Oakland hat designer Elwyn Crawford is dedicated to her craft. She didn’t take a vacation for eight years. “I was OK with that,” says Elwyn. “I knew I wanted to grow my business and source my materials.”
As a result of Elwyn’s singular focus, in 2011 she was finally able to work on her hat business full-time. Her creations under the label O’Lover Hats are made to order. As a result, Elwyn says, there is no waste. “My hats are made to fit people’s lives,” notes Elwyn. “We throw away so much.” And the last thing she wants to do is create more landfill. (To read more about her hat-making process, see my earlier post “Q&A with Elwyn Crawford of O’Lover Hats.”)
Elwyn is also part of the 25th Street Collective, a artisan business incubator comprised of a group of artisans who share warehouse space and more in Oakland. “We share production space, showroom space, resources, and knowledge,” says Elwyn.
“As artists we really want to affect change,” continues Elwyn. “And one way is through building up economic development to create small-scale ethical production in Oakland.”
I spoke with Elwyn last Saturday for more than an hour about her hats and her company. This is Part 2 of our interview, in which we discuss how she would like to expand her business and offer apprenticeships in hat making. [Full disclosure: I donated a modest amount to Elwyn’s crowdfunding campaign.]
You are right in the middle of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign [O’Lover Hats: Think global – hat local] to expand your business by starting an apprenticeship program to create more jobs in Oakland. How did you pick Indiegogo?
It’s a San Francisco-based women-owned company and part of our story is that I”m a woman-owned company – so there’s a direct line there. Also with Indigogo, you get to keep all your money even if you don’t make your goal. If you make your goal, Indigogo takes 4 percent. If you don’t make your goal, they take 9 percent. When I created my high goal [$23,000], I thought it was realistic.
I’m trying to bring in more some larger donors and spreading the word. I have some presentations lined up and I’m reaching out to small business organizations.
The number one goal of the campaign is to generate more public knowledge about what we’re doing.
How would the apprenticeship program work?
It’s a six-month program – the first part being an introduction and shop support, observation and small-skills development. The next step would be learnignthe craft of hatting. The goal is to really train someone and then there’s a job waiting for them with the company. I want to start the apprenticeship program immediately. I want to find one student to come on this summer. I have had a few apprentices in the past. Now I want to get it formalized.
I’m young to be doing it. But it’s the only way to do it.
To pass on the craft of hat making.
Yes. I started teaching workshops in 2008, 2009, a couple years after I started doing free-form blocking. I just love teaching. I come from a family of academics.
I want to continue this craft. We’re working to bring more equipment in so we can have more tools and blocks as well as get in the materials to create more hats. We’re moving towards sustainability.
I want to maintain the craft by training young people for jobs as we grow, to develop computer skills in 3-D designing and use artisanal techniques to create quality hats.
Will you offer scholarships?
The first part would be unpaid and then it assesses the fit. Is it really a god fit for this person? Then it will move to a paid apprenticeship at minimum wage and then to wages for an entry-level sewer. We hope to offer a living wage. That’s sets us aside. There’s not a lot of places that could support that.
We have a love for hats, arts, and crafts. There’s a strong artists’ presence there [at the 25th Street Collective]. There’s a large group of makers that have been coming together and saying, “We can make a difference. Give us a chance.”
To learn more about O’Lover Hats crowdfunding campaign or to donate money, visit the Indigogo page: “O’Lover Hats: Think global – hat local” and be sure to watch the video.
July 12: Evelyn raised $5,196 from her Indiegogo campaign. You can check out the details on her Indiegogo page. I ended up donating a second time when she added a new perk – $5 to enter a drawing to win a white straw fedora. And guess what? I won!! I’m going to my hat fitting tomorrow. I’ll be sure to take plenty of photos!