Tag Archives: Art



I’ve been carrying this book around with me for weeks—which is no small feat. In a bag that is already oversized and overloaded, a three-pound book is quite an addition.  But every time I take it out to leave on my home studio table, I reconsider, put it back in my bag and take it back to The Factory—and so begins the dance again of hauling it back home again. I’ve been thinking a lot about my own journals recently, which have become less beautiful over the years. What was once a place to draw and scribble, I now use to make lists of the things I need to do or document meetings. But there is the occasional drawing from Maggie or my granddaughter Stella, and findings from trips that include business cards and ephemera, alongside a few thank you notes. I want my journals to become a place of inspiration (again). I want to cut apart every book and every journal I’ve ever written or compiled and re-do them. I want to write and think and draw. I want to sit in Derek Jarman’s garden and doodle: http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/derek_jarman_garden_prospect_cottage_dungeness

Derek Jarman was an English filmmaker, stage designer, artist, author, diarist, and talented gardener. He created eleven feature films, most notably Sebastiane, Jubilee, The Tempest, and Caravaggio. As a director, he cultivated close working relationships with artists like Tilda Swinton and Dame Judi Dench—and even convinced Sir Lawrence Olivier to come out of retirement for what would be his last performance. In addition to his presence on the film scene, he remained relevant in pop culture as part of the 1970s London social scene—directing music videos for Marianne Faithfull, The Smiths, and the Pet Shop Boys.

Jarman was prolific as a painter and a well-known and respected set designer for stage and film—notably for director Ken Russell. He was an outspoken and early advocate for gay rights and AIDS awareness until his death in 1994 from an AIDS-related illness. Jarman was perhaps one of the most well rounded artists of his era; he wrote memoirs, poetry, and social criticism. He also cultivated beautiful highly regarded, postmodern-style gardens, including his home at Prospect Cottage, Dungeness in Kent. On all fronts, he rejected straightforward, modernist visions or design theories. Of his gardens, he said, “Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradises. Mine is one of them. Others are like bad children, spoilt by their parents, over-watered and covered with noxious chemicals.”

Friend and muse Tilda Swinton wrote hauntingly of Jarman:

This is what I miss, now that there are no more Derek Jarman films: the mess, the cant, the poetry, Simon Fisher Turner’s music, the real faces, the intellectualism, the bad-temperedness, the good-temperedness, the cheek, the standards, the anarchy, the romanticism, the classicism, the activism, the glee, the bumptiousness, the resistance, the wit, the fight, the colours, the grace, the passion, the beauty.







Rinne’s Light Drawings remind me of leaves floating on the surface of still water, in shades of blue and indigo. And we’ve just added more of her ethereal drawings to our online selection. View them alongside our special collection, which will only be available for a few more weeks online and at Heath Ceramics’ Boiler Room in San Francisco (until September 13th). Or stop by The Factory Store in Florence, where they are on display and available for purchase. Call us with any questions: +1.256.760.1090


the bright nights just at summer’s end, when you wanted to make each day and each night last forever
secretly swimming and laughing and trying to will the autumn never to return
innocence remembered and clung to, as not to lose it completely

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
The photograph on the dashboard taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every streetlight reveals the picture in reverse.
Still, it’s so much clearer.

I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge;
the moon is low tonight.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.
I’m not sure all these people understand.
It’s not like years ago—
the fear of getting caught,
of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away,
replaced by everyday.

Nightswimming, remembering that night.
September’s coming soon.
I’m pining for the moon.
And what if there were two,
side by side in orbit
around the fairest sun?

That bright, tight forever drum
could not describe nightswimming.
You, I thought I knew you.
You I cannot judge.
You, I thought you knew me,
this one laughing quietly underneath my breath.

The photograph reflects,
every streetlight a reminder.
Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.

R.E.M., Nightswimming



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.

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.

Robert Tharsing with mobiles, 2002 by Suzanna Scott

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

Robert Tharsing starts a new painting, 2015 by Lina Tharsing

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.

Transitional Plant Pond Elements, oil on panel, 16″x23″, Robert Tharsing


–Phillip March Jones

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

light drawings_rinne allen-201507099299


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.


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.



Last fall, as an extension of our Makeshift initiative, we began a new series of events and conversations called On Design. The series explores art, design, makers, relationships, and the elevation of craft. Our conversation in January explored William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement. Here are some of Natalie’s thoughts from the presentation. Feel free to share your own thoughts and join the conversation.

