The ‘Counter Balance’ challenge for the Millinery Australia '2022 Millinery Design Award Competition’ was embraced by milliners to conceptualize their personal creative viewpoint of the topic. Congratulations to Melbourne Milliner, Lauren Ritchie who achieved Second Prize with her piece titled, “Balancing Act”- a physical representation of Counter Balance through shapes.
When planning to create your piece 'Balancing Act’ why were you drawn to work with geometric shapes?
Geometric shapes are not common within most of our millinery work. For the theme I felt it leant itself towards these strong shapes and I wanted to push the bounds of what we expect to see. Creating strong sharp lines with traditional millinery materials is a challenging exercise for they can be unforgiving which I was excited to take on.
How would you describe the design?
These strong geometric shapes, sphere, cube and pyramid are strategically placed in an off-kilter tower delicately balancing and relying on each other for support. The strong direction and angle of one shape forces the next shape to compensate in the opposite direction.
Did you sketch the design firstly?
I don’t normally sketch a piece however for this piece I did draw it out before starting. I wanted to visually test the order of the shapes and the balance of line and form the shapes would create together.
Wearability and comfort were included in the criteria, how did you ensure stability for this headpiece?
The piece is very tall! The main hero of the piece was the orange sphere, cube and pyramid. To ensure they stayed on the head they needed a base that would mould to the head. When exploring my blocks, I came across the pointed beret shape. As I was constructing the piece the beret was not enough, so I included a velvet-covered headband with metal combs to help secure it.
Keeping each shape lightweight was vital for this towering headpiece. How did you overcome this issue?
The pieces are hollow inside and constructed with parisisal and sinamay with supporting stiffeners and interlinings. The sphere is created using traditional blocking techniques and working on the bias on the sinamay. The prism and cube are created with flat pattern construction.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when creating this headpiece?
I didn’t know if it was going to work until it was finished!
Was there one significant thing you personally learnt through this exercise?
I had so much joy creating this piece – it was technically challenging to problem solve but I knew what I wanted to achieve with the design. This piece was a culmination of all my training I have learnt from many skilled makers including Louise Macdonald, Serena Lindeman, Catherine Ellen and Edwina Ibbotson. This piece bought together many elements of different skills that I have learnt over a long period of time.
Do you have a tip for other milliners and students to encourage them to enter competitions?
The piece you make for a competition is a piece to share and is a tool to showcase your skills and tell the story behind it.
What does this win mean for your label ‘Lauren J Ritchie’?
I love my piece and was excited to share it even before it was presented to the panel. It is an honour to have it recognized and selected by the judging panel, each of whom brought their expertise to the line-up. The Top 10 are an amazing showcase of innovative design, quality workmanship, wearability and diverse response to the theme Counterbalance.
Words to live by ….
Creativity is intelligence having fun.
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