Two of my favorite American, craft based companies have collaborated and the outcome could not be more perfect.
Alabama Chanin is a handmade clothing label founded by Natalie Chanin in Florence, Alabama. They are known for their unique, hand stitched pieces with intricate patterns using traditional stitching techniques of the South. All of their pieces are made by local, home-working artisans and signed by them.
Heath Ceramics, a modernist ceramics factory located in Sausalito, CA was founded by ceramicist Edith Heath and has been around since 1948. Built on depression-era values, Heath was founded on the ethos of simple, good things for good people.
Natalie Chanin designed a line of ceramics for Heath and I am in love. There is a great video on the Heath website that shows a bit of the process.
I met the beautiful Kirsten Muenster a couple years ago when I was living in San Francisco and I liked her immediately. As I was early on in my business, it was so good to meet another designer who I had so much in common with. She is just as dedicated to sustainability in her work as I am and is so great to share ideas with. We run our businesses very similarly. Most of our work is one-of-kind and made in-house, with a few things being locally outsourced.
Kirsten is a metalsmith and artist who crafts breathtakingly beautiful jewelry from the most interesting and sustainable sources possible. She is always on the lookout for strange and incredible materials to incorporate into her pieces. Petrified woods, fossilized tusks and bones are only a few examples of the types of materials she uses for her “stones”. She only uses recycled metals and knows the history behind every material she incorporates into her pieces.
Kirsten’s most recent work is a collection of incredibly intricate hand crafted chains (above photos). She hand forms each and every link of these necklaces and bracelets, creating incredibly beautiful patterns that remind me of knitting. Each one is hand coiled, hand cut and shaped into place to create a very strong pattern of links – the ends line up seamlessly because they are cut by hand – so they actually have a very clean appearance. I can’t even imagine the tedious amount of work that goes into each piece.
I can’t believe it has taken me this long to write about Jenny Gordy. Jenny & I shared a studio (along with Jennifer of Odette) for a year and she makes the most beautiful handmade clothes. Looking at her pieces and how well crafted and designed they are seriously puts the majority of store-bought clothes to shame. Rather than create a line of 25 pieces and hope one sticks, Jenny makes very few, but those few are reworked to perfection – and they sell out quickly. Jenny is meticulous in everything she does. She and her husband recently left Brooklyn to move to Iowa and I wondered how it would affect her business and inspiration being away from so many of her colleagues and the energy that NYC generates, but it is clearly working for her. It seems leaving the distractions of the city has really allowed her to focus and her work is better than ever. She has even opened up her very own curated shop of some of her favorite products.
Check out her beautiful new shop.
Next Friday, Earth Day, April 22, 2011 from 6pm to 9pm, I will be participating in a really interesting event at the Textile Art Center in Brooklyn. This event, curated by environmental fiber artist and writer, Abigail Doan, will feature a collection of NYC’s most amazing designers and artists whose work is based on a respect for the planet and is ethical to the core.
Invited artists and local sustainable fashion designers will showcase their fiber, textile, and green design initiatives, as well as offering activities related to slow fashion strategies and environmental outreach. Visitors will be able participate in on-site activities and share in a dynamic community dialogue for Earth Day 2011.
Give away gifts for the event will include five copies of natural dye expert and slow fashion advocate Sasha Duerr’s book, The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes. There will also be organic treats and chilled refreshments from local sponsors.
Artists and Designers include:
Susan Benarcik: Known for her dramatic sculptures and environmental installation projects crafted out of recycled and nature-based materials, Susan will share her resourceful and innovative methods for creating organically inspired textile and surface designs.
Meiling Chen: One of the pioneering sustainable fashion designers on the New York Fashion scene, ‘Fearless Dreamer’ Meiling will share new meditations on fashion with her latest handmade creations that are embedded with intimate messages and poetic musings crafted out of fabric and thread.
Abigail Doan and Ceca Georgieva: Environmental fiber artist and writer, Abigail Doan, currently divides her time between the U.S. and Europe, and while living in Sofia, Bulgaria, met the textile artist, Ceca Georgieva. Both share a passion for traditional costumes and fiber as well as green strategies in art making. Abigail’s recycled fiber forms and Ceca’s vegetation based accessories invite conversations on domestic crafting and ideas about fashioning self.
