In our country horses have always been part of our lives. They have worked our farms, taken settlers West and provided transportation in our towns and cities where they pulled our carts, wagons and carried our policemen. They have also served and continue to serve in our military. Whatever we have asked of them, they have done and still do today. They thrill us with their athleticism as show jumpers, barrel racers and Kentucky Derby winners. Their beauty continues to inspire artists and their innate theraputic powers help war veterans and children to heal. Whether they are draft horses or ponies, crossbreds, purebreds or wild, horses are our heroes and we are indebted to them regardless of their bloodlines or age.
The “Poppy” hat by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® was created to celebrate all of the wonderful horses in our lives and to thank them for the many ways in which they serve and inspire us.
Created in white dupioni silk with a rich red dupioni silk underbrim, the “Poppy” design measures approximately 19 inches, end to end. The hat is trimmed with three delicate poppies created in red silk organza with black silk organza centers and leaves.
This morning I am excited to share two pieces of Derby hat news with you from MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®.
About a week ago, I got an email from Kim Kolarik, New Media Editor/Social Media Editor of the Courier Journal of Kentucky asking to feature my Derby hat designs for Derby 2013 on their website in their Derby Fun section. The Courier Journal is such a wonderful resource for Derby news and information and I was pleased to be asked by Kim to once again be featured. I hope you get a chance to visit the Courier Journal’s slideshow and see the featured Derby Hat Collection by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®.
My second piece of news is that our next auction hat for “Hats Off to the Horses” benefitting the retired racehorses of Old Friends is nearly ready to fly up for bid starting March 1st. This one-of-a-kind Derby hat design honors a very special lady who makes her home at Dream Chase Farm. Now in our fourth season, nearly $16,000 has been raised to date for the horses of Old Friends. To learn more about Old Friends, please visit the Old Friends website or call them at 502-863-1775. And watch for Auction Hat #5 coming soon!
In my business at MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® I wear a lot of hats: hat designer, creator, marketer, webmaster, Facebook/blog host. To sum it all up, I am a custom milliner who creates ladies’ hats out of beautiful, sumptuous fabric with an artistic passion.
Yet it wasn’t until I had the magazine in my hands and saw side by side the images of my hats and the horses of Old Friends that I finally realized that I was carving out a niche in the world of fabric art as an equine artist.
Since the article came out people have asked me about the creative process that’s involved in making fabric hats to honor retired racehorses; it is not as simple as it sounds. The process of creating a piece of wearable millinery out of fabric, thread and trimmings to celebrate a horse is by far the most challenging and creatively stretching experience of my millinery career. But it is also one of the most rewarding.
A lot of homework goes into each “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” auction hat long before I get anywhere near the cutting table. Cape Cod is a long way from Kentucky; in order to create a fabric representation that truly reflects a horse’s conformation, spirit and life story I have to get to know each equine subject as well as I possibly can. Old Friends provides the biographical information that they have on each horse. People who work and volunteer at Old Friends including Sylvia Burkle, Beth Shannon, Cynthia Grisolia and Valerie Mulgrave, share personal stories of the horses from an up-close-and-personal perspective. Equine photographers who support Old Friends including Matt and Wendy Wooley, Rick Capone and Connie Bush also allow me to use their images of the horses for inspiration as I create.
The research also takes me online as I search to uncover old articles, videos of races and photos that provide me with clues about each horse’s career and spirit. I pay attention as to how their movement, conformation, racing silk colors and racing history might inform the design. Some horses, especially the grays, can turn almost completely white over the years and must be reflected in the design. All of this research can take weeks to compile.
Somewhere along the way, I take out my drawing pad and begin sketching hat shapes and trim ideas, adding color and notes in the margins to remind myself of important details. My design table begins to fill up with fabric swatches that might be the “blood bay” coloring of a horse or a stables’ racing silks. Strips of gathered tulle could turn into flowing “horse hair” and pebbled buttons might become “eyes” while ruched sections of organza become the rippled muscles of a mighty Thoroughbred athlete at full gallop.
