In anticipation of the Walker’s Jewelry & Accessory Makers Mart this Saturday, we’re highlighting a few of the 25 jewelry and accessory artists whose hand-crafted designs will be on display.
Milliner and hat designer Karen Morris creates functional and fashionable hats for women. Founded in 2011, Karen Morris Millinery creates a range of hats from the simple everyday to elegant, bold headwear, and everything in between, all influenced by her upbringing in Hong Kong, studies in Europe, and her home in Minnesota.
Where did you grow up?
I’m originally from Hong Kong and moved to Minnesota with my husband in 2009. We have one dog and love going out to new restaurants in our free time.
What brought you to Minnesota?
My husband is a Minnesotan, we met each other when we worked together in Hong Kong. I moved here after we got married. I really love Minnesota winter—I love snow so much.
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
Meticulous while still having fun. It’s very important to me that the structure and design of my hats are flawless, but I also always want to be playful and whimsical with my designs.
When did you decide to study millinery and why?
I have always been a lover of all things fashion. Growing up in Hong Kong, I had exposure to such a vibrant fashion scene and always loved it. When it came to designing, however, I had issues with drawing and putting my ideas into a two-dimensional concept. Then, my husband took me to the Royal Ascot in England in 2010. I absolutely fell in love with the hats I saw there and knew then I wanted to go into millinery.
Can you describe your process when making a new hat?
I use a very traditional hat-making technique. First, I spray water on the straw fabric (I often use straw for summer hats) to make it damp and easier to mold. Then I use a special foam to block the hat into the specific shape needed. I put stiffener on the fabric in order to make sure it is sturdy and leave the hat on the block to dry for 12 hours. The next day, I take the hat off the block and wire along the edge. I finish the hat by sewing the trims and hat lining. The whole process usually takes two to three days. It’s tedious, but I love it!
Where do you get inspiration for new hat designs?
I love going to art and textile museums to get my inspiration for the designs.
Your brand is described as “quality, simplicity, and elegance.” How did you form your brand?
Like many designers and makers, I think it is important to invest in quality pieces for your wardrobe that will last a lifetime. What I love about a hat is that it can completely elevate a look to the next level. I firmly believe that every woman needs to own at least one hat, and I hope I can help those who may not consider themselves “hat people” find something they absolutely love that helps them feel polished and fabulous.
What was it like to study alongside famous hat-makers in Europe, specifically Judy Bentinck (London) and Lina Stein (Ireland)? What’s one of the best things you learned from them?
It was an amazing experience to learn from these designers. The biggest thing I learned was that you always need to strive for excellent quality.
You’ve also been featured in a lot of shows, like the American Craft Show and New York African Fashion Show. Are there any moments that stood out?
Each show truly has its own standout moment. For me, the highlight is always seeing the audiences appreciate my craft and design and when they share their hat stories with me.
Do you have an example of one of these audience stories or of a special moment shared with a customer?
There are a lot of special moments and stories with my customers. The most exciting moment was in the Smithsonian Craft-to-Wear show in Washington, DC. I met a women who was going to Buckingham Palace to receive an honor from the Queen for her contributions in historic preservation. She chose a burgundy felt cloche from me for the investiture.