Sculpture – Performance – Millinery

 

I recently had the pleasure of working with Nicola Dale as part of her film, Close Readings. At the end of March, it was shown as part of See What I See, a collection of films by artists, curated by Nicola at Manchester Art Gallery.

My involvement came out of a chat about current projects over a cup of tea and a bourbon. Nicola was describing the performative walk she would be doing between The Portico and John Rylands libraries. She would be filmed walking across the city centre with a book on her head. My immediate question was, “How is it going to stay on?”

A few weeks later she asked me if I could come up with a millinery solution. I jumped at the chance of making something where function was so important. I instantly thought of rolls of fabric which I’ve seen women around the world use to balance water containers and baskets on their heads.

I set about making a prototype for Nicola to test. This worked so I created a donut of fabric from strips of white cotton – tightly bound and stitched together. During the make, I really liked the how the strip of fabric was falling and really liked its veil like appearance. There was something very Queen Victoria about it. The edges were left raw and started to fray which gave this a really interesting quality. The film also showed it moving beautifully in the wind. And it served its purpose – she was able to walk quite fast with confidence that the book she was carrying was not going to fall.

Nicola has described herself as and artist first, sculptor 2nd and performer 3rd. These are the elements of millinery that I am interested in and perhaps these worlds are not so far apart. Working with an artist who comes at it from a completely different perspective, forces me to continually, rethink the how and why of my own work. Its always exciting when that happens!

Find out more about Nicola Dale here: www.nicoladale.com

Exciting Times!

I can honestly say that 2017 has been a complete whirlwind, and I have really missed taking time-out to reflect on what I’ve been doing.

Between organising the HATstock festival in Stockport, Wear A Hat Day,  a studio move, developing workshops, delivering talks, joining a new crit group, working with bio-fabric, doing courses in flatlay and working with straw as well as meeting my friend Katie’s Alpacas – its been totally full-on!

Thanks to the fantastic Sara Auty of SAZmedia, I also fitted in a photoshoot too! The pic of me in the scarf half-hat / percher is one of hers!

I’ll be sharing what I’ve been up to over the next few weeks and revealing whats to come – no spoilers but I’m working on lots of exciting projects! In the mean-time, get a flavour of the great time we all had at HATstock here.

 

OPEN STUDIOS 10th- 11th Dec 11am-5pm

Pop in – Have a chat -Try on hats – Revamp your Hat – Make a Headband – Shop Local

Emma Fozard and I are throwing open the doors of Studio 5 as part of Open Studios at Marketplace on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December 11am – 5pm.

Bring along a hat that needs some TLC and we can have a go at giving it a new lease of life. Drop-in to make a fabric bow headband with Emma between 12noon – 2pm.

A selling exhibition of work made by makers at Marketplace in our gallery space on the ground floor will be open and the last Vintage Village of the year is also happening on Sunday so Stockport really is the place to be this weekend!

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Sharing Hatting Success – Part 1

The last 2 weeks have been a total roller coaster, full of millinery milestones! I exhibited in my first selling show as part of the Sale Arts Trail. My stand was in the bar area of the quirky Masonic Hall venue. It was great to exhibit alongside embroidery artist Julia Jowett, textile designer Annabel Perrin and jeweller Jo Lavelle. I couldn’t have asked for better company!

Encouraged by Julia and Jo, I got my hat steamer out and did an impromptu blocking demonstration. People enjoyed seeing the process and it helped to illustrate the amount of work that goes into making a hat.

Hats really only come alive when someone tries them on and although I do like trying my hats on in my studio, it just can’t beat the feeling of fitting a hat on a customer and seeing the effect. They hold themselves differently, adopting the posture of an elegant figure from a fashion illustration of yesteryear. The head tilts and the pout comes out as they look in the mirror to see a person transformed looking back. Watching this happen again and again as the weekend progressed was a total thrill. So thank-you to all the people who came, tried on and purchased hats – it was lovely spending time with you.

Watch out for Part 2 of Sharing Success in a few days!

 

 

Tools of my Trade

Part of my love of hat-making is born out of a fascination for hat blocks. These sculptural forms are used to transform materials into 3D wearables. It is this transformation process that is currently fueling the technical development work I’ve been doing over the past few months. I am using techniques unique to the art of millinery, to explore the properties of fabric. Stiffening, stretching, steaming, pinning and building layers to construct a stable foundation and a wearable hat. Its all basic stuff but I am realising the value of really testing what a material can do – its essential to the skills arsenal of the milliner.

Many of the tools of this trade are no longer being made and indeed the knowledge of how to use them is a scarce and precious thing. I use a mixture of old tools, specialist materials and everyday objects to make hats. My favourite tool this month has to be my mini iron – I already had some old irons but they are a little too heavy and have to be used with a cloth over the handle to prevent serious burns! My new little gem is small, lightweight, heats up really quickly and is perfect for curving petersham, making bias binding and getting great shape when blocking. What a find!