The process is a humbling one. The final millinery designs that emerge bear witness to the gentle spirits, magnificent athletic beauty and inspiring personal stories of my equine heroes/heroines as they get stitched, layered and woven into each and every hat.
So whether you choose to call me an equine artist, a little girl who never stopped loving horses, or a milliner who creates and donates hats to celebrate horses for charitable causes, I now wear all of these hats gratefully. No matter what my title, if creating hats honoring these horses can move even one new person to support retired racehorses and see all horses as divine works of art, then my efforts have all been worthwhile.
Welcome to the new Saturday time slot for my weekly Hats and Horses blog!
Since the Kentucky Derby falls on the first Saturday in May, I thought it might be fun to celebrate the Derby and Triple Crown season by posting on Saturdays instead of Tuesdays. Although my blog topics will continue to focus on hats and horses, there will be plenty of Derby and Triple Crown emphasis as well.
I am also premiering “The Red Carpet by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®” at Hats and Horses which will appear from time to time over the next few weeks till Derby. Here I’ll be debuting new Derby hat designs as well as showing long-standing favorites, red carpet style. Photos will be presented of the hats along with links to their corresponding webpages at www.maggiemae.com to give you more views of each hat along with their product details.
“Elizabeth” is the smallest of the three hat designs, but don’t let her diminutive size fool you. This tiny red fascinator in monochromatic red silk, satin and tulle is full of pizzazz and charisma as you will see when you visit the Elizabeth Derby Fascinator webpage!
“Marcelle” is our second hat debuting on the Red Carpet. Like her sister from last Derby season, this monochromatic pink “Marcelle” is full of elegance and stunning innovation with a wispy tulle overlayer, organza “feathers” and delicate organza Marguerite. You can visit her at the Marcelle Derby Chapeau webpage.
Last but not least, the “Rita” Derby chapeau makes her grand entrance today onto the Red Carpet. As bedazzling as her movie star’s namesake, this stunning big brimmed Derby hat design in bold red and black silk and taffeta is sure to set your toes to tapping and your heart to singing. To learn more about the design, please visit the Rita Derby Chapeau webpage.
I hope you enjoyed the Red Carpet experience here at Hats and Horses. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of the new Saturday time slot. I hope you’ll stop by and visit us again soon!
As a little girl I loved the color pink; pink and I were the very best of friends. I wore pretty pink floral dresses, loved pink strawberry ice cream, pink lemonade and pink cotton candy. You could always tell which box of crayons was mine as the pink crayon was always worn down to a stub. When Dad asked me what color I wanted my bedroom painted of course I chose “strawberry pink.”
But my love for pink suddenly changed in Home Economics. I was in junior high and had been given my first assignment on a sewing machine and decided to create a dress in a pretty pink daisy pattern fabric. Unfortunately I found the sewing machine quite intimidating and the project didn’t go well. By the time the outfit was finished I was sick of those pink daisies smiling up at me and I had no desire to wear my creation.
After my experience in sewing class the color pink began to wear on me as it always made me think of that dress. Soon I started wondering why I hadn’t chosen a different color for my bedroom. Did all little girls really have to love pink? By this time pink and I were officially not speaking and to anyone who asked me about the color I would simply say I don’t do pink!
Many years later when I became a milliner and began MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®, I created a line of handcrafted hats which I offered in a rainbow of colors. There were yellow hats, navy hats, red hats and purple hats. But no pink.
Then the request for pink hats began. I wanted to offer the colors my customers wanted, but I first had to like pink again. A friend said I should think of the color like a childhood friend I had lost touch with and just needed to get to know again. She suggested that I start mixing pink in with other colors for some of my hat trims. Reluctantly I took her advice and created a chocolate brown hat and trimmed it with a sash and rose curl in a soft pink. The combined colors appealed to me and I soon found myself making friends once more with pink. My awakening came at a time when women were once again discovering pink in fashion, including hats. Pink hats for weddings again took center stage. They also became popular at the Royal Ascot races and especially for “Ladies’ Day” at the Kentucky Oaks, with a focus for wearing pink to raise awareness for breast cancer.
