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The Blog

The daily, and somewhat random, musings from Ben. From the journeys, to the vlogs, to the behind-the-scenes-into-the-world moments.

A Fresh Strawberry Cake

Ben Ashby


I love a good boxed cake mix, but I always want to add something to it. This recipe is one of my favorites. It transforms a standard white cake mix into the perfect light and fluffy early summer treat! This cake is best served cold. It ensures the whipped cream icing is fluffy and smooth.


1 Boxed white cake mix + the ingredients called for on the cake mix. Substitute the water for milk.

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup sifted powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 quart finely chopped strawberries

1 cup strawberry jam or preserves (do not use jelly)

Mint for garnish

Follow directions on the cake mix. I use three eight inch cake rounds. Allow baked cakes to cool overnight. Cut tops to ensure each layer is level. Place first layer on cake stand. Add a thin layer of the strawberry jam or preserves. Add middle layer of cake. Add strawberry jam or preserves. Place top layer on cake. Allow to chill while whipped cream is made.

In a mixing bowl add sifted powdered sugar, heavy whipping cream, and vanilla. Whip until fluffy with semi stick peaks. Do not over beat. You will make butter. Gently fold in your finely chopped strawberries.

Ice cake with the strawberry whipped cream. You will have enough cream to do a very generous coating of whipped cream. This cake is intended to be heavy on the icing. Allow to chill and garnish with fresh mint. Serve chilled.


A Tour of my Studio

Ben Ashby

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Everyone deserves a space to create in. A place to call their own. A place to be creative. A place to foster a spirit and a positive energy that inspires us, encourages us, and excites us. Over the years I have had sudo-creative spaces, a building downtown, an office at the house, and its current home in an old coal house that was built by my great grandparents down on our farm. Over the coming months I will finally be creating a dedicated space to work and create in.  The space is currently used for storage but will soon have shiplap walls, a boatload of windows, stained concrete floors, and a yet-to-be-determined ceiling and filled with all of my collections of antiques, family pieces, photography props, and pieces of art made by friends. Packing in my current office has started, a yard sale is coming, and construction will soon begin.


Before that I wanted to share a tour of my current coal house space…which is where I do the bulk of my shooting. The spaces is constantly evolving and is more of a set space than it is a space I actually use for anything.  

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The coal house was originally my playhouse as kid. It had dark walls, no light, no windows, a coal stained floor, and a whole lotta wasps. Over the years I begged for electric and lights to be added, I scrubbed the floors and I played in it every summer. When I was in high school a friend let me borrow her copy of Seasons at Seven Gates Farm and I was totally smitten by the wash house in the book. I instantly knew I had to have a space like that, and that my coal house would become just that. After endlessly power washing the floors and walls I was able to get rid of the years of dirt and coal dust. I white washed the old wooden walls. Because the walls were so dry and old they immediately soaked up the paint and gave the perfect white washed look. The floors are still an issue because of the dust that remains. I will often times add a fresh coat of paint before shooting the space for magazines or the website. When I first did the space I tented the ceiling with yards of green fabric to give a more shabby chic look, I never really liked the look because it sucked all the light from the space.

Last year before shooting a set of photos for Where Women COOK I redid the ceiling with white fabric and have never looked back. The space is now filled with a mix of antique pieces from my family and pieces I’ve found at local auctions and estate sales, along with shelves from IKEA. 

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The new space will be a larger version of the coal house, one that will hopefully be more permanent and not constantly in influx with photos and such. The coal house will remain as a photo area, and perhaps a potting shed for the day I will actually have a garden again.  

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My Favorite Sources

The coal house is filled with pieces I’ve collected over the years. For antiques I rely on family pieces and hunting at local estate sales, yard sales, and flea markets. The green Hoosier cabinet base was a $40 score last summer at a yard sale in the neighboring town. The wooden boot rack was a gift from Jennifer Lanne. Her paintings are typically hanging in the space too. The antique dress is probably my favorite piece in the building. It was my grandmothers. I found it in the garage and knew I had to find a way to use it. The cross that hangs on it was a gift from Laurie Meseroll. Some of my favorite sources for new things are Woolrich, Schoolhouse Electric, and Makers Market. Yes, the galvanized shelves are from IKEA.

If you like the style of my studio and would like to checkout some of the makers included in these photos browse this list:

A Stop at Luckett's Spring Market

Ben Ashby

I haven’t been to a market or a barn sale in what feels like forever. I make an annual trip to The Strawberry Patch down in Hartsville, TN but I haven’t been to any others in years. Last week I knew I’d be driving from New York to Kentucky and I was really craving a different route. Something a bit more southbound than my usual PA/WV trek. While hunting for alternate routes I noticed that The Fruit Tea Chicks were doing a market in Virginia that same weekend. I also knew that I had been wanting to visit Luckett’s Spring Market for nearly a decade. I pulled up my map and quickly realized it was just a few minutes off interstate 81. I was sold, I would soon be getting my fruit tea and seeing a market I’d been so eager to visit.

