We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Vega and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
What most people don’t know is that hat making is a fairly small industry and is a very secretive craft. Most hatters don’t share their skills and techniques. If you want to learn the craft you need to find someone who’s willing to mentor you, which is really hard to find, especially here in the states. Believe me, I tried.
I was fortunate to meet Michelle Poyer-Sleeman through Instagram. She is a master hatter at Herbert Johnson Hatters in London. Taking a chance I sent her a DM asking her a couple questions. She has been kind enough to share her skills with me, via written and video tutorials. Her knowledge has been invaluable to me. I am so grateful.
Most of my learning has been by trial and error. I have spent countless hours searching the internet for any literature or videos on hat making that I could find. I managed to find a small amount of very short videos on the process, and I would just watch them over and over until I figured out the techniques. Well, enough to get me started. I still have much to learn and am eager to learn all that I can.
One other thing that people may not know is that the tools for making hats are mostly vintage, expensive and very hard to come by. Each hat size requires its own hat block to be formed, so you can imagine how many blocks I would need. I currently have about 25, and I’m always searching online marketplaces for more supplies.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I was born in Mexico and immigrated to San Diego when I was eight. I was raised by a single mom who worked hard to provide for me and my two siblings. My mom taught me to not be afraid or ashamed of any kind of work as long as it is decent and provides an honest living.
In my career path I have worn many hats- even before I knew that hat making could be one of them! For 15 years I worked as an esthetician. I also worked as a CNA for a couple years. Since I am a bit of an introvert and love working with people one on one, esthetics and nursing were perfect career choices for me.
However, I have always had a passion to create with my hands. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of getting in trouble for skipping out on chores just so that I could draw- I loved escaping into my colorful little world. As a teen we didn’t have a lot of extra money so I often tailored and repurposed hand me down clothes to suit my style. Customization, color blending, and attention to detail are some of the foundations of my upbringing.
Later in life, after getting married and having kids, it became increasingly challenging for me to work outside of the home. The next hat I would wear would be that of a stay at home mom. The desire to be creative never left me, but (as any mom will tell you) it is not always easy to find the extra energy at the end of the day to initiate anything new.
As my kids grew older I started to use my spare time to paint, mostly ocean landscapes. I love the beach! My husband is in the surfing industry so we try to spend a lot of time near the water. I started selling my art in galleries and art fairs for a while. What I learned is that there are a lot of talented artists out there, which makes it very competitive and difficult to sell art.
Two years ago I was in the market for a new hat (I have been a hat lover since my early twenties). I started searching for new designers and stumbled upon a video clip of someone making a handmade, custom hat. Instantly, I was intrigued. I had no idea that a hat could be custom designed! I had to have one! However, I became quickly disillusioned when I realized the price was way out of my budget. This prompted me to look for more hat making videos.
My spark of creativity was rekindled once more. I became obsessed with everything hat related, even purchasing a few tools and hat bodies. I was convinced that with some practice I could make myself a hat. And so I did.
Pleased with my results, I continued to make more. My friends started complimenting my designs and began requesting hats of their own. I decided to turn it into a business.
I feel blessed to be able to create wearable pieces of art that reflect the individuality of the wearer. I believe that everyone should have at least one heirloom-quality hat that makes them feel good and can last generations without breaking the bank.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, of course a beach day has to be on the list! My favorite spot is South Ponto. Lots of sand, clean bathrooms and showers are a must for a great day at the beach.
Just a couple miles North on 101 will take you to my other favorite spot, Sea Hive Marketplace in Oceanside. It is filled with lots of unique, artisan and vintage finds.
While you’re in Oceanside an afternoon kayak session at the harbor is a super fun and relaxing way to watch the sunset.
Vista, my hometown, has over 20 craft breweries. I haven’t been to all of them yet but my favorite is Bear Roots Brewing co. They have a delicious stout called the Bear Cookie. It tastes just like a peanut butter cookie!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would be remiss if I did not give a shoutout to my supportive family. My husband has always been my greatest supporter and fan (not just in this, but in everything I venture to do). He has always appreciated my individuality and accepts me as I am. This gives me the confidence to try anything. Also, my children (three boys) are understanding with me when I haven’t had the time to prepare a meal… and just give them grilled cheese sandwiches and soup for dinner when I’m busy creating.
Other: sold at Seahive Marketplace 1555 S .Coast Hwy. Oceanside Ca,