Quite a few years ago, I loaded up the car with scissors, needles, and an array of other sewing supplies and took a trip with a group of friends and fellow stitchers to a women’s prison facility (at their invitation, of course). My friend Kyes had organized this meeting in the hopes of developing a program within our Alabama Prison system for training life and job skills. The scissors wound up staying in the car for security reasons, but the experience was life changing. The intent of the day was to show these women—on their way out of prison and back into the “real” world—how to hand stitch and work together. We wanted to help them see that they could make something beautiful with their own two hands and, at the same time, perhaps challenge all of our preconceived notions about our neighbors and the world at large. It’s fair to say that I walked away from that day and the experience a different person. At that point, I’d begun to realize that education was going to be an important element in the life of my company. I wanted to help others understand how essential “living arts” are—and what it would mean if we lost connection to those skills and our shared history.
Slowly, Alabama Chanin added stitching workshops to our traveling trunk shows. We scheduled intimate one-off events that were as much about storytelling as they were stitching (as Blair Hobbs famously exemplified with her “granny panties” story years ago). We were creating a community through making. It was happening. And so we committed to this enterprise of creating communities for makers, of building workshops both here at The Factory and across the globe. Alabama Chanin and our customers have become part of one another’s lives in ways I never imagined; we’ve made lifelong friends, helped create wedding gowns, hosted classrooms of college students, and traveled across the country. I’ve met some of my personal heroes through sharing ideas on making and sustainability.
Each success enabled us to become bolder. Weekend workshops begat Studio Weeks, which led to One-Day and Two-Hour Workshops and weeklong classes both at home and abroad. We even offer Individual Studio Days for those who want a personalized experience in The Factory. Our passion for the living arts has reached an audience that I never dreamed possible with online classes through Bluprint and Creativebug. Our larger dream of expanding education and embracing open-source learning continues through our Makeshift conversation and workshop series. Those initial goals of teaching and learning from one another have grown in ways that take my breath away.
At the center of all of this are the ideas of learning, sharing, and community. We learn from one another; we enrich each other’s lives. This year, with the addition of The Factory Store and Café, we’ve begun hosting daily tours and programmed a number of corporate retreats. In the coming weeks, we will be launching a new division of our company (and website) called The School of Making. The School of Making is simply a physical and online gathering place that centralizes all of our opportunities for growth, learning, DIY, and making.
With this expansion, we also launch group workshop rates. Book for 12 or more people and choose your own topic and date to work with us at The Factory. Groups with fewer than 12 participants may join our regularly scheduled workshop program and still enjoy the discounted rate. Rates apply to all of our in-studio workshops, including: Two-Hour, One Day, Studio Weekend, and Studio Week. We also offer special rates for Away Workshops; work with the Alabama Chanin team at the location of your choice.
Please contact workshops [at] alabamachanin.com to inquire about these discounted rates and dates. We are excited for all of the new things to come…stay tuned.