Blog & Podcast

Getting Lucky in Ireland

My last visit to Ireland was February 1998, so when California friend, Laura, suggested we meet up there this Autumn, I was all in. Arriving at the Dublin airport, I was delighted to see a larger than life, image of milliner Martha Lynn, representing the craft of Millinery.  I love when millinery gets visibility, especially on a large scale.

Thanks for advice from my London friend, Lis, we went to Bray. It was the perfect balance of things to do without being a busy city. We enjoyed a couple days of coastal hiking, exploring, shopping and a few pints. 

I brought home a little treasure from Greystones Antiques. This simple little buckle I am sure will end up on a hat.

Laura and I headed north to enjoy the streets and treats of Dublin for a couple days before returning to our respective families. We grabbed the first Sightseeing bus we came to, for a quick tour of the highlights of Dublin, then it was time to go hat shop hunting.


I feel like I found the pot of gold on the first shop, which was Anthony Peto‘s hat shop. Thank you Anthony and Petra for taking time to talk to me without any notice.


Anthony’s main showroom and workshop are in Paris where employs a full team of skilled crafts people. His Paris business has been around for 25 years, while his Dublin shop has been open since 2015. Anthony Peto hats are stylish and well crafted. He offers a variety of styles for men and women. While grabbing the like to his site, I re-discovered this video showing one of Anthony’s team, making a strip straw hat in about 7 minutes.  Anthony Peto’s website news page. I would love to have one of those sewing machines and a straw spinner like he is using.

While trying to find another milliner in Powerscourt Centre, Dublin, I stumbled across a costume design exhibit called Frame 7 by Marion Cuddy.  There were some hats, which is always delight. I believe the milliner was Michael Mullins.
Nearby was milliner and fashion blogger Jennifer Wrynne’s boutique. She been a milliner since 2011 and opened the boutique in 2016. Her hats were primarily special event hats.

I love window displays that include headwear, especially when it is clever and creative. Thank You, Irelands Eye .  On a side note: I wish the fashion magazines did a better job of including headwear in their features.

Inspiring, brave and bold, Claire Garvey Couture makes crazy fun hats and clothes. Claire had recently bought her shop after 18 years in business. I think this is what she said, I was so agog looking at stuff I didn’t write it down. Congratulations Claire!

I feel very lucky to have met two amazing hat designers and visit their shops, made a couple of new friends (Kelly & Lynette) and most importantly, connected with my long time friend, Laura. Until next time, Ireland, Thank you.

Bridport Hat Festival 2017

Bridport is a small villiage in Dorset, in the south of England, just 1.5 miles from the English Channel. I had heard of the Bridport Hat Festival for several years and this year I finally entered images of a hat in the contest. I was delighted to have been shortlisted and sent in my hat for judging. I took the train/bus down from London on Friday afternoon in early September. If you can get a seat with a table,  long train rides are perfect for finishing a hat and meeting nice people.

There were hats in nearly every Bridport shop window and the charity shops had loads of hats for sale at great prices. Above are my favorite charity shop finds of the weekend, although I didn’t buy any of them. An eccentric grey hat by Pop Goes the Weasel, a lovely but far too small, white felt by Graham Smith for Fortnum & Mason. A Frederick Fox in a fawn with black ribbon & flower trim and another no-label hat with loads of stitching.

From Bridport I enjoyed a walk that lead me by the river then through three fields,  down to West Bay for the evening. (Images L-R, water mill by brewery-Bridport, Harbour West Bay, Dorset Coast – West Bay, Station Kitchen – West Bay). It was a gorgeous day and I savored a delicious dinner at the Station Kitchen. I appreciated a cozy night’s stay at a vegetarian B&B, The Old Mill House in Bridport.

The Old Mill House was not much to look at from the street, but had gracious hosts and a small bridge over the river in their serene garden.

The highlight is seeing the variety of hats. A lovely couple wore Twin Peaks, hemp hats from Kathmandu by Elephant Road, a couple in matching outfits, and my strip straw hat with wavy border and vintage flowers.  I think this hat below, a hand felted scene of Poseidon/Neptune was stunning. Can you see the horses coming out of the sea foam on the left and sea creatures following behind on the right?

