Friday, 11 July 2014

Best. Day. Ever.*

The first time I went to the Queen's Plate I was about ten years old. I was not wearing a hat. The next time I went was last Sunday, July 6. This time I had two hats -- one to wear, and another one.

The other hat

For this was the occasion of the very first Queen's Plate Millinery Design Competition. The Queen's Plate is the premier horse race of the season, the first in Canada's Triple Crown. Our own Kentucky Derby, or a petite Royal Ascot. I was invited to participate by George Brown College (GBC), where I learned my trade. They co-sponsored the contest, along with Woodbine, the racetrack, and David Dunkley Fine Millinery. David is the Official Milliner to the Queen's Plate, for the second year, also a GBC alumnus, and a contest judge. Other judges were Maria Cristina Grossi from GBC, Traci Melchor from CTV's The Social, and Bri Mott from Fashion at the Races.

David's tent

Traci Melchor

Bri Mott

Over thirty GBC-trained milliners submitted a design for a hat to wear to the races. Of those, fourteen made the first cut and were invited to create the hat designed and submit it. It took me over a day to get the nerve up to even open the email, I was that nervous about my sad little sketch's chances of passing muster. (I can make a nice hat but drawing them? Not so much.)
See? Sad.

When I did open the email, the news was good. Phew! I'd made that cut, too, and went ahead, made the hat and submitted it to the college.

The fourteen of us were to come to the Queen's Plate's three-year-old Hats and Horseshoes party on race day. There the final judging took place, onstage in front of the party, on an overcast, windy afternoon, with jets flying just over our heads from nearby Pearson Airport. Our competition hats were waiting for us on display in GBC's tent nearby. We filed onstage one at a time to show and talk about our hats to the MC, The Social/CTV's Mellisa Grelo, with the panel of judges looking on from their table in front.

Melissa Grelo

Competition hats in GBC tent

One of many planes flying low above us. (I loved them!)

Competitors onstage with Melissa Grelo

After that, we waited in trepidation for the next round, when the judges would make their decision.
Trepidatious competitors waiting.

Luckily, one of my clients came by with her good wishes, wearing the fascinator she had bought from me to wear that day. That was a pleasant distraction from the nervousness.


With the high calibre of entries, I thought I would be lucky to make the top five. But they skipped that level and went right for the top three finalists. My name was called. I'd made the top three!
Three finalists: me, Amparo Findlay, Iris Lee

Then they named the runners-up. My name wasn't called for second runner-up. It wasn't called for first runner-up.

That meant....

I had won.

First Prize! A plaque and a substantial cash award, too!

My jaw dropped. When I picked it up again, my chin wobbled, trying to hold back happy tears, without much success. I was rendered inarticulate with geflemptitude. (Must be a word if I just used it.) And thus I remained for the remainder of the day.

See? I'm not kidding.

David and me on the red carpet afterwards

Why did my hat win? Who knows! They didn't say. The colours I chose, I think. Pink was having a moment.

Right, Lexie-Lou?

I can't tell you what a big deal this is to me. It's humbling, and also vindicating. I Am A Milliner! And I Don't Suck! Even among such a talented group of competitors, I can hold my own!

I also can't tell you how grateful I am to be honoured in this way. It's so encouraging. It makes me want to improve my skills and grow, and make better millinery for all my fabulous clients, current and future.

What do you think? Is this a story you'd like to go with your new bespoke piece you'll have me make for you?

Thank you for reading this far. A day like this doesn't come along often, so thank you for indulging this me-fest.

Hire this woman to dress your head! Please!

If you want to see more photos of not-me at the Queen's Plate last Sunday, Woodbine's Facebook page ha more than you'll know what to do with.

* In my millinery career, definitely, and right up there in my life in general.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Wychwood is Good

Last Saturday I was among the curated selection of artists and artisans at the Wychwood Barns arts and crafts show. They do this on the last Saturday of every month from May to October at the wonderful old streetcar barns Artscape saved from demolition and repurposed into an artsy community space. Read all about it here.

Souvenir of the barns' past.

The day was sunny and very warm, so it was nice to be sheltered from the sun inside the barn. The weekly farmers' market was happening outside, with its typical assortment of stylish health and deliciousness. Little kids were having a painting class in the tiny front garden of one of the resident artists. It's such a charming scene there.

It's been weeks since I sold my wares at a market, so the change was welcome. My neighbours at this show are always delightful, and this time was no exception. Juli Lyons was to my right, very friendly and very talented. She's a photographer and I loved her work, much of which was dramatic shots of Woodbine Beach, my neck of the woods. On my left was Marissa O'Neill, who makes lovely, simple silver pieces, beautifully displayed. My friend Roberto Riveros, another photographer, was also there with prints of his photos of iconic local locales, aided by his son, the awesomely named Severus. (Not the least bit Snapey, I must add.) It's rare that I don't meet someone I know amongst the talent at these shows. I love that.

It was another successful day, with lots of visitors to my space, kind words and sales. If you want to know when I will be there next, please subscribe to my newsletter by filling out the form on the sidebar to the right. (I only send one when I have something to say, not weekly or monthly.)

On with the show!

My table, auspiciously positioned in front of the fab old photo of the flapper, high on the wall behind.

Izzy, my first customer of the day, in one of her two new hairbands. I wish my mother had let me dress myself like this when I was Izzy's age. I love idiosyncratic style in la jeunesse.

Natasha took home one of my sea grass caps. They're great for simple style that's so easy to wear and live with.

Ann chose this "Lily Garbo" style in pink. Wonderful for shade over the face and a pretty, feminine shape.

