Cate Havstad: A Hatter of the Land

My name is Cate Havstad and I am a hatmaker from Central Oregon. I began making hats in 2013 at the age of 23. My journey into hatmaking began after my puppy Charlie had chewed up my beloved beaver felt hat, it was a gift from a friend and troubadour Willy Tea Taylor. The hat had significant sentiment behind it and I was determined to fix it. I started to research hatters which was a world I had never been exposed to before. I was fascinated to learn about a trade that still exists today that is relatively unchanged in technique and even in the equipment used since the 1800s.  I have had the honor of learning from several master hatters in the last 4 years and I hope to continue spending time with master hatters and learning as much about the trade and traditions as I can. I feel as though I will forever be a student of this trade, dedicated to evolving in my technique and my eye for design.

For the last 3 years I have been working on developing a collection of hats that are all 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. 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.

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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 and rabbitbrush 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.

As my skills as a hatter develop, so does my eye for design. In recent years I have been particularly interested in the diversity of regional style. The texas cattlemen wears a hat shape distinctly different from the vaqueros of the west. 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 run my hat business out of a 1986 32 ft Airstream Excella. I gutted the airstream and built it out into a custom hat workshop on wheels. I chose this route to allow for freedom while I navigated the somewhat unrooted years of my early 20s, allowing me to work from wherever the wind blew me. I traveled around the country building hats on ranches in Rifle, Colorado, through New Mexico, in Austin, Texas and through the countryside of Tennessee and even in downtown Nashville. In the last 2 years I have settled into life here in Oregon with my partner Chris Casad who is a young biodynamic farmer. This year he was able to purchase 90 acres of organic farm land in Madras, Oregon and we have begun to work together to build up this new farm. The freedom of my airstream workshop allows me to continue to growing as a hatter, while also being a contributing member of this farm operation. I am inspired to read the blogs of many of my peers here at the Fusion show who exemplify being pioneers wearing many hats as artisans, ranchers, farmers, parents and business owners.


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