The Bridport Hat Festival is a fundraiser for various charities. One of which is Brain Tumour Research. They seem to be at a lot of the events I attend. I like collecting their annual hat designer badges.

At one of the charity fundraising stands a gentleman was enjoying selling 2nd hand hats by coming up with some outrageous claims. I bantered with him a few moments, then just as I was ready to decline and depart, I saw another unlabeled stitched beret, in gold and it fit me. If you’ve been following my blog posts, I have come across several of them in my adventures in Southern England. Who made these hats? The price was right and it came home with me. 

More crazy hats from jesters to lampshades. A couple who went with a breakfast theme of a skillet with bacon & eggs and a large fried egg.  Hats with loads of stuff on them to a US political themed hat.

Then in the vendors hall I spotted this little wire framed gem. I will be teaching a wire frame half hat class during London Hat Week in 2018, Cocktail Half Hat with Daisies. It also came home with me, as another sample of how versatile the wire frame technique is to make charming hats.

The vendors hall featured several milliners and hat makers. Here are a few.  From Left to Right. Fairytale Chic, Humphry Hats, International Feltmakers Association, and Hats-A-Head. I love all their creativity and craftsmanship.

Finally, the catalyst for my journey the Milliners and Hatters Open Competition.  The hats were on display all day in the Town Hall. At the end of the day the hall was cleared, then set with chairs with a center aisle. Each hat was modeled and awards were given.  I didn’t bring home any prizes but it was fun to have my hat on display and then modeled at the end. The hat on the far right was the overall winner. I think they will eventually get photos of the hats on the Bridport Hat Festival website.

My learning opportunity came when the hats were modeled. Despite having a center back mark and comb for placement, my hat ended up backwards and on the wrong side of the model’s head. Luckily it looked beautiful from all sides, but it really would have shown better if it had been worn properly. Live and learn, next time I’ll make it super obvious. 

Bridport was a lovely town and we had great weather. I think it would be a good place to take my family for a little holiday in the future.  Thank you Bridport for a fun day out.

Cycling in Germany along the Danube

We did something new for this summer holiday. Cycling with family and friends along the Danube in Germany.  In my case it was Hattin’ Around the Danube.

How do you like the cycling caps I made for everyone? I used a free pattern by Dill Pickle. The pattern, instructions and caps were great, however I found the pattern ran a little small. Most of us needed the “large” and the 23.5″ (59.6 cm) head needed the “xl”. We used fabric pens to sign and decorate the caps.

Regensburg, Germany was a great place to start our trip. Architecture, history, river, good food and the start of what could be called the ice cream trail. It also had the best hats & hat shops of the trip.

HutKönig is a long establish hat shop with an excellent reputation and helpful staff. The couture felt hats were gorgeous. I loved the shapes, the colors and layered trims.

Take a look at their old glass tank steamer and hidden behind, a burgundy embosser with gold tape. Mental note, add embosser to the hatting/millinery equipment wish list.

I took loads of photos of hats, but this little miniature millinery shop was too cute to leave out of the post. They are made from real straw, felt and lace. I love digital zoom.

HutKönig actually had 5 hat blocks for sale. All of which were for small head sizes, but I can put a sock on it. I decided on this one after much deliberation.  I was hesitant to buy too many hat blocks on the first day of our trip, although the tour company moved our bags from place to place.

Lilo  is a marvelous small hat shop. Lilo, herself, was absolutely lovely and kind enough to take a few minutes to talk with me. Her hats are charming and her look is distinctive. I saw a few of her hats in boutiques elsewhere in Regensburg and recognized them as Lilo’s.

Straubbing, Germany was met with a hot and exhausted group of cyclists. I brightened up when I saw this adorable little fellow in a straw hat with his parents in the town square. 

I spotted one hat shop called Luise Danner der Hutladen, but sadly we were pedaling again the next morning before they opened.

Deggendorf, Germany was the smallest of the towns we stayed in. It was also the shortest day of cycling which is good as it had been very warm for this London based family. We arrived early enough to have a look about and the hat shop was still open.

