Golden Girls, Glitter boys, Kebaya & 65 Roses

I first met our little mate Amanda in Kununurra, East Kimberley, in the late 1990’s; both of us were working with aboriginal communities.  Amanda was working in women’s sexual health and I was with remote aged care, and this pocket rocket has been in my life ever since.  Amanda has Cystic Fibrosis and as I’ve learned about people born with this condition, they are uniquely shaped by the CF gene and not only by stature but with dynamo personality.   

With Margarita of course ..

Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disorder that affects mostly the lungs, but also the pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestine.  Long-term issues include difficulty breathing and coughing and frequent lung infections, and poor growth.  The condition is life long and there is no known cure for cystic fibrosis.  But defying all odds and the prognosis given to her mother and father with her toddler diagnoses, Amanda just celebrated her 50th Birthday!  And we were right there with her.

Rhi, Flic, Amanda and Fi
The Kimberley Girls

The celebrations were in Bali and the party was combined with another CF legend, Caz, who was celebrating her lung transplant anniversary of 25 years.  For Amanda’s 50th Birthday and Caz’s 25th Lungaversary we travelled from all parts of Australia to Bali, for the gold and silver party to celebrate the milestones of these amazing women.

Caz and Amanda with their Gold mate Mitch

Through Amanda over the years, I have met several awe inspiring humans with CF and with this week’s celebrations in Bali I met more; and their families and their partners and their stories, which can only bring our own lives into perspective.  

Milestone celebrations bring reunions and what a reunion we had in Bali.  Great mates from our early days in the Kimberley flew in from where they’d now made home, some with kids, some with out, some even with broken bones, like our friend Fiona who I declared win the best effort prize.  Fi flew from Cairns, QLD with a terribly broken arm for which she was still sleeping in a recliner chair for pain.  But as Fi said, “as if I was going to complain”.  And that’s what living our best life reminds us – someone is always doing it tougher than we are.

Flic, Amanda and Fi (Best on Ground)

This party had the recipe for all good gatherings; great venue, a fun theme, good food, great atmosphere, dynamic people and a magnificent ocean sunset. There was such excitement and as Amanda arrived flocked by the fellas in gold she had the biggest laugh and smile – we just couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.

Flocked by Men in Gold

Amanda had caught another chest infection soon after her arrival into Bali the previous week and she was crook.  The gold dress that she’d had been excited to have designed and tailored in Bali had near strangled her during the dress fitting so in true Amanda style she simply threw it to one side, got frocked up in another dress and went to the party.  Meanwhile Sophia, Fi and I were wanting to throttle the tailor who didn’t seem to understand the importance of the dress to Amanda – we wanted them to go back, fix the problem and come back with the perfect fitting dress for this special event, but our reaction compared to that of Amanda was just another reminder of us sweating the small stuff.  Gold dress or no gold dress, it didn’t matter, what mattered was the 50 friends and family who were there .. besides, the fellas in their tailored gold shorts, shirts and wigs provided enough gold glitter for all.   

Mitch & Kev – the Golden Boys

The emotional speeches by Amanda and Caz began by genuinely thanking their parents for the CF gene.  As did all speeches made during the week.  

Amanda’s speech was a ripper – telling her journey simply as it is.  There’s no ‘woe is me’ airs and graces or sympathy required by this dynamic little woman.  Amanda prefers getting on with life and helping others – her dedication to the sexual health of the indigenous community is an inspiration.  But with her decline in health of late, working in a hospital system has become an increased risk for lung infection and basically, as much as she hates to admit it, the time has come for Amanda’s hands on work with these clients to possibly come to an end.  She sits on many boards and educates the community on cancer (yes that’s another story of hers), sexual health and cystic fibrosis in her spare time and if there’s a cause out there, she’s like a dog with a bone.   

Caz’s speech was next. She shared with us her story of how her mother was told if a transplant couldn’t happen in the next six hours, they would have to turn off Caz’s life support.  Miraculously the transplant happened and in time.  Tragically, of course, this meant someone had lost their life and just as Caz’s family would have been jubilant, another family was devastated.  But that family had made the decision to donate the organs of this young woman and this decision had given life to Caz.  It was hard enough not to be emotional listening to Caz’s transplant journey but we all lost it when Caz further explained that the woman who had lost her life was pregnant; and how Doctors had saved the baby girl.  Caz then shared with us that she is this baby girls God Mother; this girl, now 25 years old is Caz’s god daughter.  There wasn’t a dry eye under the balmy Bali sky as Caz shared the story of the relationship she has with her donor family, her donor father even joined her own father to give Caz away at her wedding.  There are exceptional people in this world and this story is filled with them, and so was this gathering.  

