ETTORE SOTTSASS + THE MEMPHIS GROUP

ALABAMA CHANIN – ETTORE SOTTSASS + THE MEMPHIS GROUP

“I am a designer and I want to design things.”  – Ettore Sottsass

When Alabama Chanin started our MAKESHIFT conversation nearly three years ago, inspiration came from several places and sources. The core idea was, and still is, that through the gathering of like-minded folks (writers, designers, thinkers, artisans, creators) we could elaborate on the simple act of making—and find the point where design, craft, art, fashion, food, and DIY intersect.

The conversation at the first MAKESHIFT event in 2012 began with the study and discussion of an essay by Ettore Sottsass, titled “When I Was a Very Small Boy.” The essay (which was brought to our attention by Andrew Wagner) is about the act of making and embraces the idea that when we are young, we don’t have preconceived notions about what or how to make; we just do. And by doing, we learn. During MAKESHIFT, in keeping with the Sottsass essay, we embraced the act of working outside out of our comfort zones to try something new. By doing so, we can evolve together—by exploring, not thinking or judging.

Our On Design series allows us to have MAKESHIFT-based discussions on a local, community-based level—translated here. March’s On Design lecture was titled “1980 + The Memphis Group” and focused heavily on the work of Sottsass and his partner and fellow Memphis member, Barbara Radice. During my own design training, I began to study and follow the work of Sottsass—including his achievements with the Memphis Group during the 1980s. Sottsass founded the design collaborative in Milan, Italy. Barbara Radice elaborates on the group’s beginnings in this interview with Phaidon.com:

You should not imagine that we would sit around and actually talk about “the future of design”. There was a necessity of updating figurative language because what was around, as Ettore used to say, after a while felt like chewing cardboard. So you need a little mustard, don’t you? We were talking about life, and design was part of it. That is why they (the designs) were so intense and bright.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ETTORE SOTTSASS + THE MEMPHIS GROUP

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 5.18.2015 – 5.23.2015

ALABAMA CHANIN – THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 5.18.2015 –  5.23.2015

“Change almost never fails because it’s too early. It almost always fails because it’s too late.” ― Seth Godin

Please note that The Factory Store + Café and Alabama Chanin offices will be closed on Monday, May 25th for Memorial Day.

Last week was packed with events at The Factory, so this week we are taking a moment to catch our breath…

Here is what we have going on, Monday, May 18 – Saturday, May 23 :

STORE
Join us for Third Mondays as we host our monthly sewing group at The Factory from 8:30 – 11:30. Spend your morning working on your latest project in the company of fellow sewers. Share inspiration, encouragement, and fellowship. Coffee and tea will be available for purchase from The Factory Café. Please bring your own fabric and sewing notions.

STORE HOURS
Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday, 10:00am – 4:00pm

TOURS
Stop by any weekday at 2:00pm for a guided tour of our space, including The Factory, the Alabama Chanin production and design studio, and Building 14.

CAFÉ
Stop in for lunch at The Factory Café this week with favorites like our Flatbread and Quiche of the Day, made with the freshest seasonal vegetables available.

Be sure to join us on Saturdays for Brunch, as we highlight products from local and regional farms and purveyors.

Also, don’t forget to take a look in our cooler – fully stocked with homemade ready-to-go items like pimento cheese and chocolate pots de crème.

Order a freshly baked whole cake for your next event or party. Our cakes are made from scratch, fresh from the oven. Please provide 24 hours’ notice when placing an order.

Custom catering is now available for all events and occasions. Work directly with our head chef, Zach Chanin, and the Alabama Chanin team to create a menu tailored to your needs.

CAFÉ HOURS
Monday – Saturday, 11:00am – 2:00pm
*Lunch service begins at 11:00am but coffee and snacks are available all day.

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

TRAVEL: BIRMINGHAM

ALABAMA CHANIN – TRAVEL: BIRMINGHAM

Two hours south x southeast of The Shoals lies the metropolis of Birmingham—that’s how I have it in my childhood memory. It was the 1960s and 70s and we rarely made the trip. At that time, it was a place of strife, and violence, and steel, and, for a small child, the great unknown.  It wasn’t until I returned to Alabama in the year 2000 to settle back into my home state that I came to know—and began to understand—this city that lies in the heart of Alabama.

