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
“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:
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’.
For 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.
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 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.
Join our mailing list here to receive information on upcoming workshops, events at The Factory, and away. You can also update your current subscription to receive certain mailings. Here’s a glance at our upcoming Events mailer:
TWO-HOUR SEWING @ LF8, NYC (+ A BOOK SIGNING WITH NATALIE)
Join Natalie for a Two-Hour Sewing Workshop at lf8 in New York’s East Village.
Thursday, May 21, 2015
Choose your session:
10:00am – 12:00pm or
2:00pm – 4:00pm
Learn more and register here.
There is limited availability—so be sure to sign-up soon. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and a selection of projects.
Natalie will also be on hand to sign her newest book, Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns.
4:00pm – 6:00pm
This event is free and open to the general public.
Buy a copy in store or bring by your already purchased copy.
I have extolled the virtues of Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, many times. It’s a place of calm, and deliciousness, and of fellowship. The land and the people create a singular sense of place that is joyous and memorable. There really is no place in the world that feels quite like the Smoky Mountains—as artists and musicians have tried to express for hundreds of years.
After the very first Weekend Workshop at Blackberry Farm, I promised myself that I would continue the event for years to come. I am honored that the farm will be hosting our second (now annual) Classic Sewing Weekend, June 26 – 28.
As part of that event, we are also offering our first workshop specially tailored for mothers (or any special mentor) and daughters: Alabama Chanin’s Mother/Daughter One-Day Sewing Retreat. Over the years, we have delighted in watching mothers and daughters and families work together around sewing tables at our workshops. We have been lucky to see multiple generations of women collaborate on a simple swatch or a custom wedding gown.
“The future will either be green or not at all.” – Bob Brown
Here is what we have going on this week, Monday, May 4 – Sunday, May 10:
Join us at The Factory to work on your latest sewing projects in the company of friends and coffee on Monday, May 4 for First Mondays. Share inspiration, encouragement, and fellowship. Coffee, tea, and a light breakfast will be available for purchase from The Factory Café.
Come and celebrate the special mothers in your life on Sunday, May 10 at our first ever Sunday brunch. Our Mother’s Day Brunch will feature buffet of sweet and savory selections. Reserve your seat and purchase your tickets here.
While reserving tickets for our Mother’s Day Brunch, go ahead and get your tickets for our Celebration of the Southern Oven. This Sunday brunch, a fundraiser for the Jones Valley Teaching Farm, will feature acclaimed pastry chefs Lisa Donovan and Angie Mosier. Join us for a sweet and savory, family-style spread on May 17, reserve your tickets here.
Monday – Friday, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday, 10:00am – 4:00pm
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.
Join us for lunch at The Factory Café this week and enjoy a new menu every day.
Be sure to join us on Saturdays for Brunch featuring seasonal choices that 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 our chocolate pots de crème.
We offer freshly baked whole cakes as well. 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.
Monday – Saturday, 11:00am – 2:00pm
*Lunch service begins at 11:00am but coffee and snacks are available all day.
Since the launch of The School of Making, our team has been inspired to create new resources, to design more beautiful DIY kits (that complement our newest book), and to give our online store a new look.
Shop our updated Fabric + Sewing section here and find tools and materials to inspire your next project. And use those tools with our newly updated PDF stencils: Abbie’s Flower, Angie’s Fall, and June’s Spring.
Photos by Abraham Rowe