Natalie Chanin Interviews BurdaStyle / Alabama Studio Style Contest Winner


We began the Alabama Studio Style blog tour with the launch of the Alabama Studio Style Inspiration Challenge over at BurdaStyle. We conclude with Natalie Chanin's interview with the grand-prize winner of the contest, Gina Sekelsky.

Inspired by Natalie's work, Gina created the amazing skirt shown here. Here's Gina's description: 

This is a simple A-line skirt, cut on the bias, from two layers of cotton knit: a putty color over black. I freehand painted a favorite quotation on the skirt, then used the techniques in Alabama Stitch Book for the reverse applique. I love to combine my handlettering with garment design—an experiment in embracing imperfection (especially when I sneezed on the skirt moments before taking the photos. Did you hear me screaming?).

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” --Howard Thurman

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest and the blog tour. Here's the interview:

Natalie: Gina, I love how seamlessly you incorporated your work with words and font styles into the piece that reflects our work at Alabama Chanin.  While the techniques are (in a way) simple, the final piece is very rich and complex.  I also enjoyed the story on your blog about how you ran out of thread and switched colors and then decided to switch back again.  What were you thinking about when you started the project?

Gina: Last fall I spent a Saturday with a very dear friend cutting out some sewing projects to work on in the future.  We both love sewing, and like to have a stockpile of projects ready to roll.  I guess that’s our version of a quilting bee–pinning, cutting, asking advice of each other.  I’d been wanting to combine my lettering with your reverse appliqué techniques for awhile, and was planning to try it on one of the skirts I cut out that day, but felt compelled to wait until the “right” words came along.  I spend a little too much time dwelling on why I’ve been given my specific set of gifts, and how I can use those gifts thoughtfully.  Dr. Thurman’s idea that being passionate, being alive is the best way to honor life really speaks to me.  I also think about how much time I have to create (aren’t we all pressed for time?), and I really want the things I make to be worthy of the time given to them. 

Natalie: I, too, am a great lover of fonts and words.  When did you start paying attention to them?

Gina: I like to credit Mrs. Larson, my 5th-grade teacher.  I was a bit of a chatterbox in elementary school, and the punishment for talking out of turn was to write out our spelling words fifty times each.  I probably had that punishment just about every week!  I got bored with just writing the words as a list, so I used to draw outlines on the page and fill them in with the words–flowers, peace signs, typical 70s motifs. 

I grew up in a small  town in the Midwest and thought I had to choose a career with a name–teacher, doctor, lawyer.  When I moved to Minneapolis after college, I met my husband, Peter (an architect), and he introduced me to the design disciplines.  I spent some time studying architecture and interior design, but couldn’t find my groove.  When we decided to get married, I hand-lettered our wedding invitation.  Since then, I’ve put my hand lettering on just about anything that will stand still: walls, furniture, and a whole lot of paper [visit Gina's etsy shop here].  I am constantly inspired by other artists, and am so thankful that I can continue to generate ideas and create my art.

Natalie: My daughter LOVES rubberstamps and I would love to make some of her drawings into stamps.  Do you have any suggestions about how to do this?

Gina: Technology makes this so easy!  Black and white artwork translates the best, so you’re better off choosing art that doesn’t have shading or gray areas.  I use a wonderful company in nearby Iowa for my traditional red rubber stamps called  It is simply a matter of choosing from the many sizes available, scanning your artwork, and uploading it to their site.  I would be happy to help you!

Natalie: I really like your blog and especially adore this project:  42 Things About Me.  I wish that I had done something like this my whole life.  I feel like I know you through your writings but would you mind sharing 10 things that you think we should know about you that don’t come across in your blog?


1.    I can’t answer a question without dishing up an anecdote on the side.

2.    My nickname at home is “the kitty.”  I label all my handmade clothes with “meow.”

3.    I am a morning person.

4.    I am thankful for every day I get to do this work I love.

5.    I hope I can keep doing it for a lot longer.

6.    “I invent nothing; I rediscover.”  Auguste Rodin

7.    I like ordinary days the best, when we’re holding hands around the dinner table and saying grace together.

8.    I feel content when my cupboards are full and the laundry is put away.

9.    Tomorrow I will think of ten different things I wish I’d written.

10. I am lucky to have had mentors.  I wonder how many people consider you a mentor?  (I do.)

Natalie: Is there something in particular that you would like to work on at our Weekend Workshop?

Gina: Have you heard of the book Style Statement?  It is a series of questions to help give your life some focus.  On the Fashion page, you’re asked to complete the following statement:  “If money were no object I would go out today and shop for…”  I remember quite clearly that I wrote “Alabama Chanin fall coat.” (Perhaps #11 above should be, “My eyes are bigger than my stomach.”)  Should I choose something small that would allow me to relax and enjoy others’ company?  Should I start a big project I can finish later?  Should I let someone else choose?  Do you have any favorites that were made at a Weekend Workshop?

Natalie: Everyone’s eyes are always bigger than their stomachs at our studio…the pitfall of the job– smile.  No worries, we will figure it out when you get there! Is there anything new coming up that we should know about?

Gina:I love sharing what I’ve learned.  I’ve taught handwriting locally, and have been working on a class for all the friends I’ve made online–actually two classes, one for those who want to improve their handwriting and one for those who want to embellish their handwriting.

Natalie: Thanks for sharing Gina. I'm looking forward to meeting you in Alabama!