The Friends of the Café dinner series begins at The Factory in June 2014. Featuring award-winning chefs from around the country, these dinners, benefiting the Southern Foodways Alliance and a range of other organizations, bring guests and community together to explore food, storytelling, and sustainability around a common table of curated, multi-course meals with wine and cocktail pairings. An extensive lineup of award-winning chefs, farmers, and culinary and libation connoisseurs partner with Alabama Chanin to host the dinners and create meals made from local, regional, and sustainable farms. Many dinners feature other elements—book signings, music, and storytelling—with musical performances by John Paul White, Cedric Burnside, and others, as well as partnerships with organizations like the Oxford American and Southern Makers. The dinners are often documented by photographers Abraham Rowe and Rinne Allen and are a celebration of the Slow Food movement that has deeply inspired Alabama Chanin’s slow design mission.
Alabama 21 Year Celebration
John T. Edge is the founding director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, as well as an author and chronicler of the American South. Through the lens of food, John T. presents this region’s tumultuous social and agricultural past. Learning from this history, John T. charges Southerners with paving the way for a progressive, diverse, and honest future. John T. has long been a friend and collaborator through our Friends of the Café dinners, which benefit the Southern Foodways Alliance’s research and programs.
Gael Towey is a storyteller, director, and creative whose passion lies in the process. She is the founder of Gael Towey & Co., an organization that celebrates and explores the power, beauty, and enigmatic nature of creativity. Gael is the producer and director of Portraits in Creativity, a series of short-form documentaries that share and preserve artists’ stories—tales of bravery, inspiration, loss, strength, fear, and finding the spark. We are continually inspired by her curiosity of spirit, ingenuity, and thoughtful creative voice.
Through a design and manufacturing collaboration with designer Stella Ishii and her line 6397, Natalie and the Alabama Chanin design team create a series of upcycled, one-of-a-kind denim throws. 6397 supplies Alabama Chanin with denim overstock from production processes, samples, and test pieces which is cut apart, incorporated with some of 6397’s knitwear and Alabama Chanin’s own cotton jersey scraps, and stitched together to make throws. The finished throws are a nod toward upcyling and quilting traditions. Each throw is unique in color, in texture, and design. The collaboration with Stella and 6397 comes from the very heart of Alabama Chanin’s sustainable design and zero waste ideals.
In the summer of 2015, Natalie travels across the country, with her daughter Maggie, on the California Zephyr for “Alabama on Alabama, an exhibition at Heath Ceramics’ recently opened event space, the Boiler Room, located on Alabama Street in San Francisco. Alabama on Alabama is a month-long journey into the soul of the modern South. Natalie’s work spearheads the exhibit, which also includes works by Alabama-artists Butch Anthony, known for his “intertwangled” paintings and creations using threads and embroidery, and works on paper by artist (and longtime Butch Anthony collaborator) Mr. John Henry Toney. Alabama on Alabama also showcases the work of photographer, Rinne Allen.
In celebration of their new collaborative tableware, Natalie and Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics host a party at the Seale, Alabama home of Butch Anthony. The story includes Natalie’s children; Maggie Anthony-Chanin (then nine-years old) and Zach Chanin (then chef of The Factory Cafe). Makers, artists, friends, and chefs drive and fly many miles to be a part of the day. Bon Appétit features the gathering in their October 2015 issue. The story, entitled “Alabama Getaway,” is a 10-page spread complete with recipes, stories, and celebration.
In 2016, trend forecaster Li Edelkoort founds New York Textile Month, a festival and exhibition that repositions textiles, often overlooked as a means to an end, as central to modern design. New York Textile month celebrates these materials that are so deeply woven into our lives, their rich and diverse history, and encourages a dialogue around innovation in sustainable design. For the inaugural issue of NYTM’s Talking Textiles magazine, Natalie writes an essay entitled “Flags of Hope.”
Erin Reitz co-founds, with friend and designer Kerry Speake, a Charleston-based shop called The Commons selling responsibly produced, American-made goods for the home. In 2015, Erin and Kerry launch a partnership with STARworks, a non-profit from Star, North Carolina, that focuses on supporting the local economy through art and craft. Their collaboration produces a tableware line that includes hand-blown glassware and wheel-thrown ceramic pieces.
After Erin joins the Alabama Chanin design team in 2016, the relationship inspires a special collaboration between The Commons and Alabama Chanin, featuring hand-blown glassware that is color blocked with white glass at the base. When the pieces are made, it is unknown how the colors will react together until the process is complete. Each piece—the glass pitchers, large 16 ounce glasses, and smaller 8-ounce glasses—is unique and one-of-a-kind. The Shelter Collection at Alabama Chanin prides itself on American-made craftsmanship.
Brooks Reitz is the co-founder of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. and husband of Erin Reitz, Alabama Chanin’s Design Coordinator. Natalie first met Erin through Brooks, and the two have collaborated on Alabama Chanin collections since 2016.
Brooks created the “Backwoods Bourbon Punch” for a gathering that would be featured in Bon Appétit magazine’s October 2015 issue, hosted by Natalie and Cathy Bailey.
In 2016, Natalie is awarded a second Design Fellowship Award that is used to explore the creative process in artists and designers across disciplines.