I’ve written a couple of times about what happens when your heroes and heroines become friends. For me, it brings about a feeling of connection to the ever-expanding universe; all things are possible. A girl from the countryside in Alabama can dine with royalty (in all its meanings). The picture above is proof.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain….”
However, those moments will not be lost. Knowing and dining with Les Blank gives me a connection to the stories and tiny details of human nature that make me a bigger, and better, person.
His contribution to the genre of documentary film is exceptional; his contribution to my life is priceless. His clear vision of humanity (like that of The Kitchen Sisters) helped mold the designer, story lover, and human being I am today.
I am so sad to write that my friend, and hero, is very ill with a protracted cancer. The City of Berkeley, California declared January 22nd the official Les Blank Day and wrote this:
“With a soft spoken demeanor, an eye for beauty, an insightful mind and great enthusiasm, Les Blank has captured the essence of aspects of American culture,” and “through his respectful, quiet presence, and non-didactic style created films that allow his subjects to reveal their true selves in a unique way.”
We (HEART) this story in the newest NO’ALA Magazine (on pages 110-117) about our custom made Bridal gowns:
It takes a village:
“Once the elements of the gown are chosen, Diane, the master seamstress, measures the bride and Carra-Ellen cuts the fabric and prepares the pattern. Steven, the production manager, applies the stencil to the fabric using an airbrush technique. And with Natalie’s stamp of approval, Olivia prepares the kits for the artisans.
The artisans, who are all from the North Alabama area, are independent contractors, who charge per square inch, depending upon the intricacy of the stitching. This cottage industry-style production model allows artisans to work from their own homes and set their own wages.”
“Brides should allow three weeks for online orders and several months for a custom gown. ‘It’s a slow process,’ says Lyndsie, ‘but it’s well worth the wait.’”You can contact Lyndsie: office (at) alabamachanin.com and read the whole story here. Look for our new bridal line to launch soon.
P.S.: What did you wear to your wedding(s)?
“A handmade silk slip underneath a silk brocade, baby blue fur-collared evening coat from Anna Molinari, heels, and a diamond choker,” says Natalie. “Totally 1996.”
While cleaning up for our recent Garage Sale (stay tuned for another coming towards the end of February), I found a bag of our Cotton Jersey Pulls cut into 4” lengths. Most likely, these were prepared for button loops, but no one in the studio can remember exactly why they were prepared and cut.
In our community, this three layer cake is traditionally topped with a cream cheese icing – although I have seen it with buttercream, chocolate, as well as with a combination cream cheese and chocolate icing. I prefer the subtle tang in the cream cheese version, with or without the commonly used addition of chopped pecans or shredded coconut. We’ve added an Alabama Chanin touch of homemade pink sprinkles in our Facets stencil pattern cut to fit perfectly over our cake.
The colors of a season include shades, tones, and hues that are sometimes steeped in meaning:
Red: The color includes shades that run from deep blood red or plum and burgundy to apple, fire engine, and carmine. The meanings sometimes associated with this color can be as diverse as the shades, themselves. Red is said to be connected to energies, actions, passion, blood or, sometimes, when those things go unchecked, rage or revenge.
Pink: with shades like blush, nude, and bashful, has been said to represent unconditional love and nurturing. It is also associated with a girl, all things girly, a ballerina, and can even signify something sickly sweet or bring to mind Pepto-Bismol.
Rose: the name that shares its origin with the flower of sweetness. It’s not quite magenta, which is strong and bold, but somewhere between the passion of red and girly nature of pink – more playful, summery in nature, and sometimes wild.
Books have been written about the history, meaning, and commerce of each color. Portrait painters through the centuries used combinations of colors to tell stories about their subjects, businesses have been established on the premise of helping you “find YOUR true color.” The funny thing is that our own personal memory plays a huge role in exactly how we feel about every color.
I remember a Valentine’s cake from my childhood that was sweetly pink on the outside and blood red once the first cut was made. I remember the colors vividly, the taste acidic in a bad strawberry sort of way. Sometimes public restrooms have a fake bad strawberry kind of smell. Maggie was given a hand-sanitizer that smells the same way. Every time I have a whiff of a restroom that smells of strawberry, I think of that pink and blood red cake. Never fails.
From hearts to shades of red and pink, come back this week as we continue to explore the theme of the season.
March 16 @ Heath Ceramics, Los Angeles, California
April 20 @ The Edible Schoolyard, Berkeley, California
May 31 @ ZingTrain, Ann Arbor, Michigan
June 22 @ 1600 Meeting Street, Charleston, South Carolina
September 14 @ The Photosensualis Building, Woodstock, New York
Studio Weekend Workshop
April 12-14 @ The Factory, Florence, Alabama
August 16-18 @ The Factory, Florence, Alabama
November 8-10 @ The Factory, Florence, Alabama
Schools, government offices, and many businesses are closed today to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are closing our studio a few hours early and to take part in MLK’s Day of Service. In the spirit of King’s Beloved Community, we will take some time today to serve others, while reflecting on our theme for the year: peace.
