Category Archives: TRAVEL + OTHER NEWS

AFTER LEAVES OF GREEN

It is going to take me weeks to express the joy, inspiration, and love I found at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium.  (And it will take a lot longer to lose all the weight I found. Strange what a side of pork and a case of beer can do to the body… just kidding – well maybe.)

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ODE TO THE COLLARD

I have been waiting (patiently) for seven years to attend a Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium and this is the year I will finally be able to go.  Yes, it is a seven year charm.

I am packing my bags to leave today for The Cultivated South. This includes a carload of costumes for LEAVES OF GREENS: THE OPERA, an homage to all things colewort, written by Price Walden, and performed by University of Mississippi Music Department students, with accompaniment by Amanda Johnston and costuming by Alabama Chanin.

Pictures and stories to come…
xoNatalie

ODE TO THE COLLARD

How do I love thee?
Let me tell the tale,
Oh Southern Stalk of Life,
Grand Collard, Queen of Kale.

I relish thee with chowchow,
Onions strewn about the plate.
Red pepper pods adorn thee,
Fat Back’s Monarch, Ham Hock’s Mate.

I delight in thee with cornbread—
Hard-crusted, dry, dark brown,
And sopped in thy pot liquor—
Garden Green of Great Renown.

I revere thy rare refinement;
In greased glory, art thou luminous.
Tho’ pintos suit thee best,
Thou art enhanced by all leguminous.

I value thee, Great greenness,
Money’s Sign shall never waver.
Joined by jowls and paired with peas,
You enrich my New Year’s flavor.

I praise thy tasteful leaves,
Emerald-hued and smooth as silk,
Perfumed by vinegar’s vapor
And pursued by buttermilk.

I commend thy aromatic air,
A bouquet not soon forgot,
As you sizzle in the skillet
Or lie larden in the pot.

Swallowed greedily at midday
Or gulped icy at the dawn,
Sumptuous Scent of Salivation,
My appetite becomes thy pawn.

I adore thee, Sweetest Collard,
Acclaim thy might, and homage pay.
Thy fame shall live forever
Tho’ thy smell may fade away.

—Teresa T. Cameron, Cameron, NC

 

 

BURNING MAN (+ WOMAN)

It seems that everywhere I turn these days, someone is talking about or asking me to go to Burning Man. This also happened to me a decade ago when I first moved back to New York from Vienna. At that time, all of the talk I heard centered on substances consumed and not content. I found the conversations boring beyond words and the folks talking seemed to be something more than obsessed. You would say something as banal as, “What would you like for dinner tonight?” And their reply would always start, “Well, at Burning Man…” You get my drift.

This new round of Burning Man admirers are of a totally different ilk. Beautiful images, like these taken by my friend, Reyes Melendez, are emerging and at the same time, the conversations are changing.

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GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME

My latest post for EcoSalon is about how good things – like good design – take time.

Take time to have a read: Give The Story Time To Unfold

And then let us know what you think…
xoNatalie

GIVE THE STORY TIME TO UNFOLD

I found a letter that I wrote some years ago.  It starts like this:

“First, I will start with my apology: I am really a terrible friend. I have been ‘absent.’ I have made many people feel as though I did not care. I am sorry; however, if I am really honest, it is not so much that I am sorry as much as I have missed you and missed so many important things in my life.

It has been FULL time. And it will be hard for me to begin to tell all of the laughter, tears, frustrations, joys, moments, days, weeks, years that have happened. I try to find the beginning and the only thing I find is my wish to have you here with me in this moment…”

Isn’t that just how life is?  It gets all full and messy and good at the same time.
And isn’t that the story of a really good friend – one who is willing to wait for the story to unfold?

Southerners are renowned storytellers. I don’t know if that is because it gets so hot that we have to slow down and consequently hear more, or if the porch just provides the best venue for recounting tales. Perhaps we’ve just lived so close to the land for so many generations that the stories naturally grew. Whatever the reason, there are libraries filled with sections with titles that cover a “Southern Sense of Place,” “Southern Gothic,” and “Southern Short Story.”

