The Alabama Chanin, Heath Ceramics, and Boiler Room teams have been working together over the past few months in preparation for our show in San Francisco, which opens tomorrow evening. Needless to say, we are very excited. The show, Alabama on Alabama, is the fourth ever exhibition in Heath Ceramics’ new event space, the Boiler Room. Heath Ceramics opened the Boiler Room last year as a place of discovery, inspiration, and exploration—bringing together the unexpected, hard-to-define worlds of art, design, and craft. Those realms are explored through collections, shows, events, and pop-ups. We have to admit that ours fits the bill perfectly and are honored to be included.
Alabama on Alabama is a month-long journey into the soul of the modern South. Natalie’s work spearheads the exhibit, which also includes works by Butch Anthony, known for his ‘intertwangled” paintings and creations using found objects, and materials and works on paper by artist (and longtime Butch Anthony collaborator) Mr. John Henry Toney. Alabama on Alabama also showcases the work of our dear friend and photographer, Rinne Allen.
A few notes from the road:
We packed way too much. One suitcase and a favorite pillow would have done.
We haven’t taken nearly enough pictures to describe the magnificent journey this has been.
Snacks are good.
Rain from a train is very beautiful.
Tunnels can be a little dark and scary.
Origami makes people happy.
The absence of cell phone service and Wi-Fi can be a blessing.
There is a beautiful juxtaposition of rugged industrial and breathtaking scenery to be found along railroad tracks (and sometimes side-by-side).
Great satisfaction can be found in just sitting still.
xoNatalie and Maggie
Our first collaboration with Heath Ceramics, launched in 2011, has built a lasting, creatively symbiotic relationship. That joint development was a beautifully intensive design process that blended our techniques with theirs. Our Heath + Alabama Chanin line of dinnerware is made by hand, just like our Alabama Chanin handmade Collection. The artisans at Heath etch the designs into clay in much the same way that we embroider our garments. And just as our stitchers initial the garments they create, the Heath artists leave their marks on each of the finished products.
Over the last year, as we began experimenting with our indigo dye house, we became excited about the possibilities of this natural color and the richness and variations it creates. This excitement carried over into our ongoing conversations with Heath about expanding our collaboration. The new pieces build upon our previous work together and today we launch two new themes in our Alabama Chanin + Heath Ceramics collaboration: Indigo and Bird’s Nest.
Over the last five years, our work with Cathy Bailey and Robin Petravic has been some of the most productive, exciting, and meaningful work that we’ve had the opportunity to do. Robin and Cathy are husband and wife, parents to Jasper, writers of the new book, Tile Makes the Room, and the owners and operators of Heath Ceramics. Cathy was an early member of our Makeshift initiative and has participated in almost every major Makeshift event since its inception. Our ongoing collaboration with Heath is one of our proudest (and longest lasting) joint design ventures. And throughout the process, Cathy has become a trusted friend.
Prior to her work at Heath, Cathy founded One & Co., a design consultancy with clients like Microsoft, Palm, and Apple. (Prior to THAT, she worked as a footwear designer at Nike in Portland.) In 2004, she and Robin purchased and rehabilitated Heath Ceramics, founded by Edith Heath in 1948 and run by Edith and her family until Edith was in her 80s. When they made the purchase, both were searching for more satisfying outlets for designing and making—and found that at Heath, which required hands-on work to revive and preserve, while keeping the original design aesthetic intact.
It’s no secret that we at Alabama Chanin have long been admirers of Heath Ceramics—their work, their approach to responsible manufacturing, and their embrace of beautiful, sustainable design sets them apart from so many companies today. We have also been honored (and excited) to collaborate with them on several projects, including a line of dinnerware, the MAKESHIFT conversations, and most recently, two clocks designed to celebrate the 10 year ownership of the company by friends Cathy Bailey and Robin Petrovic.
