Author Archives: Alabama

ALABAMA CHANIN – ROBERT THARSING: PARADISE

ROBERT THARSING: PARADISE

If you had only seen his most recent paintings, currently on view at Workshop (Christian Berst), you might assume that Robert Tharsing’s idea of paradise resembles a lush and colorful landscape full of palms, ferns, and the occasional volcano. In reality, the artist has contented himself with simpler pleasures: a decent sized room with access to woodworking tools and enough space to lay a large piece of canvas on the floor. Since 1971, Robert Tharsing has occupied a total of six studio spaces, most within walking distance of one another in downtown Lexington. These studios became the backdrop to his practice but also provided a retreat from the daily challenges and responsibilities of teaching at the University of Kentucky.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ROBERT THARSING: PARADISE
Robert Tharsing in studio, circa 1992

For this piece, Tharsing’s friends and family submited photographs of the artist in his studio. They span over forty years and show works in various stages of completion. From this small set of images, one can view the evolution of his work, but also identify the consistent forms, shapes, and colors that have dominated his practice. Hard-edged geometric forms clash against or lie over top of organic shapes, plants, and animals, often glowing in vibrant, nearly florescent hues.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ROBERT THARSING: PARADISE
Robert Tharsing with mobiles, 2002 by Suzanna Scott

ALABAMA CHANIN – ROBERT THARSING: PARADISERobert Tharsing in studio, 2007 by Lina Tharsing

ALABAMA CHANIN – ROBERT THARSING: PARADISE
Robert Tharsing starts a new painting, 2015 by Lina Tharsing

ALABAMA CHANIN – ROBERT THARSING: PARADISE
Rainforest Stream, oil on canvas, 40″x54″, Robert Tharsing

Paradise Interrupted, Tharsing’s current exhibition, presents a culmination of his techniques and aesthetics in a newly personal manner. The studio is present in these works—in references to lotus flowers and other plants from his courtyard garden—but so is the artist, grappling with years of exploration and engagement with his medium. These paintings, somewhat uncharacteristically, bear Tharsing’s reflections on personal circumstances: health, mortality, and the interference both have wrought upon body and mind. They combine places both real and imagined, the view from the studio window and from the mind’s eye.

ALABAMA CHANIN – ROBERT THARSING: PARADISE
Transitional Plant Pond Elements, oil on panel, 16″x23″, Robert Tharsing

ALABAMA CHANIN – ROBERT THARSING: PARADISE

–Phillip March Jones

All images Courtesy of Christian Berst Art Brut (New York/Paris) and Ann Tower Gallery.

Newsletter-#32

NEWSLETTER #32

Newsletter #32 includes updates on our Alabama on Alabama show at Heath Ceramics’ Boiler Room (extended until September 13th). Other announcements include a sneak peek of our upcoming Collection—and beer and wine service beginning this Friday at The Factory Café . The Café will feature a limited menu and close at 1:00pm this Thursday as we prepare for our Friends of the Café Dinner that evening.

Join our mailing list to receive our Newsletter each month and stay up-to-date on all the happenings at Alabama Chanin. Please note that you can update your mailing subscription at any time, and choose to opt in (or out of) certain mailings.

xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin

 

 

 

AROUND THE FACTORY: #ACSHIPPINGTEAMATWORK

AROUND THE FACTORY: #acshippingteamatwork

#aroundthefactory Thanks to all who are giving our Sample Sale items new homes. Our shipping team has been hard at work all week to get packages out the door and into your hands.

ALABAMA CHANIN – POSTCARDS FROM AMERICA

POSTCARDS FROM AMERICA

Dear Sissi,

You might not know this, but Maggie and I recently took a transcontinental (well, almost) train trip to my “Alabama on Alabama” show at Heath Ceramics in San Francisco. We stopped for a night in Chicago (which was wonderful) and when we boarded the California Zephyr, took our seats and started to move from the city, I felt my breath release and I said to Maggie, “I don’t think that I’ve ever been happier than this moment.”  There is something about sitting and watching the world go by that is good for the soul. On the trip, I thought a lot about the women and men who settled this country and how they must have felt watching this immense landscape roll by.

