Paul Rand is considered by many to be one of the most significant visual communicators and commercial artists in history. His first book, Thoughts on Design, is one that invigorated the design world and has become a seminal text for design students and professionals. Rand’s simple, straightforward approach to design eventually helped him create some of the most iconic corporate logos, many of which are still in use today (think IBM, the American Broadcasting Company, Westinghouse, and the United Parcel Service).
Rand was just 33 years-of-age, with much of this notable work still ahead of him, when he published Thoughts on Design in 1947. The book is an idealistic, passionate call to arms for designers to integrate form and function. Rand summarizes this simply, saying that design should reflect “the integration of the beautiful and the useful,” and asserts that one’s work “is not good design if it is irrelevant.” Furthermore, he urges designers to create from their singular point of view: “The system that regards aesthetics as irrelevant, which separates the artist from his product… will, in the long run, diminish not only the product but the maker as well.”
Our On Design conversation in December focused on the practice of stenciling—including examples of designs throughout history and various techniques used over time. Stenciling is at the core of our Alabama Chanin collections; currently it is the sole means by which we transfer decorative patterns onto our fabrics. We have explored DIY stenciling in our Studio Book series, and are even offering a one-day workshop on the topic next year.
The use of stencils dates back over 37 thousand years, as evident in Neanderthal cave art found in Spain. These paintings are outlines of hand prints; it is theorized that Prehistoric man or woman would place their hand against the wall, and then blow finely crushed pigment around it. These stencils were accompanied by shapes from the natural world and daily life: animals, hunting scenes, and ritual all figure prominently.
The photo above, by Stephen Alvarez, can be downloaded to use as wallpaper for you desktop here. Link through to see the color version and see more of his caving photos here.
In October of 2014, and as an extension of our Makeshift initiative, we began a new series of events and conversations called On Design. This series explores art, design, makers, relationships, and how those who create can elevate craft in general. Natalie hosted our inaugural event, which was an exploration of the school of Bauhaus and the creative process. While it’s no substitute for being there in person, here are some of Natalie’s thoughts from the presentation. Feel free to share your own thoughts and join the conversation. (And we look forward to seeing you at the next event.)
When making plans to expand The Factory beyond a space used solely for manufacturing, I initially imagined a place for our workshops to be housed along with a kitchen for catering. We now have a beautiful space for working and making, as well as a kitchen that accidentally developed into a weekday, lunch-only café that works in-service to our store and design + manufacturing facility.
This space has further developed into a place for the community to meet over tables and food and design and conversations and (hopefully) more.
I grew up in the community of Central, which is about 10 miles west x northwest of The Factory, as the crow flies. I grew up in a time when there was very little art in the school curriculum, but there was still much making being done in the home. My grandmothers and grandfathers planted gardens, raised cows, put up tomatoes, made bread, tatted lace, and made their environments as beautiful as possible with the resources they had available. This work came to inspire my entire work history and the space known as The Factory today. I always said that I went to the art school of “Pinkie and Blue Boy.” Those were the only paintings that hung in our home as I was growing up. These, along with several other paintings, with names like Tyrolean Hof, and Jesus on the Rock, were always in the background, subtle inspiration for our daily lives.
We began our 2015 Swatch of the Month back in January but neglected to write about the swatch and share pictures here on the Journal. Many of you reached out to let us know that you missed these posts. We heard. We listened. And herewith, our February post (and the slightly late January below).
Here’s what February has in store for me:
February 1 – Super Bowl Sunday. Watch the Puppy Bowl with Maggie instead.
February 2 – Groundhog Day. (Note: Groundhog Day movie marathon on television)
February 3 – Full moon. Literally anything can happen.
February 7 – National Send a Card to a Friend Day
February 14 – Valentine’s Day
February 17 – National Act of Kindness Day. I will buy lunch for some guests at the Factory Café.
February 22 – Downton Abbey finale (It’s a guilty pleasure. No apologies.)
February 24 – Start seeds: broccoli, cauliflower, peas
Make time to begin February’s Swatch of the Month—backstitched reverse appliqué. For a detailed description of this technique, view page 97 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
You can experiment with different versions of reverse applique: traditional reverse appliqué, beaded appliqué, outside reverse appliqué, or any other technique that suits you.
Purchase a membership to our Swatch of the Month club for 2015 here (or start with Swatch of the Month 2014 here).
When we first opened our Building 14 division in July of 2013, we learned quickly that there was still SO MUCH to learn. So, with the concept of The School of Making firmly in place, we began at the beginning to work on a set of finishing examples for our Building 14 machine-made division. Like our Alabama Chanin Library of hand-embellished fabric swatches, this library documents the capabilities of the machines, folders, and attachments we have available in the factory and the endless variations and combinations that create everything from collars to hems and in between.
