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Two weeks ago I left my home and workshop in the barn at Circle K Ranch in Bend, Oregon with my life packed into a 32 foot airstream to produce The Hatter & The Hound tour. I’ve wanted to live life on the road with my dog Charlie since I first read Travels with Charley five years ago. We tried it out for a year in my early 20s, working on farms and random jobs around the western U.S. and British Columbia. It was a time in my life when my path was winding its way around and I was looking for direction and inspiration. I found hat making in a roundabout way because I allowed myself the space to roam. I’ve gotten to know myself better by trusting my instincts about times when I should pick up and roam, people I should surround myself with and experiences I should seek out.

I believe we all have an internal compass that can be our guide, and I also believe it’s easy to let the loud voices of outside perspectives, socially constructed pressures and expectations, traffic, florescent lights, TV ads, disgusting reality shows, magazine covers etc. all cloud our minds and make it hard to tune into that internal compass. I find myself on the road again now, seeking inspiration, slowing it all down, tuning out the noise and tuning into my compass.

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I’ve been falling in love with the trade of hat-making for the last 3 years. Interest turned into curiosity, which turned into research and apprenticeship, which led to hunting for vintage hatter’s equipment all around the U.S., which led to me turning my passion into a business.

I had no intention of starting a hat company when I started to pursue this passion. I was purely interested in learning. As I started to get comfortable with the fundamentals of hand-blocking, pouncing, shaping, I continued to want to make each hat better than the last. The learning seems never-ending and the options for creativity and collaboration are endless. I’m head over heels.

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In the last 2 years I have been blown away by the support and interest in my custom handcrafted hats. The ways things started to pick up speed so quickly was almost intoxicating. My order list continued to grow and some really amazing opportunities came knocking and I have been in a “pedal-to-the-metal” “yes” mentality for it all.

It is easy to get swept away in the momentum of opportunity, growth and next steps. What I only recently started to realize was that the exponentially growing workload was steering me in a direction that was off course in some ways.

I am not a high volume production hatter at this time in my life. I learned great lessons and have thrived on the challenge of learning how to increase production, but it is not where I want to be right now. I am only 3 years into this trade, and less than 2 years into turning my passion for this trade into a business. I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me, and recently I’ve been asking myself…what’s the rush? Do I want to quickly dig myself into a high-volume, high-demand workload that allows no space for creativity and exploration? I’m finding that the greatest lessons can be learned in the voids. If each day is packed and scheduled and there are big expectations of “x” amount of hats that must be made each day, where and when will I find the space to explore and grow?

 

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In the last year I’ve been approached about increasing production, and in today’s world one can often feel like fast growth and quick success is the goal. While I’m all for seizing opportunity when the time is right, there are also times to slow it down, or to keep at a steady pace.

My intuition started guiding me toward pushing for the Airstream workshop this winter when I was getting deeper into conversations and plans to move myself and my business to Nashville. There were certain “dazzle” factors that made me think that it was a good idea, but beneath the surface my intuition could not let go of the airstream workshop concept. The idea was seemingly contradictory to where I thought I was heading. Increasing production and growth don’t really align with condensing an already small workshop. While in my head I thought growth and a move to a bustling growing city like Nashville was my path toward success, my heart and my intuition knew better.

I want to be a custom hatter who makes each hat with great care, one at a time. I want to create unique, inspired pieces of functional art. I want to honor the trade and the centuries-old hand-shaping techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation of hatters.

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 I want to live on a ranch or farm where I can grow my own food and I can enjoy the rich void of open spaces. I want to learn to be more patient in my life and in my work, and I want to find a workflow that allows me to provide for myself while giving me space to be a creative. I want to live a balanced life.

The Hatter & The Hound tour has taught me so much already, I certainly can’t and won’t try to explain it all. Journeys like these are not easy, they often reveal the shadowy sides of fear that live inside and they challenge me to the point where sometimes I ask myself, “Why don’t I take an easier path?”

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Tonight was one of my first nights truly alone and quiet in the airstream since we left Oregon. I had screwed up a sweatband of a hat that I had been working on and it triggered something that I have had no time to indulge in given the demands of this tour, fear. One tiny mess up made me start questioning everything I am doing and the path I am taking. I had a little cry and a stiff whiskey, and I sifted through my things and found my Medicine Cards deck, a deck that one of my best friends introduced me to 5 years ago. I’ll try not to get too hippy woo-woo, but this deck has brought beautiful insight into my life and it’s a nice meditation during times of questioning or times when I might be seeking some perspective. I shuffled the deck and laid them out on my bed, and I first pulled the Wolf card. I walked away to read the card’s description at the door of the airstream, the message was poignant.

Wolf  ~ Teacher

“Wolf is the pathfinder, the forerunner of new ideas who returns to the clan to teach and share medicine… The senses of wolf are very keen, and the Moon is its power ally. The Moon is the symbol of psychic energy, or the unconscious that holds the secrets of knowledge and wisdom. Baying at the moon may be an indication of Wolf’s desire to connect with new ideas which are just below the surface of consciousness. Wolf medicine empowers the teacher within us all to come forth and aid the children of Earth in understanding the Great Mystery and life.

If you have drawn Wolf card, you may be able to share your personal medicine with others. Your intuitive side may also have an answer or teaching for you personal use at this time. As you feel Wolf coming alive within you, you may wish to share your knowledge by writing or lecturing on information that will help others better understand their uniqueness or path in life. It is in the sharing of great truths that the consciousness of humanity will attain new heights. Wolf could also be telling you to seek out lonely places that will allow you to see your teacher within. In the aloneness of a power place, devoid of other humans, you may find the true you. Look for teaching no matter where you are. Wolf would not come to you unless you requested the appearance of the tribe’s greatest teacher.”

On, fucking, point.

I returned to my bed to pull another card, but when I returned to the spread there was a card already overturned. Maybe Charlie’s foot knocked it, but Black Panther was looking right at me and I sat down to have a read.

 

Black Panther ~ Embracing the Unknown

“Black Panther’s medicine allows human beings to face their fears and dark behaviors, exploring those internal shadowy aspects of being… Darkness is the place for seeking and finding answers, for accepting healings, and for accessing the hidden light of truth. Black Panther teaches us through our dreams to delve into the places within ourselves that need healing. She shows us how to track the unfamiliar territory found on the journey to self discovery and to fearlessly face the unknown.

If the Black Panther has appeared today, it may be telling you not to worry about the future. Trust that you are not supposed to mentally “figure it out” at this time. You may need to confront fears of the unknown, of being less than you truly are, or an inability to simply BE. Let go of fears that appear as obstacles or barriers. Embrace the unknown and flow with the mystery that is unfolding in your life. The next step may be leaping empty-handed into the void with implicit trust. In the stillness of the void, find the will to avoid foolish interruptions, going deeper into your own self-discovery and healing process. Here you will discover Black Panther’s unexpected blessings.”

Ahhhhh yes.

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Continually moving forward into the unknown is a requirement of this lifestyle I have chosen of entrepreneur and maker. Shedding the fear and finding the grace in the pursuit of passion is the balance I aspire to find.

Havstad Hat Company is not a large scale production, perhaps in the future this will change, I’m open to what the future may hold but for now, I am here, I am me, and I must respect my intuition telling me to be present. I will continue to learn and refine, and each hat will be better than the last.

I will craft each hat by hand to custom fit the head and the essence of each individual customer. I will build quality, lifetime hats, and I will continue falling deeper in love with this trade at my own customized pace.

 

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I’ve been feeling a desire to write about all the transitions recently, but being so transparent can be scary. After pulling the Wolf and Black Panther cards tonight which both encourage me to share my experiences and teachings, well I finally found the courage to write all this down. I hope that by sharing my triumphs along with my struggles I might provide a sense of comfort or camaraderie to someone else who may be in a similar position and may not have someone telling them it’s ok take your own path and go your own pace. We live in a world that glorifies busyness, growth and excess to an unhealthy extent. It’s a constant practice to find balance in our lives, including in our businesses, and right now I’m in the mindset that less is more, simplicity is key, and there is power in saying “no” to some things. If even just one person can relate to my journey of finding a sustainable pace of growth in a world that pushes us to feel pressure to grow bigger, faster and to want MORE all the time, well then it’s worth it to share insight into my process and approach for this little-big dream of mine called Havstad Hat Co.

I look forward to sharing even more here on our new Havstad Hat Co site about the hat-making process, and about the process of being a hat maker.

Be you, follow your compass and pave your own path.

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Love, Cate