Category Archives: THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

DIY CHAIR WORKSHOP @ SOUTHERN MAKERS, MONTGOMERY, AL

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In early May, we will be traveling to Montgomery, Alabama, to participate in the second annual Southern Makers event. Southern Makers is a one-day affair that celebrates innovation and creativity of all types in Alabama. From panel discussions and artist talks, to cooking demonstrations and workshops, Southern Makers highlights some of the top talent working throughout the Southeast.

This year, Alabama Chanin will be hosting a DIY Chair Workshop. This workshop offers guests the opportunity to work with Natalie and her team to repurpose a selection of gently used chairs using fabric, paint, stencils, and an assortment of tools. Guests will choose a chair to repurpose on a first come, first served basis. An assortment of tools and materials will be available for use; however, you are welcome to bring your own chair and materials.

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This workshop models itself after Alabama Chanin’s Makeshift workshop series: Crafting Design, featured in the New York Times. Also, the Woven Farm Chairs project found in our first book, Alabama Studio Style, repairs old chairs using cotton-jersey pulls made from fabric scraps. The workshop will cover a range of topics including craft, design, and DIY.

Saturday, May 3, 2014 from 1:00pm – 3:00pm

The Union Station Train Shed (Downtown)
300 Water Street
Montgomery, AL 36104

For more information, contact: workshops(at)alabamachanin.com, or call: +1.256.760.1090.

There will also be a Market Place Bazaar at this year’s event, featuring wares and goods from talented southern artisans and chefs (including an Alabama Chanin Pop-Up Shop). Stay tuned…

 

THE HEART: CARRA-ELLEN RUSSELL

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If you have purchased an Alabama Chanin garment or DIY kit in the last year or so, there is a chance that the fabric in your hands was also touched by Carra-ellen Russell. Carra-ellen is our Production Manager and is present at the beginning of most of the things that we make; she starts each garment and kit on its journey by cutting them and passing them along to the next phase. Pieces come back to her once they have been painted, where she helps package them with the proper notions and supplies to be given to one of our stitchers or to be shipped as a DIY kit.

Carra-ellen came to us about a year-and-a-half ago, through the suggestion of our Director of Design and Special Services, Olivia. As we were growing and looking for well-organized team members, Olivia reached out to her friend, asking her to apply to be part of our production staff. Her transition into our staff happened quite naturally after that; she says that working at The Factory was meant to be.

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MAKESHIFT + JACK SANDERS

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Long-time friend and artist Jack Sanders is also an architect, filmmaker, and baseball enthusiast. He is the founder of Design Build Adventure, a full-service “design, build, and adventure company” that focuses on collaboration.

I first met Jack when he was a student of Samuel “Sambo” Mockbee of the Rural Studio.  I sent him a box of t-shirts (which he never returned) in the hopes that I could convince Rural Studio to come up to Florence and build us a production facility. (It turns out that work outside of the Black Belt wasn’t possible.) But Jack (then known as “Jay”) and I remained friends.  Years later, he co-produced a feature-length documentary on Sambo, called Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio which won many accolades.

As you may remember, our MAKESHIFT initiative asks the questions: How do we define and transform the intersection of fashion, food, design, craft + DIY through innovation and collaboration for the better good? How can varied disciplines work together as one?
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CO-WORKERS

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Each morning, when the rising sun (or my daughter) wakes me and I open my eyes, I begin to go over my plan for the day. This is a treasured time. Some days, I can’t wait to get going and the day’s tasks are joyous and fruitful; other days, work just feels like…work. Last summer, as I was writing a vision plan for Alabama Chanin, it became evident that having a solid team in place – a team that had the talent and the desire to carry out that vision – would be essential. Now, when I look around, I see that our team members are creating strong relationships that are enhancing our work environment and also enriching their personal lives.

History shows that workplace teams spark one another’s creativity and create long-lasting work. Colleagues Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sisters behind the fashion label Rodarte, create some of the most original pieces each season. The New Yorker wrote that, though they have their differences, the sisters “act like a single organism,” which speaks to their specific communication skills. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, known by music lovers as “The Swampers”, created such a successful working relationship that they became business partners and founded a storied recording studio, Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. Charles and Ray Eames are among the most important American designers of the last century. He studied architecture; she studied painting and sculpting; together they not only influenced the rise of modernism, but developed innovative ways of using materials and were champions of computer technology in design.

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SWATCH OF THE MONTH: MARCH 2014

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Each month, as part of our Swatch of the Month Club, we are demonstrating some of our most popular techniques so that you might try your hand at creating new designs and embroideries. If you join the Swatch of the Month Club, you will receive a ready-to-sew package each month with the supplies needed to make that month’s unique piece. Just provide your own needles, pins, and scissors (or purchase an Essential Sewing Kit from our online store). Techniques and instruction can be found in Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.

