Beautifully handcrafted millinery created by New Zealand Milliner, Anel Heyman is celebrated again in 2021 with her recent first place award in the International HATalk Millinery Competition. Anel thrives on a challenge whether it be for a customer or a competition and shares with us what it takes to stay at the top.

With a background in art which basic design elements do you choose when creating your headwear? 
One of the most important elements for me when designing and creating is balance. A piece can completely lose its appeal, no matter how well it has been created if the balance is not right. I constantly check any piece I am working on in the mirror to ensure the design is going in the right direction and has the correct balance I am after. Movement and lines are two more elements I always keep in mind while designing. The lines created by the materials used must complement the wearer. It needs to draw the eye in and up, and that helps to create movement because you have captured the eye and it is following the lines and looking for more. 

Did you sketch the design first?    
Sometimes I sketch, sometimes I don't. For this particular piece, I did sketch and really enjoyed the process. I started by sketching a single feather on the page and worked from there to sketch seven different designs completely based on feathers. I knew that I wanted the whole piece to be only feathers and that it needed to be captivating. Feathers always make me think of movement and when I finished the seventh sketch, I felt that it was the one I wanted to bring to life for this competition. It had the right movement, lightness, and angelic look I was after, and it got me really excited just thinking about how beautiful the finished piece could look if I get it right. This piece came to life straight from the paper and I did not have a practice run. That is how I work most of the time, either from a sketch or my head, and simply dive into the design.  

What was your inspiration behind this headpiece?  
When I decided to use the vegan feather tutorial as my starting point, I wanted to put the focus on feathers, not on a headpiece with only a few feathers as trimmings. I wanted to show the lightness of a feather in some way and decided to create the effect of them blowing gently around her face. I imagined myself wearing this and how I wanted to feel. I wanted to feel like a goddess, breathing in the purest air while feeling light and free. Looking at the photos of this headpiece, I think we managed to capture all these feelings I had in mind. 

The title you have chosen for this work of art is “Theia".  What is the significance of this title? 
I sometimes find it quite difficult to decide on a name for a headpiece, however, for this one I felt it should be the name of a goddess. But who? So I researched a bit and looked at names and what they meant but also what these goddesses looked like and if I could see my headpiece on them. I decided on Theia who is the Greek Titan goddess of Shining and Light and I felt she was the perfect fit for my headpiece.  

When viewed initially your feathers appear so real, only to discover they are sculpted in straw. What led you to this choice?
I am someone who pays attention to the fine details, who fiddles (as one of my teachers would say), who has the patience to figure something out and to try and make it look perfect (though I have learnt in the last few years to take a more relaxed approach too which I enjoy). My headpiece called 'Lantern' that won the 2015 HATalk Competition, was a Chinese Lantern Plant (or Cape gooseberry) which I turned into a headpiece and it really did look like a bigger version of the real thing. 

When I saw the HATalk tutorial on how to create vegan feathers, I was instantly interested. This was a way to create something that looked real but wasn't and with which I could create in a different way than with real feathers. It had potential! I followed the tutorial and patiently worked with each feather to sculpt and get them looking as close as possible to the real thing. I was astounded by the number of people who said they thought I have used real feathers.   

Creating feathers in straw is such a delicate process. What was your biggest challenge?
It is a delicate process indeed! The biggest challenge while creating this piece was not to break the sinamay fibres as I was fraying each feather. Because I chose to work with a sparkly ivory sinamay, it was almost as if the sparkles were 'painted' onto the fabric in a way. This meant that in some places, it was holding two or more fibre strands securely together, where they would normally just be woven over each other. So, where they overlapped or intersected, the fibre strands easily broke and if there were too many that broke, I couldn't use that feather and had to make a new one. This has taught me to slow down and be careful and work delicately with the fabric and remove one strand at a time instead of trying to remove multiple at a time…. and I only had one metre of sinamay and used every last centimetre!   

How many hours of work were required to complete this headpiece? 
I have spent roughly 15 hours over a 2-week period creating this headpiece. I also felt that it was important for me to step away from it when I needed to and come back to it with fresh eyes and a rested mind.  

Viewing your piece from all angles, it is all as beautiful as the front view. Why is this such an important principle with all your millinery designs?
When you put on a hat or headpiece, you only see yourself from the front (looking in a mirror), however, everyone else sees you from every other angle too. To me, every angle is as important as the front, including the inside of a hat which needs to be a neat and as beautiful as the outside. When I am busy creating a design, I will always try it on the way it should be worn and use a second mirror to 'check' it from all other angles, even from the top to make sure it looks good all around. Like Harry Winston said: ‘People will stare. Make it worth their while!’ 

What is your favourite millinery material to work with? 
It changes every now and again but at the moment I would say wire, which I know some might find strange. However, I have recently delved into the great world of wire and absolutely love what can be created with it and what is possible when you know how to use it to its full potential. And of course, I love it when a beautiful fur felt just melts in my hands and let me do with it whatever I want!   

What is the most enjoyable factor about entering a millinery competition? 
The fact that I get the opportunity to challenge and push myself, to have fun, and to interpret the brief the way I see and understand it in my own head. Often, I will create something that I wouldn’t normally create which gives me a chance to learn and explore new techniques and materials. 

What does winning this award for the second time mean for your label 'Anél Heyman Millinery' ? 
For me as a person, it means that I am good enough, to believe 100% in myself and my capabilities, and to kick my self-doubt out the door. Sometimes others believe in me more than I believe in myself and even if I didn't win this competition, I would’ve still felt damn proud about what I produced and absolutely love my finished piece. For my label, it has brought in heaps of enquiries and orders since my award was made public, which I am really grateful for. I have exciting plans going forward and will share them when the time is right. All I can say at this point is… watch this space!  

» Discover more from Anel Heymanl | @anel_heyman_millinery

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