Amanda and Caz and their partners thanked us with such genuine gratitude for making the effort to be there to celebrate these milestones with them in Bali.   But it was us who were filled with gratitude.  

With husband Kev

In the lead up to Bali I had questioned myself if I should be going.  I had been away from Broome and my businesses so much of late.  Bali had snuck up on me and I hadn’t given it the time, nor excitement that I would normally enjoy in the preparations of going overseas.  I literally packed the night before and worked right up until I got on the plane.   I felt terrible and thankful all at once; terrible for questioning why I was going and so very thankful that I was there.  Listening to these amazing women and the other CF power houses that gathered in Bali, and their partners, families and friends reminded me how much gratitude I have for good health, genuine friendships and life.

After the Sunday recovery and following dinner many of us dispersed throughout Bali to further explore.  I headed up north of Ubud for three nights, to an airbnb amongst the quieter surroundings compared to that of Bali’s Legian Beach.  I had found the perfect place to immerse myself in relaxed surroundings to reflect, write and design.  I slipped into my perfect routine of a long, lazy breakfast, hours of writing before my daily massage, followed by a few hours of millinery design, sleep, work (yes, we can do all) and then in the latter cool of the afternoon I would head out for an adventure; stopping en-route home for dinner at a local open air cafe/restaurant, as suggested by accommodation staff.  

My Bath in Ubud

My local for dinner in Ubud

Because I spent time at the accommodation writing and designing, I had established a relationship with the gorgeous staff Susan, Made and Jero.  It was Jero who invited me to join her family for a ceremony in their temple.  I instantly accepted the opportunity.  On Wednesday Susan arrived at my room to check out my wardrobe for something temple appropriate to wear, of which of course, there was nothing; after all I’d packed at the last minute with the priority being gold!  

Susan returned with a sarong and two beautiful Kebaya (the gorgeous lace traditional blouse worn by Balinese ladies), none of course that would fit me.  So we improvised and she left me to get ready.  I was a tad nervous at the thought of wearing a sarong to a temple for a ceremony and my capacity to dress myself to ensure the sarong didn’t hit the floor.  After all I live in Broome, my extent of experience tying sarongs was loosely over my bathers for around the pool.  But Susan taught me well and before I knew it Made pulled up on the motorbike out the front and I was side-saddle “Like true Balinese woman” he said, off to Jero’s Village.  I hadn’t asked how far away we were going and given I hadn’t been on a motorbike since Mandora station in 1996, and I’d never ridden side-saddle, I was starting to get a tad worried that I might not be as capable as I may have been in my youth.  We travelled past rice paddy’s and into the forrest where the road was narrow and undulated with hills, poor Made was struggling to get speed up on the motorbike with Flic side-saddle on the back.  Part of me wanted to laugh out loud – which would have been an excellent echo in the cool of the forrest but explaining my outburst to Made would’ve been too difficult so I just held on and wished that my friends could see me now.  

checking out a few handbags on the way

We pulled up at Jero’s home and she quickly whisked me into their family compound to further dress me a tad more appropriate; after all I only had the bottom half traditional Balinese.  I met her mother and father and there were kids and people and dogs and chooks and a really lovely atmosphere.  She offered several Kebaya to me but they were all too small.  After putting the call out to the ladies eventually one came back that fit like Cinderella so we were on.  Next was the corset to tidy me in there and again the call went out .. coming back with one that fit.  Jero was worried I’d be sick tied in there but we women do many things for fashion and squeezing into clothes was just one skill mastered. 

True Balinese Lady .. with Jero (definitely a Balinese lady)

I was ready, and as we left the compound everyone nodded in approval, some with a giggle and a smile.  Jero heard the music start and said her son had started dancing so we needed to get there.  In the dolly steps that a tightly wrapped sarong commands my size 10 feet struggled with the quick pace but we made it in time to watch her son and I was in awe.  Kids of all ages in traditional clothing were dancing traditional moves and everyone from the village was coming together to watch.  I fit in almost perfectly … actually I stuck out like you know what but at least I was dressed the part.  As the kids finished, the teenagers were next and then the adults and I was front row for the show with Jero and her lovely mum.  Kids would do a double take and giggle at me but everyone made me feel welcome.  I was the only foreigner to be seen and the only blonde hair in the village.

