Charleston, South Carolina has its own style of “Southern-ness” that almost can’t be defined. And although it has been years (almost two decades) since I have been there, I definitely recognize Charleston when I see, hear, or smell it. Charlestonians sound like no other group of Southerners: “Chawlstun,” they say with their long middle vowels – a round, musical sound I love.
As a traveler at heart, no matter where I go, my list of things to do and see is always longer than my stay. The Tom Waits song, “Take The Long Way Home,” comes to mind when I visit a new (or “old” new) place. And from afar, Charleston feels like a place where you can (should) get sidetracked, get lost, and then slowly find your way back home. The city is leading the game when it comes to delicious food (think Sean Brock, whose last meal on earth would be a sous vide roast chicken, Mike Latta, or Craig Diehl) and cocktails, like our favorite, Brooks Reitz of Jack Rudy. Our friends (and partners in cotton), Billy Reid, have a store there. All in all, it seems a deliciously sinful place to settle into for a week. I know I will never check off my entire to-do list, but perhaps Maggie and I will make it out to Bowen’s Island and spend an afternoon at the Halsey Museum.
Cows were born to roam and graze. Hogs were born to root and wallow. Chickens were born to scratch and peck. According to Will Harris and White Oak Pastures, these are the natural behaviors of animals, making them commonsense tenets of how to raise healthy livestock. “Nature abhors a monoculture,” is one of Will’s favorite sayings.
Five generations of Harrises have farmed a tract of land in Georgia that now raises livestock using traditional, multi-species grazing rotation, no hormones and no antibiotics. But, business was not always done this way. Post WWII, the Harris family farm moved away from the traditional ways of doing things and began raising livestock using more chemicals and fertilizers and blending into the industrialized complex of food production. In the mid-90’s, Will Harris, the current head of White Oak Pastures, made what some called a foolish decision to bring the family farm full circle: moving back to the traditional ways of natural grazing, healthy animals, and respectful butchering.
Two weekends ago, we participated in the inaugural Southern Makers event in Montgomery, Alabama. The one-day affair, curated and created over the last year by Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Matter, and E.A.T. South, celebrated Alabama-based makers and designers who focus on producing and transforming modern sustainable products derived from local traditions in architecture, food, fashion, and design. The afternoon included workshops, panel discussions, a maker bazaar, chef tasting booths, live bands, and a wealth of conversations that grew over coffee, delicious food, and locally brewed beer.
The Union Station Train Shed on the Alabama River offered the perfect venue for the 90+ artisans, artists, chefs, musicians, designers, and makers who convened for the day. The set, designed by Bell + Bragg and Southern Accents Architectural Antiques, had a distinctly Southern aesthetic, and was organized by region: Points North; Points Central; Points South. We shared a section of the train shed with friends Butch Anthony, Billy Reid, and artist Audwin McGee. Live bands, including Florence natives, The Pollies, occupied the stage that anchored the north end of the depot, set before the backdrop of windows, a wall of doors, and a constantly occupied swing that hung from the enormous roof.
Southern Makers is a one day event that celebrates creativity of all types in Alabama. Our state has a rich artisanal history in textiles, food, farming, literature, art and design. Southern Makers will explore Alabama-based food and design with panel discussions, artist talks, cooking demonstrations and tastings, workshops, and a Market Place Bazaar featuring wares and goods from talented southern artisans and chefs.
Panel discussion with Natalie Chanin and other participants on Transportation and Traditional Industries @ 6pm.
Alabama Chanin Two-Hour Workshop with Natalie + staff @ 2:30 pm.
$155 includes all materials to complete an Alabama Chanin DIY kit for the workshop only.
Register here for the Two-Hour Workshop.
*Event is open to the general public – $10 advance ticket/ $20 at the door. Additional fees for workshops, beer garden, and purchase of craft items.
**All proceeds from the event will benefit EAT South, a non-profit organization, committed to promoting sustainable growth through education, agriculture, and sustainable design.
This weekend marks the 15th year of the Doo-Nanny festival, simply called ‘Doo-Nanny’. The folk art festival has grown and evolved into a temporary community filled with creative expression that occupies Butch’s 80-acre farm once a year.
