The beautiful man

The beautiful man

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Feltmakers Design Award 2012

A year seems to fly by in the world of millinery and it is the time of year for millinery students to be pitted against each other in the annual Worshipful Company Of Feltmakers  Design Competition. The competition this year is to be overseen by the Queen's milliner Rachel Trevor-Morgan and Philip Wright of Walter Wright Ltd it will be exciting to see the finalists hats.

This year having been away from Leeds my highly skilled colleague and friend Sue Carter has been facilitating the manufacture and design of the first year milliners hats for the Feltmakers along with the very talented Fiona Wilson. So it has been very exciting coming in in the frantic last hours and packing all the hats away for collection today. When I interviewed the present first years back in the Summer I knew that they had something special in store and judging by their work my intuition was right, really exciting and quite sad at the same time knowing that the HNC Millinery course will close. Need to think of new ideas to keep inspiring new milliners.

Boxes of precious cargo - hats

A few sneaky peaks wouldn't want to give anything away, keep following and when the competition is judged I can share all.

H'Atelier at Hat Works

Former Leeds College of Art student Jen Scott-Russell of H’Atelier Millinery will be taking over the What’s Hot cases at Hat Works from the 28th February with her inspiring hats.

H'atelier’s bespoke millinery creations have graced the heads of many a discerning lady and been used by stylists, fashion designers, photographers, hat hire shops, hairstylists, film and TV companies to create that perfect stylish look. Traditional methods are used alongside innovative new techniques to produce hats and headpieces for a whole range of clients and occasions. Each one is striking, unique and impeccably made.
Actress Katherine Kelly as seen at The Royal Wedding of Zara Phillips to Mike Tindall

Just one step inside the studio of H’atelier and meeting the enigmatic designer Jen Scott-Russell one is instantly swept away in the magic of millinery and its potential to transform

Jen Scot-Russell in her studio
Hat heaven in the H'Atelier Showroom

Another peak in to the divine showroom

Jen is something of a crusading zealot on the subject of hats -"There is no-one who would not look better for wearing the right hat", she says (often) ... and she really means it. Enjoy perusing her hats in the What’s Hot cases and you too may be tempted.


Sunday, 19 February 2012


Fashion Week is upon us once again and I was thrilled a few weeks ago to learn that one of the milliners I had managed to get involved in The Finishing Touch exhibition Mr William Chambers was to be included in this year's London Fashion Week Headonism show curated by Mr Stephen Jones. I have long admired the quirky yet wearable style of William Chambers work, so its great to see him getting more coverage.
Crystal Explosion - William Chambers

So this piece you can see in the flesh at Hat Works, Stockport until May along with the gorgeous felt and leather fur cone hat from the curator himself Stephen Jones, it is in the Feather trims case and is a donation to the museum.
Stephen Jones fur cone hat
Other milliners in the Headonism exhibition include Piers Atkinson, Noel Stewart and the wondrous Mr Justin Smith esq whose work is always challenging new thoughts and ideas and highly inspiring. All showing that British millinery is intriguing, vibrant and always eclectic. My only concern on the selection was that there were no female milliners in the shortlist this year, lets hope that is different in the future. Milliners like Zara Gorman, Emma Yeo, Karen Henriksen do offer some challenging and exciting pieces too.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

1970's Nostalgia

Leeds City Museum have a new temporary exhibition looking at the decade that many used to say taste forgot, the 1970's. A fantastic, inspiring exhibition that really evokes the feeling of that time and brings back a few memories for those of a certain age! Especially the colours and that particular shade of wood, but more key the food and drink memories - advocaat, mmh egg nogg at Christmas, babycham glasses, too young to try the drink. Vesta curries, Smash potatoes and the wonder of Arctic Rolls......

Friday, 17 February 2012

Mr Treacy's Feather Salad

Visiting the new exhibition at Hat Works, Stockport this week, 'The Finishing Touch', all about the many varieties of trimmings available to milliners from feathers to plastics, I really enjoyed watching the SHOWstudio films of Mr Treacy and Mr Jones. Watching the mastery of Philip Treacy is a joy, though quite jealous when he nonchalantly steams some esparterie around a block and elegantly sews tip to band. The work is beautiful, using tongues to curve feathers just so and the placement afterwards.
screen grab from SHOWstudio film-Philip in red

Cutting and shaping feathers

Attaching feathers to silk and esparterie

Gorgeous curled feathers

So a trip to the exhibition will let you see the finished piece and much much more as there is some stunning headwear on show or a visit to the web site of SHOWstudio to view the clips or grab that Stephen Jones downloadable pattern.
Stephen Jones and one of his hats
The joy of watching Mr Jones and his humour can't be missed either as he creates a blue peter-esque flower arrangement whilst drinking a bloody Mary, pure brilliance.

