You don’t have to be a member of the Red Hat Society to know who they are. When a swarm of red and purple infiltrates a room and fills it with energy and laughter, everyone knows the Red Hatters are here. Founded 20 years ago by a woman who gave a friend a red hat along with a Jenny Joseph poem (quoted above) to celebrate her fifty-ish birthday, the group’s mission is to encourage women to approach middle age in a playful manner.
Today the Red Hat Society has 50,000 members in 30 countries and wherever they arrive, their motto of fun, friendship and fulfillment follows. Many members have visited the KSB Miniatures Collection for a day trip and we have a special room box dedicated entirely to them.
Made by Lori Ann Potts in 2008, the room box depicts two Red Hatters introducing their apprehensive fast-approaching-50 friend to their world of red and purple. The room box is actually comprised of four separate areas—a main sales room, a sewing and alteration room, a butler’s pantry and an outside patio, based on an illustration by Kim Jacobs.
The shop area is filled with items Lori Ann created or embellished to fit the scene. There are over 20 pairs of shoes in the shop, which includes a dozen pairs by now-retired English artisan Susan Lee. Her shoes have carved wooden heels, silk lining and are made with fine French glove leather. Lori Ann ordered various styles and then elaborated on their designs. Her good friend Georgia Matuschak also sculpted some original footwear which Lori Ann finished for the display. Lori Ann, who doesn’t wear hats herself, does admit to having a fascination with headwear in miniature—ornamenting pieces with complete abandon using all of the materials she loves to work with like vintage lace, feathers, and rhinestones. She says creating hats for this project was especially fun because it was “anything goes” as opposed to many of the period-specific items for which she is known. Of the five dolls in the room box, four were made by the late Marcia Backstrom. The butler is a porcelain figure by Gudrun Kolenda.
The Bespaq furniture housing many of her creations was also customized by the IGMA Fellow with a hand painted floral motif, gold highlights and silk lining. In planning this area, Lori Ann experimented with furniture placement, but ultimately situated the tall mirrored cabinet to add an unexpected viewing dimension to the scene. In her original plan she had the fabric portion of the display where the mirrored cabinet stands. She switched them so the viewer could see the expression on the younger woman’s face by looking into the mirrored panel. The placement also provides a glimpse to the back room that cannot be seen any other way.
This was at the time (and still is) the largest structure Lori Ann had ever built in which she had total creative control. In its design, she says she approached each area if it were a separate space and then wove them all together through the color scheme. I think all her choices were perfect. Unfortunately, you are not able to see all the details in the photographs, such as one of my favorite parts—the back room. This space houses the sewing area filled with all kinds of colorful notions and items a seamstress would use. It’s a room that invites the viewer inside even though it’s not totally visible. If you were able to see it, you’d find a sewing machine, a garment under construction, and an ironing board—complete with iron and a stack of items ready to be pressed.
Another partially hidden, but completely finished, area is the butler’s pantry, which Lori Ann designed to explain the food elements on display throughout the scene. It supports the function of the butler who is seen attempting to entice the seated ladies with a frothy pink desert while they sit sipping strawberry champagne. It also offers a plausible location from where food and beverages would originate on their way to the outdoor area. I just love the swinging saloon doors in the doorway! They were created by Canadian artist Kay Howson. Another special piece in this room box is the crystal chandelier by Phyllis Tucker, made with real gold chain, genuine rubies, sapphires, emeralds and amethyst. European glass artist Ferenc Albert created the hand-blown globes and pendalogues.
When Lori Ann explained her vision for the “secret garden” adjoining the shop, I was thrilled. She wanted to project the feeling of an exclusive private patio where clients could relax and meet with friends. And who among us would not enjoy that after an enthusiastic day of shopping? Kay Howson also designed the wrought iron glass topped café tables and chairs seen through the store front windows. I added the English porcelain pieces which were hand painted by Christopher Whitford.
When members of the Red Hat Society see this room box they are in love with the spunky imagination it exudes that, they say, truly signifies what the organization is all about. I’ve had many tell me it is their favorite piece in the museum, but I think they are partial! Ultimately, though, I think the scene incorporates friendship, fun, and personal fulfillment for women of all ages. I can’t help but think that we, as miniaturists, are brought together with the same intentions—fun, friendship, fulfillment and the appreciation of the art form.