Now, once again, I am in love with pink. But it is different this time. Thanks to my customers who love pink and my own rediscovered passion for all things pink, I can stretch out as a designer and play with countless shades of pink and let the magic happen. I never imagined that I would be saying this again, but here it is: I don’t like pink. I LOVE pink!
Over the years I have created many polka dot hats for customers – big dots, little dots, black on white dots, pink on brown dots, white on navy dots, black on red dots – every combination and size that you can possibly imagine! There’s just something about polka dots that always makes me smile.
Perhaps my passion for polka dots is related to a puzzle I used to play as a child. Do you remember Connect the Dots? When I was a little girl I would sit for hours sprawled on the floor with my box of crayons and connect those tiny numbered dots. I was captivated, as a picture of a dog, flower, kitten, Old Mother Hubbard or a horse would begin to emerge. I have been fond of polka dots ever since.
As fate would have it, polka dots took center stage in the creation of my February auction hat for “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby,” the annual six month fundraising project I created with Old Friends Equine of Kentucky to benefit their retired racehorses. This month I was creating a hat to honor a horse named Popcorn Deelites, a low-level claimer and one of the eight horses who played the part of Seabiscuit in the Oscar-nominated movie of the same name.
My original idea for the hat ended up on the cutting room floor. Afterwards, in frustration, I was cutting out circles from scrap fabric when the idea of POLKA DOTS came into my head! After all, what could be more perfect for a horse named Popcorn Deelites than a playful white-dot-on-black print? I was off and running and thrilled to be creating a hat with some real pizzazz!
As I worked on the hat for Popcorn Deelites I recalled that in a 2001 CBS interview, Michael Blowen of Old Friends was asked why he wanted to help Thoroughbred racehorses and not some other worthy cause. He replied, “Everyone has a little spot in the world. One tiny little dot. This is my dot.” Michael’s love and respect for the horses in his care are evident in his every word and action; his dream for Dream Chase Farm as a safe haven for retired racehorses has come true.
In 2009 when I asked Old Friends to join me in a Derby hat fundraiser to honor their retired racehorses, I understood that MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® had a dot as well. By creating and donating custom Derby hats to Old Friends I could help connect the dots by bringing the world of hat couture and racehorse aftercare together. Instead of two separate dots, our online Derby hat auction would create a connection between us – a powerful Derby hat vehicle to help Michael with his dream and at the same time spread the word about the needs of retired racehorses. Indeed, connecting the dots goes beyond coloring books.
The “Popcorn Deelites” MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® hat for Old Friends is now up for bid on EBay. And perhaps unlike any of the hats before it, this hat is a symbol to me of the kind of collaboration that is possible when two individual “dots” get connected. And just like the Connect the Dots puzzle of my childhood, I am captivated as I watch the picture unfold as MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® and Old Friends come together each year for this fundraiser with a common goal of caring for the horses we know and love. The polka dots remind me that even hard work can be fun – if we reach out and connect the dots in life together.
Please enjoy this slideshow of the “Popcorn Deelites” chapeau now on EBay! And a special thank you to Rick Capone for his wonderful images of Popcorn Deelites!
My love for horses began when I was a little girl. I watched every horse race that was televised as well as any movies about horses. I had friends who had horses and visited them every chance I got.
But it was the story of Black Beauty that made a real impact on my life. Told from the horse’s perspective, the story made me aware of the living situations of horses and our responsibility for taking care of these wondrous creatures who possess not only individual personalities but also spirit, emotion and memory.
Growing up I watched the Derby every year on television and in 1969 Majestic Prince was the first horse I ever witnessed attempting to win the coveted Triple Crown. Just a few years later I watched Secretariat make Triple Crown history (1973) and like so many I was captivated with him. However, it was following Ruffian’s tragic 1975 breakdown in her match race with Foolish Pleasure that I temporarily turned away from horse racing, heartsick about the harsh reality that not all racehorses’ lives have happy endings.