One of the three closest airports to The Shoals is here, in what is called the “Magic City”; many guests who visit our studio choose to fly or take the train to Birmingham and make the two-hour drive through the Southwestern Appalachians to Northwest Alabama.

Officially founded in 1871, Birmingham built itself around railroad transportation and the railroading industry—which is still in operation today, but the major industry that spurred economy and growth was iron and steel production—hard work for strong people. While the manufacturing industry is still recognized as a large presence, other businesses and industries, like medical technology and banking, have strengthened and added growth to the area in the past 50 years.

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

HEATHER ROSS: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

ALABAMA CHANIN – HEATHER ROSS: ALABAMA STUDIO SEWING PATTERNS

Today, we continue our series of blog posts from some of our favorite makers highlighting DIY garments, customized using the techniques and patterns of Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns. We last heard from Amy Herzog, who described the fit issues she has faced over the years—particularly garment length. This week, we are blushingly grateful to post Heather Ross’ review.

I have long been an admirer of Heather, who has an exceptional eye for design and motif. She is also a talented writer who can combine the poignant and humorous in her books and her designs. We once asked her how she translated humor into her fabric designs and she said something that still sticks with me: “Funny is just a mix of happy and ridiculous. Ridiculous is easy.”

In her review, Heather talks about the difficulty of finding ready-to-wear clothing that fits her long torso. She writes, “…in many Ready To Wear dresses and blouses I find myself hunching over to make up for their lack of length, as though I can bring a waistline down by scrunching myself up.” And she shares memories of her grandmother’s handmade clothing and how wearing those custom dresses gave her confidence. “I felt flattered, rather than awkward, and much more myself. This is the thing about wearing clothing that really fits you: It makes you feel good.”

And I agree. Though I have my own body image struggles, my clothing makes me more comfortable in my own skin. (Most of the time) I know exactly who I am in these clothes. I wrote Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns with the hope that more women can have that feeling, by taking control of their wardrobes and dressing their bodies exactly as they are.

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

GATHER BRUNCH + Q&A WITH JVTF

Event---Jones-Valley-Teaching-Farm---Gather-Kickoff---Alabama-Chanin-(2)Two weeks ago we introduced Jones Valley Teaching Farm and the work they are doing with schools and in classrooms across Birmingham. With programs like Good School Food, Farm Lab, and Seed to Plate, they are providing food-based, hands-on, experimental education and design-thinking strategies for students in Pre-K to 12th grades. Their practices are sustainable (in more than one way), thoughtful, and all-around good.

While the organization began in 2001, many of its programs, like Farm Lab, are new and have seen (planned) growth in the past few years. To cover expenses that come with the design, building, and staffing of such programs, Jones Valley is working to diversify their fundraising efforts.

One of their most successful fundraisers is the annual Twilight Supper, held each fall at the farm. The weekend of May 16th, they are introducing Gather Dinners – a series of events held across the city of Birmingham and the state of Alabama – as a spring counterpart to the fall event.

Gather-Brunch-JVTF

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

TRAVEL: HOWARD FINSTER’S GARDEN

Howard-Finster---Paradise-Garden---Phillip-March-Jones-(1)I took the pieces you threw away, and put them together night and day, washed by rain, dried by sun, a million pieces all in one.

-Howard Finster, “Poem for the Garden”

Howard Finster, a Southern Baptist minister and self-proclaimed “man of visions” moved to Pennville, Georgia in 1961, having purchased four acres of land that was mostly swamp. After draining the land with a series of homemade canals and channels, he began building the Plant Farm Museum, a biblical roadside attraction that would house “all the wonders of God’s creation.” Finster’s modern-day Garden of Eden was covered in biblical verses, paintings, and sculptures of the artist’s own design and punctuated by a series of structures including the Bible House, Mirror House, Hubcap Tower, Bicycle Tower, and a Folk Art Chapel which was five stories tall and built without plans or the aid of an architect.

In 1965, Howard Finster retired from preaching and increasingly dedicated himself to the Plant Farm Museum and his burgeoning career as a visual artist.

Ten years later, Finster’s elaborate environment was featured in Esquire magazine and renamed Paradise Garden. The garden has changed greatly over the years, and many of its original works have been acquired by collectors and museums. Few images of the garden in its original state exist.

