Karen Newborn is a traditional milliner handcrafting hats in Waimauku

The Inspiration

I was a part-time artist and living in London, and decided to learn millinery under two prominent London milliners - Sue Dewhurst and Noel Stewart. After two and half years of study, I was completely hooked! I loved how you could take some woven straw or wool felt and completely change it into something sculptural and interesting to look at. The possibilities are endless with making hats. Whatever your imagination can come up with can be designed into a hat form and worn to make some sort of statement or flatter the person wearing it. No two hats are ever the same and I love making something that people usually appreciate for years to come.

The Creative Space

I work in a barn on a small lifestyle block in Waimauku, north west of Auckland. My view out the window is of sheep in the paddocks and bush clad hills in the distance. For my work practice, I have both traditional wooden hat blocks for completely handmade hats. These hats are more expensive as everything handmade is a lot more time consuming.  I also have vintage French Millinery presses. These are gas heated and run with hydraulic presses. I have over 100 blocks on which I make my sun hats, fedoras, trilby's and other more everyday hats. 

Attached to my workspace is a small showroom that is open by arrangement. Here is where some of my hats are on display and where customers can be measured for bespoke hats.

The Passion

I love that everyone I meet has a story about their favourite hat, or a relative that used to be a milliner. Also, many people cannot find a hat to fit them, as most are imported in limited sizes. It is important to find a hat that not only fits, but flatters the wearers face. There are very few milliners left and it is great to be keeping an ancient skill alive with designs that meet contemporary tastes. 

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