“I make hats but I don’t make very practical hats, which was a good starting point for our working together I think.”
Sarah Cant and Susan Early have explored, with joyous enthusiasm, how their skills, materials and forms work out of context:
A milliner working with larch, willow and cane.
A basket maker creating forms to wear.
Their collaboration has seen them both moving away from the familiar, learning what doesn’t work with materials they routinely, use as they experimented with making and placing different forms:
“It is such fun, and we always run out of time. The joy about this is being given and time and permission to explore!”
Their collaboration began at Susan’s workshop which Sarah describes as “her whole house and garden really!”
A larch twig was the starting point of a series of sketches and photographs exploring how the different forms they created worked on different points of the head:
“We were chatting and went out into the garden looking for bits and bobs, and Sarah took a piece of larch and started playing with it. You have to try these things and see what progresses.”
The pair have relished what hasn’t worked:
“As a milliner you are always trying to make things stronger, usually sneaking in wires to give structure. I came away from our first meeting thinking I would block around these beautiful strong forms: the basket would be the form that would become a hat. It was terrible – it just didn’t work.”
Gold leaf wouldn’t adhere to bark and they rejected their dyed cane because it looked too uniform: “it just wasn’t compelling!”
Susan made extraordinary shapes that Sarah would then work with, par ticularly drawn to the unfinished ends of the materials. The intrinsic strength of the willow, firm when dried, offered opportunities for hats with sculptural sweeps:
“I started to think I could make a hat out of any of Susan’s forms – the structure and materials are dynamic so they work well to turn into the hat, and the lines of the raw materials are naturally very beautiful.”
In a shared studio day, Susan’s open weave, half-finished experiment becomes another hat:
“Wow – I love that – don’t do any more – how beautiful! It is lovely that one! I love the way they look when they are half made, the lift away from the head is lovely…”