October 31, 2019
When I arrived to Melissa’s property, the sun was starting its journey down. The light was golden and flooding through the trees. There was a slight breeze, and it was a tad bit chilly in the shade. We started discussing our plans and gathering our tools. She had a gorgeous vintage yellow chair ready to be staged. Her hat-making tools were out on her couch, and her clothes and hats were ready to go. I grabbed my gear; she grabbed hers, and we set about finding the perfect light. We ended up shooting for close to two hours, but it went by so quickly. We fought the ever-changing light and the strong gusts of wind, but the results were beautiful! Melissa and I went to High School together, but we didn’t know each other very well.
Then, about two years ago, we worked together on a styled bridal shoot. At the time, I was doing makeup instead of photography. We had a great time working together, and I saw what a great model she was. After that, she asked me to do makeup for a shoot for her business, Hard Travelin’ Vintage. Once again, it was so great working with Melissa! When I decided to start my photography journey, she was one of the first people I asked to let me photograph. We have worked together several times since, and it is such a pleasure. The results are always fantastic! She is so kind, so hard-working, and just a wonderfully unique and happy being. She owns two businesses: Hard Travelin’ Hatters and Hard Travelin’ Vintage, and she is always up to model for a creative shoot! I can’t wait to share our interview!
Business name: Hard Travelin’ Hatters & Hard Travelin’ Vintage
Owners: Melissa Patterson
Where are you located & do you travel: Bowling Green, KY. Not currently traveling, but I do the occasional pop up around town!
Melissa (M): “I started off selling vintage clothing, mainly 60s & 70s pieces, and slowly it’s evolved into a little bit of everything. I have my own handmade clothing designs mixed in, all vintage inspired. But I’ve done a little bit of everything over the years: beadwork, leather work, and last year I started my real passion of hatting. It evolved into a second sister shop of it’s own. I wanted to take the traditional western styles and update them a little bit. Add in a little funk. It’s crazy to me how all the skills I’ve acquired over the years have flowed into each other and helped in ways I never would have expected.”
M: “Anyone who’s looking for something out of the ordinary. I’m not much for basic things. Simple yes, but not basic. I value the one-of-a-kind over all, and I always aim to bring that into the things I make and sell.”
M: “I started sourcing vintage for myself when I was 16 years old and quickly figured out I could sell my excess or the things that didn’t quite fit to make a little extra money, which was all I really needed: I was in high school. It’s taken 10 years to evolve into something I can do full time. My hatting started just last year, but it was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I’m self taught and honestly still learning something new everyday.”
M: “It really is an absolute passion: creating things, making things more beautiful, making LIFE more beautiful in general, and sharing it. There’s nothing better.”
M: “Success to me is as simple as getting to do what I love and supporting myself with it. There are a lot of people out there in jobs they hate, coming home feeling drained and miserable every day. Getting to do what I love, even when it takes way more hours in the day than typical day gig would, is definitely success in my book.”
M: “Behind the scenes definitely isn’t as glamorous as people probably think. You tell people you sell clothing for a living, most of the time they think ‘Oh, you get to play dress up all day!’ The reality is shooting dozens of items at a time with a tripod and a self timer in not always the best weather conditions and then hours stuck to a screen editing and listing items. Not to mention the digging through piles of clothing at my sources to find the pieces to begin with and getting them cleaned up and often repaired, since most of the pieces are 50+ years old. But the variation of that process is nice, because it keeps me from getting bored.
Hatting, though challenging in other ways, is a little more relaxed in the sense that there’s plenty of starting and waiting and starting again. I build my hats the traditional way, by hand, no machinery. The only tools I use are my blocks, brim curler, and iron. Takes some time, but it’s well worth it.”
M: “My ideal client would definitely be anyone that’s willing to give me full creative control and trust my instincts. You’ll find with most makers and artists you’ll end up with a better product that way.”
M: “There’s a lot of love going into it, and anything you buy from me is helping me to make a living and grow as a business and also a person. 90% of what I make is going back into the business in some form, whether it’s new sewing/hatting equipment or new stock. It’s slow growing, but I have some big plans.”
M: “My entire business is run out of my 32 ft camping trailer that I also live in. It’s been a bit comical at times trying to get things done, but I’ve been managing pretty well! And I really kinda love it. To anyone who’s been considering ‘tiny living’, I say go for it. You’ll quickly learn what you can and can’t live without, and get rid if a heap of stuff in the process. You’ll also get to be very handy in the plumbing and electrical department if you do it for too long.”
M: “I’ve always loved making things, since I was a kid. If I couldn’t get something, I’d figure out a way to make it – even crudely. I was so fascinated with that silly ‘Ab Roller’ infomercial workout gadget when I was little. It looked like fun to me I guess. I built one out of old cardboard boxes, the wheel and everything. It kinda worked.. well, enough to entertain a 7 year old at least!
When I was about 14, I did my first ‘design’ in the form of a tee shirt for a local band – came outta some tape and paint I had laying around. They ended up printing them properly to sell, which was so cool to me at the time. Kept the creation fuel flowing. I didn’t realize until much later how important the skill to make something out of nothing would be, in business and in life. I was lucky to have super supportive parents that would let me create whatever I wanted to and make sure I had the tools to do it. My 11 year old niece seems to be rapidly following in my footsteps. She’s a maker and problem solver already with a love for anything out of the ordinary. I can’t wait to help her run with that!”
M: “I couldn’t tell you a single moment, but in general I just love seeing where my pieces end up! Especially my handmade ones. I had one gal get married in a lace shawl I made, and I’ve got a couple of musician friends that have been touring around in their Hard Travelin’ Hats. Always love seeing those stage shots. But really I just love to see any piece from the shop out in the world living it’s new life. Most of my business is online, and I get to ship things EVERYWHERE. Its magic.”
M: “The best advice I could give is to work hard, consistently. You have to be self disciplined and prepared to do more than any boss would ever expect from you – and be adaptable. Trends change, social media changes, everything is subject to change. If you can’t adapt to that, you’re gonna fall flat on your face real quick. The more skills you can acquire to help with that the better! And overall, just be grateful to do whatever it is you’re doing. Everyday. And support the people who support you.”
M: “Instagram: @hardtravelinvintage @hardtravelinhatters Facebook: www.facebook.com/hardtravelinvintage www.facebook.com/hardtravelinhatters Website: www.hardtravelinvintage.com www.hardtravelinhatters.bigcartel.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com”
M: “Buy something if you’re into this sorta thing, but if not, just spread the word! That helps more than you know.”
M: “Bowling Green is such a great community for makers, artists, and creators. There are so many opportunities to display your work in the city, and everyone is so supportive of each other. I’m very lucky to also have a great online community of makers who are scattered around the country – great friends who are always inspiring, encouraging, and helping, even the ones who should be ‘competition’. That doesn’t exist. We all just help each other the best we can, because we’re all doing everything we can to make it work.”
M: “As always, I’m working on new designs! And new vintage is always arriving.”