ODE TO THE COLLARD

I have been waiting (patiently) for seven years to attend a Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium and this is the year I will finally be able to go.  Yes, it is a seven year charm.

I am packing my bags to leave today for The Cultivated South. This includes a carload of costumes for LEAVES OF GREENS: THE OPERA, an homage to all things colewort, written by Price Walden, and performed by University of Mississippi Music Department students, with accompaniment by Amanda Johnston and costuming by Alabama Chanin.

Pictures and stories to come…
xoNatalie

ODE TO THE COLLARD

How do I love thee?
Let me tell the tale,
Oh Southern Stalk of Life,
Grand Collard, Queen of Kale.

I relish thee with chowchow,
Onions strewn about the plate.
Red pepper pods adorn thee,
Fat Back’s Monarch, Ham Hock’s Mate.

I delight in thee with cornbread—
Hard-crusted, dry, dark brown,
And sopped in thy pot liquor—
Garden Green of Great Renown.

I revere thy rare refinement;
In greased glory, art thou luminous.
Tho’ pintos suit thee best,
Thou art enhanced by all leguminous.

I value thee, Great greenness,
Money’s Sign shall never waver.
Joined by jowls and paired with peas,
You enrich my New Year’s flavor.

I praise thy tasteful leaves,
Emerald-hued and smooth as silk,
Perfumed by vinegar’s vapor
And pursued by buttermilk.

I commend thy aromatic air,
A bouquet not soon forgot,
As you sizzle in the skillet
Or lie larden in the pot.

Swallowed greedily at midday
Or gulped icy at the dawn,
Sumptuous Scent of Salivation,
My appetite becomes thy pawn.

I adore thee, Sweetest Collard,
Acclaim thy might, and homage pay.
Thy fame shall live forever
Tho’ thy smell may fade away.

—Teresa T. Cameron, Cameron, NC

 

 

ARRESTED BEAUTY + HUMAN KINDS

My friend Jennifer Venditti has been an inspiration to me since our first meeting a decade ago in New York.  She is one of those friends who I don’t talk to every week but when we do, the stories unfold. We have trips to documentary film festivals behind us and many a trip ahead of us I am sure. (Taos is next on the agenda.)

I met Jennifer at the time I had just started working on what would become Alabama Chanin.  She had a growing casting agency and also worked on a line of clothing with our friend Molly Stern-Schlussel, called M.R.S. (More about our upcoming collaboration with Molly and M.R.S coming soon.)

Jennifer is often credited with changing the face of beauty over the last ten years, mostly due to her unerring eye and a diligence for street casting. She has transformed “unusual beauty” into mainstream beauty in a decade of work, not to mention directing and producing an award winning documentary film called Billy the Kid that speaks to what it means to be an outsider.

At one point in the film, Billy says, “I’m not black, I’m not white, I’m not foreign… I’m just different in the mind…”

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BURNING MAN (+ WOMAN)

It seems that everywhere I turn these days, someone is talking about or asking me to go to Burning Man. This also happened to me a decade ago when I first moved back to New York from Vienna. At that time, all of the talk I heard centered on substances consumed and not content. I found the conversations boring beyond words and the folks talking seemed to be something more than obsessed. You would say something as banal as, “What would you like for dinner tonight?” And their reply would always start, “Well, at Burning Man…” You get my drift.

This new round of Burning Man admirers are of a totally different ilk. Beautiful images, like these taken by my friend, Reyes Melendez, are emerging and at the same time, the conversations are changing.

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GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME

My latest post for EcoSalon is about how good things – like good design – take time.

Take time to have a read: Give The Story Time To Unfold

And then let us know what you think…
xoNatalie

GIVE THE STORY TIME TO UNFOLD

I found a letter that I wrote some years ago.  It starts like this:

“First, I will start with my apology: I am really a terrible friend. I have been ‘absent.’ I have made many people feel as though I did not care. I am sorry; however, if I am really honest, it is not so much that I am sorry as much as I have missed you and missed so many important things in my life.

It has been FULL time. And it will be hard for me to begin to tell all of the laughter, tears, frustrations, joys, moments, days, weeks, years that have happened. I try to find the beginning and the only thing I find is my wish to have you here with me in this moment…”

Isn’t that just how life is?  It gets all full and messy and good at the same time.
And isn’t that the story of a really good friend – one who is willing to wait for the story to unfold?

Southerners are renowned storytellers. I don’t know if that is because it gets so hot that we have to slow down and consequently hear more, or if the porch just provides the best venue for recounting tales. Perhaps we’ve just lived so close to the land for so many generations that the stories naturally grew. Whatever the reason, there are libraries filled with sections with titles that cover a “Southern Sense of Place,” “Southern Gothic,” and “Southern Short Story.”

