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In the Spotlight: Renee Roeder-Earley and her Wearable Art

October 13, 2011

When it comes to the hats we wear, the decision is often based on the temperature outside rather than what we can add to our ensemble. But if you want to really punctuate your look, especially when heading out to a special occasion, take a tip from British princesses and make a statement with your hat.

Here in Madison, Renee Roeder-Earley has been crafting up artful hats for years and her work will be included in a trunk show this weekend at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art featuring handmade and stylish works of wearable art. While her work is definitely more down-to-earth than the jaw-dropping and often gravity-defying hats that are all the rage for British royalty, they are still head-turning ornaments that pack a stylish punch.

Photo courtesy of Zane Williams

For Roeder-Earley, the fascination with accessories started with a recycled blue jean hat, and her collection still exudes that charm and fun. Roeder-Earley took some time to chat with BRAVA about hats, pins and the upcoming trunk show at the MMOCA.

How did you get started making hats and pins?

I have always been drawn to hats and started making my own as a teenager in the ’70s. In 1993, I decided to enter an art fair with hats and I’ve been making hats full time ever since.

The pins grew out of hat making as embellishments. I had been putting wool flowers on hats for a few years, [and] had the idea to make them jewelry on their own.

How do you approach making hats?

I make hats almost every day. I may make up to six of a popular hat in different sizes for a big summer show. Most of my stock for an art fair are of only a few basic styles, but varied in fabric and embellishments so that no two are alike. For a fair, I also bring along a few hats that are more extravagant, and one or two for all-out fun.

Roeder-Earley wearing one of her creations

Where do you get your inspiration?

My inspiration comes from art, nature, historical costume and architecture. Many of my hats have a feel to them depending on what era I happen to be channeling; sometimes they have a timeless feel.

What do you think about when making new pieces?

[When] I come up with ideas, I try to shut out what is current and go with my gut feeling of what strikes me as interesting, fun and new.

What kinds of pieces will you be bringing to the trunk show?

I am really excited to show hats that are more artistic and sculptural than I usually allow myself to do. I have limited my palate to gray and black in order to focus on the shape. I hope people will see them as wearable sculpture.

Where can local women buy your pieces?

I sell mainly at art fairs. My pins are available at the MMOCA Museum Store, online at Artful Home and Etsy and my hats and pins can be found at The Century House.

See more of Roeder-Earley’s hats, as well as purses and scarves from other artisans, at the MMOCA Museum Store Urban Accessories Trunk Show Friday, Oct. 14 5-9 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 15, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

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