Monday, December 20, 2010

Amy Goodwin: Inspiration in my own studio

I was talking to my best friend about some of the many artists within my own studio building, ArtSpace Maynard, who really inspire me. I talked about it for a good clip and finally she said, "Blog about it." Of course! So this is the first of what I hope will be many posts about what I'll call artists in my own back yard.

When I walk into ArtSpace I have to pass by the studio of Amy Goodwin. I'm always happy when I see her light on because it means that I can go in to "fuel up"—get my creativity revved up— before heading to my own studio.

I want to say that Amy is a real artist, but people come at that word "artist" with so much baggage that it seems a little trite to use it. In fact, she'd probably roll her eyes at me if she read it. I'm better off describing what Amy does that defines her as such and makes her work so wonderful.

Amy Goodwin plays—she plays lots. Walking into her studio you'll see four, five, maybe six projects in various stages of completion—most completely unrelated to each other. From encaustic paintings of swimmers, to bold-colored patterns, to flocked plastic animals, nothing is out of her creative reach. Her art is never forced or tedious. It seems that she often works with no particular goal in mind, like she's just going along for the wild, beautiful ride. And to me that's just perfect.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dream One: You had a whole lot of fun...

My last posting was about getting some sleep to tap into the creativity of your dreams. Now we get to the dreaming part.

I have some dreams that are my equivalent of flying, too many to list, and some you'd have to really know me to understand why they'd be like flying. But one dream theme that makes me sail is hats.

Usually in the dream I'm visiting a very cool hat shop and trying on hat after hat. It's a bitter sweet dream because as I'm putting on and loving each, another part of me is envious and starts thinking, Why didn't I come up with that. It's a great idea. And when I wake up, I still have those pangs of envy. Silly, right? I mean, I made those hats in my sleep.

I had a cool hat dream not that long ago, but in this dream, I had designed all the hats. They were all either teal or this beautiful, rusty red that I have. There was one hat in particular that stood out in my mind, and I'm setting out to make it now. Lucky for me, in the morning I drew up a sketch of the hat—I wouldn't have been able to keep the energy of it alive otherwise. I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to make it, but if I can it will be a lot of fun.

So here's the sketch. I hope to be able to show the finished project sometime in the future. Cross your fingers!

Creativity Tip: Get some sleep!

It's a simple thing to say, but it's easy to get caught up in doing things you love, and not take enough time to get some shuteye. I'm certainly guilty of not getting enough sleep, I have a toddler, after all. But once in a while I'm good to myself and it really pays off.

For me, the more sleep I get, the more I dream—and I'm blessed with pretty cool dreams. Once I get to eight hours, ordinary becomes extraordinary and I'll occasionally move into the lucid dream state. That's always a trip. But along with all the coolness come some really great images or ideas—impossible things never before thought of. Dreams are good like that—they don't care about reality.

So if you find yourself in a creative slump, try loading yourself up with sleep—a lot of it. Sure, eight's nice, but see what happens when you head in toward ten.

Also, write those dreams down quick—they'll slip through your fingers before your first cup of OJ. Write them down even if they have nothing to do with your art or anything your interested in. Dreams are kind of vain—they like knowing that you care enough to remember them. Jotting them down is the best way to get your head to start paying attention.

So, if you're showing up blank at a blank page, go get some sleep. Make time for it. It's important. Let me know what you see.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Hate Fashion

How can I say that, right? Here I am, trying to convince people to wear something on their heads. Something that will supposedly make a statement about them, right? Let me say it again I hate fashion.

Ask my mom, she'll tell you—there's not much that I hate more than being told what to wear. And that's exactly what fashion is about.

Yesterday I found myself waiting at the hair dressers, flipping through magazines. I don't often get a chance to look through fashion magazines, so this was my chance. What's in, what's out—I both hate it and am drawn to it, like a bad accident.

So here's what I'm going to say to you. I might tell you about a hat trend (since there seem to be many these days), but I won't sell you on that. I think people should choose to wear stuff they like, stuff that makes them happy. That's pretty much it. So go out there and buy things that make you feel like yourself or the you that you want to be, not the someone that everyone else is trying to be.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm a Pen

It's not fun, but it happens. I was complaining to my studio-mate about a commission that I have, and he told me that what I was complaining about he and a friend referred to as "being a pen."