Kids – traditional dancing

Traditional Dancers wear white Kebaya when dancing

Jero and her mum

Next it was time to enter the temple and while that may sound easy – it was not.  There were hundreds of people trying to get in at the same time, all carrying offerings and wearing traditional dress and determined to get through those stone entries.  Jero and Susan grabbed my hands, and with mum behind me pushing and them pulling we somehow made it through the crowd and through the gateway into the temple, then over the kneeling crowd and right up to the front!  Then it was quickly down on our knees, on the crumbling rock ground of the temple.  I can’t tell you the last time I knelt on rock or how long I was going to cope at this but I sternly told myself to deal with the discomfort.   After all here I was, dressed in full Balinese traditional dress, front row to a crowd of hundreds, in the Pura Melanting temple in the village Klusa Payangan, for the ceremony for money!

The rushing crowd into temple Pura Melanting

Jero taught me what to do as we carried out the tradition and were individually blessed and before I knew it, I had attended my first balinese ceremony.  Once again I was filled with gratitude.  

Post ceremony in the Temple – that rice stayed on my forehead even after the bike ride home

The next day I farewelled Jero, Made and Susan and my time at Airbnb Amarvi and headed back to Legian.  My few days up North had been amazing.  I arrived back in Legian just in time to catch the crew who were at lunch celebrating 25 years since Caz’s actual transplant day.  When they asked me how was Ubud I just didn’t know where to start.  Even with only three days apart we all had so much to catch up on.  

That night I few out of Bali to Darwin and on to Broome, arriving home in time for work on Friday morning. What an adventure.  My heart was so full and still is.

I love to travel; the people you meet and the endless opportunities and inspiration that travel provides. This short week in Bali for Amanda and Caz has given me so very, very much and I am filled with gratitude.  

These girls …

Next is Christmas and I’ll be staying put in my beautiful little home in Broome.  The plan is to relax with friends and create in my millinery space.  I wish everyone a very special time for Christmas and if your time is spent with family, I ask that if the opportunity presents, to please discuss with your family the topic of organ donation.  Amanda has taught me that even if we as individuals are willing organ donors, the ultimate decision comes down to our family.  If you haven’t had this discussion with your family they may not know your wishes, or what to do if the situation presents.  Please look into the topic of organ donation and have the family chat.  As sensitive as the issue is, you may just save a life.  

x f

   

Introducing Archipelago

Last week I flew over the majestic horizontal waterfalls of the Buccaneer Archipelago and from the moment we entered the King Sound my inspiration and creativity had retuned. The Kimberley never fails me.

Previously, I’d been trying to design a millinery collection on the back of a somewhat traumatic week and the process was proving difficult, my mojo just wasn’t there. Any creative will tell you that losing the mojo is quite normal, it’s finding it again that’s the challenge. Immersing myself in the breathtaking environment of my backyard, the Kimberley, is my key to unlock the block. Give me the red dirt and rocks of this rugged frontier, the stunning ocean country of water holes and white sandy beaches, the bush, the falls, the pindan sand, the sunsets and the sunrise .. just throw it all at me and then it’s ‘Whamo – Inspo’! – just like that.

When the opportunity presented to jump onboard a half day flight over the Horizontal Falls I was beside myself with excitement and in true eager form, early to the hanger for departure. I’ve experienced the Falls a few times over the years but this particular timing was with our King Spring tides and I knew the Falls would be at their best.

Roebuck Bay was completely empty when we taxied out from Broome and over the Bay, but nothing prepared me for how we’d find the Buccaneer Archipelago; it was like mother nature had pulled the plug and instead of hundreds of islands, there were literally thousands, for as far as the eye could see, and of course the Falls were absolutely magnificent – I was in pure awe, once again .

My love affair with this region began in 1997, when I lived and worked on a boat on a pearl farm in the remote, Gerald Bay. We flew to work on a sea plane, landing in the Bay in front of our mother ship, the Cossack Pearl. I’d spend ten days living on the boat and working on the pearl farm, chipping shell and cooking for the crew and then fly back to Broome for our four days off. I was living the absolute dream.

The Cossack Pearl

Driving the shell cleaning boat

Over the years since those crazy pearling days I have returned to the region on private charters and with organised tours, adventuring onboard boats and planes and I just can’t get enough of the place. The Buccaneer Archipelago is magical, filled with colour and movement and life.

Last week’s adventure was with Fly Broome by light aircraft over the archipelago, king sound and the spectacular Horizontal Falls, landing at Cape Leveque for breakfast and a glorious swim in the ocean. I also toured the region earlier this year with Go Horizontal Falls a cruise adventure through the archipelago by boat from cockatoo island taking us through the Falls and circling us over them on the flight home from Cockatoo to Broome. From both magnificent tours I returned overflowing with inspiration and with complete happiness. I feel so connected to this part of the world and never take it’s beauty for granted, nor the positive effect that immersing in the Kimberley has on me, the emotions it stimulates are exactly what I needed to get designing for this show.

Dampier Creek Broome

Willie Creek

Cape Leveque

Water rushing into Horizontal Falls

The Horizontal Falls

I created my beautiful Archipelago inspired collection incorporating stunning silks from local fellow creative, Sally Bin Demin, and my eight piece collection was showcased by the gorgeous finalists of the development program for young indigenous women, “Kimberley Girl” at the program’s finale event.

I am so proud to be involved in this event and I am thrilled with the collection.

My adventures to the Archipelago and Horri Falls overflowed me with inspiration to create and it is with great excitement and pride, that I formally introduce you to my eight piece Millinery collection aptly named “Archipelago”.

For more details including stories and prices to purchase the pieces which are now officially available for sale, please visit www.hatsbyfelicity.com.au .

For more information on the above mentioned Archipelago adventures click the links and tell them the Mad Hatter sent you.

Keep smiling and don’t forget to tour your own backyard.
x flic

Me on a Podcast?

Excited to share my little yarn via the Central Station podcast and I thank Steph Coombes for her persistence in asking .. I feel most privileged, and I hope you enjoy. xf

 

DO IT FOR YOU

Today I started my 2019 goals; probably a few weeks behind most of you .. but with the temperature high of 38 degrees (feels like 44) and humidity of 78%, it felt right to be inside, playing with coloured pens.

Before filling the butchers paper, though, I retrieved last years goal setting page; happy to cross quite a few items off the list, and to admit there are a few others to make a celebrity guest re-appearance for 2019.

All in all a great year for me, starting with a trip to South Africa for a stunning family wedding (see previous blog). Not only quality family time and an adventurous safari but I also met the talented Jacquie from J K Millinery in Cape Town, who was an absolute delight.

No sooner had I touched down home over the Bay and into Broome, it was self imposed studio lockdown, creating the collection for my Sydney Exhibition in Balmain. With inspiration oozing from Africa I proudly showcased to a packed house with Artist Lara Scolari; and just like that, the Millinery year was in full swing.

Like this year, 2018 began with the privilege to showcase a creation with London Hat Week Great Hat Exhibition, and although the hat traveled to London without me, I was thrilled that London based friends and family visited the Exhibition to see my feathered creation, “Kungkulu Ku” perched amongst 300 chosen pieces from around the world.

The Great Hat Exhibition is now in its fourth year and the theme for 2019 is “World Garden”. Again, I’m beside myself with excitement to be one of 180 milliners chosen to exhibit from around the world, and I hope those who’ll be in London mid April will pop in to see my “Desert Dancer” creation, honouring Australia’s Sturt’s Desert Pea.

I was thrilled to receive the High Achievement award for Home Based Business through the Broome Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards, and super thrilled to feature with ABC Landline who filmed a beautiful story showcasing my millinery story and art.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-28/outback-milliner:-the-international-success-of-a/10439282

The documentary, MadHattan; (from Broome to the Big Apple) launched in Melbourne as part of Melbourne film and fashion week with a premiere and Q&A, which was a great experience; and the BBC also did some filming in my backyard and our beautiful Broome, shooting a feature soon to be aired with the Julia Bradbury TV series – so London’s certainly calling this year!

With two great friends, we embarked on the Variety Bash again in 2018, raising money for kids with special needs and kids in isolation and drought. Our second year as the Mad Hatters, and this social commitment, to Variety, the Children’s charity is looking to be an ongoing part of Alice, the Queen of Hearts and Mad Hatter’s lives.

We’ve committed again in 2019 and will be driving from Melbourne across the Nullarbor to our finish line in Geraldton WA, so if you think we might be coming your way (we drive no direct route whatsoever) .. like and follow our Mad Hatters pages so we can keep you up to date.

https://www.facebook.com/MadhattersCar2278VarietyBash/

https://www.instagram.com/

A great year for sure and I’m filled with pride as my little dream to develop a career from passion continues to grow, however, before one can get too carried away, we were once again in 2018, on several occasions throughout the year, slammed back into reality, losing mates that we just absolutely loved. Men, taken with the dreaded cancer and by car accident, and taking their own life. Devastating for us all still to this exact moment; and we would happily give back all the accolades and acknowledgments to have them all back here, but this thing called life just doesn’t work like that.