In 2015, and as we fold our MAKESHIFT programming into The School of Making, we foresee many more conversations about design, fashion, DIY, and community. And, of course, we will continue sharing the evolution of our manufacturing systems—including this new sort of maker’s library—to explore their part in the larger making process.
Photos from Abraham Rowe, Angie Mosier, and Rinne Allen
Part of our A. Chanin collection, the A. Chanin Long Sleeve Cardigan is a must-have piece for cooler weather. Constructed of lightweight cotton rib, the casual cover up is machine sewn and hand dyed here at The Factory.
The Cardigan features raw edge detailing along the placket and hits at the natural waist—accentuating curves. Measures approximately 17 inches from shoulder and is hand dyed to order in Dark Indigo.
Like our other A. Chanin basics, the Long Sleeve Cardigan integrates beautifully with Alabama Chanin garments—layer over the Panel Tunic for a feminine silhouette, or pair with the Daisy Long Skirt to create a classic look.
In our ongoing Makeshift conversation on design, craft, food, DIY, and fashion—and how they intersect—we continue to adapt open-source patterns from other designers and brands using Alabama Chanin techniques. This experiment demonstrates how open-sourced materials and collaborative works can be used in any number of ways and tailored to almost any personal style.
For this entry in the series, we have chosen to work with a pattern from Merchant & Mills, a popular UK-based company created by Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field, formed, in their words, “to elevate sewing to its proper place in the creative world, respecting the craftsmanship it entails.” That is certainly a philosophy in line with Alabama Chanin’s mission and Makeshift’s goals.
Merchant & Mills has an interesting selection of patterns to offer. UK sizes differ a bit from US numbered sizes, but the website has clear size charts that can help you select the right pattern size for your body. But keep in mind that their patterns are priced in pounds, not US dollars; you should also take into account shipping costs when shopping. Alternatively, there are quite a few stockists in the US with ready links available here.
In order to highlight the simple beauty of this Dress Shirt, we have opted to make a basic version. Of course, you can choose to utilize any of the techniques from our previous posts or our Swatch of the Month Club to embellish your project. We’ve found that the loose fit and shape of the pattern makes it an easy pull-on garment when paired with our stretchable cotton jersey, and this piece looks great with The Every Day Long Skirt or the Bloomers Swing Skirt and Stripe Tall Socks.
Docendo discimus — “by teaching, we learn”
–Seneca the Younger
As we slide into 2015, we invite you to join us for one (or more) of our Workshops offered through The School of Making. As a company, Alabama Chanin believes strongly in the ideas of sharing, collaborating, exploring, educating, learning by doing, and—in the process—creating a community; our hope is that our work will produce a happy work environment, happy people, happy products, and a happier Mother Nature.
As Alabama Chanin and The School of Making continue to grow, so do our Workshops. Over the coming months we have a variety of Workshops scheduled and more to be added. We will have events lasting a week, a weekend, one-day, one-hour, and two-hours; some events will be held at The Factory, with other events in Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, New York, California, and beyond.
Here is an overview of the events we have planned. Come one, come all; come to one, come to all.
“If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
Join us this Monday at The Factory for the fourth conversation in our On Design Series. Last month, Natalie spoke about the history of stenciling. This week, the conversation continues with a lecture about the Arts and Crafts Movement and its irrefutable leader, designer William Morris—including examples of the movement throughout history and a study of the work of Morris himself.
Monday, January 12, 2015
10:30am – 11:30am
Alabama Chanin @ The Factory
462 Lane Drive
Florence, AL 35630
Open-to-the-public, the cost includes admission, participation in the conversation, and a cup of The Factory blend coffee, a cold drink, or tea.
Register here for our fourth event.
P.S. Look for more information on this and other upcoming Makeshift events on our Journal and/or join our mailing list.
Black and Gold – in color symbolism they hint at the unknown, power, and formality alongside abundance, prosperity, and extravagance.
Black and Gold – Madonna on a Crescent Moon by an anonymous painter in Germany, commonly referred to as the Master of 1456.
Black and Gold – for some reason also makes me think of Madonna (the singer) in the 1980s (but also today).
Black and Gold – our newest blend of fabric and paint—a departure from the tone-on-tone colors seen in many of our previous collections.
When you order black (and other new) pieces from our collection (and/or DIY Kits), the items now come stenciled with shades of Gold textile paint—unless otherwise noted in the description.
P.S.: If you prefer a different color for your DIY Kit, please choose our Custom DIY option.