As early as 1956, Dr. King spoke of The Beloved Community as the end goal of nonviolent boycotts. As he said in a speech at a victory rally following the announcement of a favorable U.S. Supreme Court Decision desegregating the seats on Montgomery’s busses, “the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”
Read more about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s teachings and achievements here.
It’s the time of the year when the shape of a heart makes its prolific comeback (although with a six-year-old girl at home, the heart shape is a pretty common part of daily life). Graphic symbols often carry with them deep histories (and controversies) over where the shape emerged. This simple shape is no different. Apparently it is found in cave paintings dating as far back as 10,000 B.C.E.
Some believe that the shape was a simplification of the silhouette of the human heart; others believe that it was a sign used for a now-extinct plant called silphium, which was used as a form of birth-control—therefore becoming the sign of love. Still others believe that the inverted heart symbolized the hanging scrotum —perhaps a stretch of the (over-active) imagination.
Wherever your beliefs land, it can’t be denied that the heart is possibly the most (over?) used symbol of our time. But then, why should that stop us?
Here is our version of the heart in stencil form:
Check back this week as we elaborate on all things love (and heart shaped), from Dr. Ruth to DIY Kits, and little girls’ valentines (to themselves). “I love you. I love you. I love you,” she murmured as she gazed in the mirror.
Should we all find such self-love in these next two weeks… and for the rest of our lives.
These days, you don’t think twice about hearing a woman’s voice on the radio. There are surely female deejays or journalists on your local station. NPR broadcasts the voices and stories of women like The Kitchen Sisters or Terry Gross among others. Alabama Chanin favorite, Elizabeth Cook has her own show, “Apron Strings,” on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country. But, once upon a time, it wasn’t so common to hear a female voice over the airwaves. For those in the Shoals area, Becky Burns Phillips was one of those first voices to be broadcast.
In 1942, Rebecca “Becky” Burns Phillips met her future husband, Sam Phillips, while they were both working at WLAY radio station in Sheffield, Alabama. They were both in high school. She, 17, had a radio segment with her sister where they played music and sang; he was a 19-year old radio announcer who was on his way to making rock and roll history. The Kitchen Sisters, in an article honoring Becky, quoted Sam as saying, “I fell in love with Becky’s voice even before I met her.” Becky described her first encounter with Sam to journalist Peter Guralnick: “He had just come in out of the rain. His hair was windblown and full of raindrops. He wore sandals and a smile unlike any I had ever seen. He sat down on the piano bench and began to talk to me. I told my family that night that I had met the man I wanted to marry.”
The two were married in 1943. Sam worked feverishly to establish Memphis Recording Service and, later, Sun Records. It is said that, during that time, he suffered two nervous breakdowns – which Becky gracefully helped him through. Becky and Sam had two sons, Jerry and Knox, but motherhood never took away her desire to work in radio.
Sam proudly spoke about how Becky’s talent inspired him to co-found WHER: 1000 Beautiful Watts, referred to as “The First All-Girl Radio Show in the Nation.” He would say that he wanted women, wanted his wife to have a chance that no one had ever given them before – and he co-founded WHER with the money he made from selling Elvis Presley’s contract. He would say, “Becky was the best I ever heard.”
Her son Knox remembered that, at the time of WHER’s conception, women weren’t even allowed to attend the Columbia School of Broadcasting. “But, because of my mother,” he said, “when Sam started the station (WHER) he made it all female: all female air talent, all female executives and sales staff,” he told The Commercial Appeal.
At WHER, Becky was able to shine – writing scripts, organizing segments, managing the station, and presenting in her own beautiful way. She was in charge of approving each record that was played. Though her husband was a rock and roll legend, there were no rocking records at WHER. And there were NEVER to be any curse words allowed over the airwaves. Over the years, she hosted a number of radio shows and carefully curated every day’s segments. Becky told the Kitchen Sisters, “I played music to work by – all the beautiful music like Jackie Gleason and Doris Day, and I gave household hints.”
Phillips broadcast on the radio for over 40 years, until the mid-1980’s, always with her distinctive sign-off: “A smile on your face puts a smile in your voice.”
Mrs. Phillips died in September of 2012 at the age of 87.
Becky Burns Phillips carefully preserved WHER’s record library for well over 40 years. Many of those recordings can be heard on the Peabody Award winning segment by the Kitchen Sisters, “Lost and Found Sound: 1000 Beautiful Watts.”
Listen to Becky Phillips talk about her husband, Sam, and WHER Radio for the TV Segment, “The Lives They Lived” here:
There were few like her, a true pioneer in her field. Her fearlessness and her devotion to her family and her profession are inspirational. We are proud to be part of a community that fostered a woman like Becky Phillips, a pioneer in spirit and part of the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin.
P.S.: I never met Becky Phillips. After moving back home in 2000, I was “busy.” Building a business and sorting through my own life, closed me off to some of the great treasures (and families) of my own community. My loss. Resolution: take time to work less and belong more. xoNatalie