How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
I’m a wry, warm-hearted, endearing, slightly compulsive & completely irreverent workaholic.
How would you describe your label in five words?
Clever, cozy, kind to the environment. Wait, that’s six.
Why handmade / locally produced?
I’m not a shopper. I’m just not. I have a really hard time getting excited about mass-manufactured clothing & other items. But get me in the middle of a huge craft fair like Portland’s Crafty Wonderland or Seattle’s Urban Craft Uprising I’ll go bonkers. There’s just something about the energy of wearing/carrying/using unique handmade items – you can’t help but feel proud of the maker, you feel lucky to be on the receiving end of someone else’s genius. Aside from all that, I simply love to create stuff. I never met a handmade project I didn’t fantasize about tackling (damn you, Pinterest!). If only there were 70 hours in a day…
How are Hoo Hats products ethical / ecological and what does this mean to you?
I’m devoted to the idea of upcyling. I’ve always hoarded leftover bits & pieces of this & that just in case they might prove useful someday ages & ages hence (you really should see my garage! ak!). When my family outgrows clothes, I give each item a once over & salvage what I can for future sewing projects before shipping off the rest to the local charity shop. And so when it came to producing my hats, it was obvious where I would turn for my source materials. Each Hoo Hat is crafted by hand from lovingly rescued wool sweaters that I score on periodic visits to Value Village & the like. In addition, the hats are lined with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles & the felt encircling the eyes are made from eco-felt. So, that’s what? –somewhere around 95% of these adorable hats are essentially saved from a landfill? That feels pretty good! And to top it off, I’ve found other fiber artists who are salvaging my scrap so I have virtually zero production waste. It’s really amazing.
What are your most important sources of influence / inspiration?
I’m inspired by my children. Hoo Hats was birthed at the start as a gift for my son, whose middle name “Shannon” -meaning “wise little owl”- inspired the entire effort. But generally speaking, being present day in & out with them has taught me that I don’t want a “real job” so long as they still love me more than anyone on earth & want to be near me. And so I’m motivated to continue creating here at home. I’m always dreaming up new brands & designs (all those beautiful scraps, you know!). The wool itself is awfully special too, I should note. There’s nothing like rich teal or rust orange cashmere to set me to daydreaming of all the possibilities….
Left: The singer-songwriter Chisu posted a picture of herself wearing a Hoo Hat to her Facebook site last winter. Right: Fabrics waiting to become Hoo Hats.
How has your experience as a Paloni designer been?
Fantastic! Minna is a pleasure to work with & I’m so flattered to have been given a place on the shelves of Paloni among the work of so many other amazing makers. It’s really been an honor.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Since my product is seasonal, things have a tendency to get completely nutty in my studio every autumn & I am known to mildly freak from time to time. A fellow designer friend who’s been doing this a whole lot longer reminds me not to take myself too seriously. No matter how crazy it gets & how important my deadlines may seem, they really are just hats. No one’s dying in line waiting to get one. It’s not like I’m curing cancer or anything. When I put everything in perspective like this I am better able to enjoy the process, despite the sometimes frantic pace. I’m doing this because I love it, after all.
Your words of advice for aspiring designers / artists?
Keep monkeying around until you find your niche. The trick is to create a product that people want, that you love to make, & that you can sell for a reasonable enough profit. If any one point on that triangle is missing, you’re going to have an awfully hard time making it work long term & enjoying the process in the meantime.
What is the most memorable highlight of your career as a designer so far?
Besides getting that first email from Paloni?:) I’d have to say it was something of a surprise when Etsy notified me that I’d be a featured artist in their Fall 2012 Look Book. 800,000 active sellers on Etsy & they pick me?! It was quite astonishing, really.
Please continue the following sentence: My passion is…
My passion is…to live each day to the fullest, as present as possible in the thrilling moments & the mundane alike –to be made happy by small things. If I’m doing that, I’m doing pretty good.