I know I'm not the only one who, upon becoming a mother, discovered a profound desire to create. Inspiration flourished and yet free time was virtually non-existent. Irony, it can be so cruel!
When Che was two I discovered a Steiner playgroup in a cottage at the end of my street. It was there that I met Patricia, a creative matriarch who let me in on the secret; the only way to fulfill creative pursuits whilst mothering small children is to make them a priority. In other words; do what makes you happy, the rest can wait. Perhaps it wasn't a secret so much as a permission note. I took it home with me, tucked it away for safe keeping, and got on with writing and taking photos.
Sheree Steele, Founder and Designer of Little Noggi, is a mother by day and a maker (and milliner!) by night. Motherhood inspired her utterly unique collection of handmade hats - beautiful, practical headwear that is nostalgic, sustainable and purposeful. I chatted to her about her initial inspiration, the creative process, her zero-waste studio and her everyday life.
PS: What was the seed that has now become Little Noggi?
Sheree: There is actually more than one seed as to why I began my Little Noggi venture.
When my son was six-month-old, he had one brimmed hat and a few knitted beanies in his wardrobe. I’ve always adored headwear for my children and myself and living in Melbourne, we need something that suits the rather common scenario of four seasons in one day. I wanted something that could protect them all year round and be the essential, practical hat.
Enter: the reversible design ENA, named because it's the Greek translation for number one, the first hand in the series. As my children were my initial motivation behind Little Noggi, it seemed only fitting to acknowledge their family blood line in the name.
Becoming a mother has also stirred up a personal pursuit to encourage my children to be comfortable in their own skin. I want to inspire them to be confident! It's a lesson I nurture every single day and it is, ultimately, the essence of my Little Noggi mantra.
And last but not least, my mission is to make a positive environmental change in my lifetime. It may be so small in the scheme of things but small things done with good intentions are always significant.
All of my choices when making a Little Noggi hat are heavily thought through when it comes to people and the planet. I actively bring this topic to light on social media to at least get people to acknowledge they have a choice, too.
I adhere to zero waste in my studio and try to create a home for every mm of fabric that I can. Not only because the fabrics I source are incredible, but because I respect the love that has gone into the fabric before it has even arrived to me.
PS: Tell me a bit about your designs, your style and aesthetic... Sheree: Little Noggi designs are incredibly practical and aesthetically charming. They also solve many of the hat-associated issues that parents come up against on an almost daily basis; the thoughtful features shield sun and glare, cover little ears and fasten under the chin. It's a clever little hat that inspires fun and peace of mind while playing.
The Little Noggi style is timeless and unique and I’m mindful to try and steer clear of trends. If I feel I trend is generating around one of my designs I will simply alter the path I’m going. To ensure my customers know they are purchasing an undeniably unique piece, I only make small limited editions of up to 100 and each hat is numbered for authenticity.
I source the majority of fabrics from the global community of indie textile designers. They must be handprinting experts, have a focus on sustainable design and practice planet-friendly ethics. I love that my small business is supporting other artists and small businesses. It was on my objective list from the very beginning and I feel happy in my heart to be operating this way.
Little Noggi is about bringing nature, play and art together. I draw most of my inspiration from my neighbourhood in Melbourne and the seasonal elements around me. I like to let the fabric design do most of the talking, with minimal stitching and using the finest quality natural fibres I can find. Hemp, organic cotton, bamboo and linen blends are what I base my aesthetic around and texture and subtle playful patterns are what bring it full circle.
Little Noggi hats are designed to be life-long; they are intended to be a family heirloom piece, made with integrity and love. There’s no denying that a Little Noggi hat can make a complete stranger smile. I stitch those powers in on purpose!
PS: What do your customers love about your creations?
Sheree: They love the handmade quality of Little Noggi. It is quintessentially art, uniquely wrapped into a practical hat, and enjoying that from afar while watching your little one immersed in candid play just makes it all the more sentimental.
My customers often tell me that their child will automatically reach for their Little Noggi hat when they go outside. It took me eight months to perfect the comfortable, functional and playful design so this kind of feedback is heart warming.
PS: What does a normal day look like for you?
Sheree: I live in Fitzroy North, on Melbourne’s city fringe. My neighbourhood is a hugely creative little pocket in the world, ripe with artists, cafés and strip shopping culture and it gives me endless inspiration for confident unique design.
No day ever looks the same with 2 little ones (4 and 18m), my hardworking hubby and running the home, it’s no surprise it’s a constant state of busy. We pram, ride or tram most days and love to support our small local businesses in anyway we can.
We are often outdoors having all sorts of adventures when the sun is up. We don’t have a backyard so The Melbourne Zoo, Collingwood Children’s Farm and Ceres Environmental Park is where we hang most, meeting and making friends.
In celebration of Mother's Day, Sheree has just launched her first women's design, ORCA. A sophisticated take on her original hat design, Sheree has used beautiful fabrics in a palette of navy, grey, indigo, charcoal and black to inspire elegant, everyday wear. ORCA is entirely handmade and available in a limited edition of 50. And guess what? Sheree is ever so kindly giving one away to a Practising Simplicity reader. To enter this divine giveaway all you need to do is tell us how you would style the hat. We want to know how you would wear it. To the races? An elegant edition to your bushwalking attire? A beautiful take on a headwear necessity?
Open to international readers, this giveaway closes on Wednesday May 11th at 5pm. Winner will be announced shortly afterward.