Here is how you become a pen: Someone commissions you to make something. Then they tell you all the details of how it should be made—exact distances from this to that, exact colors, a brim no wider than 'X', but certainly not less than 'Y'. "But be creative, after all, it's your art." Right.

Here's the problem with asking someone to be a pen: It's all you get. I'm an artist. I like to create. If someone asks me to make them something and gives me lots of creative freedom, I feel I owe it to them to go beyond their expectations. If they are simply using me as hands to create something they've got in their own mind, I'm only going to deliver what is asked of me. Why should I go above and beyond?—It's obvious that they're not interested in my creativity.

And yet, here I am, a pen. Why? The woman really needs a hat. She's got a tough little head to fit, and in the end I feel for her. Let's hope she likes it.

Don't ask me to be a pen, let me be a paint brush.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Making a Wish

I was just reading through an old sketchbook/journal and found a tidbit that I like. I was writing about making wishes—which I never much believed in. In fact, when I make a wish I tend to make my request so ridiculously vague that it has to come true. The wish is something like I hope I get what I deserve. I suppose that could be a double-edged sword, but as I said, I'm not much of a believer. In my journal entry, though, I found something new, a different approach that makes me look at wishing a little differently. It says When you get a chance to make a wish, make one for someone else—wishes are too self-indulgent. How long did that sit in my journal? Why didn't I hang on to it?

Let me see if I can remember to do it now. It seems like it would be helping me to push a positive attitude out into the world, and how can you go wrong with that? So all those opportunities to wish—eyelashes, railroad tracks, tags sticking out of your shirt, sneezing—let's put them to better use.

I wish for you whatever you deserve.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Try Not to See Real Stuff

I use my peripheral vision to see things. I let things creep into my brain from the side. I find that the stuff I think I'm seeing is actually more interesting than the stuff I'm actually seeing. So if I see something cool out of the corner of my eye, I linger there a moment, ask myself what it might be, then I let myself look at it.

The asking of what it might be allows me to hang onto that creative moment even when it's over. From there I may sketch what I saw. That sketch might turn into something, or it might not. That part doesn't really matter so much. It was the openness—that's what mattered.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Why the Movie "Autumn in New York" Sucks: a Milliner's Perspective

"Have you seen Autumn in New York?"
There was a time when I hadn't seen it, but then enough people mentioned it to me and I caved. We rented it and I watched, waiting for the fantastic millinery presence.

I can't judge the movie for it's cinematic characteristics—I'm easy to please and rarely dislike a movie. So I won't tell you that it was predictable and kind of schlocky. I will say that the millinery portion of the movie was a disappointment.

First point of contention: The client in the movie, played by Richard Gere, asks the character of Winona Ryder to design a hat "inspired by the curve in a woman's hip." Nice. I couldn't wait for it. What she delivered resembled absolutely no part of the female anatomy. When your client asks you to interpret something, you do it. You don't just say, "That's not really what I feel like doing today, so how about this big pile of sticks instead?"

Second point of contention (please forgive the extended background information): In asking Winona's character to make a hat, Gere was actually trying to lure the young milliner into going to a fancy event with him. So she was unknowingly designing a hat for herself. He tells Ryder's character that his date couldn't make it but he happens to have a gown that will fit her perfectly. Curious. Time comes for the event. She's got the fabulous dress, great shoes, an interesting shawl... Wait a second. Where's the @#%&! hat? She's not wearing it! You have got to be kidding me. And they don't even mention it. That she didn't wear the hat to the event says two things: One, that the Gere character didn't take her millinery work seriously, and/or Two, that the creators of this movie have it's details loosely tied together with cobwebs.

As a milliner, I took great offense to the product of labor not being shown. But hey, it's a movie, right? I shouldn't take a work of fiction so seriously. But now I've watched it, so if you come to me and rave about it and ask me if I've seen it... Well, expect an earful.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting Over a Creative Slump

It's important to have a pile of junk next to your work space. It doesn't have to be huge, just little bits of this and that. They can be related to your primary artistic goal or not.

