ARTIST INTERVIEW: Brookes Boswell

Brookes Boswell founded her eponymous line of hats in 2012 after an apprenticeship with one of New York City’s milliners. A background in architectural design, fine art and textiles give Brookes a keen eye for precision, a love of fine materials and an appreciation for the construction techniques used in the trade. The Brookes Boswell studio produces hats and accessories that mix functional detailing with a classic aesthetic. Meticulously crafted and individually constructed, every hat is hand blocked and made-to-order with attention to detail and only the highest quality materials.
Describe the path that led you to the work you do now.
The path that led me to where I am now is a circuitous one. I am truly an accidental milliner. I started my career as an Interior Designer, working in Architecture firms and receiving a masters degree of Architecture from Cranbrook Academy of Art. After graduate school I moved to New York City and met a working milliner who offered me the opportunity to apprentice with her and learn the traditional craft of hat making. I have been a lifelong student of art and craft, studying fine art and textiles. I took this opportunity to learn how to make hats and eventually decided to pursue hat making as a full time business. Our hats are still entirely handmade and hand blocked in our Portland, OR studio.
How do you find a balance between practicality and beauty in your creations?
Designing hats is essentially an exercise in balancing practicality and beauty. I love thats are primarily functional, designed to keep the sun and rain off of us. Their beauty is subtle; the felt is soft because we don’t add very much stiffener, the slight show of our hand is evident in the minor imperfections of a sewn edge and we keep our trims very simple to highlight the beauty of the materials.
What are your most important artistic tools?
Our hat blocks are our most important tools. Most of our hat blocks (or molds) are antique and hand carved though occasionally we design new ones or have copies made. Each style of hat needs to have its own unique mold, so we have quite a collection! This also means that they’re proprietary, every hat block is unique, shows history and wear, and represents our brand’s collection of designs.
What do you do, or where do you go to seek fresh ideas or renewed creative energy?
In 2015 I opened Shop Boswell, a boutique in Portland, Oregon that carries women’s clothing and accessories in addition to my hats. This was important creatively for me because it allowed me to style the hats as a complete look. It brought together my community of designers and I have more direct interaction with my customers. I’ve incorporated working on photoshoots, merchandising and buying as part of my job. This broadening of the scope of my work which has helped me to expand my creative thinking, which has been good for the hats.
Did you have any mentors or important creative influences?
Yes, I definitely have mentors. I’m constantly asking those around me for their opinions or poking them for bits of knowledge. I consider everyone I know; friends, fellow designers, employees, customers and acquaintances, to be a potential source of creative influences, good business practices, health tips, and general camaraderie which are all essential for starting and growing a creative business. Keeping an open mind and accepting inspiration from anywhere is vital. In addition to my community, I have an official business & operations mentor, she has been worth more than her weight in gold.
Did you have any artists or creative people in your family? If so, how did they influence you?
My mother is an artist, an aesthetic and overall incredibly stylish person. I wish that she lived closer to me so that we could work together more.


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