There's a hat-maker deep inside me hollering to get out, particularly today after I've seen the Dallas Opera's "Merry Widow". What fun someone at the San Franscisco Opera's costume shop had making all the wonderful hats for this production!
The hats are giant feathery confections whipped up in black and white, lovely blues, and lastly a splendid range of reds. They bring to mind Audrey Hepburn on Ascot Opening Day, and Carol Channing in "Hello, Dolly".
Hat-making appeals to me as an individual textile sculptural design experiment. It revels in curves, layers, textures, opacities, embellishments, and eccentricities. It's over the top in more ways than one. Plus, it's a fabulous art project for young students I've forgotten to include in recent semesters.
"The Merry Widow" was composed a hundred or so years ago by Franz Lehar (and someday a hundred years from now I'll learn how to add the proper accent marks to his name). That's about the same time my young great-aunties in Northeast Nebraska modeled these non-Parisian millinery creations of their mother.
My great-auntie Ada, on the right, later had her own millinery shop on Main Street in Pierce, Nebraska. This was long, long before I knew her. I have only one real memory of her, but it is very vivid. Auntie Ada is standing by a bed of tall flowers, calmly waiting for the flitting butterflies to become still enough for her to pick them up by their folded wings with her fingers.
A hat, with all of its sculptural qualities, should still have that sense of a fragile, quivering butterfly held gently in the artist's fingers and being placed into the creation yet wanting to fly free.
© 2007 Nancy L. Ruder