covers.

Handmade leather and fabric slippers and sandals; some embroidered, some jeweled. These are all traditional Indian patterns used for footwear.

They call these motorized taxis “three-wheelers.” They have a seat in back for two, except you usually see six.


This fruit seller moves his wares around on a large basket on the back of his bicycle.

Elephant taxi in Jaipur. The animals have an incredible aura of calm, and appear amused by their dizzy human counterparts.

In Central Market Lajpatnagar, Delhi. This food seller has put out his selection of pakorahs in preparation for his evening dinner trade. These particular varieties are eaten with radishes and chutney.

This vendor is selling baked sweet potatoes with star fruit, limes, and mashed berries, served in a bowl made of pressed leaves. An incredible combination of flavors and textures.

Here are two photos of fruit and vegetable stands at a section of the market known as “the fruit corner.” The bright red carrots are in season in February and are used to make the most delicious dessert pudding I’ve ever tasted. A dessert pudding made from vegetables…what a concept! But at the one stall you could also buy bindis and hair curling brushes!

A selection of silk embroidery flosses. Embroidery is almost a corner-post of the way of life.

There was even a button vendor!

A street corner shrine to Hanuman; a Hindu deity, who is known as the “slayer of demons.” Hanuman is the only deity who may be worshipped when troubled by evil spirits. On this shrine, in Sanskrit, is written “whoever reads this will be protected by Hanuman.”

A cheerful young man selling peacock fans.

The market stalls are open despite the heavy rain that day. You can see the paving stones are soaked.

Here I am writing in my travel journal over a much-needed cup of tea and toast with honey.

A street vendor waiting for customers, selling his homemade flavored milk drink. A local favorite.

As many of you know, our design studios and main production facility are situated in an exquisite rural setting in Upstate New York. The actual physical place that is home to MacKenzie-Childs was once a dairy farm called Highbanks. I wish you could see it; you should try to come and visit, for it is absolutely beautiful in every season. In spring and summer, the gardens are just overwhelming with their riotous colors and delicate scent. During even the harshest winter months, a quiet envelopes our grounds with the softness of snow, and warm light spills from the studio windows. The farm, the omnipresence of growing things, the almost startling gentleness of our animals; these things are all woven into the fabric of everything we make, everything we think about. In many ways, I think we are still a farm; a farm where instead of producing milk, we grow art and beautiful things for your table. In this fundamental sense, we are Farm to Table.

“Community” began when people stopped wandering and began living in one place. They began to see the sense in growing food, caring for animals, and the world saw the beginnings of agriculture. “Farm to Table.” From the earliest beginnings of recorded time, that’s the way people lived. Some found they had an innate affinity for the growing of things: the mechanics of seed-tending and watering, and the minimization of pests and invasive weeds. The close, careful observations of the sunsets when it was coming up on harvest time. The special ways in which grains, fruits, and vegetables should be harvested so they stayed freshest and the most benefit could be derived from them. The good of all. Those who did other forms of work, such as building and tending of animals and the telling of stories, expressed their thanks to these growers in many ways: in goods, in traded work, in coin, in gratitude, in prayer. Days of harvest were universally celebrated as the best days of the year; a community’s bounty, their shared wealth.

Somewhere along the way, the values bigger, faster, more came to supersede those of quality, character, wholesomeness. The response has been a backlash; an overwhelming, pervasive sensibility that people want their food to be healthy, fresh, good tasting, and above all, to come from a source they know. Even now, we still have a choice: We can choose to care about the place we live, what we eat, and how we prepare what we eat. Home can and should be our first and best refuge, and an ultimate delight. There is a reason for the saying “Home is where the heart is”…The reason for that saying is simple: It is the truth!

In much the same way, we feel an object, especially an object of beauty, should be as far as possible the work of a person’s hands; something their heart tells them to do. Whether that work is simply delighted surface decoration, or elaborate combination of components and materials; or more significantly, hand-formed by clay, and the very clay mixed from dry elements; for us this defines the idea of “Handmade.” We replace the chuck-ca-chunk of the stamping machine with the quiet swish of a brush, the long dry times of paint and carpenter’s glue; the hours spent in a furnace where the colors come to life in a long, extended blast of heat.

From our farm, to your table, with love.


Friends have been asking me to write a blog for some time now. I don’t usually find time to write. My days are really full, and actually when I think about it, I’m more of a doer than a writer; the mobile seems to ring every five seconds, I’m racing from office to office, or on a plane going somewhere, or working on new designs. But in between all that, I am an avid reader of blogs and there are several I follow religiously. The idea of starting my own blog, and for the first time putting what I do into words, sounded like something I should finally try.

My blog will be a place for me to talk about design inspirations, reflections, the incredible people I have the good fortune to work with, my travels, special projects happening here in Aurora, and all the things that make our work at MacKenzie-Childs so unbelievably interesting.

We think of our mission and the things we make at MacKenzie-Childs as a kind of movement. At its core, our movement is about “handmade.” And as we know, every movement needs a manifesto! A catalyst for ideas, a provoker of thoughts, a call to action; but in our case it’s done in a quiet, sitting-in-the-kitchen kind of way.



What resonates for me about my work is that it all relates directly to Home. The ideas, the sentiments, the feelings, the inspirations, the memories; all the things we collect that make our home, well…a Home.

So, here is my Home Manifesto–a call not to do, but to live.

Thanks for all your interest and encouragement.