Sofia Aldinio

365 Squares

A few weeks ago I spent a morning with the talented Katie Chastain. Below is a story about her 2016 project. 

By Katie Chastain

I started 2016 with one goal - to discover myself as an artist. I made a promise that I would make a painting every day, even if it sucked, and so the project, 365 Squares, was born.

365 Squares has allowed me to meet and chronicle a consistent goal of finishing one painting every day. Even if everything else fell apart, if I put paintbrush to paper, I could count at least one success. It has only ever been about the process - never perfection. It’s been about exploration, determination, and about proving to myself that YES, I can do this.

I did put a few boundaries in place. Every painting must be 6x6, numbered, and posted on Instagram in chronological order. And I had to post it even if it sucked. That’s it. These “rules” have given me just enough direction to allow myself to freely create.

The journey has been equally enlightening and exhausting - but so worth it.

Above my workspace (aka kitchen table), I hung these words as a daily reminder:

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Vincent Van Gogh

Baobab Organics - Creating Roots

I met Vero in 2014, when I arrived in Maine. I remember being pregnant at that time and that was my first reason why her clothing brand Baobab Organics called my attention at the Common Ground Fair ( a celebration of rural living that promotes organically grown Maine produce). When I first started talking to her I noticed her energy was contagious and became curious about this women.

Two years later and just last week, I was able to visit her her home and studio in Waldoboro, Maine. Both her and her husband built this stunning house where you feel totally immersed in the beautiful wood. I was impressed by every detail, especially the stone pizza oven in the kitchen, the heart of the house. 

Vero’s studio is nothing how she described over the phone. It’s a beautiful and inspiring work space. Her energy flows around the room while she discovers new colors for her next collection.

Vero was born in Chile and that’s where she met her husband, a native of Maine and so the story goes how a Chilean girl ended up in Maine. Vero was already deeply immersed in the textile world back then. When she moved to Maine and was pregnant with her daughter Sofia, that was when the idea of building her own clothing baby clothing brand was conceived and in 2008 she launched her first design.

What was hard back then was the challenge of looking for something environmentally friendly. She felt the need to offer something without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers for the little ones. She said, “there was nothing here in Maine and it was hard to find organic fabrics back then.” Another challenge that Vero faced was the lack of textile workforce. This really stuck with me. I had known that Maine was a keystone in the industrial revolution, but with nearly all the mills closing by moving products overseas, the workforce disappeared.  

However after doing some research online, skilled industrial labor seems to slowly be building up again. “I think there is a great resurgence happening in Maine,” said Anne Emlein, chair of the Textiles, Apparel & Fashion Program at the Maine College of Art. “The grass died down and it is springing back up again.”

Today Vero works with organic fabrics printed with water based inks. All of the water used in the printing process is collected and reused and does not contain harmful solvents. Aware of water pollution she chose to work primarily with one color/mono printed fabric. She also uses Color Grown Organic Cotton, this is the purest version of organic cotton you can possible find. Today, naturally colored cotton species are under recovery programs in the US and Peru, and their productions represent a very small percentage of the annual cotton harvest as compared with white cotton production.

What struck me the most about meeting Vero, was identifying with her. I’m an immigrant myself, and share the feeling of starting all over again in a new country, not knowing from where to start. It takes a lot of energy and self confidence, to drive something and make it alive and attractive. She had a vision back then that was hard to find, but she looked hard, even when local and organic was not a trend, yet she believed in her idea. 

Today she has a beautiful product, but what I see is a beautiful concept with a great mind behind it. 

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