When the creative slump comes, dip your hands deep into the pile of junk and just start putting things together all willy-nilly. Work for minutes, or hours, or days—however long it takes. It's a little like hitting a reset button.

After a while, your mind and body will find a rhythm again. Then you can decide whether or not to go back to your original project or continue with the junk masterpieces that you've been creating. Either way, you win.

I bought it, now I'm too scared to waste it

Sometimes I buy expensive materials that I'm then afraid to use. Here's what I've learned about that. Let that little piece of expensive or "precious" something-or-other sit for a while. Let it gather a little dust. If you wait long enough you'll realize that you wasted your money on it. At that point it's only right to use it with abandon. That's when the magic happens.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Being a Better Person

I love this very short audio story about Julio Diaz and about his experience getting mugged. I wish I could think fast enough to change somebody's life, which I'm quite positive he did.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

December Commission #1

I have a two-part commission going on in the studio. A young woman named Sarah has asked me to make two hand-sculpted berets for her to give as gifts.

In talking to people about work they'd like commissioned I find that it's more helpful if they talk loosely about what they want rather than give me specifics. The first allows me to be the creative person that I am, and therefore a more inspired hat is created. The second is more like production work and doesn't require much thought on my part.

Sarah came to me and gave me a style to work with—she liked something I had, but it wasn't exactly what she wanted. The good thing is that she's not a very visual person, so she had to talk about the likes of her mother and her aunt using lots of words, describing their personalities and their wardrobes. So we had a kind of conversation about it all that left me feeling good.

I'm plugging away at them in the studio. They're destined for not-so-distant and really-distant places. One will go to New Jersey and the other to Korea. I'm off to the studio to work on them some more.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Wish My Studio Were More Like a Boutique

But it's not. My studio is bare knuckles. I keep chiding myself for it not being more elegant, but then I start thinking about trying to make it better and the thought of the work involved makes me itch.

This evening I had a revelation while working late. The studio is my workplace—it's a tool that I use to get my art done. In the end, the most important thing to me is the making of a hat, and that's it. Prettying up the place would only keep me from doing what it is that I really want to be doing, and that's making stuff to put on peoples' heads.

So, if you visit me in the studio, focus on the hats. And if the studio suddenly takes on a new and improved look, I either hired someone or hit a creative slump. Let's hope it keeps looking the same.

Where do they wear these things?

It's a question that I get asked often, especially when people are looking at the more interesting hats in my collection. I've decided to post answers to that question as they arise. If you are a Denishé Hat owner and have a story for me, let me know and I'll post it.

This is Linsey. She wanted this hat last year and was glad to see that I still had it. As a budding artist, she's into creating a look for herself. She's going to be wearing this little top hat to her prom. She promised me photos. Linsey, don't forget!

Man, I wish I knew me when I went to the prom. I would have looked so much cooler!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Paradise is Paradise

This weekend is Paradise City Marlborough. It has been a great show so far. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that I'm in a prime spot just opposite the visitor entrance. Still, I had a similar location a few years ago and I can't say that I did as well.

The crowds seem to be interested in opening their wallets. I get a sense that it's an attempt, in these tough economic times, for people to really keep their money local and to buy things that mean a lot to them.

I've been having a lot of fun. I consider part of what I do to be a service—to entertain people with the idea of hats, to make them see themselves in a whole new way, and to squash the idea of "I just don't look good in hats". Selling to a person who would have never considered themselves a hat wearer is something I take great joy in.

I find it particularly rewarding when people reach beyond ordinary, pick up one of my "more challenging hats", and join me in the land of possibilities. One such person today was Barbara. Barbara never met a hat that didn't like her, and my edgy hats just ate her up. Isn't she amazing in this Component Hat? She was such a delight, and I'm sure we'll meet again.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Open Studios: Observe the Artist in her Natural Environment

Open Studios at ArtSpace Maynard is this weekend. Come see where I make all my hats.

