Inspiring beginners, and beginners inspiring!

I love working from home, having the company of my cats, the radio on and being in my studio surrounded by materials and my creations. It is wonderful too, to be out and about, teaching and talking about the fantastic world of millinery and this amazing material called sinamay.


It has certainly been a week for that! With a presentation to the Women’s Institute of Hodge Hill in Birmingham, followed by a workshop in the Jewellery Quarter, as well as a one-to-one tuition in my studio, it has been a hugely enjoyable and inspirational week – I hope for all concerned!

The Women’s Institute is a fabulous organization. I have given my talks on both millinery and the story of burlesque to several groups in the West Midlands now, and although they are part of the same network, each group is, of course, as different as the collection of women belonging to that individual group. Always warm and welcoming, more often than not with a sense of fun and definitely of support and camaraderie, it is always a pleasure to entertain and inform!

Workshops are fabulous to hold. It takes me right back to the first day I discovered sinamay and I remember all over again how much I love this material. On Saturday we were in a lovely studio in the Jewellery Quarter. That very studio has been a place for creativity for many years, just as the whole area of Birmingham that it is named for, so the atmosphere and history is quite something. We were just visiting the workshop for the day, the home of Vicky of the Crafts Collective who runs all sorts of lovely workshops herself. The atmosphere was bright and welcoming, decorated in shabby chic style with lovely big windows looking over the rooftops.


We started off the morning looking at sinamay itself, and I demonstrated a few different techniques for my attendees to have a go with. My aim is always to show how many possibilities there are, so while I will show a certain technique, if a student wants to go in another direction and experiment, then that is definitely encouraged! After some more techniques demonstrated and tried, lunchtime flew around! In the afternoon there was a chance to work on a finished design, although a couple of students this time, chose to carry on working and practicing on individual skills to be able to use them at home later.

One student, Dayzee said:

“I had such a fab day. I am feeling very inspired and am buzzing now. I really enjoyed the structure and the way you broke it up into bite size pieces and then watched and helped in between. Getting feedback on what we were doing as we went along was great too. Rol is very impressed with my creation and I’m so happy that I have to keep looking at it. I do think the new skills can feed back into the kind of things that I used to sell in my first Etsy shop so you may have inspired me to put thought into opening it again in the future. The range of colours and materials that you brought were amazing, I can see that becoming a new stash for me too.”

And Lottie said:

“I really liked how you showed us a few things at a time, so not too much but still enough that if one thing wasn't our cup of tea we could do the other, that was a really good idea. And having some ready cut bits or the freedom to free hand it. I can't wait to carry on with mine, I'll make sure to send a pic when I do finish one.”

On Sunday I was back in my own studio, but not alone! A lovely lady called Laura had flown into the UK the day before, from San Diego U.S.A. Here on business, she had a day free, and I was very honoured to say she chose to come and spend a few hours with me, in order to have a go at creating her very own fascinator!

I first met Laura in Birmingham when I was being judged in the finals of the Midlands Fashion Awards. We were unloading the car into the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel and Laura, there for a business dinner, was intrigued about the creations she could see! We suggested that Laura should come to our event later on so she could see the full display. Two and a half years later and Laura still follows what I do, and proudly wears her Christmas tree fascinator every year! It was wonderful to see her again and help her to create a lovely, dusky pink rose fascinator to take back to California with her.


It is really fascinating (every pun intended!), how any amount of people can start with same materials, be shown the same techniques and yet their creations are always so different and in their own style. The creative energy was bouncing around the walls this weekend and it was just as inspiring for an old timer like me, as it was for my newbies having their first taste with millinery.