Half-Timbered at Market Place

The 27th of November seems like a life-time ago. This event fell on a Foodie Friday and although there was torrential rain in Stockport, people still came to help us open our group exhibition, ‘Half-Timbered’ and to see what goes on behind our studio doors.

 

The event provided a goal and deadline, a definite reason for making that forced me to revisit sampling – something that has fallen by the wayside in pursuit of a well finished product! It reminded me how much I enjoy writing about my work and the important role that plays in reflecting on what I do.

It was also a great way to get to know the other makers at Market Place. We found ourselves popping in and out of eachother’s studio to get feedback on what we were showing. This gave a new perspective and a confidence boost when it was needed most. Building a creative community is incredibly challenging but there is no doubt in my mind that we are definitely stronger together than we would ever be apart.

This was the first time I’d taken part in an open studio event. If you are in two minds about opening up your workspace I’d say, “Go for it!” Although it was a bit nerve racking, I really enjoyed talking about my hats and it was fantastic to see people having fun trying them all on.  Thanks to everyone who came, tried on a titfer and those who placed an order. I hope to see you all again at the next open event.

The summer feels like a long time ago and yet I can still feel the benefit of my 2 week holiday on the North Antrim coast back in September. This is the home of giants, whiskey and the ubiquitous garlic chip. If you haven’t experienced these joys you don’t know what you’re missing!

A trip home is just not complete without a trip round the charity and vintage shops in Coleraine. I always find something amazing and this year was no exception. Hope and Gloria on Railway Road always comes up with the goods. This is an interesting vintage shop where you can get a cup of tea, a vintage outfit and take a sewing class. This time I found hidden treasure in the stacks of fabric – probably the contents of peoples’ sewing cupboards, full of half finished projects and some that were never started for one reason or another.

So what did I come home with? …….metres and metres of gold and red dupion silk! One piece was 4m long a total steal at £2.00 for the whole piece.

I also found a gem in the British Heart Foundation; a beautiful 50s yellow fur felt hat – in mint condition. After a bit of a steam, the original shape emerged – a kind of beret shape, quite a tricky shape to wear. I loved the colour, so I set about reblocking it – More about that in my next post.

So it it just goes to show that you can find amazing things in unexpected places.

Straw Cloche day at Atelier Millinery

What a busy week it has been! I went to London last Saturday for a 1 day straw cloche course at Atelier Millinery.  I set off from Stockport and 2.5 hours later I found myself in the beautiful Smiths Court – a quiet little oasis not far from the hustle and bustle of Regent St and Shaftesbury Avenue.

Our tutor for the day, Tina introduced us to our vintage straw cones which had been pre-stiffened and dyed to the colour of our choice in advance. It was a total joy to be gently smoothing and massaging the material instead of using the incredible force needed to block the wool cones I am used to.

It was a lovely day so once we had blocked our straw, we brought the table outside to do our stitching and to enjoy the sunshine.

I learned so many things on the day – the benefits of waxing your thread, not using more than an arms length of thread at a time, how to make a petersham trim and much much more. I am going to have to practice practice practice now so I don’t forget any of these great tips and techniques.  The day was very intense with so much to take in but thanks to Tina’s patience, I did get there and I am really happy with my hat. Here’s to an exciting new world of straw!

Fun with Fabric Flowers

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It was another great day of learning new millinery skills at Hat Works on Saturday 20th June. This time we were getting to grips with fabric flowers. The worksheets on the table were a little daunting, with origami style diagrams that I find difficult at the best of times. But as always Sue and Marie were on hand, with their unwavering patience and encouragement to help us persevere. I made two (and a half) flowers and covered two other techniques – it might not look like a lot but the good thing is that I feel confident to practice these techniques on my own now. This week at the studio I’ve been trying these techniques on a smaller scale and using a range of fabrics to see how I could incorporate this into my work. I’m looking forward to the veiling workshop now on the 4th of July.

Feathers Find Me Out

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Anyone who has been on a millinery workshop or course with me will know that I have a totally irrational fear of trimming hats. I have no idea where this comes from – I think I love the simplicity of blocked shapes so much that it feels unnecessary to adorn with an added extra (millinery sacrilege to some I know). I am starting to gradually get over this thanks to the courses in different trimming techniques I have been attending at Hat Works. Last month’s 1 day course on feathers was fantastic and has really opened my eyes up to the range of techniques and qualities of different kinds of feathers to create stunning shapes and lines that would not act as a mere adornment but totally ‘make’ the hat or headpiece.

The day covered so much, we studied a vast array of feather types, learned their names, qualities / uses, looked at stunning images of couture creations, we got to handle hats from the museum collection, all on top of making our own feather corsage. There was even time for additional experimentation with feather flowers, feather curling, use of wire and beads.

Bring on the next session on the 20th June – Fabric Flowers, I can’t wait!