Hat-making: I have always felt like this is such a classic art. I think of old movies and their beautifully tailored outfits, which so often include incredible hats. I’m so happy that people like Julie Schworm of Savage Millinery are keeping it beautifully alive. She takes inspiration from these classic looks, but updates them for modern times and adds a lot of her own creativity to each one.
1| How do you describe your work to people who don’t know anything about crafting/art?
I first tell people that I sew things and then sort of break it down from there. I sew hats, ties, bow ties and have recently started making pillows and bags. When I tell people I make hats they always want to know what type and the techniques used. I hand block felt and straw using vintage wooden hat blocks and create patterns for my fabric hats (cut and sew). I used to be a graphic designer and I like to use a lot of graphic elements in my work. I also love all things vintage and my work definitely has a nod to other time periods. I create patterns for everything I make and utilize a lot of color blocking, applique and most recently, hand embroidery. I still love to draw -which is what I went to school for -and using applique allows me to use those drawing skills to create designs.
2| Why do you make/design things?
It’s something that I can spend hours doing and never get sick of. I think that’s a pretty important factor. If I ever start to hate it I think it would mean I should stop. I don’t foresee that happening though.
3| Describe your style. What kind of person wears Savage Millinery?
My style definitely draws on vintage and graphic elements. I try to make things that will appeal to someone who doesn’t always have a specific style and I try to keep things new and different without losing my aesthetic. My customers have a love for hats and handmade items and they aren’t afraid to express themselves through fashion. I think whats great is that my customers range in age. I like that my customer varies in age and style.
4| Where do you look for inspiration?
I love vintage and I’m always looking at vintage fashion for inspiration. I’m really drawn to retro fabrics and materials. I am a huge fan of art deco and old architecture. Buffalo has some really beautiful old buildings with really lovely details. I find a lot of inspiration in that. I like living in a place that has seasons as well. There is a lot of inspiration in the changing colors that come with the changing seasons.
5| What do you love about your job?
I love that something I make can maybe bring a little bit of happiness to someone else. That maybe they are wearing a hat or tie I made and they love the way it makes them feel. I really like creating things for other people. I don’t think I have ever wanted to not “let go” of something I’ve made.
6| What’s the most challenging aspect of owning your own business?
Definitely the uncertainty of it all. I do a lot of art festivals/craft shows and it’s always a gamble. The growth is slow but I’m really thankful that there is growth. Even with the sometimes stress that comes with having a business, I can’t think of anything else I would rather be doing. That is the push that drives me to keep on keeping on through the hard times
7| Was being a working artist always your plan or was there an “aha” moment?
It was. There were definitely times when I thought about doing something else but I have always had the need to create. I have been sewing since I was 12 and drawing since I could hold a pencil. Making art has always brought so much joy to my life and I feel very lucky to have that ability and be able to share it with others. It can be frustrating at times and not always the most lucrative job but I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I think most artists have those days where they just want to throw in the towel but I know I would be pretty lost if I stopped making things.
8| How do you work, and where?
I have a studio in my house that I work out of. It has a separate entrance to the second floor. I would eventually love to move into a different space just for a change of scenery and to have a place where I could also hold classes. I try to keep to a normal schedule but I tend to be a bit of a night owl. I could sew until all hours of the night but I try to match my husbands schedule as much as I can.
9| If you could swap lives with another artist, who would that person be?
I really admire Natalie Chanin who creates the clothing line Alabma Chanin. She makes really beautiful, detail oriented clothing using a lot of hand sewing techniques. She’s created this amazing artist community and sustainable business. Her dedication to slow design and being a responsible manufacturer is really inspiring.
10| What makes a handmade object valuable?
The time and energy an artist puts into their work and the attention to detail that goes into crafting something handmade. The tools and materials the artist uses to perfect their craft. The love that goes into making something handmade is invaluable, I think. It’s not something that is super mass produced but something that was really thought out and made by someone who really enjoys making it.
11| Using that definition, what’s the most valuable object you own?
I would have to say my sewing machine is pretty valuable. I wouldn’t be doing what I do without it. I recently upgraded machines and it was a long time coming. Investing in good equipment is pretty essential to making a really good, quality product.
12| Tell us one true thing about yourself that people don’t believe when you tell them.
I play roller derby. Most people don’t believe me because of my size and my demeanor. I’m fairly reserved and quiet but I’m also a super competitive person. Joining was one of the best things I’ve ever done.
13| Give us three more non-crafting-related details about you or your life.
I have a pet rabbit and a cat. Even though I grew up with dogs I am a rabbit and cat person for life.
I lived in Brooklyn for 11 years and Los Angeles for 4. I had so many amazing experiences living in those places and it really helped shape who I am as an artist.
I teach sewing in the fashion department at a local college.