Here's more on my interview with Sally Faith Coombs, a milliner who discovered and successfully leads a dream career.
How have you managed to keep the faith?
When you have bills sitting there and the phone's not ringing, sometimes it's really hard to hold on to that magic. Recently I did a gallery opening, and I got burnt out doing a lot of hours of work for it. I made a joke that I'd sell my sewing machine in the yard for 2 bucks. But then I was looking at one of the styrofoam heads with blobs of fabric and ribbon pinned on it, and all of the sudden I went over to it and touched the fabric. And before I knew it, I was fiddling around with it, and I'd come up with three or four more designs. I'd gotten back in touch with that creative part. Just by looking at that styrofoam head sitting there.
That's why it's so important to keep creating. I reached out for the hat and there it was, like it was waiting for me.
How did you sell your first hats?
I don't even know what ever gave me the courage or possessed me to think I could walk into the finest gallery on Cape Cod and say, "Hi I've got some hats I'd like you to look at." The owner was totally captivated by the hats, we did a consignment deal, and the hats were sitting on these little pedestals. The actress Julie Harris then became a regular customer of the hats, and that was a big boost. Lots of places have shown them since, and lot of people have bought them.
How has your business grown?
In the second year, 98-99, I was up to double from what I did the first year. We cut the cleaning business in half. I follow any lead anyone anywhere gives me. What I find is there's a real relationship that comes with the hats -- store owners and gallery owners sell them and have fun with them, or they don't. I really believe the hats will end up in the shops they're supposed to with the people who are supposed to sell them. Otherwise we're all wasting our time. Sometimes we have a hat party -- and that's a great event! There's something in these hats that just moves people. There's this energy to them, and it brings something out in people that they find really fun and enjoyable. They seem so surprised to see they have those feelings and energy, and it's so fun to watch it all spring forth.