Olga’s Hut und Mode was several rooms, upstairs with a friendly poster of Olga, pointing the way. Olga was in the shop and kindly allowed photos, but we had language issues. I told her about my blog and gave her a card, she nodded and then showed me a selection of blue hats. To be fair, blog starts with “B” and my card has a blue hat on it. If only I’d followed through with my Duolingo German lessons.

Passau, Germany is where the confluence of three rivers join, the Inn, the Ilz and the Danube. They are often represented by three colors, Green, Black and Blue respectively.

I located one hat shop, Edelweiss & Rosenrot but they didn’t want any photos inside the shop which is unfortunate as their displays were upholstered in bright green moiré.

It was a wonderful trip with loads of ice cream for the kids, a fair bit of käse spätzle (German style Mac n’ Cheese) which just might be my favorite german food and the guys enjoyed a little beer.  Fun, friends, family, cycling and hats. It was a good holiday.

 

Hattin’ Around Rye & Hastings, UK

It was suppose to be about camping, but for me it was about hats. A girls weekend away included a visit to Rye, Hastings and a camp out in the woods. 

Saturday on the way to the Wood, we stopped in Rye, an old town in South East England for a few hours.  Rye is one of the Cinque Ports and has a lovely old town center.

With lots of historic character, vintage shops and best of all the hat shop, Hearld & Heart.  You may recall the name Hearld & Heart from my interview with Jane Smith, they did the amazing hat that Andie McDowell wore in Four Weddings and a Funeral (94).

A few hats and thimbles in a small local museum, not the museum in the tower as they were hanging the closed sign as we approached the gate. 🙁  The Harlequin, a secondhand book shop, had two darling pink vintage hats.

I have not yet been able to embrace the loads of floppy petals, but I am trying.

I love that there is something different happening on each side of this dusty rose hat with velvet trim. It looks like Pinokpok to me, but I think it is actually parabuntal. If anyone knows for sure, please let me know.

I adore living in London, but a night out of the city is a welcome change. I love sleeping under the stars with a canopy of leaves overhead. Even being awoken with a cacophony of bird song at morning light is needed every once in a while.

Day two, we packed up and were off to Hastings.  The town known from the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  It is a fishing & port town, popular for holiday getaways.

Wardrobe Clothes Agency had loads of vintage hats, every piece distinctly different. A white with black lace pillbox, a red and pink feather cocktail hat,  and a sheer brim on a wire frame with pearl details. 

I am completely enamored with the wire framed cocktail half hat. I will be teaching a workshop on this style of hat. Please sign up for the Hattin’ Around Newsletter  for the announcement of workshop dates.

The white silk with black stitching was my favorite. OMG look at all that stitching! The design is also very clever.

Wardrobe Clothes Agency (teal turban with bow) and Voodoo Sirens (black trilby with large ribbon bow), both are Edward Mann hats.  I really must do some research on him, as his nautilus hat was a huge inspiration for me.

It was my good fortune to be in Hasting when there was a Steam Punk event. Steam Punk folks do amazing costume.   A velvet top hat with goggles and feathers, a voodoo hat with a skeleton and crow, a red vinyl captains hat and a pith helmet with goggles are just a few of the hats on show. However, I saved the best for last. His nickname is Moose and he trimmed his own hat.  I believe he said there are 82 brass rivets. The craftsmanship was superb.

Thank you to Hatz and Thingz, for the tickets to the Steam Punk event. It was late in the day, he had three tickets available, and there were three of us with a little bit of time remaining before we needed to head back to London.  Hatz and Thingz is a new shop, offering both men’s and women’s hats and various vintage items and steam punk accessories.

The longest hatpin I’ve ever seen, ±33cm (13″) and a few hatpin holders.  Hatpins are another of my hat related fascinations.  Please sign up for the Hattin’ Around Newsletter,  a hatpins workshop will be coming soon as well. 

I hope you have enjoyed my few hatting highlights from Hastings and Rye.

KCC Millinery HNC 2017 Collections

Kensington & Chelsea College (KCC)
Higher National Certificate (HNC) Year End Collections 2017
Hosted on 1 June 2017 at Kensington & Chelsea College, London UK.