When I arrived I had thought the market was going to be a small one. I would be in and out in an hour. I was stopping for fruit tea, to photograph the market, and to see Farmhouse Frocks. Simple. Easy. Fast. Three hours later I was forcing myself to head out after only covering a small section of this massive market. I am not one to give compliments, so when I say that you need to visit this market if you’re hunting for really cool antique and vintage pieces…add it to your list.

I only had a chance to take a few photos, but they are shared below. I loved that this is one of those markets/shows that you go to experience. It is a full day activity. Beyond the dozens of vendors of antique, handmade, vintage, and American made, there is a vast selection of food, there are lots of activities for all ages, and a mix of musical performances. I cannot wait to go back next year. || — Luckett’s Spring Market

5 Tips for a Successful Experience

  1. Prepare for the sun and heat. Bring sun screen and prepare to stay hydrated. It is hot and sunny and you’re not going to want to rush through all the treasure hunting. Luckily there are many hydration options, but don’t forget the sunscreen at home.

  2. Come with cash. It is true that most vendors accept credit cards now, but cash for the most part is easier and allows you to better keep track of your spending.

  3. Arrive in the right vehicle. While you think you may only be coming to get fruit tea and a bar of soap, you will end up buying a hoosier cabinet and you will need a way to bring it home.

  4. Sunday is often the best day to shop. The final day of a show, especially if it is a Sunday is typically a slower day and a day vendors are willing to make good deals on pieces they don’t want to take back home.

  5. Don’t rush. This is a marathon. You have dozens of vendors to checkout. Don’t spend all your money in the first booth you visit. Know that you’ll likely find things you love or need in many more booths to come.

Letting Go | An Essay by Brandon Roberts

Ben Ashby


Brandon Roberts

Journal Entry Vol.2 #21
Wednesday, July 20th, 2016 12:41pm
University of Montana Soccer Field, Missoula, MT

When I really start over and hand everything over to God or whatever it is, it is so scary and my immediate reaction is to control the situation. I know, always, what the right answer is, because I’ve tapped into my inner compass. It’s boils down to wanting to save my ass and face at the same time. I can’t. I have to pick one. No matter what it is, it’s scary. The big things always are and even the small stuff.



The Strawberry Patch 2018

Ben Ashby


Fall is without question my favorite season. I utterly live for the barn sales, the changing leaves, the warm pumpkin spices lattes, and all the apple cider a person can handle. The official kick off for the autumn season in my world is always The Strawberry Patch barn sale in Hartsville, TN. The event is hosted by Christy Jo Stone on her family’s farm just outside of the tiny town of Hartsville. Each year Christy Jo brings together dozens of the very best vintage, antique, and hand made vendors from all across the south.

There are a few key elements needing for a successful barn sale, and Christy Jo captures them all. From fabulous vendors, to a mix of styles, to quality entertainment, and the best food trucks, and of course her signature fruit tea, Christy Jo creates a must visit event that is set among the rolling pastures and farmlands of the area.

This year I shot the event for a 2019 issue of Where Women Create so I can’t share too many of the photos here, but I do have a few of my favorites to give a taste of what you’ll be seeing in an issue sometime next year.

Until then, here are a few of my other favorite barn sales and markets to visit each fall:

A Day in the Country — Atwater, Ohio

Southern Junkers — Memphis, Tennessee

City Farmhouse — Franklin, Tennessee

Country Living Fair — Columbus, Ohio

The Hayloft — Port Royal, Tennessee

Gypsy Moon Marketplace — Bowling Green, Kentucky

The Strawberry Patch — Hartsville, Tennessee

Vintage Pickin — Fyfee, Alabama

Photographer Q and A || Valerie Derome Masse

Zachary Kilgas

Q: Why do you explore / adventure?

A: A few years back I fell in love with wildlife photography. It appeared to me in the most random manners and at a time when I needed it the most. I began creating a little library of my own. These moments were crafted without any sounds or human words. I now basically live for moments like these and that is exactly why I love to go out there and explore with my camera; to collect animal portraits and embrace how alive it makes me feel. 

Q: Why take risks in life?

A: Because the worst that could happen is you learn a lot from yourself. Creating memories is all about getting out of your comfort zone. 

Q: Where are you from?

A: I’m from Montreal Canada! I grow up on ski surrounded by the natural beauty of Quebec.

Q: What is your 9-5?

