For all the crafters and students out there, I am still working hard on my new video tutorial on how to make your own extended hat brim. My goal is to make it available by the end of the week (the beginning of September). If you are interested in this tutorial you can sign up for my student newsletter to get an update the day it comes out (I only send out the newsletter when I have something to announce that would be interesting to students, so only a few times a year). Click here to sign up.
In the meantime, to get ready for the new tutorial I have completely updated my "LEARN" page here on my website. Now it should be easier for you to find the information you need to help you with your own fantasy felting projects. Feedback is welcomed.
The "Design Deep Dive" miniseries explores some of the ideas and inspirations behind my different hat designs. This week I will be looking into one of my newest designs, the Witch Hat Fascinator. It has all the same wrinkles and curls you would come to expect from one of my hats, but on a smaller scale.
I'm definitely not a fashion expert, but the way I understand the whole idea of fascinators is that they are supposed to be a decorative alternative to a full-sized hat. People wear them when a hat would also make sense, but they are more like a fashion accessory than something functional, like something between a smaller hat and an oversized hair clip. I first started seeing all kinds of fascinators a few years ago when I was dabbling with steampunk inspired top hats. Lots of steampunk models were wearing these tiny little steamer top hats fastened on with hair pins or bands. They really caught my eye back then because they were a whole new kind of hat design that I could play with, and because they were so cute! Since my hats are decorative anyway, and not really functional, it also made sense to experiment with fascinators. At that time especially I was really looking to try all kinds of hats and not settle on just witch and wizard hats. But that was years ago and I still had a lot to learn. The few times I tried to make my own steampunk hat fascinators back then they came out looking more like fuzzy cups than mini-hats. There was no real interest for steampunk hats anyway, and I eventually I moved on.
But every year or so the idea of making a fascinator hat design would come back up, usually after spending awhile on Pinterest and seeing fascinator hats come up a bunch of times. Last year I took one of my first solid steps towards creating a fascinator witch hat since I first attempted fascinator hats years ago. Right after Halloween I was out at all the stores picking up discounted Halloween decorations, and I happened to come across this mini-felted witch hat. It was obviously machine-felted and mass produced, and I think it was meant for dolls and not necessarily to be put on someone's head like a fascinator, but it was just the right size. I also had an idea to turn it into a miniature hat block that I could use to shape witch hat fascinators. I bought it and took it home and then dunked the whole thing in Plasti-Dip, which is supposed to make it water proof and rubbery, perfect for shaping wet wool. But then the Holiday Season started up and I lost all track of my personal projects. My fascinator hat design would have to wait, and I put the rubber coated hat in my closet with the hope of getting back to it one day.
Finally things started to slow down for me and I was able to catch up with my 2017 orders. As the Summer of 2018 started up I found that I had some time to experiment again and make hats that I wanted to make, just for fun and just to see what I could do. The results of that work are several one-of-a-kind and experimental hats that you can check out here. But I also pulled that rubberized hat block out of the closet and decided to finally give it a real solid try. Another reason my attention turned back to witch fascinator hats was that I have been getting lots of requests for smaller hats this season, sometimes for children or dolls or other reasons. My fascinator hats are not necessarily designed for children or dolls, but those requests kept the whole concept of mini-hats fresh in my mind. I sat down and began putting together prototypes, trying to figure out just how to create a miniature hat that still looked unique (and similar to the full-sized hats I already make). It took a couple of weeks of attempts before I finally got the design down.
If you are curious about what the final product is like check out the listing page, which has more details about the hat, the decoration options, and lots of extra photos. Instead of going with built-in hair clips to hold the hat in place I decided to go with a milliner-grade band. But you can hardly see the band as the pictures show, so I think the whole thing turned out well.
What do you think? Are fascinator hats interesting to you? What other uses are there for hats of this size?
One of the things I like the most about wet felting (which is how I make my hats) is how sculptural it can be. I used to do a lot of painting, but that was all flat on the canvas. When I make hats I'm making three-dimensional things that look different depending on the angle you look at it from. As I started making hats though I began to realize that even though the hats had shape they could also look a little flat if they are all just a single solid color. I tried to fix this problem early on by using different colors to make colorways, adding decorative details like leaves and hat bands, making textured openings to resemble birch bark, and using special blends of wool to get different color effects (like marbling). For the most part this is still how I do things.
Then one day I received a custom order request. Someone wanted me to make a white hat and add some blue color, not in shades or lines, but in a particular shape. The process itself was simple enough. Wet felting is all about adding layers of different wool, so all I needed to do was add layers of blue onto the white hat in the proper shape. Up until that point though I never even considered adding specific shapes to my hats.
My favorite custom silhouette so far was a custom order I received three years ago. The customer wanted a hat that had big orange eyes that almost resembled the eyes you would cut into a Jack-o-Lantern. The finished product was spooky and fun, a hat that watched you as you watched it.
What kind of shapes and patterns would you want on your own custom silhouette hat? Chances are I can make it for you. I'm currently accepting custom orders so if you have an idea that you would like me to breathe into life just visit this page to read more about custom orders and to get in touch.
I've been doing lots of behind-the-scenes stuff this week too. Just yesterday I finished a huge photo-shoot session where we took pictures of three different hats! Keep an eye out for those OOAK hats showing up here and on my website over the next week or two.
This week I was so excited to find out that my work was featured on the front cover of the German felting magazine FilzFun! In honor of that honor I thought I would put up a sneak peek of what you might find in that issue. I'm posting a few (not all) of the interview questions they sent me and my responses.
Question: What was the initial spark [that made you become an artist]?
