Typically, artisans study, practice and develop their craftsmanship for years before being ready to market a polished, unique and high-quality product. But not always. For Laura Thomson, creator of Forest Hood, the journey from admiring consumer to maker/entrepreneur took a year.
That journey began at last year’s Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, says Laura.
“There was so many amazing creations at the fair, but what most caught my eye were the hoods produced by Sara Hullanta. They were so stylish and practical, and so unique. I thought I’d like to learn to make them, and I also thought they could be successfully sold on-line. I saw so much potential!
“Sara taught me how to make them and I ran with it! With her blessing, I took the original idea, came up with a name, and rethought the fabric, details and construction. And learned how to make them.
“I’d never used a sewing machine before in my life. That’s why I’m thankful to live on an island where there are so many accomplished fabric artists willing to help. I got a crash course from the best of the best! I even got to consult with someone on Denman who has a Masters degree in fabric. I didn’t even know there was such a thing!”
“Because of all this support, and because I pretty much obsessed about the hoods, everything developed quickly,” says Laura. She spent six months learning from mentors, and experimenting with fabric, stitching, angles, thread, patterns and colour.
For fabric, Laura settled on a wool outer layer over a fleece inner layer. The wool provides warmth and is water-resistant—a must in our climate. The fleece adds softness and insulation.
“People tell me they love wearing these. Unlike a toque, they don’t squash your hair. They keep you warm but still let air circulate around your head. If you get too hot, you can push back the hood partially or completely. A local bird watcher who is out on the beach every day, all winter long, tells me it keeps the rain off his glasses and the sun out of his eyes, thanks to the overhang.”
Laura moved from Vancouver to Denman Island four years ago, leaving a career as a mortgage broker to homestead on a Lacon Road acreage. “I was happy to walk away from the world of finance and the city to have a better life for myself and my children. The whole time so far on Denman I’ve been looking at different ideas of what to do and this is the one that grabbed me,” says Laura.
“I was always a numbers person—I never called myself an artist. But now the whole world of fabric art is opening up, a world of creativity I’ve never known before. It’s like a light went on. I’m inspired—maybe a bit obsessed. And I’m having fun.”
Check out Forest Hood along with over 80 other artisans at the Denman Island Christmas Craft Fair, Dec 1 & 2, 10 – 4:00. It’s free, and there’s a shuttle from the Denman West ferry terminal, so tell your friends to walk on. As usual, a variety of delicious lunches and snacks will be available, created by local cooks and farmers.