By Bill Ward
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
It took a long time before Angie Hall Sandifer heeded her own words.
“I used to work a lot with kids, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Girl Scout troops, as a volunteer probation officer,” said the 50-something St. Paul, Minn., woman, “and one of the things I would tell them is ‘All you need to do is find your passion and follow it.'”
A decade ago, she finally did just that.
For most of her life, Sandifer wore many hats, figuratively speaking.
Now she makes hats.
Big floppy hats. Pert, stylish hats. Hats with feathers, flowers, ribbons, beads. Hats like her mother and grandmother used to wear to church in Gainesville, Fla.
Hats that her clients wear to Kentucky Derby parties, or even the actual derby.
Today, her company of one, Angie’s Hats, produces scores of handmade hats that are sold at Artists Mercantile in St. Paul as well as at a New Orleans boutique.
She also makes custom hats in her Northern Warehouse Artists Co-op studio in St. Paul’s Lowertown.
“I definitely, absolutely have found my passion,” she said, cornrows framing her Mona Lisa smile.
Her passion is no simple procedure.
The materials, from felt or straw base to flourishes such as feathers, flowers, ribbons and rims, have to be top-notch.
“You don’t go to Michael’s to get a flower for a hat,” she said.
The hats are handmade, except for occasional tasks on a sewing machine.
Over two days, materials are steamed, heated, shaped, molded and blocked on a mannequin head.
And the preparation for fulfilling clients’ requests is as hands-on as the production.
“I measure their head and then we talk about the style, the fabric, the feather, the flowers, the ribbon, what have you, if they want it wired or floppy,” Sandifer said. “And then they come back for a fitting, and then if adjustments need to be made, we do that.”