I wish that you were with us. I know that you would enjoy our lively conversation (and regular naps).

xoNatalie

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Dear Birgit,

I thought so much of you as we were traversing Nevada on our railway adventure. There is a spot where the rocks are red—and in some places pink. It’s a land that makes you think of John Wayne and the plethora of movie westerns that so defined film in America. I think that this might have been my favorite part of the trip. It’s a brief glimpse that makes you want to saddle a horse and find out what is at the end of each small cavern. It feels wild and I remember the time that we laid in a garden of roses staring at each star in the sky. I miss you.

xoNatalie

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Dear GramPerkins and Granddaddy,

You’re not alive anymore to read this but I’m going to write it anyway and mail it to our house. Maggie and I are on day two of our adventure across America and I can’t help but think of you and the postcard you once sent from the Painted Desert. I take out my phone to find out how far we are from that spot and see that we are about six hours as the crow flies. My imagination takes wing and goes there—or at least to the postcard that you sent. I miss you every day. I’ve taken lots of pictures—in homage to the slide shows you used to “present” to us after each one of your explorations. I wish that I had those slides now. If I did, I’d look for each crevice and corner of America that you saw.

Lots of love from this adventure (from Maggie too),

xoNatalie

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Dear Steven,

I’m sending this from somewhere in the middle of the “heartland.” It goes on and on and on… It’s the first time I really realized how BIG this beautiful country of ours becomes when you transverse it field by field, rock by rock, and tree by tree. Maggie and I have taught ourselves all the words to “America the Beautiful”—which we sing off-key and a little too loudly. I’m sure our neighbors are annoyed but we sing anyway. I would say that I miss the studio but I don’t really. But I do miss all of you… give my love to everyone.

xoNatalie

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Dear Olivia and Hope,

Thank you. Thank you for taking care of our new puppy, Rowdy. I hope that he is being a good boy. I’d say that we wish he was with us—but we don’t really. It’s been so lovely to sit with Maggie—just the two of us—and dream, and sing, and make origami, and just stare out the window. Train travel is just that, lots of staring, and all that gazing out the window does the soul good. We’ve settled into a schedule and I think that we might be sad to see this leg of our journey come to an end.

Thinking of you all—squeeze Rowdy,

xoNatalie and Maggie

P.S.: Maggie’s taught herself to knit!

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ALABAMA CHANIN – POSTCARDS FROM AMERICA

Dear Cathy, Robin, and Jasper,

We can’t begin to thank you enough for inspiring us to take the train to California. Your trips to Alabama each year seemed like a dream and now Maggie and I KNOW why you love them so.  It’s been such a beautiful journey—to you and back again. We can’t wait for the next time and the next adventure with you. Let’s plan that meeting in Texas—the Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle await! Thank you again for good food, good stories, and good company.

Until we meet again,

xoNatalie and Maggie

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If you’re thinking of train travel, here are a few tips we learned (and Cathy shared with us):

Join the Amtrak Guest Rewards program before you purchase your ticket (they have lots of promotions that you can take advantage of).

Make sure you pack only one suitcase and that it is small enough to fit under the Amtrak seat.

If you need more than one bag at your final destination, check it through and take only what you need on the train.

If you can afford it, get a bedroom. (You can get deals on day-of travel.)

Bring your own coffee (if you are partial to the stuff in the morning). I packed my vintage Krups espresso machine, a good thermos, and had fresh cappuccino every morning. I ordered milk each night for dinner and used it for my morning coffee.

Bring a good bottle of wine (if you are partial to the stuff in the evening). I like my white wine over ice, so it wasn’t an issue to keep it cool. Red wine works too.

A pillow from home and a good duvet go a long way on a long night.

Make friends with your attendant straight off—they know all the best stuff about every train and are incredibly helpful.

Healthy snacks aren’t really an option—stock up ahead of time.

A deck of cards is a great conversation starter.

