It would be an exaggeration to say you couldn’t hear a (hat) pin drop but the creativity was palpable in the Vision Building yesterday as almost 50 primary school pupils got together for a design jam.
In the new Bonnetmakers project run by V&A Dundee, pupils from two of the city’s primary schools are taking inspiration from their local design heritage to design 21st Century ‘bonnets’, helped by leading Scottish milliners Sally-Ann Provan and Pea Cooper.
Bonnet making is one of the nine trades associated with Dundee since the 16th Century along with baker, cordiner, glover, tailor, flesher, hammerman, weaver and dyer.
Rosebank Primary School and Our Lady’s RC Primary School are both based in the Hilltown area of Dundee, which was historically known as Bonnet Hill because local people designed and sold the traditional style of hat from outside their houses.The 47 school pupils have researched local design history around the city, and worked with the milliners in their schools, and yesterday their ideas will started being turned into three-dimensional prototypes.
The pupils found the experience rewarding with one commenting: “I’ve really liked learning how to make a hat, while another adds: “I’ve enjoyed seeing all the different styles and making the hats. It’s been really different to school.”
No examples of the traditional Dundee bonnet survives today, but it is known that they were made of circular knitted wool, and that black bonnets were usually worn by the middle classes and blue bonnets by the working classes.
Explaining that the creative industries are very important to Scotland, supporting tens of thousands of jobs, milliner Pea Cooper says: “Teaching children about design from a young age gives them the chance to learn new skills and hopefully inspire them to become involved as adults.
“Bonnetmakers has been a wonderful project to work on. The pupils’ enthusiasm is wonderful and the level of design they have produced is absolutely fantastic. I am so excited to see the finished hats.”
Susan Whyte, school development officer at V&A Dundee, believes that local design history is the perfect resource for inspiring young people.
“Dundee’s history making bonnets is a great example of a design style that was located in a very small geographical area,” she says.
“As we build up to opening V&A Dundee in 2018, it’s particularly important we continue to work in schools and show how design creativity is a skill that any young person can learn.”
The project will culminate in a fashion show in Dundee’s Wellgate shopping centre on March 24, where the pupils’ finished designs will be revealed.
www.ninetradesofdundee.co.uk and www.vandadundee.org