Friday, October 07, 2005

Jane Smith, Hat Maker

Jane Smith's Studio
Originally uploaded by notionnanny.
I spent this afternoon making an 1840s black bonnet under the tutelage of milliner Jane Smith.

Upon entering her studio, I was struck by the sight of several hats-in-progress befitting of Nelson and Napoleon. But I guess with the anniversary of Trafalgar, that's all people are talking about in England these days. (Just kidding, ONE of the things.)

Jane started making hats when she asked her father, who was in film production, for a part-time job. He obliged, getting her a job "at the bottom" in the costume department. What started as a spontaneous request to whip up a hat in an on-set emergency eventually evolved into a full-on business.

For over a decade Jane worked with Laura Ashley, not just the company but the woman herself, designing and making hats for collections that traveled around the world. Sarah Ferguson was an early client. Jane later opened a shop called Jane Smith Straw Hats in Battersea, employing up to twenty assistants at a time. Jane has also worked as a teacher at several colleges in the region, and did a short stint at the BBC.

However, Jane has found her most comfortable niche in the theatre and film world, where her hats have graced the heads of celebrities in countless productions, including several of the Harry Potter films, and currently, "The Davinci Code."

This picture gives you a tiny taste of Jane's workshop, choc-a-hatter's-block with as many stories as hats, including one about the tiny hat she recently made for a monkey, and pictured at right, the red-feathered hat worn by a Playboy centerfold (yes, just the hat, nothing else.)

Fellow self-described workaholics, Jane and I talked about working hard, and how we love to stay up all night. Jane was planning to do an all-nighter in order to finish some fezzes, and it looks like I have just done the same. I think I heard a bird chirping outside the window just now...


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