Daria Dorosh of Fashion Lab in Process: An award-winning multimedia artist and researcher in field of art, fashion, and technology, Daria will share work created in the area of programmed knits with the assistance of John Kiehl and Jose Marinez. The team will demonstrate “why pattern is a rich language between fashion, science, and technology.” Knit samples from Stoll, NFC (near field communication) tagging technology, sonification of textiles, and algorithmic patterns for textile design will all be discussed.
Xing-Zhen Chung-Hilyard and Melissa Kirgan of Eko-Lab: Currently in residence at Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Pratt Design Center For Sustainable Innovation, Xing-Zhen and Melissa are shining examples of why hand-crafted, locally-made fashion is both fashion-forward and vital to community livelihood. As veterans of NYFW’s The GreenShows and collaborators with artists such as Jennifer Wen Ma, the duo will share a bit of what constitutes the ‘lab in eko’.
Titania Inglis: A Brooklyn-based fashion designer with a devoted international following, Titania is one of the most thoughtful and talented designers on the sustainable fashion scene. Her methods demonstrate state-of-the art experimental design concepts and a production strategy geared to minimize waste and needless consumption. Titania will share designs from her latest collection as well as examples of zero-waste patterning and a-to-z draping.
Anjelika Krishna of a.d.o clothing: A native of New Delhi, India, now based in New York, Anjelika founded ‘anjelika dreams organic’ or ‘a.d.o’ as a true expression of her commitment to sustainable practice as well as traditional Indian culture. Her collections incorporate carefully selected organic textiles and Ayur-vastra (Indian natural herb dye). Anjelika will share her extensive knowledge of ayurvedic dyes and natural plant materials
Rachel Miller: As a sculptor, educator, and sustainable textile expert, Rachel bridges a variety of disciplines to tell a story that is rich in texture, pattern, and ecological awareness. Her work focuses on environmental patterns and how they interconnect with our own patterns of growth, departure, and ongoing rejuvenation. As an expression of ‘fashioning self and the environment’, Rachel will share videos from of her performance work as well as organic sculpture.
Eve Mosher and Renata Mann: Environmental artist Eve Mosher and fiber installation artist Renata Mann have teamed up to debut (Intra)structures for Earth Day 2011. This amazing new collaboration features a ‘textile based plant growth system utilizing and embracing existing architecture in the city as well as the architecture of our lives.’ Seeding the City will also be shared with visitors.
Zoe Sheehan Saldana: Conceptual sculptor Zoe Sheehan Saldana uses everyday materials to create a dialogue regarding our habits of consumption, adornment practices, and definitions of functionality. She will present her milkweed-filled ‘Life Jackets’ and also show guests how to make DIY flotation belts as an example of the crossover between contemporary textiles and environmental adaptation.
Shannon South of reMade USA: Designer Shannon South has created a chic design company that upcycles used materials to make one-of-a-kind bags and home accessories. Designing desirable objects out of discarded materials and diverting waste from landfills is reMade USA’s vision. As a new resident at Brooklyn Navy Yard’s Pratt Design Center For Sustainable Innovation, reMade USA is a stellar example of why locally made is key to sustainability. Join Shannon as she shares sewing projects for leather recycling and DIY design.
Tara St. James of Study NY and Andria Crescioni with Awamaki Lab: Ecco Domani award-winner Tara St. James of Study NY has teamed up with the Peruvian non-profit textile artisan initiative Awamaki Lab to create one-of-a-kind wovens that bring the strands of sustainable storytelling together. “Awamaki is working with indigenous Quechua women weavers to improve their skills and increase their access to market, thereby revitalizing an endangered weaving tradition while affording Quechua women a reliable source of income.
Edina Tokodi of Mosstika: Brooklyn-based Hungarian artist Edina Tokodi has received international recognition for her moss graphics and greening strategies in urban spaces. Part whimsical, part subversive, and always a surprise in terms of bold placement, Mosstika’s interventions encourage us to think outside the box in terms of greening our vistas and pathways.
