Tag Archives: Inspiration

CREATIVE TRUTHS

ALABAMA CHANIN – CREATIVE TRUTHS

I originally wrote the post below for the Etsy Seller Handbook. It ran on September 14 of 2011—just before my lecture at Hello Etsy. I ran across these “truths” recently while writing this post on The Business of Fashion’s “How To Set Up A Fashion Business”  and still find them true today.

xoNatalie

From the Etsy Blog:

I’ve often described my creative journey as “falling off a cliff,” yet thinking about it recently, I’ve realized — to my great surprise — that my journey has actually been quite linear. I went from design school, to working in the fashion industry, to styling, and then back to fashion with Alabama Chanin. It is unlikely that I would have appreciated how direct my path has been if I hadn’t been asked to reflect upon my journey. Thanks to a few flight delays, day-long drives, and long afternoons spent gardening, I’ve been able to spend some quality time reflecting upon the events of my past. Sometimes it takes a little time to gain perspective.

I am incredibly proud of my company, my amazing team, and everything we’ve accomplished in the past decade. When things are running smoothly in our studio (as has happened once or twice in the ten years since we opened our doors), I feel an unrivaled sense of calm and satisfaction. However, it is the creative chaos, the phones that ring (but cannot be found), the revolving cast of friends and clients, and the unwavering support of my family that are much more invigorating and make me understand that my path has been the right one — for me.

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APRIL + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

ALABAMA CHANIN – APRIL + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

With the arrival of April (and the announcement of our partnership with Nest), it feels as though we are finally settling into the year. April’s warmer weather is also welcomed with open arms (and horseback rides). April is a busy month.

April is National Poetry Month. Poetry lovers can begin a project using our Poetry stencil—available for download on our Resources page or work your favorite poem or quote directly onto any garment.

Here is what’s on the horizon for April:

April 2 – International Children’s Book Day—Maggie recommends favorites by Maira Kalman.

April 5 – Easter Sunday – however you choose to celebrate, we hope you approach today with a spirit of renewal.

April 7 – Alabama Studio Sewing Patterns launches (very exciting)

April 11 – This day we host our Alabama Chanin Open House + Community Picnic, plus our One-Hour Mini-Workshops at the Factory. Spend a day with our team at The Factory. Sign up for mini-workshops on dyeing, stenciling, and/or sewing. For the potluck-style picnic, we provide barbecue and “fixins”—so bring your favorite side dish or dessert to share. The open house is free and open to the public.

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POWERS OF TEN

In our week-long profile of designers Charles and Ray Eames, we studied their design aesthetic and philosophy and talked about the various media they used to forward those philosophies. They made hundreds of explorations into film, for varied purposes. Produced in 1977, Powers of Ten is perhaps their best-known film—and includes a book version. In it, the Eamses utilized the system of exponential powers to demonstrate the importance of scale.

The premise of the film is simple, though its scope is wide: a narrator—physicist Philip Morrison—guides the viewer on a journey that begins with an overhead shot of a couple in a park. The camera then pans back to see what a ten-meter distance looks like, then 100 meters, then 1,000 meters. Every 10 seconds, the viewer’s distance from the initial scene of the couple is magnified tenfold. We expand to the point of 100 million light years from Earth, a field of view of 1024 meters—the size of the observable universe.

ALABAMA CHANIN – POWERS OF TEN

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DIY INSPIRATION: RAY EAMES

ALABAMA CHANIN – DIY INSPIRATION: RAY EAMES

As we wrote in last week’s post on our DIY Exploding Zero T-Shirt, inspiration comes at us from every direction. Recently, our design team has been (almost endlessly) inspired by Eames: Beautiful Details. The use of color and form shown by Ray and Charles Eames is bright and modern, even by today’s standards. The image shown above at left inspired the swatch above right, and can be recreated using the basic instructions below in any combination of colors and techniques you choose. This is a perfect project for our Fat Eighths or scraps from your own stash.

SUPPLIES

7” x 9” cotton jersey fabric for top layer
7” x 9” cotton jersey fabric for backing layer
100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey scraps in various colors
Button Craft thread
Embroidery floss
Basic sewing supplies: scissors, pins, needles, ruler, rotary cutter
Fabric Markers

Alabama Stitch Book, Alabama Studio Style, or Alabama Studio Sewing + Design: All three of these books contain the basic sewing and embroidery techniques we used to appliqué the squares and add decorative stitches and beads.

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IN THE KITCHEN: RAY EAMES

IN THE KITCHEN: RAY EAMES

…the role of the architect, or the designer, is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests—those who enter the building and use the objects in it. – Charles Eames

Our favorite Eames quote above is now on our café tables, the production cutting room, and displayed front and center on our design room inspiration board. I looked at the pages above and tried to imagine what Charles and Ray would have served in their gorgeous mid-century kitchen. The kitchens of my 1960s childhood were inspired (through trickle-down design) by Charles and Ray Eames—who sought specifically to target the needs of the average American family.

And the American family was changing from the mid-1950s through the 1960s and 1970s. Where cookbooks in the 1950s advised women to have dinner ready for their husbands when they got home from work, moving into the 1960s they began to offer recipes for busy moms. You could now make dinner by opening cans and boxes of prepared foods. That meant a lot of casseroles and inventing creative ways to use canned foods like soup, tuna, and even SPAM. The food fads of the day leant a sense of the exotic and the exciting to the dining room. Fondue, Chinese woks, Julia Child’s advocacy of French cooking, and…all Jell-O everything—brought about food inventions the likes of which had never been seen.

