Photography by Amanda Leigh Smith
Words by Cate Havstad
For the last 4 years I have been working on developing a collection of hats that are dyed naturally using wildcrafted plants from this high desert region. I call the collection “Hues of the High Desert” and it is my passion and a labor of love. Since moving to Central Oregon almost 6 years ago from Coastal Northern California I have been enamored with the high desert landscape and the resiliency of the plants that exist in these conditions.
Once the felts have been dyed, they are taken into my Airstream Workshop, both the dye station and hat making workshop are located on the farm I live on. Each hat is hand-blocked and taken through the century old process of building hats by hand. Many of my blocks and pieces of equipment date back to the late 1800s/ early 1900s. Each hat within the collection will be custom fitted to the customer’s head and personalized with the customer’s name or a quote on the sheepskin leather sweatband.
As life has its way of twisting and turning, taking me over the mountains and into the valleys, I find myself seeking to surround myself in the landscape. A walk through the Oregon Badlands is a tangible reminder of the resilience of all living things no matter the oppressive heat, the frigid winters, or the years of drought. The sage, juniper, rabbitbrush and curly dock all persevere and thrive. These high desert plants are the foundation of my Hues of the High Desert hat collection. The hues of the hats reflect the soft desert palate, when the hats are steamed they fill my workshop with the smells of the plants they have been dyed with, and within them they carry the story of the land. They embody my quest for resilience and deeper connection to the land. I hope that this collection inspires onlookers to consider how their lives can sink deeper into connection with the land.
Each hat in this collection has been dyed naturally in a plant dye bath, utilizing wildcrafted high desert plants. The 100X Premium Beaver fur felts are left to soak in the plant dye for anywhere from 1-3 days. The resulting colors are unique, unlike any chemical dye, a direct reflection of the land these hats are created on. Through this natural dye process, the hats embody the terroir of the land through their soft desert hues and the essence of the plants are even captured in the smells absorbed by the felt.