One of my dreams is to go to the Kentucky Derby. I want to go to see what everyone is wearing, the dresses, the shoes, but most important-the hats! While I know it’s not going to happen in the foreseeable future, I can pretend and play dress up right? Enter Jena from Church Derby Hats by Vinzetta. We met on Instagram and I was awed by how stunning her hats are. Each design is truly a work of art.
Jena offered to make a hat for me. Wow! She told me to choose an outfit and she would create a hat to go with it. Well, most of my clothes are black and that just wouldn’t do for the Derby so Jena looked through my feed and selected a jumpsuit she thought was Derby worthy. She then designed the most amazing hat and I am so excited to share it with you all.
How long have you been creating hats?
I have been creating hats for 10 years.
What first led you in the direction of hat design?
I was inspired after seeing some fancy hats on display in downtown Chicago.
How did you learn the craft?
I just went for it. I learned as I created. I researched…. a ton. I hired a brilliant designer when we lived in Chicago for a few years and learned a great deal from her. But I suppose the best way to learn a craft is to listen to your customers. They have challenged me over the years to go way above and beyond my own imagination. I learn a lot from my customers.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Feathers. I love working with feathers.
Do you have a favorite piece that you created and why is it your favorite?
My favorite hat is actually not one that I created. When I first started making hats, my 8 year old son wanted to make a hat in the studio. His creation is proudly displayed in my studio and I get to see it everyday.
Your pieces are so unique, what inspires your creativity when designing a new hat or fascinator?
I am very much inspired by nature. I am always admiring and looking at God’s creation. The colors of the rainbow. The majestic mountains. The textures of the sand in contrast to the smooth sea. The delicate petals on a flower and how each petal is perfectly shaped. The different tones of green in the grass, the sky, in just about everything. There are so many different tones of color we often miss. But they are there and mixing tones is something I do to trick the eye in matching hats to outfits. I pray a lot too. I pray to the One that created all this beauty around us. The Artist of all artists. I am also inspired by my customers. I LOVE creating custom hats to match outfits. It often stretches me to explore new ideas and new materials to make a hat sing in harmony with the dress. That is really fun to me.
What has been the most important skill you’ve learned and why?
Sewing. Definitely. Sewing! Both by machine and by hand. I had a rockstar of a home economics teacher that taught me how to sew. Some hat makers and milliners use only glue. And that is fine for some pieces but without the ability to sew, one will be very limited in their craft. And on that note, there’s a misconception about glue in millinery. I’ve heard milliners scoff at the use of glue. But glue has been used in millinery for hundreds of years. It’s nothing new. However, you are extremely limited on what you can create with only glue. And if not done correctly it can be an absolute mess. Sewing is a must needed skill in my opinion. And after sewing would be hat blocking. Sewing is the foundational skill in millinery.
What does a typical day look like for you as a hat designer?
This was the hardest question to answer for me. I was like do I share this? Or this? Or this?
I have endured a lot of health issues over the years. Oh the surgeries…I’ve lost count… (20 plus) and even a near death experience. So my day to day really depends a lot on my health. I have good days and bad days. Some days I have so much energy and can go go go. But those a very rare. Yet God has blessed me. We recently moved closer to family in North Mississippi (Memphis TN area) from Chicago and purchased an 11 acre property. My hat studio is a very large metal building behind the house. I can walk to work everyday right on my own property. Perfect!
We are in the early stages of turning our land into a small farm or homestead. I am a country girl at heart and I love this new lifestyle. Just this weekend I hatched my first batch of chicken eggs! I have 18 adorable baby chicks. We are preparing the ground for our massive garden and just stocked more fish in the pond. I am also trying my hand at training a livestock guardian dog to help keep predators away from small animals. I also plan to start canning my own organic fresh veggies this year. This should be interesting! Ha! You can join me on my new homesteading journey at IG account @CarmelFarms
What does my day look like? Well. It depends! I might be feeding chickens one minute and sewing fabric for a hat the next! Love it!
Where do you sell your hats?
I have my own website. ChurchDerbyHats.com. I like the freedom and independence of owning my own website. It allows me to have a direct relationship with my customers. My customers are like family to my family. We just love them. Sometimes I will hear my husband on the phone talking football with one. Praying for another’s sick family member. Discussing which outfit she should pick. Yes. I have a rockstar of a husband too!!! Our customers are family.
Now do you see what I mean when I say these hats are a work of art! Maybe you’re going to a Derby party, having a zoom party if you’re still in lockdown, or you want to play dress up like I will be doing as I watch the Kentucky Derby on TV on May 1st. Contact Jena and her team at Church Derby Hats by Vinzetta to order a custom designed hat or choose one already created. Either way you’ll feel so special when you wear your own piece of art!