A piece of felt, a cloud of steam and a wooden hat block are the essential ingredients for the making of a blocked hat. Take a peek inside the studio of hat designer Wayne Wichern. Wayne specializes in women’s blocked fashion hats and elegant evening and cocktail hats. Of particular interest are his theatrical Kentucky Derby style hats which are lavish and frothy with embellishment – silk flowers, veiling, feathers, ribbon and fabric sashing. According to Wayne, it’s fairly simple to create the frothy event hat, the harder work is to design a simpler hat, something one can wear frequently – a sophisticated hat that speaks with quiet elegance – not a shout.
Behind each of these elegant hats is the shaping tool known as a hat block. The hat block is a tool made for the millinery trade by a skilled woodcraft artisan and while the hat block is for practical use in the studio it is itself an amazing artistic achievement. The felt and straw is pulled or “blocked” over these wood forms while it is hot and damp with steam to give it the desired shape, then tied with cords to hold the materials in place. The hat then needs to dry before removal from the hat block.
The hat blocks in Wayne’s collection are infinite in variety and complexity. “My job as a contemporary millinery designer is to utilize these vintage and contemporary hat blocks in innovative ways, not ju st using the obvious shape but to combine the forms to tease out their hidden expression. I am constantly amazed by the skill that went into the conceptualization and carving of my hat blocks and if I had time for another career I would turn my attention to creating hat blocks.”
Wayne will show a collection of his millinery work and demonstrate how the hat blocks are used to create them. The lecture will cover aspects of the current millinery industry.
The presentation will be held at Cañada College on Friday, April 12 at 7:00 pm. It will be in Building 3, Room 255. Please call Ronda Chaney at 650-306-3370 if you plan to attend.
Wayne Wichern carved a curious path as florist, ballet dancer, and visual display artist to create his 27-year career as a fashion millinery designer and teacher. Wayne teaches semi private workshops in his Redwood City studio and has taught at Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC and Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, NJ. He has work in the Textile Collection of the de Young Museum and the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle, WA.