This year was another delightful exhibition of some talents new millinery designers. The nervous excitement could be felt throughout the room as the milliners stood beside their collections to meet, greet and answer questions about their work.  There were fabulous shapes and creative use of materials, everything you would hope to see at a millinery exhibit. The milliners are listed in order of how I walked around the room. Thank you for an inspirational evening. 

Natalia Volkova – Wild Orchids

 

Alex Thompson – Cabinet of Curiosities

 

Phoebe Leung – Phoebe Pheo Millinery – Lost Stars

 

Odette & Elliott – An Evening at the Opera

 

Teresa Briz – Mandala

 

Chelsea Ratcliffe – Micha Millinery – Cygnet Collection 

 

Irina Dobrovolska – Irina Bluebird Millinery – Meditation

 

Heather Ogilvie – Fibonacci

 

Gemma Fox – Gothic Allure

 

Hannah Lewis – Hatterly – Fluidity, Movement & Motion

Carole Denford of The Hat Magazine, was spotted at the event. That woman must have Hermione’s time turner from Harry Potter, because she is everywhere.

Farewell KCC, until next year. I couldn’t resist this lovely image of the Imperial Wharf Station looking toward the Design Center as dusk.

My pictures really do not do the hats  and head pieces justice. I would highly recommend that you come to the exhibit next year, it is open to the public. Congratulations milliners you are off to a great start. I hope to see you Hattin’ Around. LF

p.s. I have included links to website that were available on their cards at the event. If I have made any errors, please let me know.

 

 

My Birthday Hat – Mini Topper Sinamay

My life does not have nearly enough “occasion” hat wearing opportunities, so when I was approaching a milestone birthday I decided it was going to be a hat event.  A mini top hat (topper) would be perfect, festive and small enough for easy travel.

I have wanted to make a mini topper for ages. What is it about things in miniature that are so appealing? Beautiful dolls houses, tiny baby clothes, exquisite Fabergé eggs, even well made Barbie clothes I find intriguing. My hats isn’t super tiny, maybe I should call it a midi topper?

Without a firm plan in mind about trimming and nor a 5 piece top hat block, I set to learning how to make a mini topper in sinamay on a buckram and wire framed block, with the mentoring of Edwina Ibbotson during her evening Hat Class.  The mystery was how to get it off the block once it is has dried and been stiffened. If you practicing millinery, you will notice the under cut of a waisted topper as a red flag. Unless you use a 5 piece block that you can take the block apart to extract it from the hat rather than pry the hat off the block, an under cut means you either carefully cut the hat, or destroy the block, neither seemed a good choice for a sinamay hat.

What I Learned…

      • To get the hat off the block without damaging the block or creating a cut edge on the straw, wrap the straw to meet in the back then fold the raw edges to the outside on the first layer. It is tricky to get it to butt together and stay put. I used lots of pins. The second and third layers are butted with the ends folded to the inside. Also use a wide petersham ribbon to hold the waist in while dries. Once off the block you have to sew each layer closed. Starting with the inside layer.

    • It is made in three pieces, the brim, the crown and the tip (top of the crown), make sure you mark the matching up points, especially for the “round” crown & “round” tip.
    • Making a band for an asymmetrical hat with extreme and changing angles is really difficult. I finally fashioned a pattern out of some bias muslin. It was not perfect but that is okay. I used the flaws to guide some of the flower placement.

  • Working within the hat to make invisible stitches between the layers was challenging.  I feel good about the quality of finish I achieved.
Inside finish with covered seams.
Outside wired edge finished with a bias band.

There are lots of steam punk mini toppers which are fun, but I was looking for something lighter. I have a thing for grey and I had some amazing silver little wired stamens from Masario, which I was hankering to use. I had some leftover grey silk georgette that I loved working with on a previous project and experimented to create little bias cut flowers with a dusty pink bead for the center to add just a hint of warmth.


I was sewing the last bits on just an hour before my birthday party. I am delighted with the result.

I have since carved a mini topper block myself and made a variation in felt. It is a different technique with felt. Hopefully I can do a “What I Learned…” for that hat soon.

I would love hear if you have ideas on how to work with an undercut hat block.

Cheers, Leanne

Coolie, Conical or Non-la?

