Iona Gonsalves moved to Savannah, Georgia, from India in 2008 to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees with a focus on textiles. She relocated to Florence last year to begin her work at Alabama Chanin and her life here in Florence. She is learning about what our region has to offer by planning a new adventure each weekend. Tours at the Jesse Owens Museum and Forks of Cypress are next on her list. She always has a camera in tow to document the places she visits and things she observes. She says everything gets documented, a process influenced by her time at SCAD. Iona works on her own creative projects in her free time like watercolor paintings, which was a focus during her schooling. Her varied skillset has allowed her to move through our different production departments. Iona works in Bldg. 14, the cutting department, and has flourished in stenciling. She is also weaving on our loom—a zero waste project in the early stages of development that utilizes our fabric scraps. If your Alabama Chanin product has IG on the label, it was made by Iona. Learn more about her below.
AC: What do you enjoy most about your job at Alabama Chanin? Has your role changed since you started?
IG: I very much enjoy the process of working with my hands. It’s the journey of the piece and the many hands that it goes through that fascinates me. The final piece is a celebration of the people who make it. I am lucky to be a part of the process. My role has evolved since I started, and I do enjoy the cross-training work process as it gives me something different to work on every day.
AC: What drew you to working at Alabama Chanin?
IG: I was fortunate to meet Natalie as a graduate student and hear her talk about her work and about the company, design, sustainability, and the slow movement. I had an amazing experience after being invited to attend the workshop and visiting the company in 2009. Eventually, after graduating, when I was ready personally and mentally I pursued an opening with the company.
AC: What is the one thing you are most proud of creating in your personal life?
IG: I always have this internal struggle between wanting nothing and wanting the finest things. Right now, I am very happy finding my balance and contentment with a simplified, minimalist, and earthy lifestyle.
AC: What is your favorite thing to make (or favorite part of the making process) at Alabama Chanin?
IG: I work in different areas as part the making process. For me, it’s always been about the journey and process that leads to the finished products. Currently, I have been working a lot with stenciling. Having worked with block, screen, and digital printing in the past, I have a different perspective in understanding repeat and pattern while also following company standards.
AC: What is your first sewing or making memory?
IG: My first and best memory was when my aunt decided to teach me to sew when I was in primary school. She let me use her Singer sewing machine, and we made handkerchiefs to match my school uniform. I cut and hand stitched the squares before machine sewing them and embroidering a flower at the corner. And if I did this well, I could make handkerchiefs for the whole family. I felt I was on top of the world.