Two weekends ago, we participated in the inaugural Southern Makers event in Montgomery, Alabama. The one-day affair, curated and created over the last year by Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood, Matter, and E.A.T. South, celebrated Alabama-based makers and designers who focus on producing and transforming modern sustainable products derived from local traditions in architecture, food, fashion, and design. The afternoon included workshops, panel discussions, a maker bazaar, chef tasting booths, live bands, and a wealth of conversations that grew over coffee, delicious food, and locally brewed beer.
The Union Station Train Shed on the Alabama River offered the perfect venue for the 90+ artisans, artists, chefs, musicians, designers, and makers who convened for the day. The set, designed by Bell + Bragg and Southern Accents Architectural Antiques, had a distinctly Southern aesthetic, and was organized by region: Points North; Points Central; Points South. We shared a section of the train shed with friends Butch Anthony, Billy Reid, and artist Audwin McGee. Live bands, including Florence natives, The Pollies, occupied the stage that anchored the north end of the depot, set before the backdrop of windows, a wall of doors, and a constantly occupied swing that hung from the enormous roof.
Chefs David Bancroft of Acre, Wesley True of True (both part of the Front Porch Revival, who spoiled us with an impressive menu last month during Barnstorm 2013), and Jim N’ Nick’s BBQ (who took good care of us last fall at our cotton picking party) provided tastes for Southern Makers attendees. Cheese maker Tasia Malakasis demonstrated how to make goat cheese from her Belle Chevre booth. We met the ladies behind Mama Mocha’s Coffee Emporium, an in-house roaster in Auburn, Alabama, where they brew each cup to order (the Whiskey Caramel Latte with an Evan Williams-brown sugar reduction was a favorite). We also met the guys behind Plenty Design Co-op, a Birmingham, Alabama design firm focused on modern, minimalist design principles (more on their beautiful pieces to come…).
It was a full day, beginning with a Two-Hour Sewing Workshop that overlapped an all-day busy booth, and concluded with a successful panel discussion on which Natalie spoke alongside makers Gina Locklear of Zkano socks, Eating Alabama filmmaker Andy Grace, Carol Griffin of Birmingham’s Continental Bakery (maker of our favorite wild yeast bread), Chris Blankenship of Alabama Gulf Seafood, and Carter McGuyer from Carter McGuyer Design, a Tuscumbia-based design firm, on the topic of renewing traditional, local industries to resonate in a modern world. The panel discussion was one of several conversations under the theme “Alabama: Past, Present, Future,” that addressed sustainability and preservation of materials and traditional practices across creative disciplines in Alabama.
The event was a great beginning to understanding the wealth that our own state-wide communities and makers possess, and an excellent event model for other states and communities to follow. This week we kick off MAKESHIFT 2013, on occasion of New York Design Week, where we look forward to hosting (and co-hosting) several conversations and events around the intersection and collaboration of industries like design, fashion, food, music, craft, and DIY. We will carry what we’ve learned and discovered about our own Alabama makers into our MAKESHIFT conversations, where we strive to expand our growing regional discussions into a global exchange.