Is Coolie a derogative term? According to Wikipedia and the Urban dictionary, it is. Why then, is it still used so freely to describe the common conical shaped hat most commonly associated with Asian slaves or Asian manual laborers? I blame Hollywood. The actual hat is a Vietnamese hat called a Non-la.

I go through hat phases, and I am currently looking at the conical hat. The dilemma arises with the fact that what I am calling a conical hat, is more commonly known as a Coolie. So, do I use a term that is considered derogative by some (Coolie), or do I use a term that is less known & understood (Conical), there by causing confusion (I am not referring to a Hennin which is also a conical hat) and reducing the effectiveness of my communication? Finally, do I use Non-la which is the accurate term but is rarely understood?

Language is a living entity. Words are invented, their meanings evolve as was evident in my post about the word Vulgar. Words come into fashion and then out. To have a large vocabulary is an asset allowing you to choose a word that communicates more precisely. In this case a hat shape, commonly referred to as a Coolie clearly brings an image of the Non-la to mind, is offensive to some people? Conical is too vague, a cone does not really capture the essence of the hat shape.

This may seem unconnected, but it is related. I was recently reading some older books. I love the little hard bound short story books. I love the texture of the cover, I enjoy the turning of paper pages, and the smell of an old book. I also enjoy hearing how they communicate with each other, especially between the generations and in courtship. Recently I was reading The Twins, a children’s book by L.E. Tiddeman. There isn’t a publish date, but L.E. Tiddeman died in 1937 and wrote between 1880-1931. In just one short paragraph on page 32, she used the terms, gay, cripple, and nigger. Although I found this shocking, there was no malice, it was purely descriptive.


The terms cripple and nigger are no longer appropriate for common communication. New terms are used that are more sensitive and/or accurate. We have obviously made progress is this area. So, what do I call my Non-la hat? I would prefer to avoid the term Coolie, however I am not sure that very many people know the name Non-la. What would you call it? Would you stay with the commonly recognized term, like Coolie? A vague but inoffensive term like conical? Or, the actual name that is least known – the Non-la?

I recently made a new hat, which I am calling my ‘Non-la inspired conical hat’. Soon I will be adding a new post about making this hat.


I had a brilliant charity shop find of this conical asian hat, but I don’t think it is actually a Non-la. So what do I call it? Here is a link to my A Good Hat Day blog.

HATstock Report – Talks

I have been wanting to go to The Hat Works Museum in Stockport for  years.  HATstock made it happen for me. However, I am going to need another day to go up and see the Museum properly.

This was a high density day. Early train ride from London, new city and venue, 6 talks, each lasting 30 minutes, exhibits from milliners with varied styles and materials, a market place of lovely millinery supplies and a beautiful museum. Concluded with a quick search for a sandwich and a 3 hour journey back home. Only for hats or a sick child can I endure that dense and lengthy of a schedule.

Presentations were informative and entertaining, which is a very good combination. Here is a highlight of the talks I attended.

Nick Parkin of Parkin Fabrics
The History and Production of Sinamay movie

Here is a trailer of the movie, but the whole movie is only available through a Parkin Fabrics presentation.

Nick also passed around various samples of sinamay materials. A very light weight and soft fabric used for making wedding garments for the very hot Philippine environment. Unlike the much stiffer sinamay we use for hats.

Then the tighter weave and panning of sinamay which makes what we call pinokpok which is also used for hats.

Sophie Cooke, Amanda Moon, and Siobhan Nicholson
The Hat Stand
Journeys into Millinery

Sophie did a great write up of their talk and Hatstock. I can even prove I was there. This is me in the front row wearing a black cap with Harris Tweed trim and my Hat Case at my feet. If you want to read the whole Hatty Heaven blog article.

Here are a few links for The Hat Stand Sheffield and the specific millinery sites for Sophie Cooke’s Imogen’s ImaginationSiobhan Nicholson Millinery’s Etsy shop, and Amanda Moon Headwear.

Bink of Pearls & Swine
Social Media and Selling Online

Bink is as bubbly to talk with as she is in appearance. I have seen the Pearls and Swine brand in my social media sites, but I cannot tell which one: Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.  With a name like Pearls and Swine I didn’t forget.

