I believe that it’s ok for a woman to be equally comfortable in a pair of stiletto heels and a pair of Carhartts. I believe that what we wear is our purest form of self-expression. Art belongs on our heads, shoulders and heels as well as our walls. I love corsets and bustles, but I’m glad I don’t have to wear one every day. I’m glad I don’t have to wear any one thing every day and that the internet has made subcultures of every kind explode. I can dress 1940s on Monday, Victorian on Friday, and like a logger on Saturday. I think men look incredibly sexy in suits and I don’t understand why they don’t wear them more often.
My work is rooted in the past. I use traditional forms– fedora, porkpie, cloche– but my hats are created with the eyes of a modern person looking at the past through rose-colored glasses. I begin by making a single design choice. Following that choice, I am not always in control of the process. The materials I use have their limits and piques. I work to find solutions to the problems they create, finding balance and design lines. I begin by blocking over antique and antique-style wooden blocks and then make each stitch with a needle and thread.
I am a tactile person. I love the feel of fur felt under my fingers and am completely fascinated by the beauty in a single feather. Millinery appeals to the inquisitive aspect of my personality as well. All of my life I have been driven to know how things work, to take things back to their source and to explore the world through art. I love millinery because each and every art form can be applied to my hats. I can use wire crochet, bead embroidery, French silk flower making, ribbon work, and needle felting. There is no end to this, no technique that can’t in some way be applied. That is why I love it so much.
I began to study hat making at Lillstreet Art Center in Chicago. I took their class seven times and become utterly addicted to making hats. After my millinery teacher, Eva May, left Lillstreet to start her own studio, I followed her and helped paint the walls and wash the floor. I began selling my hats on my husband’s Etsy site in 2007, and though my husband and I show together as Moe Sew Co, I do have my own Etsy shop for the “millinery division”.
Several years ago, I began looking for fellow milliners to gather together and form a community. I discovered a little-used millinery team, Milliners of Etsy, joined, and began recruiting others. I took over Captainship of the team in 2010. At that time, we had 25 milliners. We now number over 550 with members in every part of the globe: Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and the US. As Captain, I facilitate our active on-line discussion forum and organize events such as our quarterly challenges. Our challenges have put me in touch with many of the greatest milliners of our generation: Louise Green, Wayne Wichern, and Patricia Underwood. They have also gotten press across the internet and in magazines such as HATalk and The Hat, two magazines based in the UK.