This is the reason I, personally, continue to strive so hard and have a go at what some see as the unachievable dream, because death reminds me of how precious and short our life is, and how important it is that we prioritise to be happy and kind and to just ‘have a go’.

And then precious little people arrive; in 2018 my niece, Esther Honey Brown (just love her name). It’s amazing how one little person can bring so much joy.

So, apart from driving across the country in a car called wonderland, what’s the plan for 2019? Well, the list is long and ambitious and with the goal to travel, create and innovate – I’m just going to keep ‘having a go;’ with a genuine smile and with thoughts for those who won’t get the chance. I would love to think we’d be spared the pain of loss, for even just a year, but in these tender few weeks, it’s already upon us.

So my friends, my message for 2019 is simply to ‘do it, and do it for YOU.

And in the words of our mate ‘Spoon’ (below), who was taken oh so suddenly, …

“Do what you love, and love what you do”.

Here’s to 2019!

x flic

A Wide Brimmed Idea ..

It was 18 months ago now, that almost silently, I released the “Cruise Broome,” the first hat of my custom designed commercial hat range, and since that April, 2017 backyard unveil, this next chapter of my hats by Felicity story has excitedly grown.  

I’ve always been completely passionate about the hat, particularly the cowboy hat.  … I create them, collect them, wear them and like many of you, just plain love them.  “One can never have too many hats” you’ll hear me say … as I hang another hat on the rack.

After releasing the ‘Flic Pinch’ palm leaf hat on the runway of NYFW, I created one for myself to wear in my stall at the Courthouse markets, Broome. 

Customers wanted my hat, but when I told them the price of the bespoke creation they turned straight for the mango smoothie line.  Don’t get me wrong, there are people who know and respect the hat and understand the price and will pay; but I want everyone to wear hats!  So, a few years ago, I started researching the price point that the general population was prepared to pay for a wide brimmed hat that protected them from the sun and of course, looked good.  The resultant price made it unachievable for me to personally create the hat, so I set about designing a hat that someone else could produce for me; a hat that I felt confident people would feel great in, they’d wear with pride, wear often and grow the SunSmart message; a hat that had my touch, fit them perfectly and was affordable.  Designing it turned out to be the easiest part – the challenge was finding someone to make the hats who understood me and what I was aiming to achieve; who respected my touches and would create the hat to my own standard.  Many sketches, prototypes and sleepless nights later, I finally secured the supplier for my first Hats by Felicity custom designed commercial range of hats.  

There’s moments in life that are significant chapters of our yarn and let me tell you the arrival of my first box of hats designed by me, was certainly one.  

Marketing was next; getting this baby out there.  I passively launched during the Shinju artist open house trail early 2017.  People came to view my millinery, and were led through my gate and up to the studio shed by a line of ‘Cruise Broome’ hats.  The reaction (to both) was great.  The Cruise Broome hats walked out the gate, and … they looked GREAT.

I then included the hats in my Sunday market stall, where I’m able to showcase the finer details of the hat, taking time to measure customers heads, use the internal drawstring to size perfectly and shape the brim according to individual’s comfort zone and sense of style.  

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I subtly included the hats in my millinery exhibitions and events big and small across the country, from the North West tip of the Kimberley, through the Pilbara, Gasgoyne and into Perth, across to Balmain, Sydney and country NSW; I even left a hat in South Africa.  This Milliner on the Move has spent every opportunity to be on the road and promote this collection to all.  

I met with retailers throughout WA and and I’m extremely proud to say that from the northwest tip of the state down to the wheatbelt you can now purchase my custom designed hat, in fact, you even have a choice, with four more hat designs since launched with this Hats by Felicity range.  

 

The next step, knowing demand existed, was getting myself to a position that enabled the purchase of my first large order from my supplier, and I couldn’t be prouder to have taken this big small business step … just …  last … week!  So, it’s game on and make some room in the shed because the hats are on their way.  

Outlets where you can purchase the hat range in WA include Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, Broome Visitor Centre, Eco Beach Wilderness Retreat, Port Hedland Visitor Centre and Botanicalia Gallery in York.  The plan of course, is to stock Australia wide so I still have some work to do.  But in the meantime, you can also purchase via my online store www.hatsbyfelicity.com.au and if you’re in Broome, at the Courthouse markets or from my studio by appointment.  

If you’d like to be a stockist please contact me on hatsbyfelicity@bigpond.com.

This is my moment to thank you, who, had faith in this project and dream of mine to develop a SunSmart hat that fits, is affordable and looks good.  You must feel great in your hat.  Be it bespoke millinery or a wide brimmed sun hat, those who know me know it is my biggest belief that putting on your hat must instantly make you feel great.… it’s not just about the hat!  

