In the northwest corner of Alabama it sometimes feels like we are in our own little world (or, perhaps, just in our own little state of mind); we have our own way of doing things. This area boasts a beautiful terrain, unpredictable weather, its own unique musical sound, white barbecue sauce, and, of course, chicken stew. But, even as we boast about our unique quirks, claims to fame, and attributes, it must be said that other areas of Alabama certainly have special qualities and points of view, different from our own. Though each region or county or city has its own distinct flavor, we share in a creative spirit that can be found anywhere in the state. (Visit the Southern Makers gathering for verifiable proof of what Alabama has to offer artistically.)
Over the years, I’ve managed to amass quite a library of design, photography, and art books alongside my treasured cookbooks, novels, and random printed matter that continues to inspire. The shelf that Sara first organized has become four packed-to-the-top rolling shelves that now inspire an entire company. We were recently discussing the best way to archive these books that we can continue to loan them out—but also keep the collection intact, when it occurred to me that libraries all over the world have already invented pretty intricate systems for organizing books. Why reinvent the wheel – or, in this case, the card catalog…
As I began to read more on library classifications, I discovered there are two systems that seem to be most frequently employed by libraries: the Dewey Decimal Classification and the Library of Congress system. Both systems allow books to be classified in very specific, detailed ways. They just approach their systems of organization a little differently.
The Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) is a library classification system created by Melvil Dewey in the late 1800s. What made the Dewey Classification unique was the introduction of the idea that books should be grouped together based on subject matter. The decimal system structure allows us to drill down deeper into a subject matter, making room for more and more specific and specialized book topics; the fractional decimals allow categorization into as much detail as necessary. Finding books – and returning them to their proper spot – became almost a science.
Before the Dewey system was widely adopted, many libraries used a fixed positioning system where books were placed on the shelf based on the book’s height and date of acquisition. Because early libraries were not always open to the public, “browsing” stacks wasn’t encouraged; only privileged patrons and employees looked at the shelves. The Dewey Decimal Classification ultimately made libraries more accessible to the public, because patrons were able to search for books on their own.
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.
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
Robert 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.
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.
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.
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.
July has been a busy month of preparing for (and then traveling to) the Boiler Room in San Francisco for the launch of our month-long show, Alabama on Alabama. Follow along on Instagram to keep up with our time there and mine and Maggie’s train ride back home.
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