Category Archives: THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

LISTS

This morning I was looking through Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations from the Collections of the Smithsonian Museum and this afternoon found the list photographed above on my grocery cart.

On my list today:

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

Those who want to help further can go to www.redcross.org and donate to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami.

Can you help me compile a list in the comments of other ways to help?

EUCALYPTUS, LAVENDER, TRANQUILITY

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!)

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ALLEGRA HICKS – AN EYE FOR DEDSIGN

Although Allegra Hicks: An Eye for Design has been laying on my coffee table for months, it seemed the perfect opportunity to dive in on this cold, cold evening. (Thanks to Abrams for sending along a review copy.)

Sitting with a glass of wine in front on the fire, I find Allegra’s colors and textures a breath of fresh air to winter gray.  And I am mesmerized by Antonio Monfreda’s art direction and the juxtapositions of Emanuele Mascioni’s beautiful photographs. Allegra has also taken the time to walk the reader through her design process and inspiration with simple, lovely prose.

A great inspiration book for every library:  Allegra Hicks: An Eye for Design

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ON VULNERABILITY

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.

Visiting 2 or 3 Things I Know , I was reminded of Juan Ignacio Moralejo.

I adore his way of looking at work:

“I prefer the vulnerability of trying to do something honest.” Continue reading

WILD CARD QUILT + GULF OYSTERS

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.

Some of you will remember my mention of The Ecology of a Cracker Childhood Janisse’s story of her Georgia youth and the Longleaf.

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…”


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A YEAR OF GRATEFULNESS

One day a small and unassuming envelope arrived at the office addressed to me. Inside was a card with the words “a year of gratefulness” beautifully embossed into white card stock.

On the back, a small typewritten note was affixed:

“this is my year of gratefulness. I am writing two letters a month, one to someone I have met & the other to someone I have not met, telling them I am grateful for their talent, friendship and most simply for being who they are. And you are one of those people. thank you.”

Inside was a hand-written note outlining the reasons I was receiving this card of gratitude.

I have been carrying the note around now for awhile in my journal and have re-read it often. What a lovely idea: Spend a little time in the next year of my life letting people I know and love (and don’t know and love) understand that I am deeply grateful.

Thank you to Wendy (who I don’t know) for reaching out and to all of you who have come here to share our lives and work at Alabama Chanin this last year (and decade).

I am grateful.

(And looking forward to 2011 – Happy New Year!)

*Photo above of my journal for next year with laser-cut Thank You card from ThoughtBarn glued to the cover.  Photo below of Wendy’s note.

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ERICA JONG – MOTHER MADNESS

I ran across this article by Erica Jong on the madness of modern motherhood through another favorite author: Elizabeth Wurtzel.

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.

(Admittedly, I have read every book that Jong ever wrote and have always adored her humor.  Fanny, one of my favorite Jong books, was written in response to John Cleland’s Fanny Hill.)

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

I AM LOVE

Last night, I finally saw Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love.  The cinematography of Yorick Le Sau  is extraordinary. And Tilda Swinton is stunning…

Manohla Dargis wrote an interesting review for the New York Times.  I love this last paragraph:

“The chase ends in a sylvan perch, where Antonio and Emma make love amid a cacophony of bird calls and a flurry of close-ups of luscious flowers being ravaged by insects. It’s a sublimely beautiful interlude and a touch ridiculous, bringing to mind the blooms of a portentous rose bush in D. H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers that “expanded in an ecstasy,” a prelude to later forest rutting. Here, the flora and fauna constitute an alternative reality far from the villa that has become Emma’s sarcophagus and which will at last inspire at least one bird to take flight. As the working-class seducer, Antonio serves a Lawrentian stud function, though truth be told, he’s the kind of sensitive beefcake (he cooks and fulfills her sexually) familiar to readers of women’s romantic fiction, who, like Emma, enjoy their afternoons wet and wasted.”

But then, I have never been afraid of Lawrence.

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A WHOLE NEW MIND

I am a few years late since the book was published in 2006.  In my defense, there are a pile of books that move from bedside to coffee table to the office and back again on a regular basis.  Do you know that feeling?

While I am an avid reader, there is a little problem of purchasing more books than can be read at any given moment, a four year old, and a business to run.  Stories for another day…

Over the (cold and snowy) holidays, I explored Daniel Pink’s book –  A Whole New Mind – and found it fascinating.  The core of the book provides really good – and clearly organized – concepts that culminate in exercises for stretching the mind – right and left-brain alike.   (Take the EQ SQ test to understand how your mind processes information.)  And while some of the information presented may seem familiar from observing the changing world this last decade, the way the information is organized feels fresh and inspiring.

In Pink’s opinion, design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning are the basis for life and work in what he calls our transformation from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age.  What comes across most clearly is that we approach a time of balance between two (seemingly disparate) sides of the brain that have been divided in our recent history.

If Pink’s vision proves true, a symphony will be heard and shared:

“It is an age animated by a different form of thinking and a new approach to life – one that prizes aptitudes that I call “high concept” and “high touch.” High concept involves the capacity to detect patterns and opportunities, to create artistic and emotional beauty, to craft a satisfying narrative and to combine seemingly unrelated ideas into something new.  High touch involves the ability to empathize with others, to understand the subtleties of human interaction, to find joy in one’s self and to elicit it in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning.”

My horoscope recently:  “What is your gift to the world?” Perhaps I will spend the next decade trying to figure that one out…

How do you “stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of purpose and meaning” in your life?

I WILL SEW MORE.

Over the holidays, I will take more time to sit and sew.

Over-the-Arm Pincushion – instructions from Alabama Stitch Book – on the back porch swing.

Did you know that sewing, cooking and all acts of hands-on making stimulate happiness and over-all well being?

From Kelly Lambert:

“Lambert shows how when you knit a sweater or plant a garden, when you prepare a meal or simply repair a lamp, you are bathing your brain in feel-good chemicals and creating a kind of mental vitamin. Our grandparents and great grandparents, who had to work hard for basic resources, developed more resilience against depression; even those who suffered great hardships had much lower rates of this mood disorder. But with today’s overly-mechanized lifestyle we have forgotten that our brains crave the well-being that comes from meaningful effort.”

Thanks to Catherine Newman for sharing Kelly’s work:

Lifting Depression:  A Neuroscientist’s Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain’s Healing Power