What do milliners do all day?
When I first became a milliner, I had this lovely, romantic vision of me; sewing away in my studio, creating hats, day after lovely day, for all my wonderful customers… of course that is a really crucial part of what I do as an independent milliner, but I learned pretty quickly that there would be far more to it than that!
So, what DO I do, other than making hats?! Here’s a little insight into some of the things I get up to in the day-to-day running of my Birmingham hat making business!
Running fascinator-making workshops around the country and one-to-one tuition at my home studio here in Birmingham, is a significant part of what I do these days. I love doing it; there is always a great, creative atmosphere in the room and I just love to see how designs grow and unfold even in the course of one day. We all start with the same hat-making materials and I teach the same techniques to all the attendees on the day. Yet the finished designs are always so different according to each person’s style! I have been blown away by the popularity of the workshops, and so happy and excited to receive such wonderful feedback on the Craft Courses website:
There are lots more workshops planned for 2019, with opportunities to take skills further, including blocking shapes, where you manipulate your material around a wooden block to create a hat base for pillboxes and percher hats. There are also new venues, so in addition to Leeds and Solihull workshops, there will be hat-making classes in Lichfield in Staffordshire, Worcester, Derbyshire and Meriden near Coventry!
Vegan Life Magazine
Taking photographs of everything I make is a key element to the day-to-day business of millinery. After all, I have customers not just here in Birmingham, but throughout the UK, Europe, the USA and Canada… so the photos are not just my shop window but my displays and descriptions too! I My light box is set up permanently, for any new designs or commissions to be photographed at all angles. I have had to learn all about exposures, lighting and editing… so when I am able to work with a true professional it is such an absolute treat.
One of the highlights for me in 2018 was working with a wonderful photographer and journalist called Maria Slough. Maria writes a regular feature for Vegan Life Magazine, and I was so excited when she asked to feature Warrillow Studio. We had a wonderful day on our photoshoot, almost – but not quite – losing a fascinator to the Thames thanks to the brisk, cheeky breeze that came along to challenge us! Jess was a wonderful model, and did so well to cope with the cold, to set off the hats so beautifully, and to catch the hats that caught the wind!!
Vegan Life Magazine: https://www.veganlifemag.com/
Maria Slough Photography: http://www.mariasloughphotography.com/
Talks & Presentations
I love millinery, and I want others to love millinery too! It’s such a fabulous, fun way to express yourself and there are so many different looks and styles you can achieve. Often people just need a little encouragement or confidence boost to be able to make the most of this aspect of accessorizing, and that’s what my talks are all about. Lots of people have perhaps worn something that hasn’t suited them perfectly in the past, putting them off trying again. Often they think they ‘don’t have a hat face’ (I hear that one a lot!) Perhaps they simply don’t know how to wear those lovely, Kate Middleton-style percher hats, or associate fascinators with headaches from headbands. All of that is covered during my presentation, and then we have even more fun at the end when everyone can try things on, to be persuaded that there IS a hat for everyone!
Houses of Parliament
In December 2018 I was invited to be one of 9 businesses asked to represent Birmingham, at a business showcase in the Houses of Parliament. I am a member of an organization called Enterprise Nation, and they had got together with Selly Oak MP, Steve McCabe, to put together this celebration of entrepreneurs, in the House of Commons.
It was a whirlwind of a day, but looking back it was full of such friendly people, from taxi drivers, MPs, business owners, police officers and security staff. Each business had an area to showcase what they are about, so of course I had taken a few hat-boxes’ worth of designs for people to see and try on for size. The time flew by with non-stop talking to all our guests, and it was a really proud moment, to be representing the creative sector of business in Birmingham!
BBC Radio 2 – Chris Evans Breakfast Show
Early one morning, while listening to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, I heard the newsreader, Moira Stuart, say to Chris, “Oh, I don’t wear hats. I don’t have a hat face.” Suddenly I was wide awake, and grabbed hold of my phone to text in. “It’s not true!” I typed. “Everyone can wear a hat, you just need to know what suits you!” I listened for the rest of the show, but my text message wasn’t read out. I really didn’t think any more about it… until later in the morning when my phone rang. One of the production team had called to ask for more information from me, and asked if I would be willing to be interviewed on the show the next morning, in their ‘Not So Mystery Guest’ slot, just after the news at 8.30am.
Perhaps unwisely, that evening I went onto Google and looked up, “How many people listen to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on BBC Radio 2?” The answer? Around 9 million. Gulp! I hereby confess that at 8.15am that morning, I had a small sherry to settle my nerves! However nerve-wracking, it was a fantastic experience; talking to the production team, to Chris himself, and of course, the 9 million or so listeners that morning!
Warrillow Studio wouldn’t be here without the wonderful support of you. Customers, friends, colleagues and supporters are the lifeblood of a creative business like mine and I am so grateful to every single one of you. Social media in all its guises is the perfect way to stay in touch, to let you know what I’m up to and crucially to hear from you, so that is built in to most of my days, to keep you in the loop. I’m a small business, but one of the BIG advantages of that is that I can be really flexible to create what you want to wear, learn, see and buy. I am always happy to hear from you, so do stay in touch!