For those who want to relive the good old days of Chicken a la King, ambrosia or gelatin salads, meatballs with grape jelly, onion soup dip, cheese balls, or Baked Alaska, we recommend visiting Mid-Century Menu or, my personal favorite, White Trash Cooking—for a treasure of Jell-O based recipes.

For everything else, we defer to the queen of the Mid-century kitchen: Miss Julia Child.

Learn more about the Eames, Mid-Century design, and the love the kitchen, purchase Eames: Beautiful Details, pictured above and now available from our online store. (Natalie’s personal copy shown here photographed by Abraham Rowe)

ALABAMA CHANIN @ LF8

Alabama Chanin - LF8 - NYCLast summer, friend Lisa Fox hosted our first Alabama Chanin Pop-up Shop at her East Village store, lf8, for Makeshift 2014 and New York Design Week. After a run at Billy Reid Austin over the holidays, our indigo collection is available at lf8 in New York this spring. The shop features our one-of-a-kind, hand-dyed indigo pieces alongside our A. Chanin machine-made line, Heath + Alabama Chanin collaboration, accessories, books, and more.

Readings, workshops, Makeshift conversations, and special events will take place over the course of the two months–more details to come. Visit here to see last year’s programming and learn more about Makeshift.

Alabama Chanin @ lf8 through May 22nd:

80 E. 7th Street
New York, NY 10003

Store Hours:
Tuesday–Sunday 12:00pm–6:00pm
Closed Mondays

Follow @alabamachanin and @lf8_elevate on Instagram for updates.

For more information, contact: sales (at) alabamachanin.com, or call, +646.861.2837

 

INSPIRATION: WORK + PLAY

ALABAMA CHANIN – INSPIRATION: WORK + PLAY

“Take your pleasure seriously.” ― Charles Eames

All of us, at one time or another, have associated the idea of work with a sense of dread. We’ve all had a job we thought was boring, repetitive, mindless, stressful; we’d zone out or procrastinate because, in our hearts, we weren’t invested. In such a situation, we were taught to create a time for work and a time for play: work/life balance.

The downside of this idea of work/life balance is that playtime is often interrupted with thoughts of work; and work time is spent dreaming of play. Mr. Rogers once said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.” This is certainly true of how the Eames ran their studio and the basis of the important, and playful, work of Ellen Langer.

The last decades have taught us (and our children) that to achieve is the ultimate goal—often to the detriment of play. When we think of play, we think of “time wasting” or “unnecessary.” But play can also meld the possible with the magical. When we play, we aren’t necessarily bound by limits; we are free. Most of us have notions as to what defines work and play – but those categories aren’t independent of one another. Ellen Langer states it so simply, “When we are at work, we’re people; when we’re at play, we’re still people.”

The new saying at my house and at the studio: It’s not hard work, it’s GOOD work. There is a big difference between the two.

The book, Eames: Beautiful Details—pictured above, is a beautiful testament to the playful nature of Ray and Charles Eames. Now available from our online store: Eames: Beautiful Details(Natalie’s personal copy shown here photographed by Abraham Rowe)

Watch the PBS Film, The Architect and the Painter, to learn more about the importance of play in their work and studio. See the trailer below.

ON DESIGN: RAY AND CHARLES EAMES

ON DESIGN: RAY AND CHARLES EAMES

“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality, per se.” – Charles Eames

Our first official On Design conversation and event centered on the Bauhaus—founded in 1919 by architect Walter Gropius. This movement’s core objective was a radical concept: to reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts. The main influences behind the Bauhaus were Modernism, the Arts and Crafts movement and, perhaps most importantly, Constructivism.

The Bauhaus school was closed in 1933 by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi regime and many of the designers and artists who had been working within the school and those with similar philosophies, moved to the United States. Those of you who were present for our On Design: Bauhaus discussion (or who read about it) will remember that this movement came to change my life (and save my life), because the School of Design at North Carolina State University grew out of Black Mountain College—where some of the instructors from the Bauhaus settled. And, thus I essentially received a Bauhaus training.

The reach of the Bauhaus school is immeasurable. The foundations and design approach influenced designers like Frank Lloyd Wright, Edith Heath, Mies Van De Roe, Le Corbusier, Herbert Bayer, Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, and eventually Ray and Charles Eames.

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DIY EXPLODING ZERO (PLUS JACK CROSSING + HELMUT LANG)

DIY EXPLODING ZERO (PLUS JACK CROSSING + HELMUT LANG)

Inspiration: where does it come from?  That’s one of the most asked questions of designers and artists.

The answer is complicated and breathtakingly simple: inspiration is right in front of us. It comes to us over the airwaves, through the endless streams of data we consume, and is found on deserted street corners.

The exploding zero graphic above (on the left-hand side) landed on my desktop sometime last year and made us think about exploding our own preconceptions and also about the number zero—the number of infinite possibilities.

This manipulation of type that inspired our entire team was created by Jack Crossing. Design on paper translated to fabric, thread, beads, and sequins.

DIY Exploding Zero T-shirt is shown here with our sarong (simply a 36” x 72” rectangle of lightweight cotton jersey fabric cut lengthwise with the grain) and Natalie’s vintage Helmut Lang shoes (in pink) circa Spring/Summer 2000.

Make your own exploding zero project following the instructions below, or purchase our t-shirt DIY Kit from The School of Making.

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