These days "re-purpose" is thrown all over the place in the world of design, like "repurposing" old ascots into tiebacks for curtains. But we think that James R. Faulkner, a student in millinery design (read: hat making) at Telford College in Scotland is perhaps the master of the art; after all, anybody can use old scarves to hold their curtains open, but it takes real genius to turn roadkill into gorgeous, high-fashion hats -- like the one at left, made out of a pheasant who'd seen better days. In fact, we love his work so much we had to track James down and ask a few questions to figure out what makes him tick.
First: How did roadkill become your medium of choice, and what inspired you to make hats out of it?
I was asked to create a hat for a friend, Meabhann, who was attending a wedding. However, once I said yes, I then realized I had no money so I needed to be inventive. Whilst discussing this project with another friend, we passed a roadkill magpie, and she joked that I should use it to make the hat. I thought it was a great idea ... I also like to introduce an element of my own rebelliousness into my work. The hat was such a success at the wedding that more friends and friends of friends came to me to make them
hats. So I decided to do some courses at Edinburgh's Telford College.
What's the process like to make it ... errr ... suitable for wearing upon one's head?
Well, when I first brought the magpie home, I wasn't quite sure how to treat it, but I thought that treating for a hat can't be that much different from traditional taxidermy. So I researched taxidermy for beginners and set to work ... I washed the bird clean, took out the feathers I wanted to use, cleaned them, salted them and left them in the hot sun to dry out. After the first magpie I bought an old book on taxidermy, which has been very useful along with my own research.
What's your favorite reincarnation so far?
The hat containing roadkill pheasant, woodcock and starling feathers. I call it the Squair Scottish Pride hat. I made it for a friend, whose surname [is] Squair, who wanted a hat to reflect her love of Scotland and the countryside and was dramatic, too.
My other favorite hat is one I made for my flatmate as a surprise for her when she came home after work. That morning she had mentioned that she would love a tartan hat for her Burn's Supper the next evening. So I set myself the challenge of making the hat before she came home that day. It is made of roadkill pheasant (cock and hen), Cockerel feathers (florist waste stock) and also recycled tartan off-cuts from a kilt maker that would otherwise have been thrown out. I look to recycle any materials I can get, not just roadkill.
What have your customers' reactions been so far?
Well for every hat I've made, I have made them for a specific person in mind. I always meet them first and discuss what they want and what they're looking for from their hat. So I can honestly say I have only received positive feedback. The fashion show that I'm doing in May is really the first time that I will be making hats with no specific person in mind, so that will be my next challenge.
Which animal do you like most for hats and why?
I really love any feathers which are iridescent. Because they have such a lovely sheen and are really versatile, they'll suit anyone. So that basically covers any birds in the crow family: I've used a lot of crow and magpie. However I am always on the look out for new materials.
And what are your plans after graduation?
The aim of taking the course was to set up as a professional business, so a friend -- the one who first pointed out the magpie to me -- and I have been working on this for the last few months. We will be launching soon as: JRF Rogue Milliner in April. I am doing a solo fashion show in May at Hawke and Hunter Edinburgh, hosted by Noir, [and also] two exhibitions in June: one is for Telford College and the other one is with a charity called Hatwalk with a theme of recycling. I am very excited about all of this and I really hope that more people like my hats.
James can currently be found on Facebook at JRF Rogue Milliner
, and he will soon have a website set up at www.jrfroguemilliner.com. Until then you can read more about James, his work, and his upcoming fashion show at http://noiredinburgh.blogspot.com
This one's made out of crow.
And here's the most brilliant use of squished pheasant we've ever seen:
We're looking at the side of the road in a whole different way.