Category Archives: BEAUTIFUL LIFE

DONNA KARAN

When I was a design school student at the end of the 1980s, there was one name that you found in all of the magazines and on everyone’s lips: Donna Karan. She was changing the way women dressed. She wanted to “to design modern clothes for modern people.”

Karan became a presence in the fashion world as the women’s rights movement found its footing in the 1970s and women began working in the business world in greater numbers. Most designers didn’t know how to dress this burgeoning new population of professionals. You saw women dressed in double-breasted suits with tight skirts, wide shoulders, and, often, pin stripes. Virginia Slims adverts of the time showed images of women in suits – straight, lean, no curves, nothing womanly at first glance. The models could easily have been men.

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RED, WHITE, AND BLUE CERAMICS

When I was working on our Heath Ceramics collaboration, we worked with colors rooted in the Southern vernacular and my upbringing in the 1960s and 70s in Alabama. When I look at the dishes, I see parts of my childhood in the shades of red and blue.

The chosen red is appropriately called red clay, as it was inspired by the color of Alabama soil. This miraculous color used to bring tears to my eyes as I would fly in from my time living in Europe.  As a child, our summer clothes were stained with the color. The bottoms of our feet were permanently red clay colored after the temperature reached 78 degrees.  Gillian Welch’s song Red Clay Halo cannot say it any better:

All the girls all dance with the boys from the city,
And they don’t care to dance with me.
Now it ain’t my fault that the fields are muddy,
And the red clay stains my feet.

Being a barefoot child who played in the garden, I knew this color intimately. This is the color of hard-working farmers and farm wives; it is the story of a community.

Southern musicians have written about Alabama’s red soil for decades. EmmyLou Harris’s Red Dirt Girl is another iconic example.

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MADE IN AMERICA

As we move towards Independence Day, we’d like to highlight some companies who are making great things in the United States. We encourage you to share with us any companies we should look to for ‘Made in America’ excellence and quality.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of purchasing domestically and shopping locally. We must support the businesses and companies who strive for excellence in craft and manufacturing, those who provide fair wages and proper working conditions for their employees, and companies who take pride in their products.

These are types of companies that, at one point in time, were abundant in my North Alabama manufacturing community.

I frequent A Continuous Lean, and am always moved by the beautiful images and stories. A recent post about Huge, a Japanese magazine whose June issue focuses on products and manufacturing here in America, is beautifully inspiring. Huge shares with readers some companies doing great things.

One featured company is Archival Clothing, whose manufacturing is based in Oregon. They make an array of stylish bags, varying in size and function. Their company values resonated strongly with our team at Alabama Chanin, as they believe, “Perhaps over time, our efforts will help to stimulate the domestic market and encourage US manufacturers to expand their offerings. We hope you will help us with that. We stand behind all of our products, the ones we make and the ones we offer in our store.”

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CELEBRATE AMERICA 2012 CATALOG

Old Glory

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and honest can repair.” –George Washington

The flag is the centerpiece of American cultural imagery. Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, the flag came to mean so many different things: pride, controversy, rebellion, commitment, more, so much more…

It has taken me decades of living, working, and traveling the globe to understand my own relationship to this symbol of our great nation. I have grown to love the flag in all its incarnations – as a reminder of where I come from, our collective history, and, of course, of the wise and honest standard to which I believe we are raising our repair.

xoNatalie

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LIE STILL

I spent the last week sick in bed. It is not in my character to lie still or ask for help, but a severe ear infection developed into all sorts of other infections, followed by a viral infection a week later, and culminated in an allergic reaction to antibiotics after 14 days.

A friend reminded me last night, “Perhaps you just needed a week in bed?”

A week, perhaps, but two?

I am not a good patient and never have been. Honestly, I was miserable. However, I did find time to read magazines, watch an impressive list of movies that I have been trying to get to for over a year, and, in moments, just looked up at the ceiling.  I have to say that my daughter was a gem, brought me water, lay with me, and read books.

So today, for Sustainable Design Tuesday, all I can think of if that sometimes we just need to take a break, lie still, to keep going.  So, I offer you a little break and a couple of highlights from my two weeks (more or less) in captivity:

Selvedge Magazine never disappoints—and the May/June issue is no exception. I fell in love with a little story on page 9 about Tajika Haruo Ironworks, in Ono City, Japan that has been “producing handcrafted copper scissors and shears for over four generations since its founding in the Showa Period.”

Now, I love a good pair of scissors and try to keep one pair in each room.  We have the kitchen shears, children’s craft scissors, four different pairs of hair shears (since I am known for midnight hair chopping and need good tools),  paper scissors, embroidery scissors, and a few vintage pairs for no particular purpose—other that the fact that they are beautiful.

Selvedge sites Analogue Life as a source for the Tiajika scissors, and I briefly got lost there.

Look at the flower shears shown above and copper household scissors below:

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TRAVELING ALONE + TIFT MERRITT

Today I received a beautifully packaged c.d. from the talented Tift Merritt. The c.d. features many of her new songs that will certainly be heard during our work days in the studio.

We had the pleasure of hearing Tift’s amazing voice at her performance for the opening of our pop-up shop at the Billy Reid store in New York.

We hope to see Tift in New York, or perhaps Alabama, very soon.
xoNatalie

 


THE CIRCUS BOOK

CIRCUS As we were in the planning stages of MakeShift, Andrew Wagner told me that he didn’t want to call our talk at The Standard, East Village a “Panel Discussion,” but rather a Circus, or Carnival, or Party, or Making, Doing, Conversing—anything but a “Panel Discussion.”  This idea made a real impact on the how the event (and all of the events around MakeShift) unfolded. We didn’t quite reach the level of Ringling Brothers, but I think that we started a beautiful conversation that is continuing to GROW.

Today, I take inspiration in a book (and my Mother’s Day present this year from Butch and Maggie) which has quickly become one of my favorites.

CIRCUS
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MAKESHIFT 2012 + ONE LAST THOUGHT

MAKESHIFT + ONE LAST THOUGHT
Today we share our final MAKESHIFT post (for this year) of observations and thoughts from participants.

Many have already written, photographed, or posted about their experiences during the week.

Ellie Levine at STC Craft  created a timeline of the MAKESHIFT events – a beautiful recap using images and social media platforms which you can read here.

Compiled below are reflections and lingering thoughts to help continue our MAKESHIFT conversation into next year.

Keep in mind (and close to heart) what is valuable and inspiring as you design, create, and make.

xoNatalie

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HAPPY DAY

Just in time for Memorial Day reading, Refueled: Issue 9 has launched.

Featuring friends like Lauren Wilkins of Arrow & Arrow, the formidable Matt Eddmenson of Imogene + Willie, and a host of other great folk—along with our newest single-weight American Flag Throw.

Get cozy. Get inspired.

Happy Memorial Day.

Take time to celebrate the men and women who make this country great…
And thanks to our friend Chris Brown for his beautiful take on this land we love.
xoNatalie