Susan and I in conversation …..
Q: What do you love most about making your lush hats and what has changed for you this year?
A: I love creating something which someone loves, whether they want to stand out, or blend in. My millinery world has really turned upside down this year, with all major ‘hat wearing’ events having been cancelled. I started off lockdown sewing scrubs bags, and masks, and then was asked by folk if I would make them to sell, and since then, I haven’t stopped sewing!
Q: How long have you been making hats?
A: I first did a taster class at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2009, and from that moment on it became an obsession, and I’ve been taking classes ever since.
Q: How would you describe your hats to someone that has never seen your hats or bands before?
A: Hmm… that’s tricky… a vintage style with a modern twist? So using leather for example for flowers on a tweed hat. I’ve really got into maths and geometry during lockdown, and have taken a couple of origami classes, so expect some folded designs coming up!
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: I’m really fortunate to have travelled the world in my previous career in audit, so my hats are named after places or buildings that I have loved.
Q: Are there any little tips or tricks you’ve learned over the years, that would help or inspire budding hat makers?
A: One thing that has stuck in my mind is a quotation from one of my early teachers, who told me ‘making a hat is not like cake decorating – you should think of the decoration and that hat together’
As my background is in IT, I’ve been able to use skills that I never thought would transfer over into a creative industry and have made life easier for myself by creating spreadsheets to help me calculate diameters, ribbon widths etc.
Q: Do you list to music when been creative and if so, what are you currently listen to?
A: I’ve just discovered podcasts! I’ve got a very varied selection I listen to, from foodie ones like ‘Table Manners’ and ‘Out to Lunch’ some fashion related ones ‘The business of fashion’ but as a real escape I listen to ‘That Peter Crouch’ podcast.
Oh, and I sing too, with the local Rock Choir in Saffron Walden, and we are still rehearsing via zoom, so I am frequently learning my ‘part’ as I sew, especially on a Tuesday which is rehearsal day!
Q: What do you personally find the most challenging thing about being an artist?
A: Sometimes I will get an idea, but trying to get it to work is frustrating. One of my favourites took several months of iterations before I got the balance between the fabric weight and distribution of curves to work. I almost gave up, but did something else for a few days, came back to it and thought of basic physics, and got the balance right! I tested it was ok by doing the ironing in it!
Q: What is the highlight of your career so far, or your proudest moment?
A: My proudest moment to date was having one of my hats selected to be exhibited in London as part of London Hat Week 2020. It was the first time I had entered, and was a huge honour. The original exhibition was moved from April to October, and it I took my first (and only) trip on public transport to see it in London.
Q: Who is your favourite hat creater, and why?
A: Historically I love the hats of Elsa Schiaparelli, especially those of the 1950s. I’ve been very fortunate to have taken classes with some of my current ‘millinery inspirations’ – Louise Mc Donald, Justine Bradley-Hill and Lina Stein, several via zoom during lockdown.
Q: What small business are you loving at the moment?
A: I have discovered so many local people through lockdown! It was lovely to be able to meet Claire Folkes and Kate Keller at Helen Wiseman’s Open Studio in Wimbish. Plus the flowers of Jo Thorndike of VV Raven always make me smile whenever I go to the hairdressers, and her Instagram feed is so inspiring.
Q: What is your favourite piece in your collection that is arriving into Wonky Wheel Gallery, and why?
A: I think it is thank you to Mary that I can’t choose a favourite! Working with the dupion silk was her suggestion, and it has been lovely to use a more ‘drapey’ material for the silk headbands. Her pairing with the kimono bags is wonderful.
Susan’s work is a new arrival into the gallery for this month and we look forward to your feedback on this new collection. You can find out more about Susan collection by clicking here