Tali Weinberg: Brooklyn-based artist and activist Tali Weinberg creates installations and outreach projects informed by her work in human rights and fair trade advocacy, community organizing, and grassroots development. She is a current artist in residence at the Textile Arts Center, where she is helping to establish their new natural plant dye project in a shared community garden.
For further information, please contact Abigail Doan, artist and curator for ‘Fashioning Self and the Environment’, via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please rsvp to the Textile Arts Center at email@example.com
The Textile Arts Center is located at 505 Carroll Street, Brooklyn, New York
See travel directions here: http://www.textileartscenter.com/hours_directions
I recently took a trip to Buffalo, NY for my Great Aunt Alice’s 100th birthday. She’s incredible, still living in her own home, making her own meals, cleaning, gardening, grocery shopping, mending, even coming up with little inventions to help her deal with the physical annoyances of aging. She’s always been like a third grandma to me and I’m convinced that it was her influence on me as I was growing up that fostered a love of design and making. My mom organized a lovely surprise birthday brunch at the Roycroft Inn, in the town of East Aurora, where Alice was born on her family farm. I’d been there before, when I was much younger, but never fully appreciated the history or philosophy of the Roycrofters until now.
Basically, Roycroft was a handicraft community, filled with makers of hand-bound books, Mission-style furniture, lamps, metal-ware of black iron, copper and bronze, as well as glass, ceramics and leather. Formed in 1895, it was based on the Medieval Guild system adapted by William Morris & John Ruskin of the English Arts & Crafts Movement in response to the industrial revolution. The Roycroft Campus was a self-contained community, supporting hundreds of craftspeople that became the mecca for those interested in the Arts and Crafts movement.
I love the philosophy behind it and I certainly see a connection to the handmade community of today. Mass produced items lack soul and human connection. I personally need to make things. I get depressed if I never leave the computer. In a way, reMade USA is my response to over stimulation in a digital world. I love the process of making by hand and with heart. I need the balance of being able to slow down and focus on one task.
One beautiful feature at the Roycroft Inn is the quotes you see, surrounding you, carved into doors, on rafters, on walls by founder and philosopher, Elbert Hubbard.
I’ve been collecting vintage crochet doilies for several months, with plans to make this pendant lamp. Finally, now that the holidays are over and things have slowed down a bit, I took the time to make my first prototype. There are a few things I need to work out, but overall I am very pleased with how it turned out. The shadows that it creates on the ceiling and walls are just gorgeous. If all goes well, I’ll add it to my home line. Please email me if you’d like to be notified when it is available.
P.S. Some people have expressed concern over the severity of the shadows. That can easily be controlled with a dimmer, a lower watt bulb, or other lights in the room. For my photos I wanted to show the extreme, so I took the photo at night with that being the only light on in the room. I think the shadows are really beautiful and they really only are that intense on the ceiling/upper walls. Not very distracting.
P.P.S. There seem to be many blogs doing DIY tutorials using wallpaper paste, fabric stiffener, or PVA glue. I would not advise using it for such a large structure, as it will probably collapse. I am still working on prototypes using industrial glues, not found in craft stores and will post it once I have perfected the process.
Yesterday, I stopped by The Future Perfect on Great Jones Street to see the wonderful world of Donna Wilson, winner of the 2010 British Designer of the Year award. Ms.Wilson creates the most wonderful knitted creatures, as well as textiles, hats, scarves, ceramics, pillows, and furniture. It was all so lovely and the kind of work that brings a smile to your face and just makes you happy.
I never expected it would happen to me, but I think spending so much time with Jenny has started to rub of on me. For the first time ever, I want to knit things. Jenny had a few of us over her apartment last night for craft night. Four of us were knitting and Jennifer S. was doing needlepoint. With the help of Jenny’s talented intern, Lissa, I started my first project – a chunky, multi-colored, multi-textured scarf that I am super excited about. I picked it up pretty easily and I must say, I really enjoyed it. It’s so relaxing and meditative. Like a great book, I’m anxious to see the results, but don’t know that I want it to end. I’ll post the final piece whenever I finish it.