Crafty Manolo » To Top Things Off

To Top Things Off

By Twistie

all illustrations via Kate Bishop Hats and Flowers

Bay Area artist Kate Bishop is getting ready to retire, alas! This will be her final year as a milliner, and I shall weep buckets when it ends. I’ll miss the artistry, the whimsey, the glory of her work. More than that, though, I’ll miss her attitude about hats and about women. In a Spring, 2000 interview in Ornament Magazine, she had this to say about hats and the women who wear them:

“My craft is hats, my job is sewing them, but my work is making women feel good about themselves,”

Here are a couple more examples of how she accomplished just that:

“Wearing a hat is all about attitude. I have some really extravagant hats that are worn by famous choreographers and musicians and so forth. Then there is the woman who lives up in the woods, who wears the same hats to entertain her friends.”

(From an interview with Smithsonian, 2009)

“I love when women come to my booth, try on a wild hat and think: do I have the nerve to wear this? Self-expression is like opening a door to part of the self.  Getting someone to do that is the reward for my work.”

(Ornament Spring, 2000)

Bishop has always marched firmly to her own drummer. After graduating from Yale and teaching at an all-girl Catholic school, she decided she needed a new direction. She’d been sewing for years, and decided that making use of that skill would be more to her taste:

“When it came time to think about a career, I  knew a regular job was out of the question.  I thought:  what can I do and not take orders?  When I took inventory of my skills, I thought, well, I can make clothes.  So the combination of being shallow and disliking authority brought me to this profession.”

(Ornament Spring, 2000)

In that quote, I find a soul sibling. It has a lot in common with my path to becoming a writer.

Seriously, though, check out Kate’s show schedule for this year. If you like hats and care about creativity, try to get to the show that comes nearest to you. There won’t be many more new Kate Bishop hats for sale.

I may need to save up for a black one so I can put on proper mourning when she retires for good.

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