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Continued: Achieving Excellence: Hatmaker finds her passion

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 14, 2014 - 4:50 PM


Q: How did you end up in this profession?

A: I was working for Qwest, and they downsized in 2003. They gave us retraining dollars. I was taking a desktop computer class and started a project [an imaginary hat company], building a website, brochures, fliers. And it took on a life of its own. I went to different websites and found these beautiful hats. I loved hats, so I bought a line of hats to sell, but then I decided, “I don’t want to sell hats. I want to make hats.”


Q: How did you train?

A: I found a master milliner teacher in Wilmington, N.C. I went to her house from 7 to 3 every day and then came back to my hotel and tried to duplicate what she had shown me. It was tough. I was clueless, but I was tenacious. I kept trying and trying and working at it, and then one day some real hats showed up.


Q: Does it take special skills?

A: Attention to detail, knowing your customer, what shape fits them. Really just listening to the customer. A lot of time you might have an idea for them, but you go with what they say. … I’ve always been very organized, very disciplined, very methodical about how to do things. The balance [of elements in the hat] has to be there, the proportion. I have to like it.


Q: Are there sacrifices?

A: Since I started this, I have felt driven, truly inspired, and it was like nothing or nobody was going to get in my way. I was dating someone at the time, and I would say, “No, I need to do one more thing; I need to get this right.” And it was like I didn’t have time for him. I was thinking, “Men will come and go, but I’ve got to get this right.”


Q: What’s the best part?

A: When the customer is thrilled. When they put that hat on and then there’s a big smile.


Q: The worst part?

A: I do get burned. I get steamed. Some of the straw, it scratches me. The wire, I almost get poked in the eye.

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  • That’s a wrap: St. Paul milliner Angie Hall Sandifer does virtually all of her work by hand. “The balance has to be there, the proportion,” she said. “I have to like it.”

  • Angie Hall Sandifer works out of an airy but somewhat cluttered studio in St. Paul’s Lowertown district.

  • Sandifer loves a challenge:  “At the Art Crawl women will come in and say, ‘I don’t look good in hats.’ And I’ll say, ‘You just haven’t found the right hat for your face and your personality.’ ”

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