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1 year ago

Alabama artisans choose favorite products by other makers for awesome local gift guide

Shadow Catchers works with about 15 artists and 40 art publishing companies. (Image: Mark Sandlin / Alabama NewsCenter)

 

Alabama is an internationally known hub of manufacturing for cars, planes and ships, but the state also turns out an impressive variety of items that fit perfectly underneath the Christmas tree.

For the 2017 edition of the Made In Alabama holiday gift guide, we turned to the people who know the state’s creativity and craftsmanship best. (Here’s the 2016 installment.)

We asked Alabama makers and artists to name their favorite local products – aside from their own – that they like to give as Christmas gifts.

Anna Brakefield, owner of Red Land Cotton in Moulton, is a big fan of her peers’ work and had a few suggestions.

Montgomery-based Alabama Sweet Tea Co. topped her list.

Founded in 2015, the company was inspired by the founders’ memories of enjoying homemade sweet tea at family gatherings. Their own recipe is a custom blend of high quality loose leaf tea leaves, pure cane sugar and hand-squeezed fruit juice.

“The sweetest and most humble people you may ever meet brew the sweetest tea known to the South and specifically Alabama,” Brakefield said. “Their boxed tea is a great gift to include as a stocking stuffer or in a care package to remind a loved one of their sweet southern roots or to give them a little taste of the South.”

Alabama Sweet Tea Co. also sells glasses, tumblers, shirts and hats emblazoned with the company logo.

Another favorite of Brakefield’s is Idyllwilde, a design company and workshop studio based in Florence. Its clothing, accessories and items for the home are made from natural fiber textiles and plant-based dyes.

“A lot of amazing talent comes out of Florence, Alabama, and this shop is no exception. Their simple pieces are custom made so there is a delay in shipping but it’s worth the wait!”

Brakefield said many items are hand dyed in small batches and truly are works of art.

“The South has a rich textile history and so giving a piece of Idyllwilde’s clothing or home accents is like sharing a little piece of that history with a friend,” she said.

As for Brakefield’s own business, Red Land Cotton sells bedding, bath towels and other linens made from cotton grown in North Alabama.

She and her father, Mark Yeager, own the business, with a farm that has been in the family for three generations. Their heirloom-inspired bed linens are recreations of those passed down from ancestors a century ago.

COFFEE AND COOKIES

Other Alabama makers also shop local at gift-giving time.

Robert Armstrong, founder of G Momma Cookies in Selma, picked a hometown favorite.

“My top gift would have to be Revival Coffee – great coffee and great mission as well,” he said.

The small batch roaster, which opened in 2014 in Selma’s historic district, says its purpose is to see lives redeemed, and 10 percent of its profits are dedicated to Christian ministries.

Revival offers several varieties of blends, including Integrity, Redemption, Restoration and Salvation.

As for G Momma Cookies, Armstrong said business is growing. He’s working on introducing a new flavor and upgrading equipment. The company has also expanded to three full-time and seven to nine part-time employees.

Armstrong was inspired by his grandmother’s cookie recipe when he founded Selma Good Co., maker of G Momma Cookies, in 2009, and they have been sold in stores across the Southeast. Earlier this year, he took home the top prize of $107,000 in the Alabama Launchpad Competition, which funds entrepreneurs statewide.

SOCKS AND ORNAMENTS

In northeastern Alabama, there’s mutual admiration between two well-known makers in Fort Payne.

Zkano socks would be an excellent gift idea,” said Cal Breed, owner of Orbix Hot Glass.

The organic cotton socks are made in Fort Payne in an operation run by Gina Locklear, who is carrying on her family’s business and a community legacy. Fort Payne was once known at “The Sock Capital of the World” before offshoring dismantled the domestic industry.

But Locklear’s socks have found a niche, with their bright colors, bold patterns, high-end quality and appeal to customers interesting in green living. A year ago, Locklear was named a winner in the Martha Stewart American Made Awards, and just recently, she opened a store inside the Fort Payne sock mill.

Meanwhile, Locklear said her favorite Alabama-made gift is Orbix ornaments.

Breed and his crew fashion the ornaments, as well as bowls, vases, pitchers and other glass sculptures that have garnered international acclaim, in a studio atop Lookout Mountain near Little River Canyon National Preserve.

The glass-blowing process is a delicate dance of fire, human breath and constant movement, and the studio hosts tours and sessions for visitors to blow their own ornaments.

“I love them because they are collectible, uniquely beautiful and also, I love they are made in Fort Payne by kind folks I know,” Locklear said.

MORE GREAT GIFTS

And if you’re still in need of gift-giving inspiration, here are a few more Alabama-made gifts to help check off your shopping list:

Shadow Catchers Art: This longtime Greeneville company produces professionally framed and mounted artwork and wall décor for retail stores and design projects.

The team works with designers, decorators and buyers to select images, moldings, mediums and mounting techniques

Their work spans a wide variety of interests, from botanical and nature scenes to coastal and cityscape images. Product types include acrylic, canvas, lithograph, mirrors and more. (Read a story about the company.)

 Earthborn Pottery: Top chefs across the U.S. and beyond have come to depend on owner/designer Tena Z. Payne and her Leeds business for unique pottery to frame their culinary creations.

Each plate, bowl, mug and other pieces are functional works of art, and they can be found in restaurants and retailers nationwide. Three generations work together in the family-run, woman-owned business.

Made By AK crafts jewelry that is minimal, modern and unique, making it another favorite of Brakefield’s.

“When you attend craft shows there are a lot of jewelry makers. To me, Made By AK stands out. It’s truly unique. It’s bold but intricate and the pieces are made from high-quality materials. Handmade in Birmingham, AK’s jewelry is crafted by hand and inspired by life’s little imperfections and that’s something I feel we can all relate to,” she said.

(courtesy Made in Alabama)

 

12 hours ago

Byrne first to officially declare run vs. Doug Jones – ‘Future is too important to sit on the sidelines’

Just down the street from where he grew up, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) announced Wednesday evening his candidacy for the United States Senate while surrounded by family, friends and supporters gathered at Wintzell’s Oyster House in beautiful downtown Mobile.

Byrne became the first candidate to officially announce a run against the incumbent from Mountain Brook, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). In doing so, Byrne made clear his campaign will focus on his record as a fighter for Alabama’s values, drawing a clear and direct contrast between his traditional Yellowhammer State roots and the “radical policies” being pushed by Jones’ Democratic Party.

In his announcement speech, Byrne emphasized, “The fight for America’s future is too important to sit on the sidelines. I am running for the United States Senate to defend the values important to Alabama.”

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The congressman spoke about the “disconnect” between hardworking, everyday Alabamians and people stuck in the bubble of Washington, D.C.

Byrne urged attendees, “Look in Washington and tell me you don’t see people that have a vision that’s fundamentally at odds with what America is.”

“We need a Senator who will fight with President Trump to defend the Constitution, build the wall, stand up for the unborn, push for lower taxes, make health care more affordable and protect the Second Amendment,” he outlined. “I will fight every day to bring Alabama’s conservative values to Washington.”

Answering questions from reporters following the announcement, Byrne decried the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism and “[killing] babies as they’re delivered.”

He also warned voters that Democrats should be expected to try and interfere in the Republican primary through “fake news” and  manipulative social media efforts. This comes in the wake of revelations that “Project Birmingham” was orchestrated to aid Jones’ general election candidacy in 2017.

Byrne, a labor-employment attorney by trade, is the former chancellor of the state’s community college system and one-term member of the state senate. He has served southwest Alabama in Congress since January 2014.

The Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Alabama will be held March 3, 2020, with the general election to follow in November.

You can watch Byrne’s announcement speech and hear him answer questions from reporters afterwards here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Watch live: Bradley Byrne announces U.S. Senate run against Doug Jones

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is set to announce his candidacy for the United States Senate seat held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL) live at the Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile.

Watch live below:

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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14 hours ago

Heavy rains swamping Deep South

Heavy rains are causing problems in parts of the Deep South.

Police in Huntsville, Alabama, say a half-dozen roads are blocked by downed trees or utility poles plus water from flash floods.

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Flood watches and warnings cover the northern parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia and nearly all of Tennessee is at risk for floods.

Several school systems are delaying classes or closing.

The weather service is predicting as much as eight inches of rain in spots through Saturday, and freezing rain and sleet are possible in western South Carolina.

Forecasters say moisture from the Gulf is mixing with weather systems moving eastward in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys.

As much as one inch of rain an hour is possible, and the weather service says some areas could get more.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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15 hours ago

Ivey announces plan to turn old Jefferson County mine into technology park with $85 million economic impact

Alabama is working again — including in places that have been dormant for decades.

Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama Department of Labor’s (ADOL) Abandoned Mine Land Program (AML) and United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) announced Wednesday that long-abandoned mine land in Jefferson County will be reclaimed, making way for the new Grand River Technology Park project and relocation of the Southern Museum of Flight.

“This reclamation project has the potential to bring millions of dollars in economic impact, and hundreds of jobs to the Greater Birmingham area,” Ivey said in a press release. “The new Grand River Technology Park will be a regional nexus for research and development, tourism, and light manufacturing. This project will bring positive improvements to the citizens who call this community home.”

