Date: April 21, 2014 | Story: Tiffany Burgess Adams | Styling: Mandy Keener |
COLLECTOR Ashli Ahrens HOMETOWN Stuttgart; currently resides in a condo inside Little Rock’s historic Lafayette Building HER OBSESSION Blue-and-white porcelain china and dinnerware HOW THE COLLECTION STARTED “I found my first piece, a large platter, at a flea market in England, Arkansas,” says Ahrens. WHY SHE LOVES IT Many of the pieces in her collection have a family tie and are now beloved heirlooms—each with a story all their own (turn the page to read more about their heritage). HOW SHE USES IT In previous homes, Ahrens has had the plates displayed in china hutches and hanging on the walls. However, they aren’t just for decoration. Ahrens and her husband also love to serve dinner on the blue-and-white treasures.
WHY BLUE AND WHITE? My mom, Claudia Ahrens, subscribed to a lot of decorating magazines when I was growing up, and I have always gravitated toward the classic blue-and-white palette.
WHEN DID YOU FRIST START COLLECTING THESE PIECES? I bought my first piece when I was either a senior in high school or had just entered college. From there, one of my great-great-aunts, Ellen Turner Thomas, left me her Allerton “Willow” pattern when she passed away. This is similar to the popular “Blue Willow” Spode pattern and is made in England. I got a whole set of dishes and platters, and the collection really grew from there.
SO, IT SOUNDS LIKE YOUR COLLECTION IS A PART OF YOUR FAMILY’S HERITAGE NOW. Yes, it is. In fact, after college I showed interest and my mother remembered she had blue-and-white dishes when she first set up house as a single woman. She was able to find a few and gave me a cup and saucer along with several bread plates. Interestingly, my brother-in-law’s parents also had blue-and-white dinnerware. When his mother passed away, they gave me the entire set. So, it’s been very special to collect them in this way rather than buying a lot of them myself.
SOME OF THESE PLATES ALSO DEPICT THE NATURAL STATE. WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THOSE? They are known as souvenir plates. The Arkansas versions that I have were also my great aunt’s. They were made in 1936 by Vernon Kilns, a California company that manufactured a ton of these during the period. You can find different states and attractions if you search for that company. They’re starting to be worth something now.
DO YOU HAVE OTHER COLLECTIONS? I have several actually. As a child I collected folding fans, and later in life I started hunting for Victorian footstools. More recently, I’ve been picking up vintage postcards and my latest obsession is memorabilia from the Lafayette Hotel (which was located in the building where Ahrens and her husband Kelley Bass currently reside). My philosophy is to collect things I can use, whether I physically use them or they are for decoration.