Bring origami cranes to each meal. Everyone loves an origami crane.

Plan to get some fresh air at each stop, where it’s possible. A little skipping helps get the blood flowing.

If you do choose to get a bedroom, the showers are very small. There is a larger (shared) shower on the lower level. You may prefer this.

If you do shower in room, remove the toilet paper from the room. No matter how careful you are, it always gets wet.

Take a million pictures and share freely. Everyone loves the train and will love you for sharing.

Watch the sunrise from the back of the train at least once—set your alarm if necessary.

Don’t be in a hurry. Trains are often late and that’s just the way it is. Embrace the moment, relax, breathe, and enjoy.

Look for heart rocks and double rainbows. They seem to be common occurrences.

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P.S.: Plan an overnight stay in Chicago and (if your schedule allows) every stop along the way… you won’t regret it.

ALABAMA CHANIN – POSTCARDS FROM AMERICA

P.S.S: When you see a train track, listen for the whistle, heed the warnings, and don’t try to race the train across, or play on the tracks, or attempt anything silly or heroic. A train is a giant object, moving through space at a terrific speed, and an engine, as strong as it is, can’t stop the train quickly.

Be respectful. Be safe.

Side note to teenagers: You cannot camp inside a train tunnel in the Rocky Mountains.

(Yes, that happened. You’ll be glad to know that there were no injuries but the train was stopped for 1 1/2 hours while the local authorities removed them to a more appropriate campsite—causing us to miss our connecting train two days later.)

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Thanks for following along. Join us on Instagram for more pictures and adventures every day (or almost every day).

ALABAMA CHANIN - DIY TOTE + DESIGN

DIY TOTE + DESIGN

Those of you who frequent the Journal have read and learned about our Makeshift initiative—which is a series of events, talks, workshops, and gatherings that seek to get makers of different minds and from various fields in the same room together for discussion. As design and craft professions evolve, sometimes walls develop between the makers; those makers can develop tunnel vision, looking only straight ahead and not around at what others are doing. Makeshift gatherings encourage makers to find inspiration in one another—and create a place where disciplines can meet, find common ground, and explore some not-so-common ground. We have found that Makeshift events reawaken that curiosity and sense of community that some of us may have lost in the creative process.

As you have seen in our most recent Makeshift posts, we want to continue conversation between designers and makers of all disciplines, at all skill levels, with the intent of understanding making from as many points of view as possible. One of the most successful exercises we utilize throughout these events is the Makeshift canvas tote bag project; here we offer attendees a blank canvas, of sorts: an Alabama Chanin organic canvas tote bag, a variety of materials, and an invitation to express thoughts (literally or conceptually) on the bag.

ALABAMA CHANIN - DIY TOTE + DESIGN

This year, as part of the fourth year of Makeshift, we extend the invitation to participate to you. As part of The School of Making, we now offer the DIY Makeshift Design Tote Kit. Those that purchase the kit receive a blank organic cotton canvas tote, a 8.5″ x 11″ mylar stencil featuring our Bloomers placement design and the word ‘MAKE’, a spool of red Buttoncraft thread, a yarn ball in various shades of blue, assorted Millner needle, folding scissors with a jersey necktie, kraft embossed journal, Alabama Chanin pencil, and a Fine and Extra Fine Point Sharpie. However, we encourage you to use your imagination and incorporate your own materials into the design.

We also present to you the same challenge and ask the same questions that we ask of all Makeshift participants:

Everything we touch today has a global impact, which is only magnified by the Internet and ease of information exchange. Yet a long-time division and disconnect between each design industry still prevails over a quickly changing world, one in which innovation and collaboration define the future.

WHERE DO FASHION, FOOD, DESIGN, CRAFT, + DIY INTERSECT?

HOW DO WE DEFINE AND TRANSFORM THE INTERSECTION OF FASHION, FOOD, DESIGN, CRAFT, + DIY THROUGH INNOVATION AND COLLABORATION FOR THE BETTER GOOD?

