Friday, November 22, 2013

Why Handmade: Special Edition; An Interview with Anne Thalheimer of My Monster Hat

by Lynn Mohney of Prunella’s Workshop

Photo courtesy of Anne Thalheimer

Allow me to introduce Anne Thalheimer and her wonderfully zany Monster Hats. I have known Anne for 32 years, when we met in Charlene Twente’s second grade class. She was already a talented artist at the tender age of seven, and by the age of 9, Anne was creating her own comic book strips. Today,
this brilliant woman crafts fleece hats made to look like a variety of monsters, creates comic books, including a graphic novel, and referees roller derby, when she is not teaching in a variety of institutions from preschool to Yale University. It was an honor and a pleasure to cyber-interview Anne, and I hope everyone enjoys her work.

Tell us a little bit about your business.

My Monster Hat is a custom size and design hat company where I make crazy fun hats out of fleece, felt fangs, and lots of eyeballs.

How did you get started making monster hats?

I actually needed a fall hat, didn't like anything in the stores, and I'd just taught myself to sew. I made one -- I still have it, actually -- and started wearing it around town. A friend of mine saw it and said, Hey, can you make me one of those for Halloween? I did, and he wore it around, and people kept asking him where he'd gotten it. Then he started calling me every time someone did this, and so ... sure enough, the business was born.

How Sherlock Survived; A Speculative Guide - by Anne Thalheimer

I know you have been drawing comics a long time. Can you describe how they have evolved over the years?

My line work has become a great deal smoother and more confident -- the more I draw, the less choppy it looks. I actually released my first graphic novel over the summer, and I'm kind of amazed, looking through it, how smooth it all looks.

What You Don't Get - A graphic novel by Anne Thalheimer

What is your favorite part of running your business?

I love custom hat designs, when someone gets in touch with some really interesting idea, and how excited they are when I can actually take their ideas and concepts and turn those into a tangible (and warm!) thing!

Do you think people put more value in items that were made by hand?

I hope so! For me, it's important: knowing that I own something someone else created? That's kind of amazing, you know?

What is your favorite handmade item you own? Does it have a special story?

Something that I made, or something someone made for me? Actually, I guess both: my mom's a quilter, and she asked me to make her a bunch of flat monster heads, and didn't tell me why. So I made them and sent them off, and a couple of weeks later this quilt shows up at my house, that she's used one of my favorite fabric patterns to make (skeleton keys, and a zebra print -- I'm a roller derby ref on the side ---) and she's stitched the monster heads to them.

Zebra Pattern Fleece Monster Hat - photo courtesy of Anne Thalheimer

How do you feel about the quality of handmade items verses items that were mass produced?

It of course depends on the item, but I tend to think of "flaws" as quirks in handmade things and as faults in massmade things -- I like it when I can tell that something is one of a kind or handmade. I'm a little less excited about things that look identical.

Would you describe your family to be creative/handmade/artistic?

Sort of. My mom painted a lot when I was a kid and, ironically, made a lot of clothes for us. (The irony is that I didn't really learn to sew until I was an adult.)

How did you find your way into your art?

Needed a hat. I know! Less exciting...

Undead Green Fleece Zombie Hat - photo courtesy of Anne Thalheimer

Do you feel it is our responsibility as artists to pass along our skills and knowledge to future generations? If so, how?

I do. I actually do. When I was growing up in the '80s, handmade wasn't a good thing. I love that it's sort of been reclaimed in a lot of ways. I work as a teacher; I've been lucky to develop a class with Beehive Sewing Studio + Workspace out here in Western MA, and so I've gotten to teach people some techniques and to have fun with sewing -- I do a lot of one-of-a-kind work, so it's an interesting fusion of craft and art. But I love teaching kids to sew!

But yes. Teaching. Bringing our friends and family and especially our kids to craft fairs and to let them see the junk in the house from making stuff, and to make stuff themselves!

Making hats at Beehive Sewing Studio- Photo Courtesy of Anne Thalheimer

How do you pass along the love of what you do to other people?

Teaching. Wearing funky hats. I also donate hats from time to time to fundraisers and to shelters during the winter (because kids need funky hats too, and even more so when it's snowing). I do a lot of craft fairs and I let people try on the hats and take pictures with them on; it's hard not to crack a
grin when there's a monster eating your head.

Do you feel it is more important to pass along your specific skill set? Or a respect for craft/art in general? How can either be achieved?

Respect for art in general. Through teaching, of course, and through valuing the system that honors people who create these works of art. Bringing craft and art into daily lives.


The cold New England winter is upon us all. I encourage you all to check out Anne’s hats, and choose one best suiting your personality. You won’t regret it!

Photo Courtesy of Anne Thalheimer

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