Living the Arts and Crafts Life

Some of you may already know this but I was born and raised here in the South — Asheville, North Carolina to be exact. And, until a couple of months ago, it has been my home for the last 26 years. Needless to say, I’ve always had this weird, inexplicable stigma toward folks from up North. The Yankees as most Southerners call them. You just don’t quite know what to do with them. I always quite enjoy when that strange assumption is flipped upside down and bent backward and that very thing happened to me this morning.

From his thick accent to his outgoing personality, Paul Freeman is a Bostonian through and through. And, though we didn’t talk baseball, I bet he pulls for the Red Sox. However, what I didn’t know about Paul, but quickly came to love, was his passion toward truly living. But not just any life — the Arts and Crafts life.

Paul began his journey as a veracious collector of antiques in the greater Boston area during the late 70s and early 80s. “Anything that was way under valued I had in my home. Walls covered in prints, furniture everywhere, art on display — it was my funky two-story house.” His mishmash bachelor pad quickly got the kibosh from his then girlfriend, now wife of 34 years, Bonnie. “She didn’t really enjoy my decorating sense so I started selling.” Pretty soon after he opened his antiques business it became clear that he could really keep costs down by purchasing those cast-away linens that so many auction houses were handing off at bargain prices by the box full.

“It was the early 80s and the color white was king. White on white with white embroidery”, he joked. “But that was what sold so I threw everything else in a bucket in storage.” A little while later a family friend (soon to be business partner) Nancy started recognizing the Arts and Crafts designs from her art school days so they picked through the “cast-away” bucket and sorted out the linens they knew to be from the Arts and Crafts movement. “As you learn you become more discerning. And as I exposed myself to the world of antique linens I got more educated about not just the Arts and Crafts Movement but the Arts and Crafts lifestyle.”

Ever since then he’s been selling fine Arts and Crafts linens via his business Textile Artifacts. And, as is the case with any long-time business owner, he’s looking to get back to living instead of worrying about the bottom line. He has begun the process of parring down his collection of Arts and Crafts linens from nearly 30 years of collecting. And attendees to the upcoming National Arts & Crafts Conference, where Paul has been an exhibitor since 1989, are in for a real treat as some of the pieces in this collection are getting some fresh air for the first time in many years. “It’s exciting”, Paul said during our phone conversation. “I haven’t gone through them in so long. It’s going to take 5+ years to put a dent in this pile.” He means that quite literally actually. When I asked for a photo or two of some of the pieces to be expected at the show he sent me “pile pictures” (see bottom photo).

“This is going to be an incredible opportunity for people to get pieces they’ve never seen before — and likely will never see again.” It even covers the British, French, Japanese — even Russian — segments of the Arts and Crafts Movement. “And this collection goes way beyond embroideries”, he continued, “plus it’s affordable.” And aside from the affordability of it all, introducing textiles into your home is a fantastic way to work in the design and color of the time period into an otherwise dark brown household. “You’ve got to liven your home up and Arts and Crafts textiles are a fantastic way to do that.”

When asked what sparked this need to simplify his collection Paul simply stated, “It’s time to pass it on to other people. I live Arts and Crafts everyday — and maybe that’s what the textiles have taught me. They have lessons for other people now.”

Thanks for the brief lesson in breaking down North/South stereotypes, Paul. This Southern girl is all but convinced that Boston is my home away from home — at least if I’m staying with Paul and Nancy.

Click the following business names if you’d like more information on Paul’s businesses, Textile Artifacts and it’s contemporary counterpart Archive Edition Textiles and make sure to visit their booth at the National Arts & Crafts Conference coming up February 21st-23rd at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina.