Tuesday, October 6, 2015

SW19: Hat's off to Deborah Olson - Milliner Extraordinaire!

Welcome to SteamWomen's new format.  We are now publishing on the first and third Tuesday of the month to best accommodate our editing staff's schedules.

We're very pleased to bring you Deborah Olson Milliner Extraordinaire who resides
near La Crosse in Western Wisconsin, also known as the "Driftless Zone."

How would you define or describe yourself?
I have always been a Victorian at heart living in a modern world.

How did you find Steampunk -OR- how do you define it?
A professional milliner by trade since my youngest son was born, I had been creating hats for the reenactment community for over ten years when I was approached by someone who asked me if I did "Steampunk". Not knowing what she meant, I did ask her to tell me what she wanted and I could make it. When I got back home, I asked my sister-in-law if she knew what "Steampunk" was and she introduced me to a very talented young woman, Stephanie Schultz (Silversark) who designed Steampunk / Lolita dresses. Our personalities just clicked and we started working together. The results have been spectacular, we have been published in several alternative fashion magazines as far away as Japan.

Describe one of your creative processesI do repurpose a lot and sometimes a detail piece will start the creative process. Or the catalyst could be a design element in a garment that the whole hat is built around. A signature hat design of mine is called the "Cage-Crin" topper. It started as a idea to make the exposed cage skirt Silversark was making and I wanted to make a hat to compliment it. I reamed about dimensions and materials for a couple of weeks and suddenly knew how it was going to go together. I woke up, drew a sketch and went back to sleep. The next day, I started. The first one hit the garbage (yes, it was really bad!) but the second turned out just like the sketch. I have since done the hat in a number of fabrics and in metal as well. The name comes from the "cage-crinolines" worn by the ladies of the Civil War era, exposed concentric steel hoops suspended on cotton twill tape worn under the full skirts to give them a bell shape.

Who or what inspires you?:
Vintage photographs from the Victorian age, and actual vintage pieces for start. High fashion photographs, designers' concepts, sometimes from what is in the entertainment world. My dear friend, Stephanie Schultz, designer of Silversark and my sister-in-law, Joan Junghans, designer MusesJewelry. I am indebted to God for giving me an "eye" to find beauty and function in discarded items and give them new life for others to appreciate and enjoy.

Tell us about one of the projects you're working on (or just finished)
I just finished a first for me, a 1920's (Miss Fisher) inspired brimmed cloche for a client. Coming up, I am making new hats for the my biggest Steampunk convention, TeslaCon in Madison, WI. This will be my fifth year as a vendor with Lord Bobbins and company.

What advice do you have for young Steampunks?
Follow your dreams and don't be discouraged if the end result isn't exactly how you imagined it. Hard work and perseverance can't be discounted...to become who you want to be is worth every ounce of "sweat equity."

Check out Deborah's fabulous work: 

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