Tag Archives: The Shoals

THE FACTORY | THIS WEEK 2.24.2014 – 2.28.2014

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“We are celebrating a generation of makers. We are reshaping how people consume and interpret the handmade. I want to remind people that craft is what you make it… It is a labor of love, appreciation, and respect.”
–Faythe Levine, Handmade Nation

At Alabama Chanin, we like to describe ourselves as makers and educators, working to elevate and merge design, craft, and fashion. We hope to see you this week at The Factory and that you may be inspired to create something yourself…
xoNatalie

Here is what we have going on at The Factory Store + Café this week, Monday, February 24 – Friday, February 28:

STORE
This week, we are having an in-store special on stenciled fat eighths. Come browse our Studio Style DIY section, and receive a 15% discount on our selection of fat eighths—9” x 20” pieces from our 100% organic cotton jersey. They are perfect for quilting, appliqué, placement reverse appliqué, and small projects.

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CHICKEN STEW

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As a Southerner and a cook, I often find myself included in lively debates about regional cuisine, long-winded discussions of the dozens of types of barbecue preparations, cornbread recipe swaps, or conversations on the perfect biscuit dough. Those of us who love food treasure the dishes we were raised eating and love to swap recipes and tips.

In my travels, I have done my fair share of boasting about my hometown’s specialties. One dish that I speak of frequently, that is such a big component of The Shoals’ local food culture, is chicken stew. And almost every time I mention it (outside of my home region), no one else in the room seems to know quite what I’m describing.

“Is it like a vegetable soup?” Not exactly. “A Brunswick stew?” Hmm. Not really.

So, I gradually came to understand that this dish—that was as ubiquitous to every neighborhood kitchen as cornbread or tea—wasn’t a staple meal for the rest of the world. In fact, it really doesn’t exist much outside of our small region of the Tennessee Valley.

Truthfully, the origins of chicken stew cannot be traced. And, no one can explain exactly why it is so specific to this region. I remember being told by an aunt that, once upon a time, chickens were kept for the eggs they produced. By the time a family killed a chicken for its meat, it was a “tough old bird,” only suitable for stews and other slow-cooked dishes. As with many rural households, you made the most of what you had and, logically, a stew fed more mouths than one fried chicken. Most likely, as with most regional foods, the recipe was created when poverty crossed paths with farmers, native people, and West African-style dishes. The result, in this case, is a dish that’s similar to existing recipes but that remains explicitly exclusive to one place.
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THE HEART: JENNIFER RAUSCH

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Shortly after my move from New York to Alabama, I was sitting alone at our local Italian restaurant, reading magazines. After a while, a couple who’d been sitting across the room approached and introduced themselves to me. That couple, Jennifer and Robert Rausch, quickly became fixtures in my life; they’ve remained integral members of my Alabama family since that day.

These days, you can find Jennifer overseeing the day-to-day operations of the new flagship store and café at The Factory. She agreed to work with us at just the right time. The company was growing and I needed someone I could trust to help me make decisions that were thoughtful and confident. Growing a company can make one feel vulnerable; having an old friend there for support (especially one with an incredible work ethic) put me a bit more at ease.

She moves effortlessly between tasks and has a real desire to connect with everyone who walks through our door. This genuine approach, coupled with her wicked, infectious laugh, drew me to her initially and continues to make me smile, calm me, and draw me out of my shell when I become too introspective. She is practical and doesn’t hesitate to offer her opinion, even to play devil’s advocate in tough situations.

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THE GRIST – A MANUFACTURING COLLABORATION

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Recently, Building 14, our new Design + Manufacturing Services division, produced the Grist in collaboration with our friends at Billy Reid. This raglan style men’s t-shirt is made with our 100% organic cotton and features an antique button snap pocket.

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Read more about our team, the manufacturing collaboration, and Building 14 on the Billy Reid Journal.

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Purchase the Grist from Billy Reid here.


Photos courtesy of Bradley Dean

THE LIBRARY (PART 2)

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My love of books is no secret. I still have a decades-old public library card, probably obtained when I was about 8 or 9, printed on card stock and housed in a small, paper envelope. It was one of my most prized possessions as a child. Today’s library cards can be scanned and swiped, but obtaining one is still an important rite of passage for so many.