New Books

Teaching can be a mix of highs and the occasional low, my students are really inspiring and I learn so much from them is a definite plus point as is the opportunity to review books and then get to keep them! Books are often my raison d'etre or comfort blanket - all will be alright if you have a gorgeous art & design text book! So when I was phoned in work today to say that a package had arrived for me and on opening it there were two new books, wow a brilliant way to end the week.
Fashion Design Course:Accessories - Jane Schaffer & Sue Saunders

 Each time I had reviewed books of late I had asked for a book on accessories/millinery, (in the vain hope that someone may ask me to help write one!) so the lovely people at Thames and Hudson on getting one written sent me a copy to look at. I was a little wary, bags, shoes and millinery in 250 pages but its a really excellent book with lots of interesting nuances about design in accessories, developing commercial collections, working with leather etc. the millinery is basic yet there are some new approaches and stitch diagrams great for teaching guides and those new to millinery. On sale for £16.95 if you have a birthday coming up.

I was also sent the up dated version of Fashion Design Drawing, a book I have used for teaching for the last 5 years as it is really well put together. The new book has some excellent digital research and ideas again a great book.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Another sample garment

Now I have remembered how to use my sewing machine and have the concentration span to do so, I have been endeavoring to explore some pattern cutting techniques from the excellent Pattern Cutting  book by Dennic Chunman Lo from Laurence King Publishing. As someone whose brain fogs terribly at the sight of a pattern book or instructions the straightforwardness of this book is most welcome. So here is creation number 1 not quite finished, I need to look for some instructions on facings first!

Bodice block joined and spliced

new vertical pattern for bias bodice

Laid on fabric

Nearly finished.............
Once I have it all worked out it will make a great dress.

That Stephen Jones Hat......

So I did say I would have the hat completed from the Stephen Jones pattern, courtesy of Show Studio 48 hours ago but a few other things got in the way - I went to Birmingham and have shared the wonders of that exhibition......

Anyway the Mark 1 version is now complete, really its my toile but in taffeta silk courtesy of James Hare Silks yearly end of roll sale as opposed to calico, to ensure that i understood and got  sense of how it would hold itself.

I have really enjoyed doing the piece as I have learned some new techniques. I love the way that he creates a head fitting or stand as he calls it a really useful process. the pattern instructions are not perfect for someone like me who definitely needs visuals, so when I make up the next one I will photo document the process. This pattern has such great potential for redesigning and altering, I declined to add the bow, (speed) and added a faux brooch which O like but would need some more stiffening behind where it was added. So much potential, new ideas so we shall see where they end up....

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Lost in Lace

I have been reading the Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp as introduced to me by the wonderful Visual Artist Fiona Wilson, one of her exercises was to do a Creative Autobiography  to realise where you are at and what makes you tick. One of the questions is 'Which artists to you admire most?' For myself maybe a better term would be 'Creative Individuals' or someone working within the Art and Design sector. The reason I say this is because as I listened to Lesley Millar MBE explain her latest exhibition Lost in Lace at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery I realised that she is most definitely on my admire list. I paraphrase - "The aim of my life has been to increase the understanding and awareness of contemporary textiles initially in my own practice as a weaver and now distilling the work of others." In essence this is what is within my own head with regards to millinery, so a great woman to be inspired by.
Lesley Millar MBE (blonde lady centre stage) beginning her exhibition tour
Suzumi Noda - Juxtaposition jacquard pattern cards woven together
This is the first of Lesley's curated shows that does not concentrate purely on textile artists. She explained that it was tough call to open her door to other artists a community that suddenly was beguiling to her. She wanted a response to 'Lace' and her aim was that all answers to the theme would hold the same weight. Lace being so much more than lingerie and veiling - A lot of holes surrounded by thread - Knitting with air - If space has boundaries is there another space beyond those boundaries? Lesley articulated that her planning of exhibitions comes from three points - Focus-Stimulus - Provocation, a good starting point for us all.

Piper Shepard hand cut site specific lace wall
De Certeau's sense of place and space were important to the exhibition, place is often seen as static and space variable and dynamic, these opposites create new paths and show the interrelatedness of materiality, frisson and tension, an expected and an unexpected use of form.

Chiharu Shiota - After the Dream
This was my favourite piece it was so evocative and stifling in its presence, like your worse nightmare, cobwebs across the face, stuck, beings coming to get you..... A large installation that has previously been at The Venice biennial.

If you can get to Birmingham in the next two weeks it would be worth the trip, a stunning exhibition in a beautiful museum and art gallery. The traditional lace exhibition in the bridge gallery in the museum is also worth a visit.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Out of one's comfort zone

Stephen Jones Showstudio pattern - piecing together

Laid on taffeta silk

In the guise on New Year, new ideas and new skills, I was intrigued when reading a travel report in the Guardian (as ever) from comedian and writer Miranda Hart and her resolution in 2011 to do something out of her comfort zone every day. (She was writing about sea kayaking in Turkey something she would never normally do) I had read of this concept before, a good way to keep you more alert and to create new trains of creative thought and the more new things you try the less worried you become of the next new thing....Something quite important for me at the moment.

So Cut & Sew hats are not my most favourite thing so challenge for today is to try the Stephen Jones pattern on showstudio. So its all cut out and tacked the completed piece to be shown tomorrow.