I have always gravitated towards the fantastical even as a very young child. I can recall how I spent most of my 6th grade study-hall time illustrating a little book I wrote myself about unicorns. It wasn't until I combined my love of fantasy with my developing felting skills that I created my first Witch Hat. When I sold that first hat at a local craft fair I remember being so relieved. This really cool couple bought it and I was thinking "...wow I am so glad somebody bought that really weird hat..." and I almost didn’t make any more because sometimes it takes more courage to be different than most might realize and highlighting a difference can make you feel vulnerable. But asking someone to give you money for being different can touch you down into your deepest ego and leave you the most vulnerable of all.
Question: How does your artistic work influence your life?
My art and my daily life are very intertwined. When my art became my family’s main source of income the amount it influenced my life grew. My art is both a job and a joy, some days it can be overwhelming, but I am so happy that I get to do what I love for a living. Packing hats to be shipped, answering dozens of e-mails from customers, and posting on social media are more the job end of it. I know that without my art I would not be doing fun photoshoots, going on trips to teach felting workshops, or traveling to wool conventions. So my art has shaped my current life greatly!
Question: How do you work? Exact planning or spontaneously?
I might draw a few sketches, but I sit and think about how to craft the envisioned design in a technical way before I make the hat. Once I have walked myself though the process enough times in my mind I begin. At this point I let things become a little more spontaneous. Maybe this color instead of that. I don’t like to go into a new design without a plan but I do allow for moments of spontaneity. In my early felting days there was lots of experimenting! Which means I have a box in my closet filled with projects that didn’t work out. But I have a rule that every person who visits my home studio for the first time gets to choose an item from the box of misfits.
And that's it! I only posted a little bit of the five type-written pages I sent back to them, so this is only a small spoiler. FilzFun publishes in German, but they publish internationally so I think they have an (UK) English version (so go check out their website). The Fall issue is the one that will be featuring my hats, and you'd better believe I will be posting more about it when I get my hands on that issue. See you then!
As we start the month of August there are all kinds of new things going on in my shop. For my new weekly feature, #ShopNewsSunday, I'm going to give you a quick rundown of the new stuff.
First of all, I am continuing to update my website. I'm trying to make it easier to navigate and more polished looking. I haven't done everything I've wanted to do yet, but the homepage is a little different than it was last week and so is the shop page. I'm trying to highlight the parts of my website for people looking to order hats and the parts of my website that are just for people who want to learn how to wet felt and create their own fantasy projects. If you see something that doesn't work or that you just don't like let me know.
That's it! See you on Friday for #FridayReads!
Welcome back to my miniseries of posts called "Design Deep Dive," where I explain some of the inspirations and ideas behind my favorite hat designs. Last week I began this series by writing about one of my favorite hats of all, the tattered brim side-curl hat. This week I will be tackling something a little less complicated but still very important to me because it was my very first witch / wizard hat design. It is called the "short-tail" witch / wizard hat. There's lots of history with this design, but I will try and keep it brief.
It wasn't long after I learned how to wet felt that I started thinking about making hats. Things really got going when I found affordable plastic hat shapers (which had the added bonus of being water proof, which is really important when it comes to wet felting). But my earliest hats were all pretty normal as far as hats go. I tried to make them subtle, focusing on color choice and just a few embellishments. With time I started to add more structural elements, like folds and curls, but overall the designs remained simple.
In general though I just wasn't satisfied. I liked my hats. I enjoyed making them and I thought the designs worked well. They just weren't memorable. They weren't hats I would want to build an outfit around, or necessarily take out to a special event. They weren't eye catching enough.
Fantasy has always been a big part of my life (as I've already written about), but at this time in my life I was really relying on fantasy audiobooks and games to help me cope. Based on all that fantasy that I was ingesting I finally decided to try a more fantasy-inspired hat design rather than something plain. This was riskier for me than it sounds because at the time I was also living in a community that generally frowns on "witches" and fantasy stuff. You can even see some of my reservation in my original design. The tail is small and easily explained away if I encountered anyone who I knew would give me some trouble for a witchy hat design.
That original design was based on the classic conical witch and wizard hat. You probably know the kind I mean. It has a very triangular shape, with a point at the top, like the Wicked Witch of the West. I added the ridges though to make it look more like a wizard's hat which is usually more slumped over and worn out. I wanted it to look more organic, like it was collapsing a bit, but still structured and pretty.
If you have been to my shop anytime in the last couple of years you may have noticed that my witch and wizard hats have changed quite a bit since that first hat I made six years ago. What really fueled that change was the positive feedback I received early on. People online, and even in the conservative community I was living in, told me how interesting the hat looked. They started selling right away. Because of that I felt more confident with each hat I made, increasing the tail a little bit and a little bit more, slowly inching towards the big colorful fantasy witch and wizard hat design I had always wanted to make.
Recently though I have been receiving lots of requests for me to bring back some hats in my older styles, especially hats with shorter tails and less rounded ridges. I completely understand some people's desires for smaller hats. They are more manageable, easier to care for, and not too overwhelming if you have a certain costume in mind. Some have said they are a more realistic fantasy hat design, while still being artistic too. As a result I've decided to start bringing back some of my older styles. They will be featured all through the month of August, and it is my hope to have some brand new photos of my short-tail hats soon.
So that's it! That's my brief journey through the design work of my original "short-tail" hat. Is there a particular hat design you would like me to write about for a future Design Deep Dive post? Just leave a comment here or on my Facebook #FridayReads post letting me know which hat you're interested in and why. Chances are I will take your advice and write about it soon!