And while many of us are born storytellers, our stories do take time to unfold. We are slow, methodical, practiced in our pace. My father and my son – following in his grandfather’s very slow footsteps – are masters in this art. They take the right breaths, they slowly move from one part of the room to the other. My father can take three days to answer a particular question. I will unexpectedly get a call and find my father simply replying to a question asked days earlier. Sometimes, I have to stop and think back to what actually prompted the question. This was infuriating as a child, “Daddy, can I go to the movie this afternoon with my friends?”

Silence.  It would be like he didn’t even hear me. Perhaps an hour later, he would call me in from outside, “Are you ready to go to the movie?” My heart would skip and it was like a present, wrapped up in a slowly unfolding package that had just been delivered. I would grab my things and go savor the movie.

The writer George Dawes Green provided the best storytelling platform EVER with the founding of The Moth. He started The Moth because he “wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda’s porch.”

I once wrote a blog post about his story “The House that Sherman Didn’t Burn.” This is one of the best Southern Gothic tales I have ever heard. (Keep in mind that all the stories told at The Moth are true.)

My friend, writer, and folklorist, Fred Fussell loved this story but thinks that the audience laughs in all the wrong places – which made me laugh as well. But the thing about stories is this, they are personal: personal for the teller and personal for listener as we are constantly searching for our own humanity within the story. We need that connection from teller to self.  We need to FEEL our friend’s life in and around their words. The beauty of The Moth is that each storyteller feels like a friend once their story is told.  And in the telling, like my father, they take their time. Their stories are not told, they unfold. Yes, good stories – like good friends take time.

Shouldn’t this be the same with good design? In a world that seems to spin faster and faster out of control, shouldn’t we be looking for products that take time to unfold? Or products whose usefulness we savor? Shouldn’t we demand products that have stories to tell? Like good wine, a good design needs time to be a part of our lives, time to reach its full maturity. If we could stop the ever spinning merry-go-round of fashion to see the consequences of our fast fashion choices, we might begin to appreciate the tales that our garments tell. Some items would tell tales of sorrow; others would tell beautiful tales of how they found their way to the wearer. I think that we would start to breathe and listen to the stories of our clothes and their makers – because there are great people out there telling beautiful stories.

American designer Sister Parish said, “Even the simplest wicker basket can become priceless when it is loved and cared for through the generations of a family.” The next time we purchase a single item, perhaps we should exercise patience and think back to this idea. Can this product I am about to buy be cared for and loved through the generations? What story does this item tell? Isn’t buying a product with a long life the same as exercising patience for a good story?

Patience has never been at the top of my list of virtues. I have been told that I have a calm, patient appearance on the outside, but my inner life is much less composed. You might even go so far as to say that my inner life and outer life were disconnected in my youth. This was the cause of much consternation and drama in my earlier days. But what I understand today is that I needed time. I needed time to grow up and to grow into my own story. If I can give my daughter one piece of advice, I will tell her to slow down, be calm, and wait.

Good things – like good design – take time and good friends are worth waiting for.

HANDMADE HOLIDAY

Yesterday, making use of the beautiful fall weather, June and I shot pictures of new DIY Kits for our Two-Hour and One-Day Workshops. These new kits are exclusive to our workshops and are launching next week for all the upcoming events.

The new kit selection for Two-Hour Workshops include (among others) the Onesie shown above and the Baby Blanket pictured below.

I know what I will be gifting my (many) pregnant friends for the holidays! Sign up your favorite friend, daughter, son, and/or yourself by Sunday, November 23rd and receive a 10% discount with the code HANDMADEHOLIDAY.

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ON THE ROAD AGAIN

For those of you have participated in our past weekend workshops, there is a good chance that you have already met June Flowers. (The name belies the tattooed fireball of a woman in our studio who is equally adept with computers, flower arranging, and power washing.) If you’ve signed up for an upcoming workshop then you’ve probably exchanged a few emails with her; if you’re hosting a workshop or providing the space for one of our events, you’ve probably exchanged 50+ emails, including pictures of kids, dogs, and favorite garments.