The hi-resolution photograph above of March’s featured technique, for use as your computer desktop background, is available from our Resources page.

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TWO-HOUR WORKSHOP + AFTERNOON TEA

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Our first workshop of the year is this Friday at The Factory in Florence. It’s not too late to register and spend the afternoon with Natalie and the Alabama Chanin team. Registration closes at noon on Wednesday, February 26.

This workshop is suited to beginner and experienced sewers alike. Work with Natalie and our Alabama Chanin DIY Kits to create a project from our Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. DIY Kit options for this workshop include one of the following projects: scarf, T-shirt, set of four tea towels, set of four placemats, baby blanket, onesie, apron, or journal.

After the workshop, join us in The Factory Café for Afternoon Tea (a selection of gourmet sandwiches, savory pastries, Southern-inspired sweets, and an assortment of teas and coffees). The cost of the workshop includes materials, instruction, afternoon tea, stories, and laughter.

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A MANUFACTURING COLLABORATION: LITTLE RIVER SOCK MILL

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Alabama Chanin recently partnered with our friend Gina Locklear of Little River Sock Mill (and Zkano) to create a line of Made in the USA, organic cotton socks as part of our new collection.

We’ve written before about the textile and manufacturing history of the Shoals, and our current strides towards revitalizing manufacturing within our community (and beyond). Florence was once known as the T-shirt Capital of The World, and another northern Alabama town—Fort Payne (home to Little River Sock Mill)—held the title of Sock Capital of The World. We are proud to launch this line of Alabama-manufactured organic cotton socks, alongside the machine-manufactured line A. Chanin.

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THE HEART: JENNIFER RAUSCH

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Shortly after my move from New York to Alabama, I was sitting alone at our local Italian restaurant, reading magazines. After a while, a couple who’d been sitting across the room approached and introduced themselves to me. That couple, Jennifer and Robert Rausch, quickly became fixtures in my life; they’ve remained integral members of my Alabama family since that day.

These days, you can find Jennifer overseeing the day-to-day operations of the new flagship store and café at The Factory. She agreed to work with us at just the right time. The company was growing and I needed someone I could trust to help me make decisions that were thoughtful and confident. Growing a company can make one feel vulnerable; having an old friend there for support (especially one with an incredible work ethic) put me a bit more at ease.

She moves effortlessly between tasks and has a real desire to connect with everyone who walks through our door. This genuine approach, coupled with her wicked, infectious laugh, drew me to her initially and continues to make me smile, calm me, and draw me out of my shell when I become too introspective. She is practical and doesn’t hesitate to offer her opinion, even to play devil’s advocate in tough situations.

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THE GRIST – A MANUFACTURING COLLABORATION

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Recently, Building 14, our new Design + Manufacturing Services division, produced the Grist in collaboration with our friends at Billy Reid. This raglan style men’s t-shirt is made with our 100% organic cotton and features an antique button snap pocket.

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Read more about our team, the manufacturing collaboration, and Building 14 on the Billy Reid Journal.

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Photos courtesy of Bradley Dean

AN ALABAMA CHANIN FAMILY OF BUSINESSES

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Those of you who have followed Alabama Chanin for years know that this company was built around the concepts of expert craftsmanship, beauty, function, and utility. Focusing on using sustainable, organic, and local materials and labor, we have committed ourselves to producing quality products made in the USA.

As we grew, the company developed a life of its own that emerged as a multi-fold organization—while staying true to the original mission and business model. We encouraged organic growth, without forcing ourselves to fit into a traditional mold. We recently began referring to what has emerged as the “Alabama Chanin Family of Businesses”—a heartfelt nod to the Zingerman’s approach and their Community of Businesses. Each of our divisions has individual specialties, yet all fall under the same mission established for Alabama Chanin. Our philosophy guides each arm and we all work together toward the same goal: creating beautiful products in sustainable ways that enrich our customers, community, and co-workers.

From our mission statement:

At Alabama Chanin, we preserve traditions of community, design, producing, and living arts by examining work and life through the act of storytelling, photography, education, and making.

Thoughtful design. Responsible production. Good business. Quality that lasts.

A guide to our growing family of businesses:

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Alabama Chanin—the heart and head of our family of businesses—began early in 2000 with the creation of hand-sewn garments made from cotton jersey fabric—and retains the same intention and integrity today. Heirloom pieces are made from 100% organic cotton, sewn by hand through a group of talented artisans who each run their own business, in their own time, and in their own way. The company strives to maintain sustainable practices—across its disciplines—and create sustainable products, holding ourselves to the highest standards for quality.
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