“Un grand ‘chapeau’ to VV Rouleaux!”
I am Alice. Self-titled. Hear me roar!
I am striding towards my hypothetical wonderland.
I reach a literal treasure trove of Arts and Crafts.
I meet a modern-day Titian, a holidaying American, a collective of creative guides.
I am led through the open pages of this story-book establishment…encompassed by feathers that flutter and fashion, oh my!!
Vintage, contemporary, tassels and pom-poms, twinkling, sparkling… I am enveloped within the beating heart of a life-sized trinket box!
I am in maker’s heaven!
Yet…for all of the fantastical frou-frou, quaint this working atelier-cum-accessories hotspot could never be, as I am at the legendary VV Rouleaux, being escorted to my home, for the foreseeable… which is sure to be the ultimate venue, for a morning of marvellous millinery!
Perched at the end of a distinguished wooden table, with my creating companions, I pause to imbibe the sounds… Momentarily, my mind is elastic enough to breach the force-fields of time and witness the whispers of a tree which was to become the support for so many anticipatory participants before me… Looking up to the blue sky, it would be destined to carry the weight of future blue-sky schemes, being sedulously sculpted in ‘sinamay’.
Yes, “sinamay”, announced the voice of Faye, our esteemed mentor, was to be the material of choice… A banana fibre, not keen comrades with, either, humidity or precipitation, and my introduction to the ‘freeform’ method of hat-design, from ‘curling ends’, through stitching on the hat-base, to the execution of especial embellishment!
More memory-scapes emerged… rifling through my love of design, like back-copies of make-do-and-mend magazines. My first sampler, my first print, my first embroidered tote… Vivid 3-D images in multi-dimensional pop-ups held me in history, whilst the scent of Earl Grey tea had me winging my way back to the present.
Something about the beauty of the unknown inspired me to entrust Faye with the size of sinamay which I would be working. Although, in theory, the smaller the piece, the better, I was ready to face the challenge of a larger cut… and so it began… the blush-pink medium, cut on-the-bias to facilitate the curling process, with which to fashion my one-off fascinator…
Water was to be utilised. Water was to be respected.
Too much would become the arch nemesis of the technique, rendering it too soft to turn. Too little, and the fabric would not yield… in effect, becoming more free-from, rather than free-form! I was to learn this, friends, as the supple, became the squidgy, in quick succession! Faye had made the method a constant motion of contemporary dance. Under her haute handiwork, tight curling transformed into abstract curvature… I was, initially, all fingers and thumbs, until the recognition of my favoured direction to loosen the edges, before performing the process of rolling, became apparent! Ever the eternal voice of positive reinforcement, Faye advised that 1cm was the optimum size in order to avoid fraying or breakage… She also reassured us that there was no rush, which made utter sense to me, as my joy was in following the fibre… letting it show me the way, rather than coerce a structure.
I cannot recall it… but, at some point, my Titian-haired and American associates had turned their talents to the business of sewing the initial element of their works-in-progress onto their selected bases…always using new thread, as previous lengths left on needles might be damaged..
Hats were blossoming like a mixed meadow of midsummer flowers… and it was such a pleasure to behold the exhileration with which they began to observe the best positioning for the final placement of adornments.
My vision and, thankfully not my edges, unfurling, I felt a contrasting black base necessary, so as to blend with my darker hair colour and highlight the blushing pink hue of my creation. Owing to my enthusiasm for embroidery, I knew that I would tackle the next task with greater confidence, which had grown with my achievement of overcoming a brand new modus operandi of making! Sinamay resembling a lotus shape, Faye demonstrated how to navigate the undulations of fabric, setting me free to fix the components together with nigh-on invisible stitches… Very satisfying!
My adrenalin on the upswing, I moved on to the moment which had been filled with such promise… That of sifting through such an array of ornamentation, in which I could have happily burrowed down and nested! I blinked-back shiny, smooth, sparkling… pastels, purples… neutrals, nickels… gold, gold and more gold… All, of which, would suit any personality trait… All, of which, to me, spelt glamour, glamour, glamour!!!!!
“Nothing is too much!” was jettisoned into the air…
…and it took extreme discipline, on my part, not to apply that approach to what was taking shape! However, jet black leaves with subtle sequins shouted louder and I dared not resist… I did strike-a-pose or twenty-two, yet, rather than rush the finale, I took all of the necessary accoutrements with me, to add the finishing touches in my own time…
…which was the first time I was aware of it slipping away…
…and as I bid my farewell, VV Rouleaux bag in hand, I realised that the best take-away had been the luxury of spending a Saturday morning, not simply sharing a love of learning, but learning to love the simple joy of sharing, so much more!
©A_F_R_O_W2018-2019. All Rights Reserved.
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VV Rouleaux, 102 Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, London, W1U 2QD
Deepest A_F_R_O_W-thanks to Faye and the Marylebone Team for such a superb session and to fabulous Lucy, for the lovely invitation!