INSPIRATION- I am intrigued by the idea of choosing a familiar object and sculpting it in metal, in particular trying to recreate textures such as leather, felt and straw in a different medium. I recall how as a young boy, I grew up among the cattle and wheat plains of rural Kansas where ranchers and farmers put on their worn and battered Western style hats to protect them from the elements. This is my inspiration for the idea of making metal Western hats.
I create these Western hats to celebrate the vitality and independence of the American West. My Grandpa Miller was seldom seen without one of his Western hats perched atop his head. As a young boy I often rode my pony around the farm and made believe I was Rowdy Yates (actor Clint Eastwood), the trail foreman on the television show Rawhide, protecting the cattle herd from wolves and bandits on the Sedalia Trail.
PROCESS- Drawing rough sketches of tattered Western style hats translates into a combination of images in my mind. From these coarse representations I choose those I like and refine the outlines into a more complete hat drawing, which determines the final dimensions of the crown and the brim. Similarly, these drawings will guide me in hand hammering the creasing of the crown and the rolling of the brim.
I buy and use mostly 16 gauge sheet metal (steel) to create these Western
Steel is a solid solution consisting mostly of iron. Other elements are added such as tungsten, manganese, chromium and vanadium, which manage the behavior of the steel, such as its strength, hardness and
ability to be hammered. I also twist steel baling wire into various braids to use as decorative hatbands.
While sketching and forming the metal I often contemplate the
personalities who tirelessly labor in the countryside under the protection
of a wide brim to make available for market the vegetables, grains and
we consume at our tables.