We went out into the area looking for people who are still making handmade quality items, and we think you’ll be excited to see who, and what, we found.
Fielden Willmott, the owner of Ace Card Millinery, is terrified of heights. To overcome this fear, Willmott pushed herself to leap out of a plane at 10,000 feet, strapped to a tiny parachute. After such an incredible challenge, she has found the act of starting a business to be a much simpler task.
Ace Card Millinery has been in business for just over a year. After years of designing hats for her personal use, Willmott decided to start a business when people kept asking to purchase the hat off of her head. “I sold six or seven hats off my head,” she says. “That’s when it really hit me that this is not just something that keeps me awake at night, but something that I’m good at.”
Now that Willmott has learned the joy of custom design, she would much rather craft a custom hat than give someone the hat off her head. “Instead of giving someone the hat off of my head,” she says, “now I give them my card.”
Willmott says she earned her love for needlework from her two talented grandmothers, Ann and Polly. She also learned how to quilt and make clothing from Leslie Featherly and Tori Morris at the Wilderness Road Quilt Co. in Danville, Ky. Eventually, Willmott discovered the atelier of Anya Caliendo, a couture milliner in Babylon, N.Y. Although she enjoyed her training in New York, returning to Lexington felt like a natural progression.
“I just realized that we have a really special community here of really vibrant, creative people,” Willmott said. “I wanted to stay and be a part of that. I wanted to be one of the people who helped to create things to do and helped to support other people’s attempts to create new art forms, new events and make new local traditions. That’s what it takes for us to evolve as a vibrant community.”
The biggest challenge Willmott has faced so far is overcoming the misconception that hats are only right for certain types of people. “Some people seem to have this idea that they ‘don’t look good in a hat,’” Willmott says. “That’s like saying you don’t look good in pants. It just takes the right pair, or the right hat.”
Willmott is quick to show a customer the various ways a hat can be designed to accentuate everyone’s beauty and finds great joy in helping other people feel good. “It’s the best when someone comes in and puts on the final piece with what they’re wearing, and they just look beautiful. They light up,” she says. “There’s no greater feeling when you’ve put so much care and love into each piece.”
The entire experience of creating hats is a very personal for Willmott. “Some of the big racing hats take me anywhere from eight to 12 hours,” she says. “You almost become friends with it. It’s a creation of yours. When someone’s so happy to take it home and love it, it’s a very satisfying sensation.”
– Cynthia Ellingsen