The first time I met Ali MacGraw, I knew she was an ibu. Not only was I aware of her life of service and generosity in her chosen community of Santa Fe, earning the respect of everyone I knew; but of course, I was aware also of her enduring iconic style, which I thought came closer to embodying ibu perfection than any other person alive.
What surprised me was that she seemed to know she’s an ibu, too. When we met, she wanted only to talk of the ibu wrap I was wearing, the tie-up shoes, the layers of beads . . . and where all of these things had been made. I want all of it, she declared, not knowing how happy I would have been to take it off and give it her, so great was my admiration of her person.
One summer, Ali stopped me multiple times on the street or at the market to toss me some clever compliment about my ibu outfit. Always gracious, self-deflecting, and extremely present in her interactions, she struck me as utterly authentic. I didn’t want to tread on that authenticity by asking her for any patronage. I simply enjoyed the dance as we circled curiously round one another, year after year.
This past summer, I arrived in Santa Fe and before even reaching my house, ran into Ali in the grocery store picking out squash and carrots to make a soup. Destiny wouldn’t seem to leave us alone. Ali was religiously reading our ibulliance newsletters, which I knew from her occasional email eruptions of enthusiasm, always alive with good will and deep interest.
It wasn’t until we finally carved out time to sit down at a lunch table and began to share our storied lives did we find so many lovely threads interlacing. Ali is passionate about design and a lover of art, of artisanship, of the hand-made - and is practiced herself, making not only soup but extravagant gifts for her friends, richly styling her simple home, and studying the global imagination in its diverse expressions. And she is dedicated to serving others. Those two things weave together happily in ibu - the desire for powerful beauty and meaning. I love ibu, she says often and with much gusto, and the words are not empty, for all of her efforts are offered freely, and with her generous heart.
And so it is such a great honor to announce that Ali MacGraw has agreed to be our Ibu Ambassador. Really, can you possibly imagine anyone more perfect for this role? Not only did she model ibu for us - and quite splendidly, don’t you agree? (you can shop her look here)- but she is eager to be an active part of the movement and to engage her interests in design and artisan support as well as her concern for women’s self-sufficiency. It is an awesome thing to not only feel her strong, vital energies under ibu’s wings, but to imagine ibu as a place where her creative life may also flourish. It is a love-love situation. And her genuine friendship is a prize above all.
Here’s to Ali and ibu - one happy love story! Welcome, our champion, our inspiration, our ambassador! We can’t wait to see what lies ahead. . .
all the best,
Susan Hull Walker
While our country stews nervously over who will be our next leader, the political process devolves into a bad reality show, and hands wring the air with exasperation, I am voting for this woman.
You may think of Ali MacGraw as a movie star who embodied the fearless freedom of the sixties; or a breathtakingly beautiful style icon who has grown with grace and fortitude - and you would be right. But then . . . there is somuch more.
Ali tells the story of her mother sitting at the kitchen table each week with envelops in front of her, placing dollar bills on each one. When young Ali asks what she is doing, her mother explains that in this envelop she is saving money to aid those who are blind. This one is for persons with cancer. This one for those who are homeless. Though her family did not have much money, what they had, they gave away with generosity and heart, intending the best for others.
Ali still lives this way. She has made a life of service and giving - taking things lightly, taking people seriously. Time and again - while admiring a little something beautiful Ali was showing me - she pressed it into my hands as gift - insisting that she didn’t need it at all. Her heart tilts at an angle, always flowing out to others.
I cannot imagine buying another diamond ring when there arepeople everywhere in such great need. she says at dinner, trying to understand our country’s spending habits. Instead, she puts her energy into addressing those needs - of children in schools, women in developing countries, artists in distress. She eschews animal products and champions the rights of all creatures. She embodies compassion. Humility. Graciousness. Generosity. A conscious, well-crafted life.
One thing Ali truly loves, in addition to being of use to others, is the fascinating world of global design. Tirelessly, she supports artisans who have come for the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, where she lives. She works in their booths, houses their families, stores their goods while they return home. Her father crafted jewelry, her mother wove cloth; Ali has an innate sense for understanding and creating authentic beauty.
Which is why, I think, her heart gravitated toward ibu and Ali became our celebrated ambassador. It is the marriage of design and service that she loves - and she does love ibu! She spreads the word every chance she getswith passion and joy in her telling.
And not only that. Jumping in with both feet and a bit of glee, Ali is putting her design talents to work for ibu. It is something she has always loved: great style, simply wrought, divinely layered. She is bringing to the world, through the face of ibu, her iconic style for all. Stay tuned for this next year!
Could I be more thrilled? Could it be any more fun? This summer, we shopped the flea market for treasure to work into her collection. She introduced me to textile dealers she knew by name and knew also of their plight in Nepal, or Mexico, or India. She buys to support others. She lives to create. And now, she creates so that others may live.
Here is a woman I respect utterly. An ibu from her silver crown to her denim blue toenails. In a season of slippery words and thin promises, I’m voting for Ali’s vision of life- for strength, compassion, integrity. Beauty and imagination. Fairness. Opportunity. Joy. And her own big-hearted Love Story for this troubled but glorious world.
All the best,
Susan Hull Walker
She arrives with ribbon, scissors, tape, and a big grin on her face. Picking up the ibu dog collar beaded by Masai women, she laughs with glee and approval and adds, in utter seriousness,we’ve got to get dog biscuits to go with this. The next day we scour the town of Santa Fe for little munchkin creatures - found in the form of handmade finger puppets - to tuck into Moroccan baby slippers so that they looks like tiny convertibles with zebras and armadillos at the wheel.
Ali MacGraw is a gift giver. She sees something beautiful and immediately knows who must have it - not herself but her friend with cancer, the UPS man, her 95 year old friend miles away. She gifts her own jewelry and books and beloved things to those who might enjoy them not because she has too much - after all, she lives simply in a small house - but because it is in her heart to give.
It’s not just the art of giving that Ali has cultivated, but also the art of presenting. So that scarves are nested in white sequined baskets and to ibu bath towels she adds a vetiver lemur to scent the bathroom - plus a scrubby sponge and festive ribbons to keep the season bright. She gets it right or not at all.
She has chosen her favorite gifts from ibu, wrapped and ribboned them and signed a card from her to you and yours. Soon, Ali is coming to Charleston to present these to you - tickets here. And the following day, all will go online for those of you far away to click and buy. Now, that takes the work out of holiday shopping for you, doesn’t it?
Last week, the city of Santa Fe named Ali MacGraw a Living Legend for her tireless service to their community. Who wouldn’t want a love gift from this legendary ibu? Do come meet her if you can.
How beautiful is the laughter of one who lives lightly, who gives deeply, and who loves, more than riches or fame, the crazy sprightly monkey on her shoulder. This is one ibu I have come not only to admire greatly, but also to love. I think you will too.
All the best,
Susan Hull Walker