Maker's Remarks

Maker’s Remarks: Behida Dolić

{ Little Gray Hat }

Last week’s Millinery class was fun and fruitful, but I’m afraid my freshly blocked hat isn’t quite ready for sharing. Luckily, I have something even better! A chat with one of my favorite contemporary milliners, Behida Dolić. Behida, who has been crafting exquisite hats for close to a decade, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions for our second Maker’s Remarks feature. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

{ Royal with Vintage Pearl Buttons }

Millinery seems to be a bit of a lost art. How did you find your way into this classic craft?

First, I would like to say that I am in love with my job! Sometimes I can’t believe that I have found my true passion. For me, millinery is more alive now than ever, and that could be because I spend most of my life contributing to its existence.

Most of my adult life, I adored silent films and the fashion of the 1920’s and 1930’s, especially the hats. Every time I would watch an old movie, I would say, “Oh I love that hat she is wearing, I want one.” For a while, I would try to find an old hat that I liked, but they never fit well.

One day, I decided that I was going to figure out how to make myself one of those film noir toppers, which was going to turn me into an instant lady. And that is how a milliner from Bosnia was born! I made my first hat about  9 years ago. I must admit that my fine creation was not very good, but I love it anyways. I keep it around as a sweet reminder of how it all began!

As time went on, it was clear to me that this was what I was going to be doing for a long time, and I needed to learn everything I could about the craft in order to improve my skills. I consider myself a bit of a perfectionist, and I was not going to settle for making an OK hat. I wanted to be really good at it. My studies began in Italy, where I lived for two years. After that, I moved to San Francisco, finished by bachelor’s degree in art, and apprenticed for a professional milliner there.

It was during my apprenticeship that I developed most of my skills. All the tedious, detail oriented work I did taught me how to make quality hats.

I was always a creative person, but that was not enough for me. I wanted to learn all I could about my trade in order to feel that I was doing a good job. Well-learned skills combined with imagination is what makes us produce long-lasting, well-made works of art.

{ Little Black Hat }

Are there other milliners, contemporary or classic, that have had a big influence on your designs or your career?

I first learned how to make cloche hats, and I was, of course, smitten with Caroline Reboux, who was the first lady milliner to make a hand-draped cloche hat. But I also adore Edith Head, not only her imaginative designs, but also her incredible personality.

{ Fedora In Flight }

What are you favorite silent films?

Her Wild Oat (the sweetest film ever)
Modern Times
The Immigrant
The Wind

{ Everyday Hat }

Can you tell us a bit more about the hat-making process?

Hat making is a totally different experience for every milliner, depending on which kind of millinery he or she does. I prefer the hand-draping style, where I hand-fold every detail of my hat on a balsa wood block. Millinery blocking is fun as well, but draping works for me because it allows me to be as creative as I would like to be. I have a step-by-step process that I use for each hat:

  1. Sketch my idea on paper
  2. Pick out my colors and the size of the block
  3. Steam the felt
  4. Start draping on a balsa wood block
  5. Then from here on it is magic that happens with pinning and folding, a world of endless possibilities for a hat about to be
  6. Work on the hat for about one week, letting it dry and continuing to work on it until it looks perfect. It takes between 15-20 hours per hat
  7. Stitch everything in place by hand
  8. Sew in a sweatband and label
  9. Final steaming to perfect every detail
  10. After the hat is fully complete, I place it in a custom made hat box and ship it to its new owner

{ Olive Green Cloche }

You mention on your website that you find inspiration in many areas of your daily life, even in your homemade desserts. Do you have a yummy dessert recipe you could share?

I have recently learned (from the internet) how to make Stuffed Apples and they are yum, yum, yum. Every time I make them, I add a millinery touch, which, of course, means that I adorn each apple with a topper. This is how you make a hat for an apple dessert:

Stuffed Apples with Fancy Toppers

14 Gala or Braeburn apples
1/2 lbs coarsely chopped walnuts
4 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp brandy
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
28 whole cloves

For the Syrup
1 c sugar
1 1/2 c water
juice of 1/2 lemon
4 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Before you cut your apples, wash them and make sure to slice off the top part of your apple, about one half inch down. After you stuff your apple, you can put the part you sliced off (the hat) back on the apple. Meanwhile, you can look for some fun things in your kitchen cupboards or your garden that would make nice decorations for your apple’s hat–cinnamon sticks, edible flowers, walnuts, leaves, etc. Once your apples are baked, you can turn them instantly glamorous by giving each apple a brand new decorative hat.

Take out the cores using an apple corer or melon baller, taking care not to pierce the bottom of the apple. Place the apples in a baking pan just large enough to hold them.

In a bowl, combine walnuts, sugar, brandy, lemon juice, and cinnamon. Spoon the mixture into the core of each apple, filling to the top. Stick two cloves into the skins of each apple.

Boil all syrup ingredients for 3-4 minutes and pour over the apples. Bake at 350F (180C) for approximately 45 minutes for medium soft, 1 hour for soft apples.

Plain yogurt is delicious with the apples.

Bon Appetit!

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