Monday, November 14, 2011

Hats in France and Italy: an assortment

 During our first week in Paris we discovered there would be an art opening, while we were traveling, that was completely dedicated to Coco Chanel.  I'm sure everyone reading this blog will know that Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel was a milliner before she started her couture fashion house in Paris.

The paintings you will see here were from that incredible exhibit at the Opera Gallery on St. Honore, entitled Coco: The Testimony of Black and White.  The artist, Lita Cabellut, has a very unique biography.  She was born to a prostitute in Barcelona, never knew her father, raised by a Gypsy grandmother, who never sent her to school.  Somehow she ended up attending an art school in Amsterdam.  Quite a remarkable story!

When we returned to Paris at the end of our trip, I was set on seeing the exhibit.  What I didn't expect was the SIZE of these paintings!  Most would not fit on any of our living room walls.  They were HUGE!  I was so drawn to these very mesmerizing painting and the vibrant spirit they created in the space. 

If I remember correctly, there were 34 paintings in the exhibit, with the vast majority of them being paintings of Chanel.  A few were of her models...I'm assuming models she had with here for quite a while in the couture business.

Again, as you look at these, imagine they are the size of living room walls...from ceiling to floor...and larger!

The following photos are random shots of hat-related sights in France and Italy.  Enjoy for what they are.

 In a shop window in Montmartre, Paris.

We stayed in Vernazza, Italy, in the Cinque Terre, for several days.  The shots above and below were from a restaurant right on the harbor.  All their centerpieces for tables were hats!  Love it!

The photo below is from Nice...the French Rivera.  We were strolling along the Promenade des Anglais, looked down on the top of a cafe, and saw this!  Seagull with top hat!

That's it for my posts about France and Italy.  Hope you enjoyed.  And thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Retro Hats From Flat Felt Skirting--Millinery Course in France

 Part Two of my trip to France.  Here's the real reason I went to teach!  Yes, it was a great reason to see the beautiful sites in Paris, Nice, and Cinque Terre (Italy) leading up to our arrival in St. Quentin La Poterie, in the South of France, but teaching was the 'working' part of the trip.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile you know I love teaching and passing on millinery skills.  But being able to teach these skills in France was an absolute honor.  And I thank Lucy Till for the opportunity.  If you are ever in the area around Uzes or Avignon, make a trip to St. Quentin and specifically to Lucy's atelier.

 St. Quentin is a tiny village just bursting with creativity as it has been an important pottery making area for hundreds of years...something about the clay in this area.  But there is also something about shaping and molding felts and straws that seems to be a perfect fit.  And besides, a village needs more than just one type of craft, right?  Note Lucy's sign in aqua...Creatrice de Chapeau!

One of the flat felt skirting hats, in progress.  Flat felt is worked differently than capelines and hoods, as patterned pieces of felt are stitched together.  Lovely use of color here. Note she's marked CF on her creation with a beaded pin.  For those of you who are new to millinery...we always mark center front (CF) on our hats and it is either done with a pin or with a stitch of thread.

A picture of Lucy working hard on one of her flat felt hats.  We worked around Lucy's big table in the center of the shop.  This created lots of interest from passers-by, many who came in to see exactly what all these women were doing!  

I took quite a few patterns that everyone could be use to make their vintage-inspired hats.  All my patterns have been taken from actual vintage hats.  I've collected flat felt hats through the years and took about 6 of them to France with me, again, as inspiration.

Here's another hat in progress, taken from one of the vintage hats I took along.  Wish I had a picture to show of the finished product AND the vintage hat.  The drooping part you see will eventually be pulled up and under itself to create a doubled brim piece, also gathered to make it fit nicely.

In the background you see a beautiful grey velour hat of Lucy's.  She was recreating it in purple, for a customer. Loved the positive/negative leaves from the cutouts along the brim.

On the last day of class, a Friday, the shop became a fun-filled gathering spot!  Lots of people in the shop trying on Lucy's hats, and yes, observing what we were doing with felt.  I have to tell you a quick little story about the lady on the far right.

She and her husband, along with two other couples, were visiting from the US.  Everyone in class spoke English so lots of conversation ensued.  It turns out all 6 were from Mississippi, my home state!  What are the odds of finding someone from home in a tiny village in France?  Anyway, the woman on the right wanted to buy hats for her granddaughters back in Mississippi.  Lucy only had the one children's hat, the teacup hat in from of the customer.  Ah, but she needed THREE hats.  Could we make her three hats before the end of the day????  They were leaving the area the next morning.

 Here the discussion of what we would/could make, price negotiations, time negotiations (!) and the purchasing of even more hats from Lucy's shop!  We decided on flat felt berets as this was the quickest thing we would be able to make in a matter of hours, a typical French 'hat', and a great souvenir from Grandmother's trip. BUT we didn't know the children's headsizes.  However, being industrious milliners we came up with a design plan and got to work. In a hurry!!! Lucy and I had less than 4 hours to design, work out the problems with a new design, cut, create, and embellish.

 Meanwhile, Meaghan and Sarah finished up their hats.  As it turned out, we spent a good deal of time on that Friday doing free-formed felt.  Everyone was astounded at the many designs you can create with this method.  Even though it wasn't a part of the class curriculum I think everyone found a new, easy way to create some fabulous hats--free-forming!  Meaghan, Sarah, Katia, and even Lucy are now anxious to get going on these type hats.

Here's a picture of the finished product you saw earlier in the post, and a fabulous heart-shaped hat that was free-formed by Sarah.

And lastly, and I do mean lastly (it was a looong afternoon!), our gentleman from Mississippi came and picked up all the hats for his wife and granddaughters.  I just HAD to take a picture of him with a big grin on his face and a pink bag to walk down the street with!  Priceless!