Spending the past couple of days in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve seen firsthand the “making” spirit that defines the unique culture and character of life here. Alabama Chanin feels very connected to–and inspired by the creativity, craftsmanship, quality, and local manufacturing in this community.
Watch Monocle’s video which highlights some of the craftsmen and advocates that are pushing the maker movement ahead: SFMade, New Resource Bank, and HEATH Ceramics.
From Make, Do, Change:
“ …that creativity is very strongly back to appreciating good craftsmanship and quality in physical objects, and the idea that making products and working with your hands is something to be respected…”
-Robin Petravic, of HEATH Ceramics.
Yesterday, a well awaited package was delivered to the Factory: organic, or “black” cottonseed, as I’ve learned it is called. In our effort to grow organic cotton, we’ve taken a step-by-step approach. We started with the seed, and now we move on to the land. We are learning as we go, and taking every experience to heart.
The search for seed began and taught us some of the important facts of organic cotton and cottonseed. Organizations like Textile Exchange and Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative lent their support and gave us direction in our search for non-GMO, non-treated cottonseed. In our conversation with Lynda Grose at Sustainable Cotton Project, Lynda shared her thoughts on organic, sustainable textiles, and the importance of knowing and working with your local farmers.
What does D.I.Y. mean to you?
I posed this question to Cathy Davidson, one of the world’s most important thinkers on education and the workplace in the 21st century. Her new book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, is a must-read for educators, parents, and students. “I’m not sure I believe in D.I.Y. anything,” she wrote.
Every self is connected to every other, and, even when we think we are “doing it ourselves,” we are summoning the memories, gestures, and hopes of so much and so many gone before. Instead, I like to think about peer learning and community learning, where we all work together toward some goal, filling in one another’s vacancies and blind spots as others fill in ours. This doesn’t mean there aren’t mentors, but only that the position and status of the mentor aren’t fixed. The person who intends to learn, finds herself the teacher–and vice versa. That’s what D.I.Y. learning means to me, in school and lifelong, the surprise of never knowing where you will learn, where you will teach, or even where the boundaries between those two might lie.
Thanks to Ari Weinzweig at Zingerman’s, I have been working on a “Vision of Greatness” for Alabama Chanin over the last few months (well, closer to a year to be more exact). However, over the last few weeks, I feel that I made real progress and worked out a growth chart and mission statement that is a good fit for both me and for our staff (more on that soon). Part of our Alabama Chanin growth mission includes committing ourselves to education on all levels and to finding even more ways to give back to our community.
Last month, we found a company – just around the corner from our own factory – who is doing just that.
Excerpt from *blue highways*
– William Least Heat Moon –
(Lovingly translated to typewriter by my friend Jeff)
“I drove onto the Natchez Trace Parkway, a two lane running from Natchez to near Nashville, which follows a five hundred mile trail first opened by buffalo and Indians. Chickasaws called it the Peace Path. In 1810 th Trace was the main route for Ohio Valley traders who rather than fight the Mississippi currents, sold their flatboats for scrap in Natchez and walked home on the Trace. The poor sometimes traveled by a method called *ride and tie* two men would buy a mule, one would ride until noon, then tie the animal to a tree and walk until his partner behind him caught up on the jack that evening. By mid-century, steamboats made the arduous and dangerous trek unnecessary, and the Trace disappeared in the trees. Continue reading
Last week, as we started to learn about organic cottonseed, we discovered that there are significant challenges associated with seed supply. Our conversation began with industry leaders, as we had our fair share of questions. This week we continue our discussion on the process of growing organic cotton in an interview with Lynda Grose.
Lynda has been involved with sustainable fashion and textiles since 1995 when she co-founded ESPRIT’s ecollection, which was the first ecologically responsible clothing line developed by a major corporation. Lynda currently serves as assistant professor in CCA’s Fashion Design Program and works with the Sustainable Cotton Project in California, and many more businesses and non-profits.
Lynda Grose, an inspired activist and friend for years – a part of the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin. Continue reading
Living in a community that has an abundance of farmland and agriculture, one might not think that ‘guerrilla gardening’ is exactly required. However, like any community, The Shoals is dotted with the occasional abandoned lot and neglected space in our downtown area. And we are of the opinion that most any space can benefit from the addition of colorful flowers.
During my visit to Berlin for the Hello Etsy conference, I noticed an abundance of green spaces and gardens that were situated on vacant lots throughout the city.
For a small company in a small town, we’ve received quite a bit of media attention. This is particularly amazing when you consider our nonexistent advertising budget. With the exception of a couple of classified listings in our local paper, I can’t recall having ever purchased an ad. Even though we have been fortunate in this particular area I can say, without a doubt, that our approach would have been different had I read this book sooner.
Amy Flurry’s Recipe for Press has been called “THE DIY guide to being your own publicist!” and I couldn’t agree more.
After our fall visit to the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, we learned about the South’s Forgotten Locavores, market bulletins, and how these newsletters helped heirloom varieties of vegetables and plants survive generations.
We subscribed to Alabama’s Farmers and Consumers Bulletin shortly thereafter and are happy to report that we received our first issue just in time for spring cultivation. Old- timey Tennessee Red Cob Corn and Cow Horn Okra will be great additions to my garden. Continue reading
Our exploration into organic cotton growing continues. As we brainstorm, discuss, research, and learn all there is to know about growing our own organic cotton, we decided that the best place to begin is with a study of the seeds themselves. So this week Erin–who is new to our studio – dug in deep to learn more about seed supply and just how to find those organic seeds. Here are some of her reflections and discoveries: