May 9, 2018

Hues of the High Desert Harvest Story

Hues of the High Desert - About the Collection

Photography by Amanda Leigh Smith
Words by Cate Havstad

For the last 4 years I have been working on developing a collection of hats that are dyed naturally using wildcrafted plants from this high desert region. I call the collection “Hues of the High Desert” and it is my passion and a labor of love. Since moving to Central Oregon almost 6 years ago from Coastal Northern California I have been enamored with the high desert landscape and the resiliency of the plants that exist in these conditions.

Once the felts have been dyed, they are taken into my Airstream Workshop, both the dye station and hat making workshop are located on the farm I live on. Each hat is hand-blocked and taken through the century old process of building hats by hand. Many of my blocks and pieces of equipment date back to the late 1800s/ early 1900s. Each hat within the collection will be custom fitted to the customer’s head and personalized with the customer’s name or a quote on the sheepskin leather sweatband.

As life has its way of twisting and turning, taking me over the mountains and into the valleys, I find myself seeking to surround myself in the landscape. A walk through the Oregon Badlands is a tangible reminder of the resilience of all living things no matter the oppressive heat, the frigid winters, or the years of drought. The sage, juniper, rabbitbrush and curly dock all persevere and thrive. These high desert plants are the foundation of my Hues of the High Desert hat collection. The hues of the hats reflect the soft desert palate, when the hats are steamed they fill my workshop with the smells of the plants they have been dyed with, and within them they carry the story of the land. They embody my quest for resilience and deeper connection to the land. I hope that this collection inspires onlookers to consider how their lives can sink deeper into connection with the land.
Through my Hues of the High Desert collection I am seeking to take the concept of regionally influenced style a step further and a step closer to the land.  I playfully refer to the concept I am working on as “hat terroir.” Terroir refers to the way in which the land on which something is produced on imparts qualities that give it it’s unique characteristics. This place that I now call home on a biodynamic farm in Madras, Oregon is certainly inspiring the direction of my work and life, not only in design but also in my approach to balancing running a business, honoring my trade, and sinking deeper into this agricultural life I have chosen. I hope to be a hatter, a steward of the land, and a storyteller in a fluid, symbiotic way.
Each hat in this collection has been dyed naturally in a plant dye bath, utilizing wildcrafted high desert plants. The 100X Premium Beaver fur felts are left to soak in the plant dye for anywhere from 1-3 days. The resulting colors are unique, unlike any chemical dye, a direct reflection of the land these hats are created on. Through this natural dye process, the hats embody the terroir of the land through their soft desert hues and the essence of the plants are even captured in the smells absorbed by the felt. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself catching a moment of sage as you pick up your Sage Trail hat.


April 27, 2018

"Barebones in the backcountry" - Trinity County for Juniper Ridge

Story and photography for Juniper Ridge

I made it just in time for sunset while on my first trip to the Trinity National Forest, catching glimpses of sparkling lakes and pink mountaintops as I made my way through the switchbacks on highway 3. When I arrived in Hayfork it was long after dark, and I had trouble finding my friend’s cabin with no cell service off the winding, dirt roads. Luckily, in a small town like Hayfork, friendly neighbors helped point me in the right direction. 

One of my best friends moved from Portland to Trinity County about a year ago, and Jessica’s settled quite beautifully with her partner, Cody, in a cozy studio and workshop tucked in the mountains under oak and eucalyptus trees. She makes jewelry and her partner works falling trees at Jefferson Snow Basin, a future sight of a back country skiing operation. On their days off they frequently adventure in the nearby mountain wonderland. Before they moved into the cabin, Jessica and Cody we living and working on a nearby horse ranch, so we popped over to say hello the animals they used to care for. 

Jessica showed me some of her favorite places to explore around her new home. We went to Helena to explore the ghost town, remnants of a gold miner’s past now overgrown by blackberries. Then we hiked a ways along the North Fork Trinity River to visit one of her favorite summer swim spots. The deciduous trees were on the cusp of turning for fall, but the sun was still warm, and the emerald green water was crisp for a quick dip. 

After we explored the river, we headed towards Hyampom to catch the last bit of golden light on the top of the ridge. We laid in the golden grass admiring the incredible blue gradient of the mountains as the sun went down. 

The next night we met Cody up at his work basecamp. At over 6,000 feet, there are 360 degree views of Trinity County, and on a clear day you can see Mount Shasta, Castle Crags, Bully Choop and the Trinity Alps to name a few. 

 The Jefferson Snow Basin basecamp is pretty barebones; a yellow shipping container partially buried in the side of the granite mountain top, powered by solar panels, and warmed by a wood- burning stove. There's a bunkbed with a mountain of blankets, a propane stove for cooking and a bucket to wash your dishes. We sourced our water from a nearby spring that you hike into off the side of the road; however, there is no trail leading you to it, so the only way to find it is with a local. Down the hill beyond the spring lies an old backcountry cabin overlooking a golden meadow. It’s definitely very rustic, but you can tell someone occasionally puts it to use. 

That night we cooked steaks over the fire pit as we watched the moonrise over the rocky mountain tops. The wind howled us to sleep and I read aloud some poems from my new favorite book “Earth Feelings” by B.G. Schelle I picked while visiting White Horse, Yukon territory earlier this year. 

Whether in the city or out in the backcountry, there is nothing more rejuvenating than being outdoors, connected to nature, getting all those earth feelings. 

Have you ever been on a sacred stream Where a whisper sounded loud,
And the sky was streaked with rays of heat As it dropped its evening shroud,

Which gave the marsh an eerie gloom
Till even the frogs were low,
Then a great Blue Heron rose from the reeds
On wings as silent as snow?
And there were you in your frail canoe
In that hushed and holy place,
Feeling a chill and feeling alone,
Like the last of the human race.

-B.G. Schelle 

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