Miriam Carter of Dublin, New Hampshire, has been making felt hats for some 30 years. Could it be that felt is in her bones? Perhaps it’s in her genes.
“I have an uncanny knowing about felt,” admits Carter.
It certainly seems possible given her ancestry. She’s a fourth-generation felt maker. Her great uncle, Alfred Dolge, brought felt-making to this country for the piano industry in the late 1800s. Fabric is in her more recent family history, as well.
“I hail from a rich textile tradition and grew up visiting my dad at the woolen mills that he managed. My mom was a couture seamstress and we owned a fabric store in Peterborough, New Hampshire, when I was a child,” she explains.
For Carter, felt is a miracle fiber because of how you create it and what it can do. Turning this fiber into fabric by hand is part of the magic. But what felt can do is also magical.
Says Carter, “It keeps you warm in the cold weather and cool in the hot.”
Carter is inspired to make wearable art — such as hats, vests and jackets — because she wants to create something that’s both beautiful and functional.
“I’m not a naturally patient person and waiting for a sale, such as for a painting, would be hard for me. Selling hats doesn’t have that problem,” she says, “I enjoy being in my booth helping customers find the perfect one.”
Carter believes there’s a hat for every head. Getting just the right hat for someone is a joyful experience for her.
Joy is also evident in the vibrant shapes, designs and colors found in Carter’s hats. The hues in her hats capture the exuberance, as well as the subtleties, of New Hampshire’s natural colors.
Says Carter, “I love living and working in New Hampshire because we have four seasons. I find that my palette is seasonal. I am always playing with color and design trying to make the ‘perfect hat.’ There are so many combinations of color and design I have yet to explore. The possibilities are endless.”
Exploring possibilities combined with highly skilled craft, plus listening to one’s intuition, is a recipe for making something unique. You can see all these qualities in all of Carter’s wearable art.
She says, “I’ve learned to silence the inner critic. When I let my creativity flow, I do my best work.”
Like many craftspeople, Carter is not only talented, creative and passionate about her work — she’s also inspired by her colleagues.
“There are no guaranteed paychecks at the end of the week in this line of work,” says Carter. “So we live our lives as act of faith. Also, as the executive director of the League of New Hampshire Craftsman, I am inspired by the hundreds of juried members of this organization.”
Now, are you ready to try on a new hat?
Says Carter, “There nothing like a great-looking hat to draw attention to one’s self.”
The price range for her hats is $130 to $195 and her clothing is $195 to $600. Miriam Carter’s studio is open during the Monadnock Art Tour, Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 6-8. You can always check out her felt creations at her website: www.miriamcarter.com.
Peg Lopata writes from Brattleboro, Vermont.