Earlier in the week I received an email from reader and fellow blogger Billie Elias. Billie blogs at All in Your Family, which I encourage you to check out. She wrote to tell me that she had recently toured the Yankee, the Ellis Island ferry recently repurposed as a cultural institution, and was wondering if she could comment on my recent post. Because comments had closed, I suggested something better: how about writing a guest spot at the Strawfoot. Graciously, she accepted. Here is her report:

The first time I saw a MacKenzie-Childs piece of pottery was at my mother-in-law’s house. She had several pieces arranged in a group…one was a large pitcher that had stripes, checkerboard and flowers…a melange of varied patterns, all obviously hand-painted. How rustic, I thought…not really my taste.

Ceramic pot

Then one day while strolling up Madison Avenue, I noticed a most unusual shoppe. It had an old-world feel to the outside, with striped awnings that reminded me of jesters costumes. Upon entering, you knew you were in a most unusual space. Everything was cramped and cozy, and there was a large chicken wire cage with live birds inside. Nooks and crannies were everywhere.  A narrow staircase carried you up to another level of retail, and yet another even more quaint stair took you to the teensie top, where there was a wall covered with rooms of a doll house, a la Windsor Castle. There was a tea room up there, too. Every square inch was covered by a tile or a tassel or a cushion or plates or some other creation of a magical couple named Victoria and Richard MacKenzie-Childs.

mackenziechilds2

It’s a style that can really grow on you, especially as the style evolved over the years to include lots of black and white stripes. (Black and White are my personal signature colors, especially as my hair has gone from jet black to salt and pepper).

What a surprise I had when a friend from Amsterdam told me she was going to interview the owner of a bed and breakfast situated on an old ferry boat docked on the Hudson River (since relocated to Red Hook in Brooklyn). I pride myself on being a New Yorker who has her finger on the pulse of cool stuff like this, so I was stunned that I didn’t know such a thing existed. My Google search netted the fact that MacKenzie-Childs were the brain-“childs” behind this. I begged to go along for the ride and she relented. That is how I came to meet the colorful and unusual Victoria.

Billie (right) aboard the Yankee

Billie (right) aboard the Yankee

Being welcomed into the parlor, we were regaled by stories of how the Yankee had ferried immigrants from their ships to Ellis Island and later served in WWI and WWII. Today she is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The couple is deeply committed to her preservation (not only of the ship, but of everything they touch…talk about reducing one’s footprint!). There’s a chicken coop with live chickens whose eggs are eaten by visitors and residents of the vessel, mounds of old steamer trunks and luggage repurposed for storage, and MacKenzie-Childs accoutrements and eye-candy everywhere the eye can see.

(images/Billie Elias)