From Natalie:

When I started the company that Alabama Chanin has become today, I had a vision for what I wanted to accomplish. At the time, I wouldn’t have identified that vision as a business model—but as the company expanded, I understood that I wanted to design and grow the business in a sustainable way. In a world of fast fashion, mass production, and machines, I wanted to design slowly and thoughtfully. I also wanted to promote skills that seemed to be vanishing, particularly hand-sewing skills—like those used by quilters.


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In April, I traveled to Chicago to lecture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While there, I spent some time at the Art Institute and found great inspiration from the works displayed in their galleries. (For someone who has been considering scale and texture quite a bit lately, Elena Manferdini’s exhibition gave me plenty to think about.)

I immediately felt connected to one of the Georgia O’Keeffe paintings, which took me back to 2012 when Alabama Chanin hosted a Weekend Away Workshop in Taos, New Mexico. The workshop was held at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, and I slept in the very room that Georgia O’ Keeffe stayed in some 60 years ago.


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Last July, we explored Alabama’s fashion design history and, in our studio conversations about that post, we started asking one another about other designers that have emerged from the South. Dana Buchman, Pat Kerr, Johnny Talbot, and Wes Gordon all hail from states neighboring our own. When searching my brain for designers from Mississippi, the first that came to mind was Patrick Kelly.

Patrick stands out so significantly in my memory because he emerged as a designer of note in the 1980s and during my time in design school. He is, in many ways, a designer with sensibilities completely different from my own; he created body conscious garments with flamboyant embellishments. In other respects, we have a certain kinship, as he found ways to repurpose and recycle clothing into new garments. He also found inspiration in his community and neighbors, once telling People Magazine, “At the black Baptist church on Sunday, the ladies are just as fierce as the ladies at the Yves Saint Laurent haute couture shows.”


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I took the pieces you threw away, and put them together night and day, washed by rain, dried by sun, a million pieces all in one.

-Howard Finster, “Poem for the Garden”

Howard Finster, a Southern Baptist minister and self-proclaimed “man of visions” moved to Pennville, Georgia in 1961, having purchased four acres of land that was mostly swamp. After draining the land with a series of homemade canals and channels, he began building the Plant Farm Museum, a biblical roadside attraction that would house “all the wonders of God’s creation.” Finster’s modern-day Garden of Eden was covered in biblical verses, paintings, and sculptures of the artist’s own design and punctuated by a series of structures including the Bible House, Mirror House, Hubcap Tower, Bicycle Tower, and a Folk Art Chapel which was five stories tall and built without plans or the aid of an architect.

In 1965, Howard Finster retired from preaching and increasingly dedicated himself to the Plant Farm Museum and his burgeoning career as a visual artist.

Ten years later, Finster’s elaborate environment was featured in Esquire magazine and renamed Paradise Garden. The garden has changed greatly over the years, and many of its original works have been acquired by collectors and museums. Few images of the garden in its original state exist.

Fortunately, one anonymous visitor to the garden in the mid-1970s held onto his or her pictures, and we are able to experience the garden at the height of its beauty – intact and un-plundered.

–Phillip March Jones

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Agatha Whitechapel


For many of us who call ourselves “mother”, there are two types of children in our lives: those that are born to us and those that come into our lives and become “ours” for life. For me, this was the case with Agatha Whitechapel, daughter of my dear friend (who I commonly refer to as, simply, “Whitechapel.”) I think of her as a version of her collages, fully realized – a lifelike composition of images pasted together to create a portrait. Adopted daughter to me; young girl grown up; mother of Elijah; photographer; and, finally, friend. Agatha cut her teeth in Europe of the 1990s, traversing between London and Vienna. Agatha’s school was the keen eye of her mother, music video film-sets, and the world of skateboards. When I met her, she was a 12-year-old girl, fascinated with hearing and telling elaborate stories. According to Agatha, she has taken her “childhood obsessions with fantasy and storytelling and turned them into visual explosions with as much colour, pop and pomp” as she can possibly fit into one picture.

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Where does inspiration come from? Do ideas spring from a single stimulus? Or are they generated by a creative environment fostered over time? Of course, we know the answer is both – and many more sources.

My daughter, Maggie, is obsessed with Minecraft, which (if you don’t already know) is an open-ended game that relies upon the player’s creativity to build her own world and solve problems along her journey. The game’s virtual world is made of cubes of materials – grass, dirt, sand, bricks, lava, and many others. Players survive and earn accomplishments by using these blocks to create other materials, structures, and any three-dimensional form.

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