In the past, we’ve explored the emotional responses that a love for books and for libraries can elicit from anyone who shares that same admiration. Our local library, the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library, is a wonderful example of how a brick and mortar building can grow into a community of sorts, adapting to meet the needs of the public at-large, and embracing new technologies while reinforcing the importance of learning. This library, like many modern public libraries, has special initiatives geared toward younger children and teens, but also has a strong local history and genealogical research team. They are creating interactive experiences for the community through classes, meet-ups, and year-round programs. I am proud to see what an important part of our community the public library remains.

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2013: THE YEAR IN REVIEW

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Looking back at what we have accomplished this year at Alabama Chanin, I feel nothing short of overwhelmed. With the help of many friends, Alabama Chanin has grown in ways I only imagined. Our company is the best it has ever been, and will only get better. Over the summer, and on the heels of Camp Bacon at Zingerman’s, I wrote a 10 year vision for the company—a peek into what I wanted for the future of our family of businesses. Many of the things I envisioned happening years from now were accomplished by this year’s end, with much hard work, dedication, occasional pains of labor, trial and error, and the true grit and determination of our team. All this growth and success doesn’t come from nowhere, after all.

It is hard to believe that so much has happened in the past year. While we are busy wrapping up our year-end Inventory Sale here at The Factory, it is nice to take the time to reflect on all the projects, people, and places we have experienced in just twelve incredible months.

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MARKET HIGHLIGHT: SCOUT BY TWO

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Scout By Two is a collaboration of two artists, via Alabama and New York. Marisa Keris and Constance Sepulveda met while studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, and their shared aspiration to design and make products they’d use themselves led them to launch Scout By Two earlier this year. “Our mission is to seek and extract the spirit of vintage goods. Inspired by American style and tradition, we integrate natural materials to create modern, functional works of art,” says Marisa, who resides and works in the Shoals.

If you have visited The Factory Store, you’ve seen Scout by Two’s handmade collection featured in our Holiday Market. For a limited time, Alabama Chanin is featuring the Peacemaker Wallet in our online Holiday Gift Guide. The wallet is crafted with waxed canvas, premium vegetable tanned U.S. cowhide, and solid brass hardware. Vegetable tanning is a traditional process that uses bark, roots, and other vegetable matter to convert skins into leather. The leather will gradually soften and develop a patina with exposure to natural elements.

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MARKET HIGHLIGHT: TWINE & CO. LETTERPRESS CARDS

MARKET HIGHLIGHT: TWINE & CO. LETTERPRESS CARDS

Under the label Twine & Co., longtime Alabama Chanin friend Robert Rausch creates, designs, and produces luxury paper products that are artisan-made in nearby Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Robert and the artisans he collaborates with share our beliefs and practices of slow and economical design. Twine & Co.’s illustrated letterpress cards are slow designed for thoughtful use and made with sustainable practices and materials. Made of 100% recycled cotton, acid-free paper, the cards are hand printed on a letterpress.

We love the beautifully detailed Beetle and Dragonfly cards, and have featured the boxed sets as part of our Holiday Gift Guide.

LOCAL MUSIC HIGHLIGHT

LOCAL MUSIC HIGHLIGHT

At Alabama Chanin, we are proud of our home’s musical legacy. As we have written before, we are also proud to be surrounded by an impressive group of local, up-and-coming musicians. The Bear and Belle Adair are just two of a growing list of our favorite local bands.

Both bands have released records under local, indie label, Single Lock Records – founded by John Paul White of the Civil Wars, Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes, and Shoals native Will Trapp.

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THE HEART: THE FACTORY

THE HEART: THE FACTORY

If you visit our studio here in Alabama, you will arrive to find that we are housed in a sturdy, industrial-style, metal building which we call “The Factory.” Our community was, for generations, home to textile mills that employed an incredible number of area residents. This industrial building where we work and spend hours of our lives has seen thousands of workers pass through the doors over the years; it has heard the hum of machines running and the voices and laughter of employees passing the day away. This building is part of Alabama Chanin’s history, but, more importantly, it is part of our community’s history—a symbol of economic boom, hard times, and community rebuilding.

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