A: I graduated 2 years ago from Grad school with an architectural degree. I’m currently starting an architectural visualization & 3D studio with a close friend of mine. It’s a project that’s been on my mind since I first started architecture school and I’m super excited that I finally found the perfect partner to transform this project from inception to reality. I’ve always been fascinated by images which explains my dedication to photography. Architecture visualization is a such a fascinating industry and I feel like it’s the perfect marriage between art and technology. 

Q: When you were growing up what or who did you want to be

A: I’ve always been very much fascinated by my father who invested his whole life into creating a company of his own. He’s someone who puts his heart into everything he does and there is never a project that scares him. He always challenged himself into learning new ways of creating or learning about a new topic. He inspired me to become a curious, determined and passionate creator. 

No goal is to high nor impossible. You’ve got to chase for these opportunities to grow.

Q: Favorite place you've visited 

Definitely Iceland. I got instantly seduced by the Nordic culture. The changing forecasts also makes for outstanding and unique photography opportunities. It’s the first destination that opened up my relationship with photography. 

Q: Place you most desperately want to visit? 

At the moment I would say I’m obsessed with South Georgia and the sandwich Islands. It’s definitely a place I want to visit as it would allow me to go out of my comfort zone as it feels like such a remote location. But truly the main reason is that I’d love to know more about the largest penguin colony in the world and being there in person would make for incredible photography opportunities. I would also love to go back to Iceland and photograph the arctic fox whose main territory is far north in the west fjords. 

Q: Must haves for travel

A: As the Norwegians would say, there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing. With that said, you should always do some research and know in advance about the location and weather forecast to plan your gear ahead. 

Where Women Create + Teressa Foglia

Ben Ashby


For the summer 2018 issue I shot Teressa Foglia in her studio in Industry City. Teressa is a milliner based in New York City. A preview of the story follows....


Teressa Foglia is a social media entrepreneur who recently opened her first millinery shop in Industry City, Brooklyn, New York. Starting her business just after college she quickly grew her online following as well as her social and professional circle. Now the owner of two businesses, we catch up with her, hear a bit of her story and her advice for hopeful entrepreneurs.




Growing up in Troy, New York, I was close with my entire family. Not just my parents, but my extended family, as well. I am an only child, and as such I have always relied on my parents for advice. Anytime I have a big decision to make, I look to them for help.

After graduating, I switched jobs 4 times in a year. I quickly realized that climbing the corporate ladder and the office life just wasn’t for me. When I was 23 I started my own social media company. It was during that transitional period that I picked up my first few social media clients. I loved having the freedom to choose the clients, as well as when and where I worked, I never looked back.....


Demetria Chappo | Where Women Create

Ben Ashby


Demetria Chappo is a Brooklyn-based ceramic artist making home objects, decor, wall hangings and sculptures with with an emphasis on intricate designs and universal symbolism. Originally from Louisiana, she received a BFA in Acting from the University of Utah and currently lives on the Columbia Waterfront of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Her love of clay was inspired by her mother. She has exhibited her work in galleries and sells in shops across the US and internationally.

Website: Instagram: @demedemedeme

"I grew up in the lush South. A Louisiana native, I spent much of my youth surrounded by beautiful plants and creative parents who owned and operated a horticulture design firm. My love of ceramics come from my mother, who received her BFA in ceramics. My home in Louisiana has always had fresh flowers. In many ways, growing up with such beautiful natural environments taught me to look to my surroundings for inspiration. So, each morning when I walk to my Brooklyn office and stroll past the vibrant orange sand, rich brick reds, and stony grays of the nearby cement mixing company I find I’m still inspired by my surroundings."

"When I began my college career, I moved to the mountains of Salt Lake City, Utah. With new surroundings I found new inspiration. My undergraduate studies were in acting and theatre, and I had always dreamed of being a professional actress. While in Utah, I started taking my first art classes as electives. I would often drive up to Bountiful—north of SLC—where my university had an enormous studio and gas kiln, slowly I began to learn about ceramics."

"When I was five-years-old, I went to visit my godmother in New York City. Even at such a young age, the energy that the city held excited me. So many creative spirits and so much possibility. In first grade I acted in my first play, and from then on I knew that after college I would move to New York City. When I graduated, I did. I moved to New York with the hope of finding my group of fellow actors. Instead, after finding a few acting jobs here and there, a temp job led to a career in the beauty industry. I became disillusioned, and disheartened by the fact that I never found my theatre group."

"I worked in the beauty industry for years as a marketing agent. It was an enjoyable experience that taught me much about how to build a brand and market my products. All things considered, it always lacked a sense of passion. I remember walking down the street and experiencing a complete crisis of character. It was around 2008, so the rumblings of a downturn in the economy had me questioning my place."