Also—just as we ask of our Makeshift event attendees—once you are finished, we ask you to take a photo of your tote and email the images to us at studio@alabamachanin.com that we can add a selection to our Makeshift Image Quilt (see our photography guidelines below) where photographs of each bag create a piece, or square, published to a Tumblr page created specifically for the Makeshift Series. We’ve partnered with Tumblr to expand the voice of the Makeshift project globally.

We also ask you to join our conversation, by using #makeshift2015 and #theschoolofmaking across social media as you work on your project.

To purchase your DIY Makeshift Design Tote, visit our online store here.

P.S.: Here are a few photography guidelines.

Photograph the front and back. (There are, after all, two sides.)

Photograph the bag straight on. (Weird angles confuse us.)

If possible, use natural lighting. (It’s just the best.)

Keep the entire bag in the frame, but feel free to crop in as close as you can.

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INSPIRATION: RINNE ALLEN

Rinne Allen and Alabama Chanin first crossed paths almost a decade ago, when Rinne attended one of Natalie’s early “Alabama Adventure” weekends—which included picnics, short workshops, music and storytelling. (Those early weekends became what is now our annual company picnic + workshop weekend.) After that, it seemed that we began to cross paths more frequently—at Southern Foodways Alliance events, through friends, logically, working together became the most natural next step. Rinne has produced photography for the Alabama Studio Book Series, our collections, the website and Journal—and she perfectly captured the process of our Alabama Cotton collaboration with Billy Reid—including a beautiful piece for the New York Times online magazine.

Rinne currently lives and works in Athens, Georgia. One glance at her website shows her distinctive eye and diverse skill set. She can find and photograph a special moment in any environment and she seems to have an innate understanding of light. She also has a keenly developed understanding of natural elements. In fact, she and her husband Lee have spent the last 15 years maintaining the garden of Dr. John Linley, the late professor of landscape architecture at the University of Georgia.

ALABAMA CHANIN - INSPIRATION: RINNE ALLEN

For the last two decades, Rinne has worked as both a commercial and fine art photographer. In addition to Alabama Chanin, she also collaborates with Hable Construction, R. Wood Studio, and Selvedge Magazine. Her long-running series Harvest, documenting harvests across the south, is published regularly in T Magazine, The New York Times Style Magazine. She works regularly with artists and authors, notably with Hugh Acheson on his James Beard Award winning cookbook, A New Turn In the South. Her book, Citizen Farmers, made with farmer Daron Joffe, won the 2015 IACP award for Food Matters. Currently, Rinne—along with Kristen Back and Rebecca Wood—curates a beautiful website, Beauty Everyday. The accompanying book, Beauty Everyday, which highlights 365 beautiful photographs of the South, can be purchased in our online store.

She has created a unique, natural light drawing process that combines elements from her garden with alternative photo processing methods she learned in some of her early college photography classes. She and her mother gather clippings from the garden and place them on specially treated light sensitive photo paper and lay them in the sun. After a certain amount of exposure to sunlight, a cyanotype emerges. Each of these beautiful pieces is completely one of a kind. A selection of Rinne’s light drawings are now available through our website for a limited time.

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Rinne’s work has been featured alongside Alabama Chanin, Butch Anthony, and Mr. John Henry Toney, as part of the Alabama on Alabama exhibit at Heath Ceramics’ Boiler Room in San Francisco. This Sunday, August 16th at 3:00pm, she will present “A Harvest Talk” at The Boiler Room wherein she details the process behind the creation of the Harvest series. The event is free. For those unable to attend the event, we invite you to explore Rinne’s work in detail. Visit her website for just a glimpse of her talent.

P.S.: Check back often as we add more of Rinne’s light drawings to our website over the coming weeks.

UPDATED GRID

THE NEW LOOK

The Alabama Chanin Journal was unofficially launched back in 2006. In those early days, there was no editorial staff (or much staff at all). There was just Natalie and a couple of friends who pitched in here and there. The early blog posts had little in the way of structured format or consistent subject matter. There was no set schedule for posting, though we did like to post something at least once per month. Mostly, the posts focused on things Natalie found interesting: photography, books, cooking, recipes, and friends. We were trying to find new ways to express our creativity outside the bounds of traditional methods.