Her social media advice was great. Although a bit vague on specific actionable steps which I would have liked, her messages were powerful and clear.

  • Be active on social media it is much cheaper and reaches further than a brick and mortar shop.
  • Make it fun for readers.
  • Be genuine, creative and different.
  • Build excitement and anticipation in your promotions.

Bink has marketing mojo in more than just social media. When I visited her millinery exhibit, she gave me a little goodie bag with her card, as well as cards of other people. She too is leveraging relationships with other vendors, less formal than The Hat Stand ladies, but still valuable. Look at all these little treasures in the pink and white striped goodie bag.

Bink has several lines of hats and headwear.  Pearls and Swine and Temptress of Waikiki

Rupert Battersby
Battersby Hats of Stockport

Rupert told stories told through narration of old photographs that had been lost for generations in various family homes. The pictures had all the costume and glamour of a BBC period drama. Rupert’s sense of humor and story telling was amusing. It was riveting to see these very old pictures and hear stories.  Some challenges, some victories, and the elegance of a wealthy family long ago.

Battersby Hats of Stockport, An Illustrated History, by Rupert Battersby.


The Hat factory which has evolved over the years. The large water tower on the left was built after the hat works burnt twice.  However once the water tower was built they never had a fire. I suppose the water tower indirectly did the job.

Georgina Abbott and Becky Weaver
LHW goes Regional

I’ve known Georgina and Becky, the founders of London Hat Week since the first London Hat Week several years ago. I always enjoy talking with them. They were at HATstock to promote the idea of building regional hat events. If the energy and excitement of HATstock is any indication, it is a great idea. Personally I would love to visit more regional events. Georgina Abbott owns Atelier Millinery and Becky Weaver is the editor of HATalk.

Here I am pictured with Bronwen (the coordinator of HATstock) on the left, Becky & Georgia in the center, and me to the right.

Sharon Bainbridge
A Woman’s Hat is Close to Her Heart

I loved Sharon’s presentation. It was a mix of slide show and commentary on hats and the creation of identity. How a hat can change your mood as well as your persona. She touched on the idea of a milliner as a technical crafts person and having the artistic vision to generate a transformation of the wearer.
Sharon is very knowledgeable about hats and history and her diverse career path is fascinating. From lawyer to milliner, to Leeds College of Art tutor to exhibit curator. I would like to spend more time with Sharon and attend more of her talks.

I love getting together with milliners. They are a diverse and interesting mix of people with marvelous stories and skills with a common interest in hats. I came home exhausted but my hatting cup was full.

Thank you all for a great day.

The Vulgar, Fear & Creativity

The Vulgar Exhibition, an exhibition that explored the term Vulgar hosted at the Barbican, a brutalist multi-arts and residential center in London. I wanted to see if the exhibit could reveal the magic line between ridiculous/inspiring and vulgar.

I can generally glean a nugget of knowledge, from everything I do and London has really good exhibits from Barbican, The Crime Museum Uncovered, with photos and displays of evidence and their strange stories to the V&A, Alexander McQueen show which I went to at least 5 times and found something new to look at each time, and the recent The Vulgar exhibit which explored the term Vulgar and how it has evolved and different interpretations of the term highlighted through fashion and literature.

Vulgar originated in Latin as Sermo Vulgaris meaning common speech as opposed to the more formal and social dialect of classic Latin. The use of vulgar meaning common has evolved into meaning a lack of good taste or explicit and offensive.

Lack of Good Taste

Sparkly Bra dresses range. This was exactly what I am talking about in this blog post! I love the first one, it is interesting, exciting and inspirational. The all black one is good also. The third pink I think is a bit ridiculous, and there is an element humor as she looks like she is wearing a crown. Finally the last one, I really do not like. I will need to reflect further these to see if I can figure it out. I would love to hear if you have any ideas you have on what makes the first won great and the last one not. Or perhaps you think differently, I’d love to hear that also.

Explicit and Offensive

Rudi Gernreich’s 1960’s Topless swimsuit was so shocking it had to be displayed for exhibit on a wall rather than a mannequin. I don’t actually find it offensive, but I am sure there are some who do.