Fortunately, one anonymous visitor to the garden in the mid-1970s held onto his or her pictures, and we are able to experience the garden at the height of its beauty – intact and un-plundered.

–Phillip March Jones

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 5.12.2015 – 5.17.2015

The Factory This Week “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” – Abraham Lincoln

Here is what we have going on this week, Monday, May 12 – Sunday, May 17:

STORE
Sign up for a Classic Studio Weekend at The Factory May 15 through May 17. Participants will be able to create a customized, hand-sewn garment or project from one of the four books from the Alabama Studio Series. The cost includes materials, instruction, a studio tour, welcome cocktail on Friday, lunch on Saturday, and our Pies + Casseroles Sunday brunch.

If you aren’t able to stay for a whole weekend, join us for the day on May 14 for a Studio Stenciling and Pattern Design Workshop, where you will learn to create your own stencils using references, original artwork, and existing stencils. The cost includes materials, instruction, and lunch from The Factory Café.

And join us May 17th for our Friends of the Cafe Sunday Brunch, a fundraiser for the Jones Valley Teaching Farm, featuring acclaimed chefs Lisa Donovan and Angie Mosier. The cost includes a buffet of sweet and savory offerings, coffee, and fresh juices. Register here to attend the brunch titled ‘Pies + Casseroles, a Celebration of the Southern Oven’.

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

AGATHA WHITECHAPEL: PATCHWORK PHOTOS

Agatha WhitechapelFor many of us who call ourselves “mother”, there are two types of children in our lives: those that are born to us and those that come into our lives and become “ours” for life. For me, this was the case with Agatha Whitechapel, daughter of my dear friend (who I commonly refer to as, simply, “Whitechapel.”) I think of her as a version of her collages, fully realized – a lifelike composition of images pasted together to create a portrait. Adopted daughter to me; young girl grown up; mother of Elijah; photographer; and, finally, friend. Agatha cut her teeth in Europe of the 1990s, traversing between London and Vienna. Agatha’s school was the keen eye of her mother, music video film-sets, and the world of skateboards. When I met her, she was a 12-year-old girl, fascinated with hearing and telling elaborate stories. According to Agatha, she has taken her “childhood obsessions with fantasy and storytelling and turned them into visual explosions with as much colour, pop and pomp” as she can possibly fit into one picture.

Agatha Whitechapel Continue reading

Bookmark and Share

MAY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

ALABAMA CHANIN – MAY + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

I am happy to greet May, partly because April came “as advertised”—dropping buckets of rain—but also because May is filled with so many good things. So many, in fact, that I might feel differently by month’s end, but for now I am ready. There are workshops, both at home and afar. Maggie finishes school at the end of the month, which (in her mind) means summer has begun and it’s time for a backyard barbecue. (May is, after all, National Barbecue Month.)

Here is what the schedule looks like for the rest of the month:

May 10: Mother’s Day (the second Sunday of May). We are hosting our first-ever Mother’s Day Brunch at the Factory Café. Seating available at 10:00 am and 12:00 pm, purchase tickets here.

May 11: On Design: In the Kitchen + Biscuits @ The Factory

May 14: One-Day Studio Stenciling + Pattern Design Workshop @ The Factory. Find more information and register here.

May 15 – 17: Classic Studio Weekend Workshop here @ The Factory.

May 17: Sunday Brunch: Pies + Casseroles, a Celebration of the Southern Oven—a Makeshift | Friends of the Café fundraiser for Jones Valley Teaching Farm featuring acclaimed pastry chefs (and all-around amazing women) Angie Mosier and Lisa Donovan. Seating is limited, so purchase yours today.

May 20: Stay up late for David Letterman’s final Late Show.

May 21: Two-Hour Sewing Workshop and Book Signing at LF8 in NYC.

May 25: Memorial Day—in remembrance of those who died in service to our country. Many in our community still refer to this day as Decoration Day and spend time picnicking and cleaning or decorating memorial plots and monuments.

May 26: National Biscuit Day. While this is celebrated daily in many Southern kitchens, it is nice to know that the mighty biscuit has its own day to shine.

May 28: Last day of the school year for Maggie.

Somehow, in the middle of all this madness, I have to find time to transplant my tomatoes and okra, and tend the rest of the garden. Wish me luck.

Continue reading

Bookmark and Share