By August 10, 2012 Read More →

Unusual home working jobs – the theatrical milliner

Home working jobs – but different

Unusual home working jobs - Ani Townsend, theatrical millinerAni Townsend specialises in period and unusual millinery and wire-work for theatre and film productions.

Hi Ani, yours is certainly not one of the home working jobs most people would think of. How did you get into it?
I studied theatre design at Wimbledon School of Art, now part of the University of the Arts. My course specialized in costume making and within that I specialized in millinery. I’d originally wanted to be a tailor, but I’ve always worn hats dues to being ginger, so it was a very natural direction to take.  

Tell us a bit about your routine, if you have such a thing, and how you divide up your time
I’ve got a 11 week old baby, so routine is currently very fluid. He sleeps well in the morning so I try to start off the day with the admin side of things. In the afternoon, whilst my husband is on baby duty, I do my actual work as this take more concentration. I also tend to work a lot at the weekends as I can get big chunks done whilst my husband holds the baby.   
 
What kind of materials do you work with, and where do you source them?
I work with a huge range of things, from traditional straw and felt, to metal and plastic. If I’m working on a large production then the costume supervisor will send me the fabrics that the designer has selected. If it’s a smaller production, my own designs or a private commission, I’ll provide the materials. I source my main millinery materials like straw from specialist millinery suppliers. I order a lot online, but I’m always scouring the local charity shops as well as the local craft shops. And eBay is a great source of useful unusual bits.

What do you like about what you do? And least like?
I like the way that every job is different, even if a job involves multiples of a style. What do I least like? Nuns. I work a lot in opera. Operas have a disproportionate amount of nuns. And often an entire chorus dressed as nuns. In one company I worked at we were continually making wimples and every time I made a batch, one would go missing. I swear there was a cleaner there with a habit of acquiring nun costumes. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun)

OK, we’re all dying to know which famous people you’ve worked with?  What were they like? 
I once played snap with Jose Carreras and was touched that he always remembered my name even when it was months between performances.  Christopher Biggins was very generous and incredibly professional. Bryn Terfel has a naughty sense of humour! Other famous professional notches include Madonna and Lesley Garratt. You may notice a musical theme here!
  
What are your ambitions?
My ambitions are to become thoroughly self-sustainable, which is tricky because theatre is a Feast or Famine kinda industry, but I’m getting there. I’d like to be able to take on staff, so I can focus on the creative side more. Eventually I’d like to undertake a research doctorate which builds on my History of Art MA, where I’m focusing on historical headdresses.

That’s Ani above in a winter bonnet, and you can see many more of her fabulous creations on anitownsend.com.

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10 Comments on "Unusual home working jobs – the theatrical milliner"

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  1. Nina R.P. says:

    I thought what you’re doing is unusual but you must be very creative to pull of unique hat designs so kudos to you!

  2. Kelly Land says:

    I love reading stories about women that successfully work from home. Ani’s story is one that I hadn’t run across before – an inspiration to anyone wanting to work at home that has real creative flare.
    -Kelly

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