When a couple of years ago I was looking for some fabulous flowers to dress up one of my hats I immediately turned to search for something that would be in support of fellow Etsysians. I discovered a shop with creations that completely surpassed my expectation.
Prepare to be absolutely mesmerized by the beautiful hats adorned with exquisite accoutrements designed and created with an old world expertise and quality surpassed by none!
July 1, 2012
It is with great pleasure and admiration that I introduce you to Elsie of Thistle Cottage Studio
At what age did you realize you are an Artist?
That was at about age 5. When my Auntie Ruth put me down for a nap, I was having none of it!! I emptied a box of Kleenex on the bed, and made 250 pink ladies in ball gowns by pinching and twisting the centers of each tissue! She stood in amazement when she saw the spectacle. It must have looked like an aerial view of a ballroom playing a Strauss waltz!!
What inspires your creative passion? Beauty. Fabric. Fashion and Millinery history. Knowing the origin of my mothers historic DNA!!!
Tell us what you love best about your art and how it fills your life.
First I would have to say that it has seen me through the very worst of times!! I’ve realized that even though you can lose everything, your spirit and creativity can still function out of a suitcase, and in a very small space!! What has deepened the experience of living this incredible gift of creativity, is knowing that my maternal grandfather’s ancestors were the Orsini’s who married into the Medici family, and together created a dynasty that ruled Tuscany for 400 years, and much of Rome. Their patronage supported the art of the Italian Renaissance.
This is exciting knowledge of what makes me who I am and fuels my passion now. Knowing that the very DNA that my mother bestowed upon me is brimming with the legacy of an incredible history that I may never be able to fully absorb!!!
What are your favorite medium with which to create?
Textiles, and all things related.
Tell us about the creative process that helped you finalize your shop name and brand?
Well, it has taken something of a parallel road. What began as Thistle Cottage Studio in 1997, as my second brick and mortar design shop, evolved to a teaching and design studio, by appointment only.
My first brick and mortar shop, Samsara Designs (1987-1995) was a high end, women’s retail and custom design boutique located in a very affluent shopping district in Wayland Square, (Providence, RI), not far from RISD and Brown University.
I began designing cut and sew/dressmaker hats in that shop, as well as my own clothing designs, jewelry, and accessories. I also did some buying at the boutique shows in NYC, the last two years the shop was open.
So, Thistle Cottage Studio was the name I chose as my Etsy shop nearly four years ago, this November. As my obsession for millinery gains steam, as it has in the last four years, my hats have taken on a life of their own. I contemplated opening a second Etsy shop, and still toss and turn with that decision, but the name of that eventual shop has already spawned the brand of my millinery lines.
I had a light bulb moment one day, and the realization finally crystallized, that it should be in honor of my mother’s talent, and historic DNA that she has passed on to me. Orsini~Medici Couture Millinery is not only a brand, but an identity, with no small notoriety, and its’ history steeped in centuries of Renaissance art!!
A byline of the brand would be “The Renaissance of Millinery”. I have research our families coat of arms back to the Renaissance, and the two little bears, are the family totem, as Orsini in Italian means little bear. I could not resist the temptation to add the top hats on them!!! What’s cuter than bears in top hats?
What made you decide to turn your art into saleable products?
That’s an easy one!! It’s all I really want to do! Make art, and make a living doing what I’m best at, and love most! Since I came into millinery late in life, I figure I’d better hurry and make as many hats as I possibly can in the time I have left on this earth!! Oh, that I had another lifetime to pursue it!!! I only wish that I had discovered my love of it 40 years ago.
But, I guess all things are as they should be, and with 40 years of sewing and design experience behind me, and 20 of those years, intermittently in the theater, millinery has been an easy transition. I have only just learned to block felt and straw in the last 2 years! I seem to have taken to it like a fish to water, and it’s been so much fun!!! I still have great emotional difficulty parting with each hat that sells!!
What has being a small business entrepreneur taught you?
That I am my own best commodity. That my work has integrity, respect, value, and beauty, and that people are willing to spend their hard earned money to own a piece, or more of it. There is no better feeling than that! I have had the pleasure of knowing and working for such memorable clients as Dale Chihuly, master glass artist/teacher, whose work is collected by major museums worldwide; Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Paula Vogel, educator; Dr. Joan Countryman, who was instrumental in assisting Oprah Winfrey to start up the Leadership Academy in S. Africa; Master mime and theater arts teacher, the late Tony Montanaro, who studied with Marcel Marceau, and Etienne DeCroux.
If you blog, what does your blog offer your followers?
I do have a blog, but do not post with any regularity I write when I have something I think people will be interested in reading, or when I have information that needs to be publicized, like the classes I teach in my studio.
What else would you like us to know about YOU?
That I am in love with what I do, and hopefully that shows in the quality of the pieces I make. I’m never happier than when I’m immersed in the creative process! It is my drug of choice!! Also, that I teach apparel/costume design, pattern drafting, fashion sketching, and millinery to adults and children as young as 7 years old. My youngest millinery student is just 9 years old, and she is working on a portfolio of Barbie outfits, including one she just finished with a tiny straw hat, which she learned to block over a wooden spool of thread!
I don’t have any children, but just adore them!! They’re so much fun, and are little sponges, ready and able to absorb anything on the first try! I constantly ask them to “teach me how to do that!!”
Please provide a question you would like to be asked and the answer.
Who is your favorite designer?
Erte’, who is attributed as the Father of Art Deco. An incredible genius, who walked three feet off the ground, above the rest of us!
To view a slideshow of hats please visit hatacademy.com and Elsie Collins
A final comment
Not only did I find the flowers I ordered from Thistle Cottage Studio to be in the style of haute couture, but the finish work reminded me of a piece designed and sewn by Coco Channel…To be worn with panache and cachet!