Category Archives: THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

WHY IS IT WORTH SO MUCH?

We have been getting many emails and questions about a post that appeared this week on Ecouterre.com entitled “Does the Art of Craft and Handmade Matter in Fashion?”

My answers seemed to spur yet more questions… and a few angry emails.

After mulling over these questions, I have to think about Gina and Linton Hopkins from Restaurant Eugene along with Holeman & Finch in Atlanta…

(Stay with me here: You might remember that we were asking these same questions a few years ago about the food we eat and have seen – at least in my community – a marked difference in how we choose food and how we incorporate the cost of that food into our budget.)

Angie Mosier reminds me over-and-over-again (& again this weekend @ Blackberry Farm) about a saying from Gina and Linton:

“It is not why something costs so much; it is why something is worth so much.”

I believe – and have seen firsthand – that the fashion industry will also come around and consumers will begin to ask more-and-more questions.

Yes indeed: Why is it worth so much?

**Photo of Holeman & Finch lifted from the Gourmet (RIP) article by John T. Edge and taken by Gina Hopkins.

PROSPERITY + ALABAMA CHANIN

The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum has announced their upcoming National Design Triennial series for spring 2010.

“Why Design Now?” will be on view from May 14 through January 9, 2011, and will explore the work of designers addressing human and environmental problems across many fields of design from architecture and product design to fashion, graphics, new media and landscape design. Organized by Cooper-Hewitt curators Ellen Lupton, Cara McCarty, Matilda McQuaid and Cynthia Smith, the Triennial will be global in reach for the first time, reflecting the connectedness of design practices and the need for international cooperation to solve the world’s problems.

We are incredibly humbled & proud to announce that Alabama Chanin will be featured alongside esteemed designers like Martin Margiela in a section entitled “Prosperity:”  

Progressive designers and entrepreneurs are building engines of prosperity that enable local communities to use their own resources to create their own wealth, as well as to participate in the global economy. Projects on view include a number of items that address basic necessities, such as a pearl millet thresher and a low-smoke stove developed for use in India; examples of slow design such as hand-made, limited-edition clothing by Alabama Chanin; and works made in collaboration with international designers and local craftspeople like the Witches’ Kitchen Collection, Design with a Conscience Series, manufactured by Artecnica.

Read the full press release here.

The exhibition opens on May 14th, 2010 and runs through January 11, 2011 and will include garments and fabrics from our Alabama Chanin collections.

Thanks to all of our supporters who have helped to make this possible.

Natalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

FARM-TO-TABLE

Okay – before I start – I have to say – JOIN THE SOUTHERN FOODWAYS ALLIANCE… good?

I made it through the snow and ice in Arctic temperatures to Walland, Tennessee. My trip to Blackberry Farm might be one of the most extraordinary trips I have ever taken – anywhere. I know that is saying a lot BUT the warm, gracious hospitality that you experience from the time you drive in the gate is exquisite. Add to Blackberry the wit, education and pure joy of the Southern Foodways Alliance and you have – hands down – one of the best events in the world.

I could fill this entire page but have to just highlight a few morsels of the weekend:

Blackberry Farm – I had the luxury of sitting next to Sam and Mary Celeste Beall on Thursday night and was struck at their deep knowledge of this farm and understanding of the ultimate Farm-to-Table experience.

The Blackberry Farm Cookbook – on the inside flap – says it best: “In the foothills, you don’t eat to eat, you eat to talk, to remember, and to imagine what you will eat tomorrow.” The book is lush with photographs of the estate, the kitchens, the gardens and luscious Farm-to-Table recipes.

While talking about the upcoming weekend, Sam and I spoke about the biscuit making classes (see below) and he asked me, “Butter or Lard?” This was just about the best question I have ever been asked over a five course dinner – with wine parings. You just have to love a man who understands the true essence of good bread. I laughed and replied, “Butter.”

Friday morning, the Blackberry Farm Chef Team of Josh Feathers, Adam Cooke and Joseph Lenn offered a Cast Iron Skillet demonstration – which I unfortunately missed – but came home with the following recipe by Chef Josh Feathers which I am going to make and then bake in my cast-iron:

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes **Courtesy of Taste of the South notepad so generously supplied for all our cooking and tasting notes!

3 pounds red bliss potatoes 6 ounces butter 10 ounces buttermilk half & half – as needed Kosher salt – to taste 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Simmer potatoes until tender. Strain and dry in 300 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Run potatoes through a food mill with medium die to mash. Stir in remaining, heated ingredients. Taste for seasoning.

Note: Those of you who are new to cast iron, NEVER wash your pan with soapy water. Clean your skillet first with a handful of kosher salt then rinse in warm to hot water and dry thoroughly. I learned this from Angie Mosier while working on Alabama Studio Style.

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RECIPES, GRAVY + BLACKBERRY FARM

Forgive me for taking a vacation just after the holidays; BUT, I am headed out today for my first vacation – on my own – in 10 years (snow permitting)… very excited & for good reason:

Taste of the South @ Blackberry Farms

Alabama Chanin donated one of our Textile Stories Quilts to the auction benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance at Blackberry Farm this weekend.

The quilt – shown above – is called Aunt Mag’s Chicken Recipe – a story from my favorite great-aunt about her secret recipe for fried chicken that she served only for her quilting circles.

Our entire series of quilts was inspired by the Oral History program  – a series of inspiring recipes, stories and films that are made, collected and cataloged by the Southern Foodways Alliance.

SFA Oral History:  The Story Behind the Food

Thank you to John T. Edge, Angie Mosier, Mary Beth Lasseter, Amy Evans, Joe York and a million more who make the SFA Oral History possible.

If you are not already a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, join today – if for no other reason than to receive your printed copy of Gravy.

Back next week rested and with recipes and stories for the next decade – Natalie

RECYCLED

And back to the thought of using what you have…

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if we only brought products (things) into our homes that we wanted to keep for the rest of our lives?  And when those products and things become old, we simply recycle them into our own lives.

So it is with this coat that one day no longer suited my life but is now one of my favorite pieces. I am continually stopped in airports, shops, and restaurants and asked, “Where did you get that coat?”

“Recycled,” I answer.

I used the Rose Stencil – from Alabama Stitch Book and new to our online store – to paint the bottom of my coat with our textile paint and then appliquéd the Rose stencil in our 100% organic cotton jersey fabric using our burgundy color, burgundy thread and a whip stitch.

William Morris said: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

I would say it this way: “If you want to make a difference on the planet, this is it: Have nothing in your home or life that you do not know to be useful, believe to be beautiful or know that you will strive to keep in your life forever.”

**Photo of my (not yet finished) coat in our studio taken by me.

ARCHEOLOGY OF THE FUTURE

A photo from Li Edelkoort’s exhibition last year titled: Archeology of the Future

A table from Studio Jo Meesters in collaboration with Marije van der Park sits before one of our Textile Stories Quilts – a project included in our new book Alabama Studio Style.

*Photo courtesy of Li Edelkoort

MIND OVER MATTER

After a bit of reflection this week, I am able to answer a question that has evaded me for a decade:
What inspired you to start this work? I was inspired and taken by the beautiful decay of an archipelago and how everything was used – everything.    It inspired me to begin collecting scraps of paper, taking photographs, finding discarded stories and trying to build them back together – a technique I used with t-shirts (and my life) once I arrived and settled in New York.   I never really moved back to Vienna.