Edith Heath originally founded Heath Ceramics in Sausalito, California, in 1948. She was an accomplished ceramist who cared deeply for the craft and believed in the importance of using quality materials. She grew up in rural Iowa during the Great Depression, which made her a natural conservator. In the late 1930s she worked with Bauhaus artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, which influenced her design aesthetic. Heath searched constantly to source the right materials and experimented for years to find the best techniques and glazes; she was once quoted as saying that she wanted to use clay that had “character” and “guts”.
This week we reach the three-year anniversary (and the 10,000-follower milestone) of our Instagram account. We’ve enjoyed the projects you’ve shared through #theschoolofmaking and the meals you’ve had at The Factory through #alabamachaninfactorycafe. Thanks for all of the ongoing conversations and for following along…
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This week, we take another look at the lives our clothes have led and the memories forever linked with them. For some reason, we associate memories with objects—or in this case, clothing. Every time I look inside, I think that my closet is, in a small way, some sort of prism through which I see the world.
Project Alabama Garment #17821
Built in September 2005
Pattern: A-359 Long Coat
Fabric: 100% organic medium-weight cotton jersey
Outer layer color: Sapphire
Backing layer color: Black
Beads: Black bugle and chop
Sequins: Gun Metal
Seams: Inside felled
Owner: Natalie Chanin
The Beaded Facets Coat was originally created for the Project Alabama Spring/Summer 2006 Collection, as you can see in the picture above left. It was presented in the first and only runway show we ever produced (thank you Gail Dizon, Jennifer Venditti, Lori Goldstein, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Ruby Jane, and to UPS—who sponsored the show). I just couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that show made the cover of Women’s Wear Daily the next morning. I had to look three times to realize that it was actually the cover and not from the interior of the magazine. There were eventually 14 of these coats produced in both the Amber and Sapphire colorways shown above for Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Jeffrey Atlanta, and a few special clients.
Indigo – electric, deep, light, or tropical
Indigo can be bright, violet-blue, midnight blue.
Electric indigo represents the sixth chakra—the Anja—that includes the third eye.
It is the color of intuition and self-awareness.
Today, the New Leaves stencil + layers of indigo of the Indigo Shell Top made me think of this:
A creation of Miya Ando: a representation of the bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico.
Phosphorescent leaves floating on a pond, lighting up the night with a dreamy, radiant blue glow.
More one-of-a-kind Indigo pieces have been added to our current Collection.
According to Wikipedia, supply chain is defined as “a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer.” At Alabama Chanin we strive to responsibly produce quality, sustainable products—at every level of the supply chain. We believe that responsibility means transparency and understanding where each material comes from and whose hands it touches before it arrives to the end consumer. For over a decade, we have worked tirelessly to secure a supply chain that is, as much as is humanly possible, Made in the USA.
With events like the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, consumers are asking questions about how and where their clothes are made. We’ve noticed an increase in emails, phone calls, and questions about our 100% organic cotton jersey fabric—and we welcome those questions. In response, we have compiled all the information here. Each time we take a closer look into our supply chain, we discover something new. This is the projected course of our supply chain in the best case scenario, which is often altered by Mother Nature. Unfortunately, there are always circumstances out of our control, so we share this information with that in mind. As of 2015, this is every step of the supply chain for our medium-weight cotton jersey—from Texas, to the Carolinas, to Alabama. Look for more posts on supply chain for threads, beads, and our other notions coming soon.
Once our garments are born and leave the nest, they have rich lives. At least that is what we hope—what we believe. We work hard to design and construct pieces that will last for many years and become heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. For owners of Alabama Chanin garments, it’s common that the garments are integrated into their lives for years and years. In celebration of this sentiment, we decided to highlight garments from our archives—and, where possible, to follow their journeys and see where they have landed.
My closet seemed the natural place to start, and so we begin with a very personal dress from my life:
Project Alabama Garment #5387
Built in August 2002
Pattern: A-67 Slip Dress (18 pattern pieces)
Stencil: 116 Star Flower
Fabric: Recycled T-shirts in shades of Navy
Seams: Outside Felled
Owner: Natalie Chanin