Right, get yourself ready for some amazing headwear. Actually super amazing. Bink is the owner and designer genius behind Pearls & Swine, and she sells alternative, beautiful, and way out headwear that will make you look and feel utterly fantastic.
I had to ask Bink about her business because she is totally and completely into it, and inspires me a great deal with that dedication and level of prolific output. The best thing is, as you’ll read, is that she never wanted a creative career! I love that! Bink is, though, a true artist, i.e. someone who couldn’t stop creating if she tried, so a creative career was never a choice, it was a sealed fate…
WOW: So, what made you get into millinery?
Bink: It’s the strangest thing, I can’t say I was ever a big hat wearer. It’s been a very organic process… It began when I turned 30 and freaked out as I still hadn’t found where I belonged in the world. Halfway through that year, I knitted a scarf – I was a live-in care assistant, caring for a lady who was 40 who was dying of Cancer. I had begun doing more and more terminal care work; it was devastating, but the most incredible work I ever did. These people wanted to live so badly, and they fought to the bitter end. I was the last person they were ever going to meet. It was an honour. That scarf was the first step on my journey. I am a reluctant creative – this was not what i wanted for my life, I wanted a “real” career as I was scared of failing as a creative, so I fought it tooth and nail. In the end it won, and I am so glad it did!
WOW: What inspires your amazing designs?
Bink: I don’t follow a single milliner. I am not even interested in fashion. I am a firm believer in art, and for me, it’s almost like a religion. I want to see what I have never seen before, and this is something that applies when I work. I purposefully block out the fashion and millinery world as much as humanly possible because I see each piece I make as a step on a creative journey. I believe that when creating from the heart, the only way to create unique work is to go within yourself to draw on your own life experiences. This is the key to making something that is sincere. I am telling my story through my work. I draw on my emotions, my sense of humour, my love of the strange.
WOW: What’s your tip for choosing wedding headwear?
Bink: It’s your special day, so do whatever makes you happy! I am a bit practical (oddly enough!), so I like making something that a bride can wear more than once. Just seems a bit of a waste spending money on something you only wear for a day. I am lucky enough to get rather quirky brides, so rarely get asked for anything conservative.
WOW: Whose work do you admire?
Bink: Elsa Schiaparelli and Carmen Miranda. I am extremely lucky to have no lack of creative inspiration. I actually suffer from having too much inspiration, so although I work seven days a week, I can’t make all the ideas I have, and as soon as one is made, another slips in, demanding to be created. It’s an incredible ride. It makes me very fickle in my love of what I create as I am smitten with it while making it, and then I’m on to the next creation. In a way it’s infuriating as I’m rarely able to give myself the pleasure of luxuriating in the post-creating glow. My inner creative monster is out of control and demands new challenges all the time. I just want to see what I have never seen before all the time. I’m not able to really see my work clearly before I create, so it feels like reading a really good book, but I don’t know the ending, then when you get to the end, you’re almost sad because it’s over. So I begin again… making something new so that I can enjoy the process. If that makes sense?!
WOW: Total sense! That’s an artist. What words or inspirational phrases do you live by?
Bink: I am a total sucker for a good quote! So I REALLY have so many, but one I loved recently was:
Neither look forward where there is doubt nor backward where there is regret. Look inward and ask not if there is anything outside you want, but whether there is anything inside that you have not yet unpacked. ~ Quentin Crisp
WOW: What books/magazines/websites/art do you like?
Bink: I don’t buy magazines or follow blogs as I literally don’t have time to read, but I have a huge collection of art books. My home is an art project I keep working on. I am totally love with the pop surreal art movement, but then I love the original surrealists like Dali and Magritte. And i adore Frida Kahlo; you see her come up in my work often, along with religious icons, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz/Dorothy, Cinderella, The Owl and The Pussy Cat. There are many art, movie and book references in my work.
WOW: If you could make a headpiece for anyone for their big day, who would that be? Past or present. Dead or alive.
Bink: I’ve met many celebrities, they were never very interesting or inspiring… so, I guess Frida Kahlo, she would be the bride I would have loved to adorn…. I also adore Anaïs Nin. I wish I could have made her something.
WOW: Do you design other things or have any other projects?
Bink: In the past, I’ve done so many different accessories, including jewellery, collars, nipple pasties, shoe clips, merkins, C-strings, but my true love is headwear. I also do DIY projects like painting mannequin heads, decorating frames, mirrors, shoes…. I just like creating and decorating… A LOT! Also, I split Pearls & Swine in half, so I now have Temptress of Waikiki, too, which is more my ‘sensible’ headwear as I want Pearls & Swine to be my pop surreal millinery brand. There’s also the Ugly Wedding Dress Project, which I need to work on some more! These are the joys of being a one person business: I have a ZILLION ideas and not enough time for everything! Basically, I began by dismantling a whole dress and have plans to make it up into many different things, particularly headwear, but sadly it’s just waiting for my head and hands!
WOW: What would your own headwear look like?
Bink: I have a ‘thing’ about balance in my work, a sort of yin-yang. Visual balance, colour balance and a balance between bright/pretty and dark/ugly. So, my personal headwear collection incorporates those elements to the max. However, I have a confession – I work pretty much seven days a week, so my opportunities to wear my work are very few. This is the price I pay for my creative obsession. I love working a bit more than is healthy.
WOW: Do you have any business tips?
Bink: I have so much advice, although I think we all have to make our own mistakes to really learn our lessons, but I wish someone had told me these things when I began:
- Don’t think you’re going to make money from the get-go.
- You have to be prepared to make a million mistakes, but keep going even when it’s really hard and hopeless.
- When your hobby becomes your job, you might love it a bit less.
- Friendship and business don’t mix, so avoid having a business/money/friendship combination, even if it means you’re on your own and it’s scary.
- If you learn the lessons that life sends you, you don’t have to keep making the same mistakes.
- If you employ someone to do a job, make sure you know what you want from them!
- There’s no cheque at the end of the month – it’s tough!
- Everything you do, it’s for you! You are responsible for your life and your future. You have to motivate yourself completely.
- You will work ridiculously long hours, and then be asked why you are expensive.
- Don’t try to compete with China!
- The more you give of yourself, the more you get back in return.
- This is going to be the hardest thing you will ever do. People will let you down, stab you in the back, rip you off. The way to deal with this is: focus on what YOU are doing, don’t be distracted by what others do, you can’t control what is out of your immediate control, so focus on what you do have control of! Be the best creative you can be. “Cream will always rise to the top.” Fight for your place in the creative world.
- Have confidence in your product, even if you are still learning. I see so many creatives underselling their work – they do a disservice to themselves, but also to other creatives who are charging for more than just their materials as the bills don’t stop when you make a living as a creative.
- Work to the best of your ability so that you know that whatever happens you gave it your all!
- Success is not being rich, it’s surviving. As long as you can pay your bills and create, that is all that matters.
- Don’t use your Facebook status for negativity – be professional, but be yourself too. You are a person, not a faceless company. Let people know who they are supporting.
I don’t think i could ever go back to working for anyone, so for me, this is life and death. I LOVE waking up every day and getting to my studio, dealing with emails – creating makes my heart beat faster. My life is a world away from the life I once lived. I could never, ever have predicted my future, but I am so grateful for my life as it is. I am very lucky to have so much support. I need to prove myself worthy of that support by producing a good quality product with integrity, love and honesty.
Ooh and don’t miss out on the beautiful stocking fillers Bink has created. Go here!