I fear being seen as lacking in good taste, but I refuse to be restricted to conservative tailored clothing. I must have a bit of an edge to be truly content. However when it comes to designing I often get caught in the trap of wearable, sell-able, and tasteful which can be very limiting.

I had hoped the exhibit would explain/reveal that secret zone that is edgy, exciting and breathtaking without falling over into vulgar. Yes that was a bit much to ask of an hour in an exhibit. To explore the exhibit more take a look at New York Times. However I have a sense that I am closer to my goal, and that it isn’t about a mysterious zone that is agreed upon by everyone but a place within myself which I must explore and ultimately trust.

Now I need to figure out how to banish the fear and the voices, internal and external that judge.

Exploring the fear

I fear the place of mis-aligned, drawn-on eyebrows, crocheted tissue box covers, cheap plastic anything, and ugly sparkly sweaters. Imagine my surprise that here in England there is a deliberate ugly Christmas Jumper tradition.

Exploring the voices that bring fear and doubt. The voices that I recall from my youth that would say, “look at that outfit” with the tone of admiration verses the same phrase with the tone of disgust. How to banish the voices that confine me?

My own experience of revulsion at design and craftsmanship. The earliest I can recall was at the Twin Sisters boutique in San Jose, California. My grandma’s neighbor and her sister created this business venture which was really just a garage sale.

I love flea markets and garage (boot) sales. Amazing treasures can be found for just a bit of money, allowance money when I was a child. So when I was young, while visiting Grammie on a weekend, she said, girls (me and my sister) lets go down to the sale. I had a bit of money to spend, perhaps Grammie gave me a couple of coins, I don’t recall. I was excited with the prospect of a new treasure and supporting Grammie’s friend in her new business.

Grammie, little sister, and I 1970’s

It was awful and I was disappointed. The things she and her sister had made were the most poorly made things I’d ever seen. I truly believed I could do better. Now granted my Mother is a master seamstress, with a good eye for colour and has taught sewing, so perhaps my standards were higher than your average girl of about 7 years old. Grammie insisted that I get something, but there was nothing I felt was worth my few coins. Finally, Grammie gave me an understanding glance and said, “just pick something”, so I chose a tacky lopsided pot holder with crooked stitching and fraying seams.

I fear having someone look at what I make with the horror and revulsion. Intellectually I know this is highly unlikely, but it is a non-rational fear.

A Friend who makes Monsters

Tamara is the most organized person I have ever met, in what appears to be every part of her life.  She manages the household accounts with a masterful use of spreadsheets. She hosts parties where she makes beautiful food and is dressed before the first guest arrived. She works at either a job or her own business, is a mother, wife and considerate daughter. Her personal dress is conservative and classic. And if that isn’t enough she has a hidden side, she makes monsters. The most amazing creative creatures. Usually with sharp teeth or long claws, but they contain a magical balance of whimsy and ugly to equal amazing.

Somewhere in craftsmanship and design is a magical place of beauty. Tamara’s monsters were inherently ugly but in such a sweet way and the attention to detail of each one is superb. Where as even simple square-ish pot holders from Grammie’s neighbor were vulgar.

The Vulgar was an interesting exhibit but it ultimately failed to reveal the secret sweet spot of where the brilliance of creativity and design tips over the top and slides under the bar, into tacky and repulsive. I think there is an element of superb craftsmanship that moves the bar. If the exhibit was still on, I would go again but more slowly the second time.

Hats Included

A bit more about hats and head pieces at The Vulgar exhibit. There were some divine Viennese bonnets from the Wien museum dated 1780-1810. I didn’t find any photos or links.

There was a reference to Sally Victor’s Mondrian style hat which to my delight I saw at the High Style exhibit and the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, May 2015. The Vulgar explored the ideas of imitation. I gathered a few images together featuring the Mondrian style.

Imitation vs. Inspiration

Sally Victor Hat 1962
Piet Mondrian Composition C 1935
Yves St Laurent AW 1965/66

 

In addition, at The Vulgar there were hats from Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones and a couple more, which I should have written down. Hats were not the focus, they rarely are in exhibits, but I was pleased they at least were given some attention.

The quest in finding my artistic voice continues. I would love to hear about your quest to find your artistic voice.