Do you have a special hat in mind—something you'd like to match another piece in your wardrobe? Just bring it along. I'll show you the materials I have available for your project.

Did you damage a hat that you bought from me in the past, or do you have another hat that could use a mend? Bring those by, too and I'll let you know if I can help.

Open Studios: 63 Summer ST., Maynard, Mass. October 2nd and 3rd, from noon to 5 p.m.
We have more than seventy artists in our building. If you are an artist, or just like looking at art, this is a great chance to visit some studios and ask some questions.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bonding Over Hats

This weekend DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park had their Family SculptureFest. It was a switch in both focus and time of the year for them—they used to have an event called "Art in the Park" in June. I think they still have some kinks to work out, but it was a great event for me and a wonderful event for all visitors.

Two sisters came into my space and spent a lot of time trying on nearly every hat—I love that. They were having such a good time that I assumed they were the best of friends. When I asked the woman with them which of the girls was her daughter she told me that they both were. Apparently they have their typical teen squabbles, but they seemed in perfect harmony bonding over hats. They even agreed to get hats that they both liked so that they could share them, and decided that each would help the other make sure the hats were on just right.

Don't they look lovely? Thanks girls!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Ten Seconds of Fame

Okay, it was longer than ten seconds. I managed to make the Zip Trip for Fox 25. Maynard's a great place to live and I'm happy to have been able to be a small part of showing it off. There are so many wonderful things that they didn't get to see, let alone show. If you're interested in seeing my spot you can look here. I'm about four-and-a-half minutes in:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The One Place to See in Maynard???

Fox TV Zip Trip is coming to Maynard on Friday July 30th, 5-9AM. They want to know which place in town (01754) is a definite must to visit. If you think the Denishé studio is worth note you can vote me in for the "place to see".

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I've been in the studio working this week—something I love to do. Unfortunately, this work has been bittersweet for me. A family member—a nine-year-old child—has an inoperable brain tumor. I have my own little girl now and the thought of their daughter's struggle is painful.

We've been lucky—the family has been keeping us posted via the site Caring Bridge, so even though they're miles away we know what's going on without having to ask. M began losing some hair some weeks back and started getting a little self conscious about it. When I read that I thought, Well, there's something I can do something about. So I began my journey into making hats for a girl who loves pink.

I finished them up today, put them in a pretty pink and black hat box, and got them to the post office as fast as I could. I hope they'll bless me with a fun fashion photo shoot, but in the meantime, here are a couple of the hats that I sent along. I hope she loves them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gifts from My Garden

I have a lovely perennial garden. I work hard to keep the weeds away, but other than that, it has to fight for itself. I don't feel like I ask much of it, just that it survive. Heck, I almost never pick it's lovely flowers. But I have a little girl now and I want her to be surrounded by the beauty of the garden.

Yesterday I picked a bouquet and placed each flower into an old and tarnished silver pitcher, telling my daughter the name of each bloom as I poked it into place: Rose Campion, Rudbekia, Fever Few, Astilbe, Bachelor Button, Day Lily, Sun Drop, Coral Bells, Lavendar, and Hosta (for some green).

A. knows to be gentle with the flowers. "They are just babies," I tell her. Of course I let her dig her little fists deep into the scented geranium and the peppermint—those can stand that much toddler love. "Jimanium, Ruhbetia" she says.

When our time in the garden is up we pull off our gardening boots and let them collapse all over each other by the back door.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Where are all the men in hats?

Don't you worry—they're coming!

Often when I'm out wearing a hat, older gentlemen will come up to me and whisper, "I wish women would wear more hats." I usually agree with them and then add that I wish men would do the same. Most men over forty-five have a hard time with wearing hats—it's an emotional thing, something they associate with their fathers. And fathers are old, right? They don't want to be old.

Well, I'm hear to tell you that the fashion of men wearing hats is happily on its way back. I'm not talking about baseball caps or knit hats, I'm talking about the real thing—hats with brims, fedoras, trilbies, all the good ones.

