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.
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.
Two years ago, Cathy Bailey and her son Jasper came to visit Maggie and me in The Shoals via train. It was Jasper’s spring break and they boarded the California Zephyr to Birmingham by way of Washington D.C., and traversed the entire country to spend time in North Alabama. Needless to say, Jasper and Maggie became fast friends, our collaboration with Heath Ceramics continued to grow, Cathy and I became even better friends, and the next year, they came again. In a few short days, Maggie and I will be taking the California Zephyr to San Francisco. We’ve come to call it “Jasper’s Trip,” since Jasper has given me (and Maggie) a renewed love for trains.
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.
Alabama on Alabama is a month-long journey to the soul of the Modern South, held in the Boiler Room and showroom at Heath in San Francisco. Refined, raw and radical, the Modern South connects place, people, process, and tradition in a way that cuts across geography and time. From July 24, 2015, the Boiler Room will exhibit the work of the widely acclaimed and celebrated textile artist, designer, and slow design pioneer Natalie Chanin. It will also include work by Butch Anthony, best known for his “intertwangled” paintings and creations using found objects and materials, and works on paper by outsider artist Mr. John Henry Toney. Alabama on Alabama will also feature the work of frequent Natalie Chanin collaborator and photographer Rinne Allen. Visit boilerroomsf.com to learn more.
Join us this Thursday evening, November 6th, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm in Austin, Texas, for a reception celebrating our Alabama Chanin pop-up shop inside the Billy Reid store at 1122 West 6th Street. The Austin store features our Heath + Alabama Chanin collaboration, Alabama Chanin Essentials, alongside our hand-dyed Indigo, books, and more.
For more information, contact: austin (at) billyreid.com, sales (at) alabamachanin.com, or call, +1.512.354.1884.
See you there,
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”.
Edith’s attempts to adapt her hand-thrown techniques using industrial production methods were met with controversy. She was told that machine-produced items didn’t qualify as “craft,” which prompted her to respond, “The machine doesn’t decide what the shape is going to be; a human being has to decide that… Just because you make it by hand doesn’t make it good, or a work of art.”
Alabama Chanin has a long-standing relationship with Heath Ceramics and we see their artisans as constant sources of inspiration. Their Los Angeles Studio Director, Adam Silverman, has compiled a volume of his beautiful, experimental pottery, called Adam Silverman Ceramics.
Heath Ceramics is celebrating 10 years of design by showcasing interpretations of time in the form of one-of-a-kind clocks designed by friends and collaborators. I was honored to design and contribute two clocks, featuring Alabama Chanin’s etched Camellia pattern. It’s really common in my family to hang plates on the wall, and I was inspired by this tradition. I remember all the plates on the walls at my grandmother’s house, and I have continued the practice by hanging Heath + Alabama Chanin plates on the wall in my own kitchen. It made perfect sense to design clocks that reflected that tradition. The Alabama Chanin clocks will be available at Heath’s Design in Time show this weekend, along with several other collaborations and interpretations. The show opens this Saturday, December 7 from 5:30pm – 8:30pm at both the San Francisco and Los Angeles showrooms. xoNatalie and all of us @ Alabama Chanin
Photos courtesy of Heath Ceramics.
In anticipation of tomorrow evening’s opening exhibit of our BBQ’ed Dresses Collection at Warehouse Row in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we mixed up a celebratory cocktail. Our friend Brooks Reitz of the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. sent us a few more bottles of his Small Batch Tonic for the event, and the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. is providing the booze, so we mixed the two together, plus a touch of lemonade for sweetness, and found ourselves in a dreamy barbeque state of mind.