A huge shout of thanks to you who tag me wearing your hats out and about – globally even!   This not only makes my day, but makes this, my hat product, credible and very real.  

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I’ll be in touch again closer to the festive season but in the meantime, keep an eye out for a little yarn on ABC Landline and the U.K. BBC Julia Bradbury TV Series, for a snippet of feathers and fun.  The fabulous hosts of both shows each own a ‘Cruise Kimberley’ hat, so who know’s, the hat might even make a celebrity guest appearance. 

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I know it’s been a while between updates, it’s been a pretty hectic time for us all; but we have to keep these goals going and be in it for the long haul.  So, thank you.  I hope this finds you happy, healthy and well.

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Stay committed to your dream … you can make it happen.

x flic 

South Africa – The Designer’s Muse

When the invitation arrived for my cousins wedding in South Africa I instantly got that excited feeling that we all get for soon-to-be weds, and overseas adventures, and even though a South African trip was not written into the financial plan, I’m a huge believer in the power of the positive. We do everything we can do to make things happen and when they are meant to be, they happen; so against most odds, this Milliner has just been on the Move to South Africa.

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The feat is never easy coordinating family and friends from around the world to the one place, let alone when the destination is in severe and declared drought and even without a President for a day, but despite these challenges and sadly, more, Simon and Becky brought us all together for the most beautiful celebration of marriage; an intimate affair with the size of crowd that fits everyone on the dance floor.

And Africa was indeed the perfect destination, filled with adventure, rhythm, colour and fun; and as long as you are aware of your surroundings and confident in your stride, you can breathe the air of a frontier land; not that dissimilar to the Kimberley. The animals of course, are completely different! The African animals are something else, they are so huge and elegant; scary but not; I was like a kid let out of their seat belt on safari. Bouncing from one side of the mini bus to the other, which is perfectly OK when you are the only passenger on the tour (winner)! And the jungle put on a show. My guide was concerned if the animals would be out because the weather was clouding over and starting to sprinkle rain, however, I just knew they would be there and simply thought it would be brilliant if it rained on Africa. I’d arrived into the country from record rainfall and a flooded Broome, I would have loved to have brought the rain to drought stricken South Africa, but they were in fact after a tad more than the 4mls that fell when I was there.

I grew up in drought country with the one minute showers, so the water saving requests of the Cape were familiar, however, to be in a city of around 3.8 million with the taps turned off was confronting. Most washrooms had no water and instead offered mostly empty bottles of sanitiser. Tap water was reluctantly or not offered at all in restaurants and the park lawns were brown, waterfalls turned off, and bottled water disappeared off the shelves as quick as it was stacked.

Lucky there was lots of wine! Yes, along with the animals, South Africa boasts many a magnificent drop, so with the country’s best interest in mind, we shifted the fluid intake to wine.
And getting out into the wine country was stunning. The sheer beauty of the countryside was awesome with majestic mountain ranges smoothing into the perfect grape lines of vineyards.

I was wrapped in inspiration from morning till night throughout the whole South African adventure. The flora, the animals, even the drought filled me with inspiration, not to mention the romance of a garden wedding in a winery estate, and the happiness that is family and friends brought together; the safari too, I was so inspired by the animals, their colours, their sounds, even their stance, the way the elephant crossed her back legs; I was blown away how such an enormous animal could appear so stylish; and the graceful giraffes… with every animal and bird and flower the smile grew bigger. I sketched, photographed and recorded – I couldn’t stop – everything around me fuelled the creativity – and while there may have been little water, South Africa fed this milliner with inspiration to create; … which is handy given I have a Sydney exhibition in a little over a week!

And then there was the highlight of spending time with Cape Town Milliner Jacqueline Kolbe of JK Millinery.  Jackie and I spent hours comparing stories, creations, highlights and challenges.  We bounced ideas, inspiration and future plans.  I love meeting fellow milliners who share the passion of our art and can’t thank Jackie enough for the catchup.

I could sit and talk about South Africa for hours, instead I’m going to head back to the studio and my self imposed millinery lockdown to create this collection. And as I prepare the next design, I take a moment to acknowledge the beauty of Africa and the importance of travel and of the gathering of family and friends; and most importantly, I want to shout out a huge “thank you” to Simon and Becky.

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If you are in or near Sydney on Friday 16th March and would like to come along to the Exhibition, I would be thrilled to have you there. Details are on the Facebook Event page “Get a Feather in your Hat – Broome to Balmain” and don’t forget to click the RSVP so we know you’re coming along.