Initially, we were not sure if anyone even read what we were writing. But gradually, friends and followers began to email us or speak to us at events—mentioning things they’d read on our Journal. And so, we began to consider making our online Journal a true part of the Alabama Chanin way of life—and a reflection of our brand. Our Journal had become part of our authentic “voice”.

Over the years, we have been blessed with dozens of talented contributors and had the opportunity to address issues across all spectrums. For instance, we have reviewed hundreds of books, enjoyed a plethora of recipes, talked about personal moments in our individual lives, spoken passionately about our social and political beliefs, and shared with you some of who we are as individuals. Our somewhat disorganized publishing schedule was given a true format and structure. In addition to a schedule of weekly events and a Factory café menu, Journal readers can now look for weekly content under the categories of: Design + Fashion, The School of Making, Inspiration, In the Kitchen, and Travel + The Journey.

ALABAMA CHANIN - THE NEW LOOK

Our online Journal has helped the company to define our path and values and allowed us the opportunity to communicate those ideas to so many people. It has also been a way to keep in frequent contact with our followers. As the Journal grows, all of Alabama Chanin grows.

Our company’s mission statement includes being an active part of our community—and while this refers to The Shoals and the greater north Alabama region, we realize that we have a growing online community whose voice is as important. The relationships we build here mean just as much.

What was once a project that Natalie undertook during the hours she should have been sleeping has now become a point of company pride and company identity. The Journal now has a small staff that is overseen by Natalie, and we work together to write posts that stimulate our audience, challenge them, and encourage community building. As we launch this new, updated version of the Alabama Chanin Journal, let us know what you find inspiring by commenting and spread the word by sharing favorite posts in your own community.

ALABAMA CHANIN – AUGUST + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

AUGUST + SWATCH OF THE MONTH

The months of June and July were wonderful and hectic in lots of beautiful and fun ways. There was plenty of travel, including our trip to Blackberry Farm and the cross-country train trip that Maggie and I took to San Francisco. With August comes a welcome bit of calm, just before our house gets back into the more regimented groove of the school year. (I hear the collective sigh of, “Where did the summer go?”)

Even though they weren’t as fastidiously tended to as I would have liked, my tomato plants are still producing a few beauties. I’m savoring these all while questioning if I put up enough for the coming year and knowing that I didn’t.

But, if there’s some solace to be had it’s that peach season has arrived—and August is in fact National Peach Month. I’m going to dust off my favorite peach ginger smoothie recipe, throw some peaches on the grill, and hope that maybe Lisa Donovan will send over some of her famous peach hand pies. (A girl can hope.) For those in search of a perfect peach-related cocktail, The Peach Truck offers this recipe for Fresh Georgia Peach Bourbon.

Our Alabama on Alabama exhibit @ Heath Ceramics will continue through August 23rd, so you still have time to visit if you have not already.

August 3 – National Watermelon Day. I think we will slice one up on the back deck, pin on some napkin bibs, and get messy.

August 8 – I laughed out loud when I read that this day is known as “Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day”. Anyone who has ever been overly blessed with their zucchini and squash harvests knows exactly what this means…

August 9 – Wrapping up our Studio Style DIY Trunk Show at A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, California.

August 26 – Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granting women the right to vote. If you are not registered to vote, there is no better day than today. Find more information and register here.

August 27 – We’re happy to announce our upcoming Friends of the Café Dinner @ The Factory with chef Rob McDaniel. A fundraiser for the Southern Foodways Alliance and in celebration of the Billy Reid Shindig. Purchase tickets here.

Hopefully, you can find some downtime this month to work on the August Swatch of the Month—embroidery, appliqué, and reverse appliqué in our Small Polka Dot stencil.

For detailed instructions and photographs please consult Alabama Studio Sewing + Design. It has information on each technique and its variations.

Purchase a membership to 2015’s Swatch of the Month Club here.

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