When Butch speaks of the history of Doo-Nanny, his story begins with a turnip root that was plowed up in his garden by friend John Henry Toney. The turnip “had a face in it,” so he drew a picture of it and sold in a nearby junk shop to a folk art collector. And so, in 1996, Doo-Nanny was born out of a roadside art show. Years later, the folk art festival merged with a “lo-fi” movie festival and is now complete with solar showers, an outdoor community kitchen, art vendors, and culminates with a burning effigy for the celebration on Saturday night.
Ready for art and making, campers, artists, musicians, and free spirits arrive here for fun, food, music, and experimental architecture. Children run free (but supervised). I’ve heard first-time attendees say nothing could have prepared them for the spectacle of the weekend; this year’s event is certain to be another good one.
Husband and wife team Lance and April Ledbetter are protecting the sounds of our past with their highly acclaimed label, Dust-to-Digital. Founded by Lance a little over a decade ago, Dust-to-Digital is home to a growing catalogue of important cultural works from the United States and around the globe. I’ve been viewing their line-up for a few years and am constantly impressed by the amount of material and depth each release includes. The types of recordings they release are unlike most on the market. It’s really audio conservation in its finest form. I was lucky enough to meet them both last fall during our trip to Atlanta, when we both attended the Lonnie Holly show at the High Museum. Afterward, they attended our event with the Gee’s Bend Quilters at Grocery on Home.
Within the first few minutes of their arrival at the event, I barraged them with questions: “Can we carry your work? Can we do a blog post? Would you want to trade?”
The answer came back, “Yes.”
All of us at Alabama Chanin are so proud and honored to be able to introduce and begin to explore the work of Dust-to-Digital and to sell these treasured collectors’ items on our website.
It’s no secret that we (heart) Heath Ceramics. And we are fortunate enough to have one HEATH collaboration under our belt (with a new design coming in May).
Our collaboration plates and dishes are a daily treasure in my home. My daughter sighs, “I want to eat on the star plate this morning.” “Star plate for a star student,” I reply.
HEATH was founded in 1948 by Edith Heath. “She was a talented ceramicist with a great respect for craft and material, and a strong point of view on the product that her company would make — simple, good things for good people.” Over 65 years later, the company is still dedicated to that same simple, functional (and beautiful) line of products.
My friends Cathy and Robin took over in 2003 and will soon be celebrating a decade at the helm of this company with an amazing history.
Dinnerware and tile are staple products under the Heath Ceramics name, but visit their website or store front and you will find an array of merchandise and collaborations in textiles, home accessories, glassware, and more.
I’ve heard Lubbock called the cotton capital of the United States, if not the world, by a handful of people in the industry. Flying into Lubbock, I saw farmland that continued as far as the eye could see. Once I landed, those fields became stretches of white that reached out to the horizon.
Today, thanks to Kelly Pepper and the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, I visit these fields first-hand, along with a cotton breeding facility and test nurseries. For the first time, I will meet some of the farmers who grow our organic cotton face-to-face.
I’ll have a glimpse of the hard work that (as we have learned first-hand) goes into cotton’s growth and development. I will walk through the entire process, from the field to the gins and the warehouses where it is cleaned and stored, before it travels east to the Carolinas to be spun, knit, dyed, and finally sent to our factory in Florence.
I will listen and watch and then take this information back to Alabama so we can improve our field for next year’s crop. (Yes. Next year.)
All of us at Alabama Chanin are so grateful to Kelly Pepper and the entire Texas cooperative for paving the way for the future of Alabama organic cotton.
My first sewing project was a “picture” of a flower that I made when I was about seven. I chose green and purple ribbon for the stem and petals, respectively, and a white button for the bloom’s center, which I attached to a square of quilted light blue Swiss dot fabric – aka the sky – with long, sloppy stitches.
It’s not a masterpiece by any means, with its loose stitches, unfinished edges. But precision is supposed to be beside the point when you’re a kid learning a new skill; the fun lies in the creative process, not necessarily the finished product.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had a rather hard time remembering this. I’m more than a little neurotic, and a bit obsessed with perfection, whatever that means. My natural inclination to create with abandon is at permanent odds with my OCD-driven desire for unsullied excellence, and it’s not always pleasant.
SFA moments in Oxford: Smoked dresses, BBQ, the talented John Currence, more BBQ, and our trunk show at Amelia’s at The Lyric Oxford. More to come…