In the autumn of last year, I was contacted by a New York University professor from the Liberal Studies department named Jessamyn Hatcher. She had gotten my email address from our mutual friend Sally Singer and wanted to know if we would be willing to discuss a field trip that she was planning with her 30+ students from the Dean’s Circle, a University Scholars program.
Her email explained that the “theme for the 2010-2011 Dean’s Circle and Colloquium is ‘The Price of Fashion: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and the Global Garment Trade.’ The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire occurred on March 25, 1911, in what is now the Brown building. 146 people, most of who were between the ages of 16 and 21, died while manufacturing women’s blouses. Next year will mark its 100th anniversary, and we will use the anniversary as an occasion to explore issues surrounding the world garment trade, from mass production in sweatshops to the runways of the world’s fashion capitols to the ‘slow design’ movement.”
While I was fascinated by Jessamyn’s inquiry, in the first moment I wondered how a workshop could function with 30+ students in our studio. My fears were unfounded.
Several weeks ago, the group arrived and the experience was one of wonder, exploration and pleasure. Following a two day workshop in our studio, the students moved on to Rural Studio in Greensboro, Alabama, to continue their journey.
Jessamyn joked at one point how many of her colleagues had asked, “Why aren’t you going to Paris?”
The lovely thank you notes from the (18 – 20 year-old) students below explains it all. I hope that the students don’t mind that I have shared their observations about our world. I am appreciative to look at our work, our staff and our world through fresh eyes.
(And to have found a new friend in Jessamyn!)
I struggle these days – not with what to do but – with how to do things the right way.
I find myself sitting up at night, rolling through ideas, and questioning action.
I adore his way of looking at work:
“I prefer the vulnerability of trying to do something honest.” Continue reading
Back in the studio today after almost a month of working from home, the holidays, an amazing trip to Taste of the South and a few (beautiful) snow days. It was a great luxury to have some time to read over the holidays and I have savored many a volume (both trash and treasure).
Wild Card Quilt by Janisse Ray is such a beautiful, soulful story of coming home. It speaks to sustainability of community, of people, and of the plants, foods and stories that tie us together. I find the stories especially moving a decade after I made the leap to come home – a move that changed my life.
This year Taste of the South featured a fantastic talk by Gary Nabhan (Coming Home to Eat - another wonderful book). Gary spoke gushingly of Janisse Ray (and read a portion of the essay below) while my dear friend Angie leaned over and said, “I just LOVE Janisse Ray.”
I adore her too.
I love the line below from page 43 of Wild Card Quilt. Anyone with a rural Southern childhood will understand:
“I heard Mr. Henry Eason say one time, with the advent of paved roads and electric lights, there ain’t near as many ghosts as there used to be…”
The Alabama Chanin office we will be closed for business today.
Everyone is now very busy in preparation for important snowball fights, snow men and snow cream.
Enjoy the moment.
MAGGIE’S SNOW CREAM
Mix together, tasting often:
1 cup fresh whipped cream
1 cup fresh snow
Sugar and vanilla to taste
The article made me sit back in my chair and I have been thinking of it randomly for weeks. Perhaps because I am raising two children across two very different decades, or perhaps because I am a working, single mother who is responsible (most of the time) for daily life or perhaps just because there is a small feminist (Charlotte Perkins Gilman are you listening?) ember somewhere inside of me, I find relief in Jong’s words.
Although I made the conscious decision this last year to take more time for family life, I am still the breadwinner AND the bread baker. And I stand by my decision and will tell anyone who asks that it was the best decision I ever made.
When my son was young, 29 years ago, I didn’t have that option (which is a luxury). Yet, I have shed many a tear and endured many moments of guilt and self-loathing in thinking about decisions I made. The last line of Jong’s article feels like an absolution to me: “Do the best you can. There are no rules.”
Read the Wall Street Journal article and tell me what you think: Mother Madness
And don’t miss the additional piece by Molly Jong-Fast: Growing Up With Ma Jong
*Raphael. The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna. 1500. Oil on wood. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC