SARA: ON BEAUTY

As Alabama Chanin has grown, part of the beauty of this growth has been my ability to watch our employees and families spread their wings, grow, and find their voices. A few months back, June started to use her voice to tell our stories through her own experiences. Today, Sara Martin makes that same leap and stretches her voice. As I wrote about Sara a few weeks back, she was like a child when she first showed up at my studio. What a treasure to see her make this leap from child to beautiful woman. A hearty Alabama Chanin welcome to Sara’s voice on this blog… xoNatalie

I’ve never been conventionally beautiful. I’ve always known this. I’m just a little bit shorter, a little rounder than the pretty girls; I’ve always laughed a little louder, been a bit more vulgar and less delicate than a southern woman is expected to be. Like most young girls, I struggled with trying to figure out what it meant – this difference. And I tried to negotiate my way through what was expected of me and what I expected of myself.

In the not-so-distant past, tattoos were considered unattractive; to many, they still are. Tattoos have long been the domain of sailors, bikers, outlaws and prisoners. So, how do we reconcile this type of art with femininity? Is it possible to love the skin that we live in and still change it?

Most women I know use some sort of enhancement to make them feel better about what they see as imperfections. Many dye their hair – or buy someone else’s hair to improve upon what they naturally have. We’ve been known to wear high heels to make us taller and Spanx to make us thinner. Some women look to plastic surgery, Botox, face creams and bronzers to enhance the figures and faces they were born with. For me, the process of learning to love myself meant getting underneath my own skin.

I got my first tattoo right out of high school. I found that I liked the way that it made me feel about myself. I got another, and then another. Most of them were easily hidden – something I kept for myself or revealed only to people that really knew me. As I slowly gathered these pieces I discovered that, even in moments of intense self-loathing, I had something about myself that I loved. I chose this about myself. I may not have loved what my thighs looked like, but this I was proud of. I did this.

Now, as an adult, I’ve finally come to terms with who I am on the inside. I like my loud laugh and my off-color jokes. I’m learning more and more to love who I am outside, too. But, I still struggle with some things, as most women do. These days, I view my insecurities as mountains or undiscovered continents – somewhere to conquer and plant a flag. My arms are my latest Mount Everest. I’m learning to love them, but on my own terms and one tract of skin at a time.

I’m still a work in progress. I’m painting my masterpiece, one bit of ink at a time.
- Sara

P.S.: Sara’s Reverse Applique Alabama tattoo (Note the Angie’s Fall Pattern)  by Adam “The Kid”, at Kustom Thrills in Nashville, Tennessee, + photo thanks to Gina R. Binkley.

BITTERS

A month ago I was totally intimidated and scared of bitters, what they were, and how to use them. A recent encounter changed that.

It all began with a cocktail drink at Patois in New Orleans.  The beautiful drink menu started off with a lovely champagne cocktail that was something like this: Champagne, Cointreau, Orange Bitters and a twist of orange.  Sounds simple right?

I turn to Nathalie and Brett and ask, “What exactly IS Orange Bitters?” I am not the biggest fan of orange-infused anything and I wanted to be SURE to make the best of the most delicious cocktail that evening. Drew explained that bitters are essentially any fruit or spice marinated in 100% Pure Grain Alcohol. Nathalie added, “You can make it yourself.”

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ECOSALON FRIDAY: BOARD BY BOARD

Check out my post this week on EcoSalon.
xoNatalie

Board By Board:

This is a conversation that played out in my head countless times this last week:

“I need to sit down and write the EcoSalon post.”
“The laundry really needs to get done.”
“I NEED to sit down and write the EcoSalon post.”
“Maybe, I should go weed the garden.”
“I NEED to SIT DOWN NOW and write the EcoSalon post.”
“There is that bird pecking around in the yard, I could go stare at it for a while.”

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JUNE’S SPRING

From page 10 of Alabama Studio Sewing + Design:

“Stenciling is a cornerstone of both our design process and our business model. We use stencils as tools to transfer decorative patterns onto projects like dresses, skirts, and pillows. The stenciled patterns are then used by our artisans as guides for positioning embroidery and beading. Because the stencils so effectively guide the design, our artisans don’t need to work in our studio. Rather, they can work independently as individual business owners when and where they want, scheduling their work time as they like.

Over the years, we have worked with more than four hundred different stencil designs.”

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MAKING A DIFFERENCE

As the year closes, I thought I would put together a list of those people and organizations who have made a difference for me in 2011. For a moment, let’s celebrate just a few of those who are creating inspiring works by striving toward a better, more beautiful, sustainable world.

The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, have been producing inspiring material for years, as producers of such programs as Hidden Kitchens, Lost and Found Sound, and now, The Hidden World of Girls. One particularly inspiring piece, the film “White Gloves,” by Courtney Stevens and Les Blank focuses on the Oakland Museum Women’s Board. The short piece is poignant in its focus on volunteerism, women, and the relationships that bond people together.   The Kitchen Sisters never fail to tell important stories and create moving art. (Images at the top of this post from Francesca Woodman.)

The book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, offers a challenge to the notion that more is better and instead emphasizes the importance of locally-centered commerce, politics and culture. The author, Bill McKibben, challenges us to consider why we buy what we do and urges us to think about our role within a community at large. McKibben makes appeals for action, but he also leaves us with a sense of what is possible. I believe in community and the fact that change is possible.

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THE YEAR IN EATS (AND A RECIPE)

In the spirit of “The Best Of” week as we move towards New Year’s Eve, I had to recap some of the best meals of my year – and they were plenty (despite my detox).

2011 started with a trip to Blackberry Farm’s Taste of the South with an amazing array of chefs and artisans.  The weekend is somewhat of a blur – perhaps because of all the wine tasting with Angie Mosier, and Charles and Kristie Abney.  I remember a biodynamic wine that was a glowing, beautiful orange color. (Charles and Kristie – if you are reading, can you remind me of the name of this wine? I would love to share it with others!)

Pardis Stitt will not let you leave her house, restaurant, or presence without a “to-go” box. And I know this may come as a surprise, but one of the best meal moments of my year was eating freshly cooked homemade chips and charred onion dip from Bottega in my car, on my way home to North Alabama. The recipe for this deliciousness can be found on page 23 of Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef’s Love Affair with Italian Food. I have not been able to replicate the perfection of that afternoon in my own kitchen – must have been the “Pardis Love” that made the difference.

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2011 – A REVIEW

It seems unbelievable to me that 2011 is coming to a close.  The Alabama Chanin journal has covered so many topics over the 2011 year and we have been so grateful for the opportunity to share our thoughts, travels, milestones and inspirations with you. As the year’s end approaches, we thought we would recap some of the favorite topics of the year.

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