‘I always worked with fabric even as a kid. I started working in the rag trade as an apprentice cutter in Flinders Lane in 1962 and then was heading in to bridal and thought; if I’m going to do bridal then I need to know something about hats. The very first piece of felt I picked up and blocked, I went, “Ahhh, that’s what you’re meant to do.” You’re working in three dimensions rather than working in flat pattern work.
‘I still do a huge amount of sewing but now I teach hard and soft sculptured costume. It’s kind of a combination of millinery and costume. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had lots of big jobs and lots of fabulous work to create. The last job I did was Aladdin – it was lovely… but Star Wars, Phantom and Moulin Rouge were also great.
‘I’ve been a milliner for 55 years and I just turned 71. That was why I had the blue beard done because it was my birthday – my birthday beard.’
‘I’d broken up with my fiancée and suddenly realised I was by myself. It was just me and I thought, well, I don’t need much. At the same time I was also dealing with stress anxiety from working a lot and the lifestyle that comes with that. Even though nobody was pressuring me in the slightest, I felt that way. I felt that you’ve got to live a certain way to make your parents proud and your friends happy.
‘I studied a bit of art when I was a teenager and had left it for about 20 years. When I started it again about two years ago, I found it very meditative and felt very stress free. I realised how much I missed it and that this is my real love.
‘I left all my jobs. One of the biggest challenges of doing that was the fear of whether I would be good enough as an artist because you honestly don’t know. It’s not always about skill level in art either – it’s about finding your own voice and your own style and telling a story through it.
‘At my age, it’s hard to get back in to paid employment – trying to apply for a job when you’ve left it for two years – they’ll take someone who’s currently working in the field and a younger person as well. There was always that risk. If I had kids and a mortgage I wouldn’t do it because you do it for your kids – you work. I can be a little bit selfish because it’s just me. I can’t go out every night with friends and go to fancy restaurants but I get to do what I love every day.’
‘I really feel for womankind. I think a lot of us beautiful women are torn in so many different directions with all the responsibilities we have. The time out thing is so important and a lot of girls don’t get it.
‘It’s really hard for teenage girls too because they can feel really insecure. They’re going through lots of changes and there are so many pressures now on girls – more so than when I was growing up. I wish for them to have happiness and not worry about body image – just pamper themselves and surround themselves with people that are going to make them feel good – it’s the most important thing.
‘I love the style, the glamour, the elegance of the vintage era – not only just in the fashion side of it but in the way people treat each other with kindness. I think we could all learn from those times to slow down and to be kind to each other. Things are too fast now. We need to be a bit gentler on ourselves and be our own best friends because if we are, everything else works out in life.’