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ECOSALON FRIDAY (AGAIN)

ECOSALON FRIDAY (AGAIN)
Where did the last two weeks go?  Read my bi-weekly post @EcoSalon on the importance of being wobbly.

And thank you to my friend Georg for the gift of a simple garden gnome – so many, many years ago. Perhaps I will watch Amelie tonight!

There’s No Place Like Gnome

I planted my fall garden last weekend – perhaps about a month late but nevertheless, it is in the ground. My daughter has finally reached the age where she is a willing participant most of the time. In fact, she planted about half a row of garlic before scurrying off to uncover the peas I had just planted and to bury the little ceramic garden gnome that keeps watch on the birds who are eating our carefully planted seeds. That little antique gnome, a gift I received 20+ years ago while living in Vienna, has traveled the world with me, gone to every new home, and overseen each new incarnation of my life. He has always reminded me that a garden was waiting in my future.

The morning I decided to plant, I woke up in my own bed after returning home the day before from a trip that included three stops in two and a half weeks. I arrived home with a head cold and the desire to lie still for another two weeks. But, my daughter and I got up that morning and raked and hoed and planted. It felt good. I sighed, and relaxed and smiled as we settled into an afternoon of working and playing side-by-side.

I admit that I am not the best gardener in the world. This fall garden should have been planted a month ago; my rows are a bit wobbly as they move down the length of my backyard plot. I am certain that when the lettuce and spinach begin to sprout, there will be sections of the rows where too many seeds were strewn too closely together, and other sections where nothing will come up.

This is much like the story of my life and business.

A business owner recently said to me, “You are so successful, you wouldn’t know about the difficulties we have had in trying to build our business.” I couldn’t help but laugh. There are beautiful aspects to what we do at Alabama Chanin every day but there are also carefully planted rows that don’t come up, sales that don’t happen, frustrations and disappointments.

I recently came across an essay I had written in 2006 for Leslie Hoffman at Earth Pledge titled, “What Does Planting Tomatoes Have to Do With Fashion?”  It seems at first blush that the two would have little to do with one another. The gist of the essay was how coming home and re-learning how to plant a garden had connected me to my community, my business, the greater art of sustaining life and, consequently, to the fashion industry at large. As I look back over the essay, it feels like such a long time since I wrote those words. Our first book had not yet hit the shelves. My separation from my former company was still new and the wounds were fresh. When I re-read that essay, I could sense my fear, my hopes and my determination between the lines.

What that essay also reminded me was that while my rows today might still be wobbly, the birds-eye view of the garden is straight as an arrow. My path has been crooked, but the mission that I set for myself so many years ago is alive and growing.
So, what I really wanted to communicate to the business owner that day was not laughter – as if it were a silly question. I meant that laughter to mean: I am in the same garden! As a business, we experience the same ups-and-downs, the same excitements and the same disappointments, and in spite of it all, we are still here and we are still gardening.

Today, as I sit and look at my wobbly rows, my garden feels like my business. I realize that the wobbly row is a perfect analogy for my own process. We plant rows that flourish; we plant rows that putter along. We water, we nurture, we pick, we grow. But the real beauty of it all is not in the harvesting but this moment of sitting in the sun waiting for the first sprouts to poke through the earth.

The point is to watch the little plants grow and to savor the laughter that will come when I finally discover the buried garden gnome that my daughter has left for me as a present.
xoNatalie

HOTEL SAN JOSE

We just finished setting up our Trunk Show @ the beautiful Hotel San Jose in Austin.

The hotel was conceived and designed by our dear friend Liz Lambert (also a friend to our friends at Imogene + Willie and don’t miss Carrie’s story on how she first met Liz).

I can’t imagine a better place to spend the night (and a few days).

In fact, I spent most of my day today working in my room, breaking in the courtyard, having a tea at Jo’s Coffee and resuming my work by the pool. Gorgeous.

Should you ever have the chance to grace one of Liz’s establishments, jump to it.

And should you find yourself in Austin today or tomorrow, come by to see us in the courtyard of the San Jose @ 1316 South Congress Avenue from 7 – 10 pm for cocktails, shopping and a community stitch-in.

Or email us for daytime shopping appointments:  kay (at) alabamachanin.com