While walking down Ash Street in historic Fernandina Beach, you may stumble upon a wooden house that looks as if the person inside is a steward of an English secret garden, or a maybe a bohemian, mountain hermit with an eye for vintage antiques.
Intimate organic moments bathed in a faded rustic palette would best describe the two Dove Cote locations in downtown Fernandina Beach. They highlight the handiwork of mother/daughter duo, Carol Smith and Aspen Robinson. They are master composers of vignettes crafted to illuminate found objects in a new light, inspiring customers to redefine what makes vintage beautiful. While seemingly organic in design, they are no accident. Aspen says, “The vignettes come from lots of practice, lots of mistakes, and inspiration from anything we find beautiful.”
Aspen creates wearable art at The Dove Cote Brocante on Beech Street. The shop is an old house, and its rooms are cleverly designed to show off her handmade jewelry, clothing and rare, vintage collectables. A religious relic rests beside cowgirl boots or tee shirts, and a faux raccoon-head wall hanging keeps watch over her wares.
The custom designed leather and metal cuffs are her signature, adorned with phrases which conjure strength and magic.
“It is really wearing your personal affirmation and your heart on your sleeve, so to speak,” she says. She creates pieces with meaning that customers connect with personally, so they can be a statement piece that never goes out of style. “My clients are very creative, adventurous women.” The jewelry reflects where they are at that moment in their life.
The self-taught jewelry designer credits her mother as her major influence. “She has more talent in her pinky that most people use their whole life. She’s constantly inspiring, caring and the perfect sounding board,” says Aspen, who has been “‘junkin’ since I was young with my mom.”
Hunting treasures is a family tradition and second nature to them both. The well-loved “junk” pieces are treasures from shows throughout the country. A favorite destination is Antique Week in Round Top, Texas, “When the tiny town turns into a Junkin’ Mecca!” She says.
Her mother, Carol Smith’s, talents are visually tangible in The Dove Cote Garden on Ash Street. She artfully arranges her finds alongside her one-of-a-kind creations. A concrete statue sits atop a hothouse made from old windows. Walking through The Dove Cote Garden, one never knows what one may find among the plant life.
The two women travel the country attending shows like Round Top and Country Living Fairs, and love the gypsy lifestyle of junking across the U.S. Aspen says, “It’s a lot of miles on the road, loading and unloading, plus long hours.” The payoff for them is bearing witness to a growing folk-art movement, admiring “amazing pieces of history from across the world, meeting immensely talented artists and vendors, and being able to reach such a huge audience,” says Aspen.
Bringing that inspired vibe back to their shops in Fernandina Beach is a chance to exhibit a life driven by following one’s passion. “It’s really just an opportunity to share what I love about what I do every day,” says Aspen.