Gemma Sangwine

Unique and bespoke millinery and hair accessories

Birds of a feather

Leave a comment

No matter how much planning I do, or how much time I have, I always seem to thrive on creating work in a crazy flurry of productivity right up against a deadline…it’s like being an art student all over again!

I was recently commissioned to make two bespoke head pieces for Ali and Becky, who were organising a charity fundraiser Masquerade Ball and wanted unique pieces to wear for the event.

Becky came about 3 weeks ahead of the big day, with an idea in mind and part of a vintage fascinator made with long pheasant tail feathers, for me to incorporate into a new piece for her.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbove; Becky’s finished head piece. I added more pheasant tail feathers, stripped and curled some of them, added iridescent black coque feathers, a bejewelled placement and some antique netting from the sleeve of a (cut-up) vintage dress.

Ali however didn’t make it to my studio until a week before the event……luckily I knew she was thinking of using peacock feathers as a starting point, and I had coincidentally picked up a handful of plumes from an antique shop in Bristol that week. We searched online for inspiration and decided to go for artificial birds, feathers and a bit of sparkle, lots of fun and a bit bonkers!

I continued to search online for materials and sourced some lovely artificial birds, including a peacock, from Abercorn & Co. By now it was the weekend, and I was busy with a stall at a Vintage fair in Bristol all day on Saturday, and spent most of Sunday at a big antique & flea market. Come Monday I was tired, head buzzing with ideas and things to do, and I was still waiting for the artificial birds to arrive!

On Wednesday the birds came, I unpacked them with trepidation…would they be as nice as they looked online? How was I going to incorporate all of these elements into a cohesive design?

Well, there is one thing I have learned from working with vintage and ad-hoc materials, you can have an idea in your head of what you want it look like, but at the end of the day the piece just evolves and comes together in its own way. You respond to the materials and see what works together through trial and error, and a bit of intuition. What looks good on the mannequin can look unbalanced or odd when you try it on, so materials have to be pinned and clipped, tried on, and then stitched or glued together.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Artificial birds with peacock feathers, curled peacock sword feathers, and antique beadwork 

montage

IMAG1277I made it to the Ball too!

Here I am in a lovely 1920s dress with a mask I made for a Christmas party a few years ago (dusted off and brought out for another spin!).

The event was held in the stunning, gothic Woodchester Mansion, to raise money for Medicene sans Frontiere.

I’m glad I got to see my head pieces in their moment of glory, it was great to see Ali and Becky dancing away, I could follow the gentle swaying of long feathers as they moved around the rooms and interacted with the guests.

Author: Gemma Sangwine

I am designer & milliner based in the Cotswolds, UK. My work focuses on making quirky and wearable head wear and accessories from vintage, natural and recycled materials.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s