Mary Celeste Beall + Blackberry Farm, 2021

Mary Celeste Beall + Blackberry Farm, 2021

Blackberry Farm publishes a conversation with Natalie in the The Radiate Issue, the third volume of Blackberry Magazine

Blackberry Farm is a luxury resort, quietly tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Acquired by the Beall family decades ago through a project to preserve, protect, and honor this land and its natural resources, the farm now spans 4,200 acres and is home to two resorts, Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain. 

Mary Celeste Beall is the proprietor of Blackberry Farm who, alongside her late husband Sam, pioneered the farmstead’s growth into an award-winning haven for its unmatched hospitality, renowned cuisine, experiential offerings, and natural beauty. 

Natalie first met Mary Celeste during a visit to Blackberry Farm in 2007, and developed a longstanding friendship and collaborative relationship through their passion for creating experiences that will be remembered for a lifetime.

The following conversation between Kimry Blackwelder and Mary Celeste took place via email on May 10th, 2021—Mary Celeste from her home at Blackberry Farm and Kimry in New York City. 

Kimry Blackwelder: What is your earliest memory of Natalie and/or Alabama Chanin? 

Mary Celeste Beall: I first met Natalie at Blackberry Farm. I honestly cannot tell you exactly what we were celebrating, but I knew immediately that she was the real deal. From the minute I met Natalie, I was captivated by her voice and her gentle but powerful presence. She is one of those magnetic people who are difficult to truly capture in a few sentences – she is graceful, insanely creative, and nurturing to the point that you just want to give her a huge hug, but she is also savvy, strong, independent, and not afraid to pave her own path. She is a champion for sustainability and her community, and underlying all of that is humility, integrity, and positivity.

KB: How do you think Alabama Chanin has impacted and/or influenced sustainability in the industry over the past 20 years?

MCB: I really admire Alabama Chanin’s commitment to sustainability. It’s been at the forefront of their brand since the beginning – after all, she started by making something fabulous out of existing t-shirts. It all starts with re-using, right? She has made sustainability authentic to their brand identity and ensures that their efforts really make a difference. I think their greatest influence comes from simply showing that it works. For 20 years they have created beautiful items, and run a successful business, without ever sacrificing their commitment to sustainability, showing other companies that there is a way to value their craft and support the environment while still growing their business. 

KB: Do you have a favorite Alabama Chanin piece, collection, or collaboration? If so, why does this stand out to you?

MCB: My coral-colored tank and skirt is a favorite for several reasons. The color and pattern are energetic and unique. I love that I can dress it up for a big event or throw it on with sandals for a more casual Summer evening. 

I have to say that I also absolutely LOVE our flag blanket – it is a family favorite. It is soft, meaningful, and makes me smile to see it in our family room. 

KB: Do you have any fond memories or experiences during which you recall wearing Alabama Chanin?

MCB: Honestly, wearing Alabama Chanin always feels great. I particularly enjoy wearing my long skirts when traveling, because they are comfortable on a long plane ride but so easy to wash and wear for the rest of my trip, dressing them up or down. 

KB: Can you describe your most memorable encounter or experience with the Alabama Chanin brand?

MCB: My most memorable encounter with Alabama Chanin is sewing a piece myself! My grandmother was a meticulous hobby seamstress herself, and my mother smocked our dresses as little girls. But I have never wanted to sew as precisely as they did. Learning Natalie’s techniques and approach to sewing during a workshop at Blackberry Farm was refreshing and empowering. She sets you up for success, and her pieces are forgiving, so that a few less-than-perfect stitches blend in and add character. Working on a piece is so meditative but productive—and can be positively addicting!

KB: What do you feel is Alabama Chanin’s most enduring quality? We want to know what comes to mind first and what resonates with you.

MCB: I would say singularity – not only are Natalie’s designs unique, they are crafted to last. Each piece feels special and individualized, and I guarantee people will ask where it’s from when you wear it. 

KB: As our industry evolves, what do you hope to see for the future? Where do you see Alabama Chanin in this vision?

MCB: I hope that more and more people embrace the value of buying less, supporting responsible farming, valuing sustainable materials and dyes, and re-using materials, not only for our environment but for the health of what we are putting on our bodies. 

KB: Finally, is there anything you’d like to say to Natalie or the Alabama Chanin team?

MCB: Congratulations on keeping the dream alive and pushing forward to the next 20 years! You all are an inspiration to so many, and it is a joy to cheer you on.

Learn more about Mary Celeste Beall and follow along @marycelestebf.

Learn more about Blackberry Farm and follow along @blackberryfarm.

Learn more about Blackberry Magazine here.

Read “Starts with a Stitch”, a conversation with Natalie for Blackberry Magazine’s Radiate issue here.

Slide 1: Mary Celeste Beall wearing pieces from Alabama Chanin’s Fall/Winter 2017 collection in her home at Blackberry Farm, photographed by Sarah Rau; “Starts with a Stitch”, a conversation with Natalie Chanin from Blackberry Magazine’s Radiate issue, 2021, photograph by Robert Rausch

Slides 2-3: “Starts with a Stitch”, a conversation with Natalie Chanin from Blackberry Magazine’s Radiate issue, 2021, photographs by Robert Rausch

Slide 4: Alabama Chanin Flag Quilt hanging at Blackberry Farm, photograph by Beall and Thomas Photography; Cover of the Blackberry Farm Farmstead Catalogue, 2016–2017, photograph by Abraham Rowe

Slide 5: Alabama Chanin indigo-dyed quilts featured in the Blackberry Farm Farmstead Catalogue, 2016–2017, photograph by Abraham Rowe

Slide 6: View of the Great Smoky Mountains from Blackberry Farm, photograph courtesy of Beall and Thomas Photography