What: Havstad Hat Co.

What it does: Creates custom-made hats

Pictured: Owner Cate Havstad

Where: Erickson Road, Bend

Employees: One

Phone: 707-303-5800

Website: www.havstadhatco.com

Cate Havstad’s hats adorn men as well as women, so neither the term milliner (a maker of women’s hats) nor haberdasher (a men’s clothier) does her justice.

She refers to herself as a custom hat-maker. Either way, she’s in rare company. Very few craftspeople still make hats by hand, the old-fashioned way.

Havstad, 26, grew up in Occidental, California, but was living in Vancouver, Canada, when the inspiration struck that brought her to her chosen profession.

One day her dog Charlie chewed up a Western-style hat she’d been given by a friend.

“It was a vintage hat that a friend found at a thrift shop. I probably wouldn’t have picked it out for myself, but it was given with a really powerful sentiment behind it,” she said recently at her shop, an Airstream trailer parked in a farmyard outside Bend. “When Charlie chewed up my hat, I took it as a sign that Canada wasn’t really working out. I was being stubborn about leaving, and I came home one day from one of my jobs and the hat was chewed up and I was like, ‘OK, you know what? This sucks for you, this sucks for me, let’s go back to California.’”

She finished a degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and along the way tried unsuccessfully to find someone to fix the special hat. What she found, instead, was an old-school trade that sparked a passion.

“So that was the sentiment behind the hat,” Havstad said. “Trust your heart and get out there and find what makes you passionate.”

Havstad explained how she became a maker of custom hats and something about her business. Her responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: Did you have to apprentice with anyone?

A: I studied under a couple of different people. My second teacher, Greg Westbrook, we had a great relationship. He actually passed away last year. He was in Eugene for a while, building a hat collection for a company, and we worked together in that workshop.

Q: When did you strike out on your own?

A: I started Havstad Hat Co. in 2014. I was actually living at a different horse ranch and I took a stall in the barn and turned it into a workshop. It was on the south side of Bend. I worked out of that barn for the first year, year and a half, and almost two years ago I bought this (Airstream) and turned it into a workshop.

Q: What’s the story behind the Airstream?

A: It belonged to Kaycee Anseth; she’s a collage artist in town. It used to be her studio, but it was pretty much gutted. We had a little bit of demolition to do and then built it into a workshop.

Q: Why did you choose to become a hat-maker?

A: All I can really say is I just got really curious; I was fascinated. When you’re a custom, handcrafted hatter, our techniques and our tools are pretty much the same as they’ve been since the 1800s. It’s pretty much the same tools, the same process.

Q: You mentioned that you use beaver felt. Where does it come from?

A: I get the felts from Tennessee. The beavers are farmed in Europe, and it’s very sad. They have beaver farms in Europe for the cosmetic and fragrance industry. The fur is one of the byproducts of that industry. They buy those pelts off those factory farms and turn them into hat felts, I’m sure other things, too.

Q: How long does it take to make a hat?

A: I work on it over the course of two or three days, but I’ll be working on a few at a time. It kind of goes in stages: You are steaming, ironing and then you need to let the felt cool and set into its size and shape. The felt is blocked and then ironed on the block. Then it goes through a pouncing process. Pouncing is just like shaving or sanding down the felt to get a smooth and soft finish.

Q: How many hats do you make and sell every year, and how much do they cost a buyer?

A: It’s growing each year. Last year I did around 160 to 170 hats, and last year was very busy. I always have a waiting list. My turnaround time for people is anywhere from 12 to 15 weeks. (They sell) anywhere from $600 to $1,000.

Q: Who are your clients?

A: It’s all over the map, honestly. I actually make a lot of hats for musicians, Hollywood people, even working cowboys and cattlemen. The local support is really awesome, but my clients are really all over the world. I just got my first inquiry from Argentina.

Q: Why wear a hat?

A: My first hat, to me, it held a significant, sentimental value. When I wore that hat, I certainly felt transformed in a way. I had a new silhouette. It made me feel a bit different about myself when I wore it, and that can be a strong experience for people. The things we adorn ourselves in have some meaning. I definitely try to wear things, only buy things, that have real value to me.

— Reporter: 541-617-7815, jditzler@bendbulletin.com

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