This project, which is expected to generate an economic impact of more than $85 million, has been made possible through funds appropriated from the U.S. Treasury through the AML Pilot Program Grant. The funding was secured by the stalwart leadership of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

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In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Shelby said he is looking “forward to witnessing the impact it will have on the state.”

The senator said, “The Grand River Technology Park project will attract new businesses and promote economic development throughout the Birmingham area. I am proud that the AML Pilot grant funds I worked to secure have helped make this effort possible and look forward to witnessing the impact it will have on the state.”

The project is possible through a collaborative public-private effort and includes participation by ADOL’s AML Program, U. S. Steel, the City of Birmingham, the Southern Museum of Flight, Jefferson County and the City of Leeds.

In 2018, U. S. Steel and its community partners were given approval for a $6 million grant by the ADOL AML Pilot Program toward the development of its Grand River Technology Park.

“We are pleased to see the redevelopment of this land. We are grateful for the partnership of Governor Ivey, [ADOL] Secretary Washington, and the AML staff during this process and thank Senator Shelby for securing AML Pilot grant funds. We look forward to providing quality economic and community development projects that will benefit the Birmingham community,” U. S. Steel President and CEO David B. Burritt commented.

The technology park represents a multiphase opportunity to reclaim and transform approximately 105 acres of undeveloped land surrounding and including several pre-1977 abandoned coal mine lands in east Jefferson County. An initial assessment conservatively estimated that 1,200 new employment opportunities will be created by this project.

Plans for the Grand River Technology Park (Contributed)

Dangerous abandoned mine land features previously reclaimed on the property included many portals (openings to old underground coal mines) and vertical openings (former air shafts associated with underground coal mines) connected with Red Diamond Mines #2 – #5, #7, #9, #11 and #12, as well as the former Tennessee Coal and Iron (TCI) Mine #6, all of which ceased operations in 1948.

After the closure of these underground mines, a major portion of proposed development was strip-mined for coal prior to August 3, 1977, leaving extensive spoil piles (waste rock and soil overburden removed to access the coal seam) on the property and a highwall cut (a hazardous vertical bluff left where mining of the coal seam ceased) adjacent to the current location of the Barber Motor Sports Park. Evidence of the highwall cut and spoil piles still remain on the property today. As part of the redevelopment of the property, extensive reclamation will be performed on these remaining spoil piles.

“Our Abandoned Mine Land Program does a wonderful job in helping to ensure that old, dangerous mines are properly reclaimed, which eliminates safety hazards and allows the land to be redeveloped,” ADOL Secretary Fitzgerald Washington advised. “In addition to cleaning up this site and making it safer, this project will help to improve the lives of many.”

To date, the ADOL AML Program has reclaimed 81.6 miles of dangerous highwalls, eliminated 1,613 dangerous mine openings and completed approximately 661 reclamation projects in the coalfields of Alabama.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

16 hours ago

Alabama law requires the state and local governments fund The Democrat-Reporter’s racist rants — It is time to stop

Almost every politician in Alabama wanted to get in on condemning, and in some cases calling for the resignation of the editor, publisher and owner of a rag out of Linden, Alabama, with roughly 3,000 subscribers.

The governor, both United States senators, multiple congressmen and congresswomen, the State Senate pro tem, the lieutenant governor and surely countless others went on the record to say this is unacceptable.

It is obviously unacceptable, but now what? You can’t really force a guy who owns a newspaper to quit. Especially when he seems to think he has done nothing wrong.

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All of this is a minor problem. The Democrat-Reporter is a small-town nothing newspaper. If the Auburn Plainsman hadn’t posted the editorial in the form of a photo, no one would have ever known.

This raises another issue. The state of Alabama is providing revenue to this newspaper and other newspapers around the state of Alabama. And it is actually worse than that: Current state law requires government entities in Alabama to advertise legal notices, legislation, constitutional amendments, voter rolls and other public matters in the local print media outlets, which is not cheap.

So, how much does The Democrat-Reporter get from the governments?

Well, the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) alone spends thousands every year.

Maybe these aren’t all required expenditures, but for what other reason would ALDOT be spending this money here?

What have the local governments been required to pay this newspaper? What about average citizens and businesses that have to post foreclosures, abandoned property and other matters in a local newspaper by state law?

Even without the racist overtones of this story, this matter should offend you. There is currently a state law that requires we do business with a series of private entities.

This may have been a necessity decades ago, but it is time for the state legislature to readdress this issue for the 21st century.

@TheDaleJackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN