If you’ve called or stopped by the studio lately, perhaps you’ve met one of our newest team members, Erin Stephenson. Erin has her hand in many pots here these days, doing everything from writing, to graphic design, to closely monitoring our organic cotton crops. Her ability to seamlessly handle multiple projects makes her an excellent fit here at Alabama Chanin – since all of us have to pitch in to keep the place running, frocks sewn, and fabrics shipped.
I met Erin at a lecture at nearby Athens State University. She’d recently returned to Athens, Alabama, from New York, where she was working after studying Architecture at Cooper Union. Erin says that, while she was living in New York, a friend attending school at the Fashion Institute of Technology showed her one of our books – and she was shocked and proud to find that the author was from her own community.
The lecture in Athens was on a rainy day, and while I believe many people stayed home because of the rain, at the last minute Erin decided to attend. Something about her story and personality urged me to invite her to an upcoming Weekend Workshop at The Factory. She took the workshop, was very quiet, watched, listened, learned, and we went our separate ways.
About the same time, without my knowing, Erin started a blog, just to keep a journal of things that she was interested in, things that she made and cooked, and general “life in the south.” She wanted to find a way to explore, rediscover, and document this place where she grew up. She took up sewing as a hobby, making many of our projects. She says it was very therapeutic and calming to stitch and make.
About a year after our meeting, and on December 31st, I got a Google alert on a blog that mentioned Alabama Chanin. It was a post that Erin wrote to recap the best parts of her year. The way that she wrote, the pictures she took, the way that she spoke about things, how she saw our home and community – these things inspired me to reach out to her. I was hoping that I might convince her to write freelance for our online journal. She agreed, but told me what she was REALLY interested in was a full-time position in the studio. I love that she put herself out there; she knew clearly what she wanted and she asked for it with grace and confidence.
Born and raised in the Athens/Elkmont, Alabama community, Erin went to boarding school at the Alabama School of Math and Science. She then moved to New York for college and moved back to Alabama in 2010. She speaks highly and lovingly about her parents, saying that her “mom is the sweetest, kindest person I know, and my dad can build, make, fix, and cook anything.” She proudly states that her father built their family home and cooks a homemade dinner almost every night of the week. She’s lucky enough to be able to have dinner with her family many nights each week – something we should all be so fortunate to do.
She, herself, loves to cook, and having a sweet tooth, is a keen baker. Erin is incredibly talented, organized and a great addition to our team. You will always find her taking photographs – of food, of nature, of beautiful things in her everyday life. She can often be found taking walks in the evenings and enjoying quiet time. She’s been learning about gardening from her boyfriend (our friend, Doc Dailey) and likes helping him, getting her hands a bit dirty. She says she can’t wait to harvest their Sugar Baby watermelons before summer’s end.
Erin loves that her job allows her to do so many different things – some that she never expected. “Never in my life would I have seen myself standing in the middle of a cotton field for work. It’s been an incredibly fulfilling experience,” she says. Her willingness to take on any and all tasks, her quiet but strong demeanor, and the occasional plate of fresh-baked cookies are quickly making her an invaluable part of our Alabama Chanin team. Erin Stephenson, part of the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin.