Category Archives: SUSTAINABLE LIFE + DESIGN

SLOWING DOWN

Thanks to all the HEATH Ceramics team for this lovely piece on Alabama Chanin in their November Newsletter:

Slowing Down (and Sitting Down) with Alabama Chanin

Stitch and clay intersect to create modern heirlooms in our newest collection

Slow down. This may feel like an impossible pursuit, particularly in this season, but when Heath Ceramics Creative Director Catherine Bailey explained that one of the intentions of Heath’s collaboration with Owner + Designer Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin was to “celebrate slow, thoughtful design,” the word really resonated.

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HEATH + ALABAMA CHANIN

It’s officially launched.

From the HEATH website:

“The point of intersection between stitch and clay. A collaboration between Natalie Chanin and Heath Ceramics yields an anthology of carefully crafted modern heirlooms in a new and permanent dinnerware line.

This collection celebrates texture and a range of layering possibilities in thoughtfully curated place settings, plates and serving bowls.”

Shop our tabletop collection @ HEATH Ceramics

 

HEATH @ HOME

It is no secret that I adore Robin Petrovic and Cathy Bailey from HEATH Ceramics.  My daughter Maggie loves their son Jasper – and I follow her very smart lead.  (The kids have most recently been sharing the iPhone App Cookie Doodle drawings with one another.) Cathy and Robin are the kind of designers that you want to be and the kind of people you just want to stand next to.  One part cool, one part super smart, one part gentle family, they are wholly open, terrifically kind, and just plain engaging.  I am grateful to have them in my life as both friends and colleagues.

Our HEATH and Alabama Chanin Collaboration launched last week with additional textile pieces coming this coming week.  The work includes plates and bowls in full table settings along with napkins, tablecloths and other soft tableware. Continue reading

WORD OF THE DAY: GROW

Grow – verb:

To increase by natural development:
Our collection continues to grow.

To arise or issue as a natural development from an original happening, circumstance, or source:
Our friendship grew from common interests.

To increase gradually in size, amount, etc.; become greater or larger; expand:
Over the coming weeks and months, the collection will continue to grow – while old favorites move away.

Our experiment in the evolving face of fashion.

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.

DECORATE – DECOR8

How lovely to spend time this weekend just sitting, reading, and dreaming. A sun drenched afternoon, tea, time with Holly Becker’s new book Decorate leaves me inspired. Every so often a book seems to speak directly to our sensibilities, and I can’t help but feel that Decorate was somehow made for me (and I am not alone). Guidance for highlighting design and architectural details, while using a predominately white pallet- yes please.

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PREPPY: CULTIVATING IVY STYLE

Preppy, the latest collaboration between Jeffrey Banks and Doria La Chapelle, arrived in our studio this week.  The lovely volume documents the evolution of this iconic style with images from the early 1900′s to my favorite Slim Aarons to the current Hilfiger campaign (shown above). The book is not a manual, but rather a brief historic overview of the iconic style. Its strength relies on beautifully curated photographs to illustrate the subtle changes of the trend over  the time.

Perhaps because the style hit its heyday in my youth or simply because I love the color combinations, I find the volume completely stunning. During my teenage years in Chattanooga, Tennessee, our school uniforms were strangely similar to the picture below.

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CIVILITY, HISTORY, + SONG

Krista Tippett’s podcast, On Being, has spurred many conversations and thoughtful moments in my life. I listened to the episode, Civility, History & Hope – Vincent Harding in conversation with Krista Tippett – in August and I just can’t seem to get it out of my mind. On my recent trips, I listened to it at least four more times and each time it resonated with more clarity. I have since read the entire transcript and I continue to contemplate the message.

From the program:

“Vincent Harding is a wise voice of history — the history of civil rights. This hour, as part of our Civil Conversations Project, he helps us imagine how the lessons of that time might speak to contemporary American divisions. Martin Luther King’s vision, he reminds us, was spiritually as well as politically vigorous; he aspired in biblical words to a “beloved community,” not merely a tolerant integrated society. And Vincent Harding possesses an infectious hope for the continued unfolding of that possibility, even now. He’s spent recent decades bringing the elders and lessons of civil rights into creative contact with new generations. As we navigate rancor in our time, he says, we can look both to history and again to the margins of society, to young people of courage and creativity.”

I come back over and over again to the thought of the “beloved community,” the feeling of Dr. King and Vincent Harding that the term “civil rights” is not enough – that we as humanity are bigger than that.

Our voice is big, and beautiful and strong.

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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

TOMATOES + FASHION

In 2006, Leslie Hoffman of Earth Pledge asked me to write an short paper for inclusion in their Future Fashion White Papers.   I recently came across the volume while browsing my library and the essay stirred up so many memories from that time.  As the last of my tomatoes drop to the ground, I wanted to (re)share my thoughts on tomatoes and fashion.

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