It was cold, it was snowy, it was right after Christmas and I was in Nashville, Tennessee. When in Nashville, you MUST go by and see hatter Gigi Gaskins at her shop HatWRKS. Men's hats, women's hats, custom hats, and a friendly and knowledgeable owner.
I met Gigi in Los Angeles at Hat Camp last year. (Click here for the post about 2012 Hat Camp.) There were not too many people from the Southeastern part of the US in attendance...in fact, there were only 3 of us...the other being milliner Dinah Makowsky from Memphis. Gigi made an impression on me not only because she's a very cool lady but also because of her tenacity in learning as much as she could, in a fairly short period of time, about hatting. Not millinery (although she knows a good bit about millinery as well) but hatting. Yes, there are differences. Ah, yes, there are differences.
Below you see just a few of her hatblocks. Most are used for men's hats, although she does make women's hats too.
So I'll try to give you a few things that I picked up in Gigi's shop that snowy Saturday afternoon and hopefully I won't flub it up too much! Gigi, if I've totally misunderstood or misrepresented anything, I totally expect to hear from you in the comments section below. :-)
First of all, the felts that I saw in the shop were very different from the ones milliners use. The hatter's felts come in different weights, like Western and Dress weights, but look very different from the fairly refined and finished hoods and capelines we start with to block women's hats. The hatter's felts look like they have been chewed up and run over by trucks. Not refined at all! And many are already sized (stiffened) almost as hard as rock. Got a chance to see a 'real' beaver felt, too. Millinery 'beaver' is not really beaver fur, but hatter's beaver IS really beaver. Below you see a few felts awaiting Gigi's expert hands...all custom orders in a stack.
Also, Gigi has some machinery and hatter's tools that we don't typically use in millinery. Like what? Puller-downers, tollikers, rounding jacks, and curling tools to name a few. Here you see a few on her work table.
She also gave me a demonstration of 'pouncing' the felt, where those chewed up felts I talked about above, are refined in appearance by basically sanding away the fluff of the felt, after the blocking process. This can take up to several hours of work to get it just right.
And then she showed me the most amazing 'trick' of the day! If you look very closely you may be able to see FLAMES shooting from the crown of the hat. Just another way of getting rid of the 'fluff' during the pouncing process. I felt like we were at the circus! It was amaaazzzing!
Shelves of petersham and dress ribbon for men's and women's hats. Yes, there is a difference even with the ribbons.
Thank you, Gigi, for a wonderful afternoon at HatWRKS. Great hospitality, great lessons, great customers picking up custom orders... I loved every minute of it!