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Family ties

On a mild November day I visited Emily's mum in her wonderful hill top home on the outskirts of Penzance. Overlooking St Michael's Mount, the old Georgian rectory has a shabby grandeur, carefully tended to retain a patina of age and character. Bought in an unloved, dilapidated state, Delia and Terry have brought the house back to life with years of work and a can-do DIY attitude. 

The garden faces south, overlooking St Michael's Mount. Hydrangeas, roses, euphorbias and the skeletons of towering echiums fill borders restored by Delia. 

Delia is in her kitchen, making coffee on the aga. I have come to visit to take photographs of the Christmas wreaths she has been making for our 'Christmas Evening in the Studio', filled with flowers she has dried from her garden. 

Soon though we are chatting about the house, Emily growing up, how creativity runs like a thread through the family. 

Everywhere you look there are obscure vintage finds, furniture and ornaments, bid, bartered or bought from her favourite markets. Brought home to fill another corner. 

She has collected unusual objects since she was a child, influenced by trips to markets with her own mother. "It runs in the family, everything is connected" remarks Delia.

I think about Emily's own studio, the cabinets filled with fascinating props and antiques, vintage postcards and of course the piles of dried and drying seaweed.

Fabrics and tapestries are a common theme, cupboards are piled with heavy material and curtains found in the French markets she has spent many years trawling. "Moths find me wherever I go" she says, batting away an imaginary foe who might have come for a chew. 

Make do and mend is her mantra, everything cobbled together from what she finds. Just like the house; a labour of love to create something beautiful with what you have at your finger tips. 

She shares a tip for those that have the time for online vintage hunting "Think about your description, if you type in 'vintage French jewellery box' there's no doubt you'll find something wonderful but so will everyone else and you'll pay a lot for it. Instead type in 'old box for rings' and you might be lucky."

When asked about her best find she takes me to the peacock carpet. A beautiful French wool rug that she bought for a bargain £180 from a house sale and that has since been valued for a considerable amount more. 

Her favourite things are understated, the discreet faded tapestry of a chicken, theatre postcards leant up against a ship in a bottle, the wooden bird that Emily made when she was a child.

We come back to the room Delia calls her Atelier, the French influence ever present. Here is where she makes things, turning fabrics into cushions, painting watercolours and most recently creating beautiful Christmas wreaths from flora and foliage, dried from her garden. Roses, hydrangeas, bracken, nigella, lichen and larkspur fill the wreaths, delicately dried to retain their colour. Tied of course with a flourish of cotton silk ribbon. 

I leave with a feeling of having walked through a door into a bygone era, a period drama filled with authenticity, creativity and warmth.

Delia's Christmas Wreaths will be on sale at our 'Christmas Evening in the Studio' on 24th November. The proceeds will be donated to St Petrocs homeless charity. 

A profile of Delia Ash written by Emily can be read here

Words by Chloe Wild 




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