"I had my first studio inside a giant three story milk bottle in the old Richmond Dairy. The four windows at the base of the bottle were my look out to downtown Richmond. Eventually I would live in all three milk bottles at different times.
The building was being rented as artist’s studios, so I had a lot of company. Rent on the first Milk bottle was $20 a month. At first my workshop was outfitted for stone carving and leaded glass work. I was carving heads out of soapstone, sandstone and marble. In the glasshop I was making windows that were maps of Richmond neighborhoods. As winter set in that first year, the lack of heat in the building proved to be a challenge. The Dairy was stone and tile and concrete. 1902 it was built to keep milk cold. No room heater would warm the studio up, so I bought a sleek black fur coat from a vintage shop, and cut it up and made some hats. I don’t know if you have ever tried it, but as soon as you make one hat you want to make another one. Soon I was making hats for some of my neighbors in the building. I thought it was odd that nobody make hats anymore. By then I had moved to the big milk bottle at the front of the building Outside my window I could see the stage door of the Empire Theatre. One day I walked down and knocked on that door, and asked to meet the costume designer. I was introduced to Tom Hammond, a prolific maker who was willing to let me turn his drawings into hats for him. He became a friend and I was able to do much of the millinery work that came through the theater for the next ten years.
I lived in New York for a year in 1990. I made hats for the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall’s Easter show at Radio City Music Hall for the greatest theatrical milliner of our time, Woody Shelp. I met many of the New York hatmakers, worked in a few shops as overhire, and during that time I sold a collection of hats to Barney’s. But I liked living in Virginia. Don Marshall, a milliner who had seen it all, then in his 80’s, said to me, “if you can make a good living in the provinces, you are probably better off.” I took that advice to heart, and moved back to Richmond.
In 1995 I started working with my partner Rod Givens. He began to work in the hat studio as a trimmer. He progressed quickly, he never asked for instruction, and learned to make hats his own way. Together the quality of both of our work improved exponentially. We opened a hat store in Carytown in Richmond, and began to win awards at some of the top shows, including Smithsonian Crafts Show, Winter Park Sidewalk Art festival, American Craft Exposition, Evanston Il., St.Louis Art fair, Richmond Craft and Design show.
As Movies and television productions came to town, costume designers would call on Ignatius hats for period Millinery work. HBO’s Iron Jawed Angels, the suffragette story, used them extensively. They also did work for the female principals in the “John Adams“ series for HBO. When “The Lost Colony” costume shop burned in North Carolina, Ignatius Hats rebuilt the hat collection for the summer play depicting the first colony of Englishmen to settle in the new world. Over the years several costume designers have come to rely on us for costume millinery. We currently live and work in Petersburg, the next town from Richmond, and have two apprentices. We are enjoying the pleasure of working with other people. Right now I really want to make another hat."
Millinery Pattern drafting
Sewing: all general hand work and machine work
Blocking: felt, straw, patterned hats Leather and furs
Construction of wire foundations
Sewing straw braid of every kind
Light block making, block renovation, and alterations. Duplication of existing blocks.
Each felt hat is made from a shapeless hood which is steamed, blocked and finished with wiring or edge-work.
The hats are trimmed using millinery findings and milliner made novelties.
The combination of method, materials, shape and decoration are what make our hats reminiscent of times past, while still being wearable and contemporary.