Then came Barbaro.
The undefeated bay son of Dynaformer and La Ville Rouge, Barbaro soared to the finish at the 2006 Kentucky Derby and made many of us believe that Triple Crown history was about to be made again. After the race, his jockey Edgar Prado spoke of how “dreams come true” and analyst Gary Stevens used the word “superstar.” Owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson and trainer Michael Matz knew they had something once-in-a-lifetime in Barbaro.
It was just two weeks later at the Preakness that Barbaro’s tragic breakdown occurred. In the following weeks and months, I watched like many others for news of Barbaro’s courageous battle for survival at the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Barbaro endured nearly a dozen surgeries and lived in and out of a sling to treat the laminitis. His veterinarian Dr. Dean Richardson said that Barbaro knew they were all working to save him and ensure him a good quality of life. Still, in the end all of the best efforts weren’t enough; on the morning of January 29, 2007, Barbaro’s condition took a bad turn and he was humanely euthanized with those who loved him by his side.
Following his death, I felt compelled as an artist and a horse lover to create something to honor this amazing equine athlete whose life had so deeply touched me. In a surge of creative inspiration, I took bolts of deep reddish-brown dupioni silk and black satin and fashioned a hat foundation to reflect Barbaro’s bay coat and dark mane and tail.
I used chiffon for the red Derby roses; eight to reflect Barbaro’s post position in the Derby. Black chiffon was used for the sash and long blunt cut tails; a mixture of green shantung and metallic taffeta were used to fashion the leaves. The hat was stitched together with a lot of love and more than a few tears.
And that was just the beginning. Barbaro’s courageous spirit ignited a fire within me to promote horse welfare. As a first step I created a new webpage at maggiemae.com called “Hats and Horses: A Lifelong Love Affair” to showcase various horse welfare organizations around the country. In 2008, I teamed up with Thoroughbred Charities of America and Foxwoods Resort Casino of Connecticut for a Derby Day fundraiser for the Eight Belles Memorial Fund, to create and donate a very special one of a kind hat in celebration of Eight Belles for the event’s auction. Between 2009 and 2011, I created Derby hats to honor Rachel Alexandra, Secretariat and Majestic Prince for the Kentucky Derby Museum’s Annual Hat Contest Exhibit.
Then, in the fall of 2009, I created the concept of “Hats Off to he Horses: The Road to the Derby”, an annual fundraising project that would target one Thoroughbred retirement facility to raise funds for their retirees and help to educate the public about the specific needs of retired racehorses. I contacted Alex Brown of Alex Brown Racing to get his recommendation for a retirement facility. Alex suggested Michael Blowen at Old Friends in Kentucky. Michael’s dream for a retirement haven for retired racehorses was coming true and I was thrilled when he agreed to join me for the inaugural year of the project which has now become an annual event with them that has raised over $31,000 for their facility.
In May of 2006 Barbaro captured the hearts of a nation when he won the Kentucky Derby; when he died, he moved a nation to act. Barboro’s story captivated people, many of whom had never known much about racehorses. As a result of his catastrophic racing injury and subsequent death, steps were taken and continue to be taken to help racehorses have a better quality of life, including funding laminitis research and dealing with the issues of track safety and illegal doping. This to me is his greatest legacy.
When people ask me how I got started supporting the retired racehorses I
simply tell them, It all began with Barbaro. What started with one hat created to honor a racing champion has become a life’s work devoted to helping horses. And on this day, the anniversary of Barbaro’s death, I am proud to say that I’ll continue to support the horses, one hat at a time, thanks to him.
Please enjoy this special slideshow of the “Barbaro” Derby hat design. Special thanks to Lydia A. Williams for generously sharing her images of Barbaro with us. Please visit Lydia’s website to see more of her work.
Please note: the original “Barbaro” hat design is not for sale.