When I first started planning hat week, I knew I wanted to invite the wonderful Sarah McIntyre, illustrator and writer of picture books and comics extraordinaire to take part. The creator of Vern and Lettuce, Princess Spaghetti and half of the all singing all dancing Oliver and the Seawigs and Cakes in Space team Sarah has serious form when it comes to hats. Her hats are book events are legendary. She has even been called a “celebrity hat stand”…
Thus it is with huge delight and a great sense of honour that I’ve a guest post today from Sarah McIntyre, all about her love of hats. It is time to doff mine and let Sarah take the floor…
“I daydream a lot. I love my job, but sometimes I wonder, what would I do if I wasn’t illustrating children’s books?
I’ve contemplated taking various jobs, including:
Okay, this last one. I’m not actually a hat maker, but funnily enough, my job has let me make little forays into this world of wearable sculpture. I don’t get very excited about the world of fashion; it’s mostly intended for skinny people and I’ve watched The Devil Wears Prada. I don’t understand all that stuff about stilettos and expensive handbags.
I used to think I needed to wear slimming black and try to all but make myself disappear because I wasn’t a standard size, but south-east London has changed me. A large Afro-Caribbean population live in my neighbourhood and, let me tell you, a lot of those women don’t let a bit of WEIGHT stop them from looking absolutely fabulous. I adore their block-printed fabric designs. Here are some of my African-print dresses, from Sika Designs in Greenwich, and Esther Marfo in New Cross.
And the outfits on these Nigerian and Ghanaian ladies don’t stop with curve-enhancing dresses in bold patterns, their bright colours rise two or three feet up into the air with incredible head wraps. On a Sunday morning when people are going to church, the bus stop can look like a sea of giant fancy sweet wrappers. It’s glorious!
Making books has given me lots of reasons to dress up, and if I’m doing a stage event, I can go as over-the-top as I want; my only limits are whether I can fit the outfit onto the train or into the airplane. Here’s a six-foot-tall wig made out of purple clingfilm:
In fact, I almost didn’t fit into my Oliver and the Seawigs book launch. I hadn’t counted having to pass through a glass door before ascending to the deck of the Golden Hinde ship. Here’s a photo of my editor helping me through. (Thank goodness for my dignity, I didn’t have to crawl.)
The other thing that has changed for me is that I used to think comfort was the most important thing in dressing. But there’s a certain amount of discomfort that’s worth it, because it’s so fun seeing people’s jaws drop in surprise. This alien cake hat, for the Cakes in Space launch, for instance. It was quite heavy and clopped me hard on the forehead whenever I jumped in the air (because one does jump in the air, in stage events). But when I’d squeeze the hidden valve and its mouth would open, I’d have a wonderful time watching people gape. Some kids would obsess over it, trying to figure out how it worked, or if it really was alive.
My sculptor friend Eddie Smith helped me with both the giant Seawig and the Cake. He’s a Royal Academy sculptor and has done lots of Proper Art Stuff, but he’s loved doing something a bit different.
For Jampires, I tried to find a Bakewell Tart fascinator on the Internet, and there were lots, but they were all too SMALL. So I made this one out of a sprinkler attachment from the pound shop, a children’s ball (also from the pound shop), a foam pizza base, the plastic lid from a Christmas pudding, some felt, lace, fabric and glitter.
My Summer Reading Challenge Medusa hat was also a pound shop marvel: a green pencil case, craft pipe cleaners, a yoghurt pot and a bit of painted foam. (I’m sure the Duchess of Cornwall wears very similar things herself.)
If you go on to my Hats Pinterest page, you can see lots more things I’ve worn! Some of them I’ve made, and some of them I’ve customised, from vintage hats I’ve found in second-hand shops. It doesn’t take much to make a quiet hat into a startling headpiece; just stick on some large feathers or a big bow, or a ship, or a giant octopus. Some day I may make a book exclusively about hats, but for now, go check out David Roberts‘ fab new picture book with Andrea Beaty, Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, inspired by his favourite hat makers.
I do daydream about taking a year off to go study under someone such as Philip Treacy and make all sorts of wild headgear. But for now, I’ll be content with doing it as a job sideline… so much fun to be had!”
So now you can see why I wanted Sarah to be part of my Hat Week extravaganza, can’t you! Do you have a favourite among Sarah’s hats?