Frankly, The Folksy Magazine

Meet the Maker… Lydia Wall

by Emily. Average Reading Time: about 6 minutes.

Lydia Wall 4

How did you get started as a designer/maker and is it a full time job?

I started making hats through a necessity.. I had to fix a bowler hat that I used for juggling! It got damaged and one of my repair options was to go to a free millinery course being run by Crisis (at Skylight Studios) and learn to fix it myself.. so I did. I fell in love with hat making and decided to take it further.. over the years I have studied my craft through numerous courses and gained HNC in Millinery at Kensington and Chelsea College, learned all I can (which is an ongoing process) and worked with some great milliners.. It is now my full time job. Recently I purchased a laser cut machine and started my new range of laser cut leather jewellery.

Talk us through your collection.

I have two collections – my hats and my jewellery. The work that I have featured on Folksy is mostly from my new jewellery collection but also features some hats. The jewellery is a new branch to my work and this first collection is called “Victoriana” and is inspired the shapes and forms of arts and fashion in the Victorian age.

Tell us about your practice and making process.

There are definite stages to my work; Starting with inspiration which then becomes research. Once an idea has started taking shape the process moves to the studio. Alongside the proving of the design I must also plan the technical execution of the project – what materials, what tools, what techniques to use.. and also how long it’s going to take!

Sourcing of the right materials is also a process that is not always as straight forward as it may seem… and then there’s the putting it all together. Many projects have a period of experimentation in order to come up with the best combination of materials and method of making in the pursuit of the moving target that is perfection. I usually work on a few pieces at once – efficient time and motion management is key to productivity and in millinery (which is a craft for the patient) there are always periods of waiting – whether it is for something to dry or settle.

How long do you plan your work for?.. do you use sketch books or do your makes grow organically?

Experimentation is a big part of the process and often I will start with the seed of an idea which will then become a solid plan through the making process … the materials and their individual properties/workability will always, to some extent, dictate the scope of the final outcome. For me creation is not an entirely linear process as inspiration, ideas and new techniques can come from the most unexpected areas and it is important to remain open minded.

Do you have any tools that are unique to you? – Example – hand made, altered, found around the house..

An essential tool for a milliner and one I’m never without is however something that can be found in most peoples homes – a thimble – and I’ve been through a lot of thimbles over the years! One of the tools I use for making flowers is a curtain pole and finial that I had at home and suited the purpose and I did once use a door knob as a block for a mini hat. In general I like to buy and use professional tools as obviously they are made for the job and for the most part deliver the best results however necessity is the mother of invention and there will always be times when creative tooling can save the day.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from the world around me .. whether it’s the elegant curve of a wrought iron railing that I pass on the way to the studio or the enticing shape of a flirtatious bloom in my garden. Nature is a never-ending source of inspiration and as can probably be seen from my work I am somewhat obsessed with flowers! The way things move is also a great inspiration and also an important aspect of design for me as the way my pieces work ‘in motion’ is also key; a recent mini-collection of mine was inspired by the movement of wind with pieces entitled “Breeze”, “Flutter”, “Equilibria” & “Fly away” …. I also draw great inspiration from theater, cabaret and the circus. History, film and music culture are also rich seams of inspiration in my work.

How do you manage your time between making and the other commitments in your life?

As much as I would like to spend my whole time making, like all self-employed people, time has also to be dedicated to administration, promotion, marketing, R&D and family life – Luckily my daughter is quite grown up now and therefore not such a full time commitment as when she was a small child and these days she actually gives me a lot of help and support with my work. There are obviously busy periods in the year like spring (April-June) and autumn (September-October) – these periods are when I prepare my collections for Lydia Wall Millinery – the busiest sales periods like Ascot, summer events and Christmas and my time has to be organized around them. Periods of design and conceptualizing are equally balanced by and result in intense periods of making.. both of which have to be constantly balanced with the daily, weekly and monthly tasks involved in running and developing a business.

What is your favorite book at the moment – craft or not?

Terry Pratchett is one of my favorite authors and I am currently reading his Disc World series. I love his humor and the colorful characters.

Do you have a craft hero?

Not really any heroes but many milliners who’s work I admire. I worked with Philip Treacy and I love his designs and style. I also love the work of Elsa Schiaparelli from the past – particularly her use of unusual objects in her designs.. surrealism is something I am drawn to as well as making the ordinary extraordinary.

Philip Treacy

Elsa Schiaparelli ‘Shoe Hat’

Do you have any great tips for other makers?

Do things the way that works best for you, it is really important to find your own path – somethings that work for one will not necessarily work for another. It’s important for artistic integrity to stay true to your own way of doing things and the drive of your creative process, as otherwise your work may become just a pastiche of other peoples styles methods and it will lose it’s individual character – that intangible quality that is your own expression.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Good question! Certainly to still be evolving with my creativity and developing my business in order to sustain my need to create and provide for me and my family.

You can see more of Lydia’s collection in her Folksy shop Lydia Wall Millinery