Broome to Balmain Exhibition

And if you would like an insight into the inspiration that creates the collection, with the greatest pleasure I invite you to subscribe to my YouTube Channel “Milliner on the Move”, where I am about to unveil the first video that will take you a step before the creation, even before the preparation of the feathers; I am going to show you the inspiration as I see it from my very own eyes, starting with South Africa.

Milliner on the Move YouTube channel

 

Keep smiling and chat again soon. x flic

“You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are”.

It’s Mango season in Broome, and everyone goes a little crazy …
It’s also the season for giving and receiving … mangos! LOTS of delicious mangos. November in Broome is all about mangos. The house scent is sweet, the blender is mixing and breakfast starts with the cool cut squares of delight. We love this time of year when each door knock comes with the box of mandatory mangos; kids are climbing the town’s trees, everyone’s walking around with a spare plastic bag and there’s a funny sense of ‘community’ coming from this local, somewhat common fruit.

MOTM mangos

We love ‘giving’ and along with two great friends I’ve recently been involved in the Variety Bash, which too, is all about giving. An International fundraiser for kids that was brought to Australia by none other than Dick Smith, the Variety Bash is focused on raising funds for special needs equipment for kids. Variety Bash entrants can sometimes have the added joy of physically delivering this equipment to kids along the most remote of Australian roads, joined by a Variety family of rally cars and crazy dressed characters in tow. It’s all about the kids, and we have to admit, there’s a big kid in us all.

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Our theme for this eight day Variety Bash bubble of ‘giving’ was the Mad Hatters, and in ultimate costume we travelled absolutely no direct route in our 1985 gold Mercedes called Wonderland, from Melbourne to Fraser Island. As the Rookies, Alice with the white rabbit always in her hold, the Queen of Hearts with one of the most impressive heads of all, and I as none other than the Mad Hatter, fumbled our way through our first Variety Bash, and after but but a few ‘far from short’ days knew that we were all completely hooked.

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Even though we broke down 45 minutes into the drive and I literally froze on the side of the road, having flown in from Broome the day before, the ‘positivity’ from the mechanics, even given the seriousness of the situation, as they calmly reassured team Wonderland that “you will finish the Bash – everyone finishes the Bash” meant we did exactly that; and as I started to thaw out in front of the King Lake cafe fireplace, surrounded by random strangers enjoying coffee and cake, with orange hair, a mad top-hat and wearing a chest belt of cotton reels; I too believed them.

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Without giving too much away, I can, in a mad hatter wonderland riddle kind of way …give you a few hints on how the white rabbit spent his weirdly timed Variety Bash day …
The fact that after minutes of breaking down we were ‘silly stringed’ by the Blues brothers, clearly meant our first friends on the bash were NOT the Blues Brothers; but instead our first friends were the mobile mechanics, who not only fixed our car but ‘swept’ us down the road to the finish line each day.

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Not that they or any other ‘bashers’ knew who we were out of costume, because when we weren’t the Mad Hatters we were dressed in the evening theme of the night.

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On the second day the Blues Brothers kidnapped Alice! These suited men and lady were destined NEVER to be our friends! “Where the bleak is Alice?” Truth be known, In true character, Alice often disappeared; found sneaking a peak into a truck or car, pulling a golf buggy down the course or in front of a news camera, on TV;

 

As we started to meet fellow bashers, we quickly bonded with some serious ‘girl power’  including the PJ Party, Cherry Bomb Car-e-oke, Charlie’s Angels, Spice girls and Cat woman, who often needed time out from the joker and batman.

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No sooner had we designed the car routine of driver, navigator and entertainment coordinator, we were captured in print by Melbourne’s Herald Sun, and of course, now published, the Blues Brothers wanted to be our friends!

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We missed all but one lunch on the bash and even though ‘it’s not a race’ we nearly always drove in last … because we were always so well photographed along the way (well that’s our story), or we were simply looking for Alice .. “oh there she is” – in Pooh bear corner talking to Sunday All Over Macca!

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We missed most of the ‘fun’ stops and didn’t see the beer truck once! (all put down to our careful pace of driving).

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As the delirium progressed, the mad hatter began to eat cupcakes in every town, while the Queen of Hearts precariously posed and Alice chased the Blues Brothers, who stole the White Rabbit AGAIN!


As crazy, loud bash cars drove up to schools we were presented with equally loud squeals of excitement from kids; we took selfies, threw lollies, (must get better at throwing) and danced and dabbed on basketball courts. It’s something special when a kid tugs your jacket and says they are SO excited to be YOU for book week!

