Top of the Squirrel to you!

A few months back I was proposed with a fun and clever design for a commission piece.  The liaison between myself and the designer was a friend who I’ve done work for in the past.

And the individual who wanted this item?  A young man slated to start the seventh grade this Fall.  A talented and creative mind, no doubt, this little guy has no idea how much I appreciate getting projects like this.

Here are the sketches I was provided:

I was nervous about sourcing a boy’s top hat at first, until I noticed that this kid is a size 7 & 3/8 which is a full-grown adult sized head. Must be all those big thoughts he’s having.  I ordered the proper topper (I have yet to possess the facilities or training to make a top hat from scratch, which is why I hesitate to call myself a “milliner”) and went about fitting a squirrel form into the proper position.  Here it is, broken into several pieces and pinned into place:

After getting the placement and angles of the bits and bobs all sorted out, I secured with glue, pins, wire, and slim wedges of foam inserted into gaps for reinforcement.  After that comes the clay to smooth things out.  I then had to determine the contact points at which the squirrel would meet the hat and anchor some wires at those spots:

Maneuvering the skin over this form, wires and all, proved a challenge but in the end came  out just peaches.  Here are shots of the finished product:

I recreated the sketch to the best of my ability; due to the squirrel’s size it does occupy a tad more real estate on the hat itself but I think that’s OK.

I’m actually quite proud of this red ribbon- I made that bow myself!

Also, this squirrel was a female!  Almost all the squirrels I have ever skinned were male; I just assumed they were the ones being brazen enough to get hit/killed/shot/etc.  I forget how this one perished; I think it was a fall from a tree or something but I almost wonder if she got shocked on an electric line because a teeny patch of her skin was bare of fur and the area surrounding is was slightly discolored.

And that’s hat!

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Happy Birthdays!

I was recently commissioned to create a custom flight-of-fancy-hat for a friend’s mother.  It was a birthday present and, seeing as the giftee shares the same big day as yours truly, I poured even more love and care into this piece.*

I was given the parameters of a making a piece that was a bird alit on a wide-brimmed hat and given creative freedom as far as the rest goes.  I found this lovely sun hat made from woven horse hair and got to work on a recently sourced hen from my dear chicken master buddy.  She was rather large- a little too large for this purpose, but I was so enamoured with her coloring I plowed ahead and taxied the skin onto a smaller, altered form.  I posed her to be perched, curious, holding back part of the brim with her wing; almost an extension of the wearer’s head.

I gave her a pair of oversized eyes and lined them with crystals, as well as embellishing the original coat with some brighter pheasant feathers.  A gold and diamond chain around the brim completes the look.

Look at that beautiful fuzzy bum!  The blueish feathers underneath the tail are the pheasant accents.

I added a poof of white with some belly down at  the end of the chain, and called it a day.   Well, there were some structural issues to address but I took care of those earlier.  When one is wearing such a monumental structure on one’s head, it helps to have straps on the ready to hold said structure into place.  I rather enjoy the pomp and circumstance of dressing up in this way-having an entire creature on my head makes me taller, it makes me stand up straighter, and I am so much more aware of how I move my head.  It feels very elegant.  I am eager to see how well my birthday sister and recipient of this gift wears it.

 

Photos by James Coughlin

 

*I never actually put more love into any one piece than another.  I adore all of my children equally.