And while many of us are born storytellers, our stories do take time to unfold. We are slow, methodical, practiced in our pace. My father and my son – following in his grandfather’s very slow footsteps – are masters in this art. They take the right breaths, they slowly move from one part of the room to the other. My father can take three days to answer a particular question. I will unexpectedly get a call and find my father simply replying to a question asked days earlier. Sometimes, I have to stop and think back to what actually prompted the question. This was infuriating as a child, “Daddy, can I go to the movie this afternoon with my friends?”

Silence.  It would be like he didn’t even hear me. Perhaps an hour later, he would call me in from outside, “Are you ready to go to the movie?” My heart would skip and it was like a present, wrapped up in a slowly unfolding package that had just been delivered. I would grab my things and go savor the movie.

The writer George Dawes Green provided the best storytelling platform EVER with the founding of The Moth. He started The Moth because he “wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda’s porch.”

I once wrote a blog post about his story “The House that Sherman Didn’t Burn.” This is one of the best Southern Gothic tales I have ever heard. (Keep in mind that all the stories told at The Moth are true.)

My friend, writer, and folklorist, Fred Fussell loved this story but thinks that the audience laughs in all the wrong places – which made me laugh as well. But the thing about stories is this, they are personal: personal for the teller and personal for listener as we are constantly searching for our own humanity within the story. We need that connection from teller to self.  We need to FEEL our friend’s life in and around their words. The beauty of The Moth is that each storyteller feels like a friend once their story is told.  And in the telling, like my father, they take their time. Their stories are not told, they unfold. Yes, good stories – like good friends take time.

Shouldn’t this be the same with good design? In a world that seems to spin faster and faster out of control, shouldn’t we be looking for products that take time to unfold? Or products whose usefulness we savor? Shouldn’t we demand products that have stories to tell? Like good wine, a good design needs time to be a part of our lives, time to reach its full maturity. If we could stop the ever spinning merry-go-round of fashion to see the consequences of our fast fashion choices, we might begin to appreciate the tales that our garments tell. Some items would tell tales of sorrow; others would tell beautiful tales of how they found their way to the wearer. I think that we would start to breathe and listen to the stories of our clothes and their makers – because there are great people out there telling beautiful stories.

American designer Sister Parish said, “Even the simplest wicker basket can become priceless when it is loved and cared for through the generations of a family.” The next time we purchase a single item, perhaps we should exercise patience and think back to this idea. Can this product I am about to buy be cared for and loved through the generations? What story does this item tell? Isn’t buying a product with a long life the same as exercising patience for a good story?

Patience has never been at the top of my list of virtues. I have been told that I have a calm, patient appearance on the outside, but my inner life is much less composed. You might even go so far as to say that my inner life and outer life were disconnected in my youth. This was the cause of much consternation and drama in my earlier days. But what I understand today is that I needed time. I needed time to grow up and to grow into my own story. If I can give my daughter one piece of advice, I will tell her to slow down, be calm, and wait.

Good things – like good design – take time and good friends are worth waiting for.

HANDMADE HOLIDAY

Yesterday, making use of the beautiful fall weather, June and I shot pictures of new DIY Kits for our Two-Hour and One-Day Workshops. These new kits are exclusive to our workshops and are launching next week for all the upcoming events.

The new kit selection for Two-Hour Workshops include (among others) the Onesie shown above and the Baby Blanket pictured below.

I know what I will be gifting my (many) pregnant friends for the holidays! Sign up your favorite friend, daughter, son, and/or yourself by Sunday, November 23rd and receive a 10% discount with the code HANDMADEHOLIDAY.

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MADE BY JUNE

As someone who is usually short on time and always short on patience, I am a master of safety pin alterations. I’ve sewn myself into something more than once, used a glue gun to make a handbag, and embraced unfinished hems with unbridled enthusiasm. Although I enjoy the process of making, most of my handy work would never survive the wash. In a handful of embarrassing moments, it hasn’t survived the evening.

It wasn’t until I joined the ranks of Alabama Chanin and attended my first workshop that I actually made something that had the potential to last. I chose a DIY Swing Skirt in a beautiful shade of green, with our bloomers pattern stenciled just around the edges.  I wielded a needle and thread to the best of my ability and actually managed to finish the skirt by the end of the day. Even though the front seam is a little crooked, it remains in heavy wardrobe rotation and has survived the wash many, many times.

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DIY FACETS SWING SKIRT

A variation on our classic DIY Swing Skirt, our new Facets Swing Skirt is 6″ longer, has all-over embroidery and reverse applique in the facets stenciling. Choose your own fabric and thread colors and we will cut to your size specifications. Follow the instructions for reverse applique and construction from Alabama Stitch Book to make your very own.

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