Vendor Spotlight | Jennifer W. Millinery

[September] Hello, my name is Megan Clouse and I'm addicted to Etsy.  Seriously, have you ever looked through this mega-site filled with tens of thousands of creative crafts?!   Some of the most talented artists, painters, designers and crafters post unique items for sale and I always get lost in their inspirations.

So when I was seeking a unique artisan for this month's Vendor Spotlight, I knew right where to turn; Etsy!  I then took it one step further seeking someone not too far from me, because it really adds a personal touch when we work with someone local.  When I found Jennifer I was thrilled with her amazing handmade hats and pins and when it turned out she only lived a few blocks from me here in Sonoma, we couldn't believe it!

I recently paid her a visit in her charming studio and I think you'll enjoy this photo journey as much as I did!  Meet Jennifer Whitmer!  (Click HERE to see her site and pieces for sale.)

I find it so fascinating that God gave all of us such unique talents, personalities and skills, and clearly Jennifer is following her gifted path. Let me walk you through the hat-making process:  She purchases her parisisal straw "hoods" in somewhat of a raw cone-shaped form, and then based on it's unique shape, color and size she begins shaping the into a hat in a free-form fashion with just her hands.  She'll add the interior band, try it on, shape more, try it on, shape more and so on.  Each hat is stunningly unique and individual.

What is equally impressive is that each "hood" (shown above) is handmade my Chinese weavers and the process takes upwards of 5 days just to make ONE hood!  Each hood's texture, weave and tension is different based on that individual weaver.  What is a shame is this traditional craft is slowly dying as these Chinese women pass away, and it seems that the younger generation is not learning this weaving craft.

So as the hat begins to take form, she might do some stitching or special treatment to keep its shape and for the final touch she'll add a vintage button, pin or ribbon to complete the look.

And if Jennifer didn't already have the cutest studio ever and wasn't talented enough, she actually does all of her sewing on this antique Singer sewing machine that was passed down to her from her sister-in-law's mother!

For those of you who might be traveling here and want your hat to weather the luggage, Jennifer makes these amazing hats that pack flat and perk up so cute!  She's even created them to be dual purpose with removable exterior accouterments, so let's say you fly into Sonoma for a wedding, you can wear the hat plain while site-seeing and then dress it up for the wedding day.  This hat below was completely flat; I mean really a flat pancake kind of flat.

And if Jennifer's hats weren't enough, she also makes precious velvet and ribbon flower pins and vintage style headbands.  The pins can be attached to a hat, jacket or even perhaps a smaller version could be for a man's suit; like a boutonniere for a wedding!  Each pin is unique and is finished off with a vintage button.

And I almost forgot to introduce you to our lovely model, Vivien.  She's a handmade, hand-painted mannequin from a 1940's department store.  She's really working that headband beautifully!

Hats have slowly disappeared through the years, but I've been seeing alot of recent wedding trends and I'm happy to say that they are finding their place again.  In closing, Jennifer said something that I really liked, "You can be by yourself in a hat" and I thought how true!  A hat gives you some privacy mixed in with a little bit of flirty mystery.

Jennifer is an absolute delight and is always happy to discuss a custom design to fit your special occasion.  Thank you again Jennifer for opening up your studio and for sharing your lovely works of art!