Sometimes we forgot we were in costume as we ran into Telstra shops and public toilet blocks; and how many people get to play with Sesame Street in Parliament House after dinner with the Governor General.

 

We won the apple iPhone 7! Well … the rabbit did!

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Our absolute favourite Variety Bash moment was a “Where’s Wally” one and we ALL fell in love with a ‘cowboy’.

After cornering Wonderland like a dream around Bathurst, the cryptic route notes indicated that we were going through my home town of Rylstone, NSW; mum got the boys (my brothers) into the Globe Hotel but someone or anyone forgot to mention to my beautiful brother ‘Billy Brown from outa town’, who doesn’t do social media, that his sister was an orange headed mad hatter. Personal highlight besides his reaction, was to see my mum run across the road so excited. She almost wouldn’t get out of Wonderland, or let the white rabbit go.

I was so excited to see family and great friends along the way; and just as excited to pull in to the Pub with no Beer.

We were getting a hold on this ‘Bash’ thing and decided it was time to take a stance and publicly punish the Blues Brothers for stealing the white rabbit and kidnapping Alice. We dressed up the main Blues offender in Alice’s apron, wig and makeup in front of hundreds of onlookers at the Big Banana.

Some thought us brave, others thought us mad, but it was ‘he’ who took the punishment ten steps further; … and where our love for the Blues Brothers bloomed.

By the time we got to Fraser island we’d traveled the outback roads of four states in eight days and the Mad Hatters were self declared as ‘wrecked’! Only to be announced as winners of the BEST THEME bash honour, so the costumes had one .. last .. night.

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On behalf of Alice and the Queen of Hearts, I take this opportunity to thank ALL our friends and families who supported the Mad Hatters and our fundraising efforts for the kids and our sponsors for supporting car 2278 Wonderland in the 2017 Variety Bash.

And just when we thought it was all over, Team Captain Alice pulled rank and diverted Wonderland to the Bundaberg Rum factory; only to once again disappear, and reappear with the leader of the opposition.

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The Melbourne to Fraser Island Variety Bash raised $1.25M and our little car raised over $15,000! Goes without saying – we have registered for next year’s event!

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So, how does someone re-enter normality after an experience like this? … Well, what is ‘normality’ anyway?!

Just like after any adventure, I was filled with inspiration. I could’t wait to get back into my millinery studio. The next few couture creations were quickly underway and with a new boost of creativity and my Hats by Felicity collection was hinted with whimsical ‘Wonderland’ joy.

 

The Variety experience reinforced my embrace of positivity and fed my my love for giving; fundraising has been such an integral part of my life, since a 19 year old Miss Australia fundraising entrant, and it completes me.

For 2018 we have some exciting Mad Hatters fundraising events in the planning, that will take place in Victoria, Frankland River WA, and Broome; to which Alice, Queen of Hearts and Mad Hatter hope some of our new Variety family might make a celebrity guest appearance, and meet our wonderful local communities, families and friends.

And where in this crazy yarn is the Hats by Felicity update? Well, with all this creativity I’ve been turning one of my many dreams into reality and developing a very special merchandise range.

I have always adored beautiful stationery and essential treats for the tropics and have designed and developed a delightful and useful merchandise range of notepads, sketch books, hand fans, coolers for our drinks and for the bottle of bubbles; tote bags, water bottles, pannikins etc … the beautiful list is almost endless; and after the inspirational feedback from the MadHATtan documentary, and the Variety experience, I decided to embrace the positivity and inspiration and have a go.

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To get a starter collection of the merchandise range landed in Broome in time for the Christmas market I have launched a Kickstarter fundraising campaign. I’d love you to check it out and should you like to give it a ‘kickstart’ pledge, it would be my absolute joy to gift you with a product from the range the moment it hits the Broome studio floor; hand selected with love. This merchandise range will compliment my couture millinery creations and ongoing collections and my custom designed commercial range of Cruise Broome hats and the like.  2018 has definitely been the year for growth.

“We’re all mad here, I’m mad, you’re mad.” How do you know I’m mad? said Alice, You must be said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

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I always love to sign off thanking my incredible friends; who support and encourage me and my crazy days and ways. To you, I once again raise my glass. Thank you!

Here’s the Kickstarter link for my Hats by Felicity Merchandise range. I’d be thrilled if you’d check it out.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/flic/hats-by-felicity-merchandise-product-range

Thank you and keep smiling,

x Flic