The wonderful moment when a baby notices a mirror for the first time. I'm so glad Liam chose mine! Watching him watch himself was fascinating. Dad Damian is doing the holding.

Same mirror, different kid. This is Zoe in her new hairband, and her dad.

This little girl was enjoying the Gatsby fascinators, so I offered to take her picture. So she worked it. It starts so young...

Joelle was another junior fascinator fancier.

Speaking of green, here is another dress-up pic. With her colouring? Sublime!

(So sorry not to have recorded the name. Send it to me and I'll rectify that!)

I made a break for it in a quiet moment to venture outside and see what the farmers were up to. Their necks in customer, is what.

Gregory Hill of Wicklow Way. Wonderful bread in homey round loaves, baked in their own brick oven at their farm. Excellent everything I tasted. I visited their website later. Greg and his wife sound so interesting and they are doing many fine things, including providing a home for bees. He's a woodworker. I wish he'd corner the market on Canadian-made hat block manufacturing...

It was a hot day to be this guy, that's for sure. I'm glad he was in the shade for this moment.

Helen was delightful company. We had a nice chat and she eventually chose this grey silk disk band, for just the right amount of oomph.

Spent some quality time with Natalie and her excellent T-shirt. How I enjoy wordplay. She was here with her family from Wainfleet. Her mother, Wendy Malowany, was selling her paintings. Had a lovely chat later with Wendy and her husband. Natalie obligingly posed in this skimpy fuchsia number at my request. I think she looks quite smashing in it.

And so we bid a fond farewell to Wychwood Barns.

Just a heads up to stay tuned to this blog. The next post will be major. Something big is about to happen in my millinery career, and my subscribers already know what it is. Next week I'll tell you all about it. Intrigued? I do hope so!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Spot the Elusive Milliner this Saturday at Wychwood Barns

I've been working so hard at home making custom creations for weddings and showers that I haven't been anywhere else. A five second daily commute is working out really well for me! Saves a bundle on, well, just about everything, actually. However, sometimes it's a nice change to take the show on the road.

How nice of Wychwood Barns to put on the show. They do this at the end of each month in the summer, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can enjoy the farmers' market outside, and a curated show of thirty artists and artisans inside the cool converted streetcar barn. Great café, too. Very family friendly, and admission is free.

So come and spot the rarely sighted milliner. Speak softly, offer kind words and legal tender in your outstretched hand and all will be well.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Kind Words and Full Heart

Remember when I said that no one writes to the milliner? Well, those are words I'm happy to snack on. In fact, I've been getting some lovely feedback lately from clients. (I've also started a new page about this.)

A number of ladies have come to me recently for bespoke fascinators for their tea-themed showers. It seems to be quite the thing this season. (I was more prescient than I knew when I named my bridal collection "Tea and Iced Cakes.") As always, I begged them for photos from their showers to share with you. To my great delight, some of them are actually following through! Wee-hoo!

I can't tell you how touching it is to get kind notes and souvenir photos of happy occasions where my work has made its contribution. It absolutely makes my day. Even my entire week!

Thank you thank you thank you to all the people who have said as much to me. And I hope this encourages more of the same! (Are you listening, St. Catherine, patron saint of milliners? It's me, Anne, the milliner.)

Here are some of the photos I've been sent. Chandra's are all copyright Caroline Gauthier Photography:

Chandra in her bespoke fascinator at her bridal shower. She loves the vintage family lace I used because it was made in Paris many years ago, and that's where she got engaged.

Here is a photo I took before it left my studio:

The beautiful rhinestone jewels are earrings Chandra provided.

More on the back, too.

Pinkies out!

Chandra and her lovely mother, Donna, also wearing one of my fascinators, with blingy augmentation.

Here is my photo of it:

Chandra's mother-in-law-to-be, Elizabeth, on the right, and Elizabeth's mother, on the left.

My photo of Elizabeth's fascinator:

A lovely group shot. I like the fountain -- a shower at the shower.

And finally, a gorgeous shot of new mother-to-be, Renu, and her baby bump, aglow in her beautiful dress, topped off by her fascinator par moi:

My shot of it, floating merrily away

I made one for her mother, too, but I only have my studio shot of that one:

Renu sent a lovely note with an enclosed photo perfectly posed to show off the person, and her attire. I told her she should give lessons on how to thank your milliner/dressmaker/insert artisan title here.

Ladies, I thank you all for your trust in me and for following through on your promises! I'm sure St. Catherine, patron saint of milliners, will look favorably towards you!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Staying Alive

Hats are frivolous extras unless they're saving your life.

I love making beautiful, fluffy things to wear on your head. They gladden the heart and delight the eye. People who choose to wear them are a happy breed. They invite attention to themselves in a way that many would find uncomfortable. Not everyone is ready for Millinery.

Everyone, however, needs a hat. I am reminded of this frequently. The first customer of the season at St. Lawrence Market came to me because of doctor's orders, basically. She chose the widest-brim hat I had, to protect herself from the sun. I hope she will find pleasure in wearing it and not just consider it a grim duty.

I just sent home another customer who came to me for a similar reason. Her husband had recently had melanoma. All cured now, he needs to be vigilant about sun protection. His favourite hat had done him great service over the years, but was on it last legs. (A hat on legs. See what happens when you're careless with metaphors?) They weren't making them like that anymore. Could I copy it? And could I do it without taking the old one apart? And could I make it in time for a Father's Day surprise?

Yes, I could. And did. Another satisfied customer. Can't wait to hear how her husband likes it!

Making frippery and saving lives. All in a day's work for -- Millinerwoman!