While traveling in Europe last year I saw several younger men wearing stylish head wear. The word "saw" is key in that sentence—I wouldn't have seen those men if they hadn't been wearing hats. They would have just belonged to the great sea of bodies that were at the beach or walking through the airport. But I saw them. Some part of me wanted to walk up to each of them and shake their hands, let them know that they looked good. Another part of me wanted to find out where they bought them—nice mens hats can seem so hard to come by these days. In the end, I stayed away—you can't just go walking up to strange men in the airport and telling them you like their style. I doubt they're tuning in here, but let me just say it for the record—gentlemen, you looked fantastic.

So men, young and old alike, go into your grandfather's or father's closet, go to a hat shop, go to a flea market, buy one on ebay—go get your hat on! It's time.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dressing from the Top of the Pile

It's a bad sign—dressing from the top of the pile, dressing without intention—at least for me it is. If I get up in the morning and don't deliberately choose what it is that I'm going to wear, you know it's not good. I call it a "dressing-from-the-top-of-the-pile-day"—when you just reach into the closet or dresser and grab what you can.

These days I'm torn. Aside from being a person who dresses with intention, I also happen to be a gardening junkie. The two don't really mix well. I'm more than just a hands-in-the-dirt-girl—it's more of a whole-body thing. So my pretty dresses end up staying in the closet while I don my grubbiest pair of jeans, a baggy t-shirt, a junk hat (a.k.a baseball cap) and my gardening boots. I hate that I don't get to dress my mood, but I know that I just can't keep myself out of the dirt.

So I'm not exactly dressing from the top of the pile. I am intentionally choosing to dress badly (cringe). Only five cubic yards of mulch to move this year. The garden is looking lovely. Maybe once it's in order I can start working on looking lovely, too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hat Haircut

While at Paradise City in Marlborough last month, I had a very interesting experience—there was a woman who liked one of my hats but found the feathers too dense for her. She agreed to buy it if I could thin the feathers. I agreed to sell it if she was willing to sit through the process, haircut-style. And that's how it went. She sat in my booth while I trimmed her feathers one piece at a time. That was certainly a first for me, and quite the curiosity for those passing by. She left happily with the hat, I made a sale, and the floor of my booth was peppered with maroon fuzz.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Custom Hat: Spring 2010

If you've kept up with me in the past then you know that I have an especially wonderful client who comes to me for couture hats. I get to see what she's going to be wearing and am told some general guidelines: "Something small, pick up the purple color, she'd like a good flourish on this one." And then I make.

The whole experience is both thrilling and terrifying all at once. I fear that my creativity will cease to exist and that I'll come out with nothing. But the thrill is he challenge—to meet a specific, yet open-ended need.

Here's the sketch that was approved by the client.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Paradise City was fantastic!

I have to say that I think Paradise City's spring Marlborough show was the best I've ever had! Maybe it was the good weather that we had—people were in a great mood. Or maybe it was because I was by myself—I usually have help. Being by myself meant that I spoke to nearly everyone who came by my booth (if I got the chance). Sure, it meant that I didn't get any restroom breaks and had to eat on the fly, but it was worth it.

I had so much fun with people. Some were gracious enough to allow me to photograph them to post to my blog. The little girl above is Isabella, and what a cutie! She certainly didn't hurt my business by donning my double-pigtail hat! And I managed to get this handsome couple into my space to talk about our mutual love of hats. Raqim bought his wife Debora this wonderful dish hat. He wore the orange fedora for this photo because we decided he couldn't be seen in his 'non-hat' (a.k.a. baseball cap). Both promised to send me photos of their college-aged son, who is also a hat wearer. The nicest thing was that when they walked away, I saw Debora give her husband the sweetest thank you kiss. It made me feel really good deep down in my heart.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


This is a little cocktail hat that I made recently. I call it "cursive". I wasn't sure where it was going when I started it, but I really like the way it came out in the end. Like most of my hats it's part silly, part serious—just how I like 'em.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Laura Modeling Volcano Hat

Laura was not only nice enough to get me photos of her wearing her Denishé "volcano" hat, but also to allow me to post them to my blog. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Omo People Inspire Me

I just saw this video and now I want to go to my studio to make things. Enjoy!