Hats off to my adopted city of brilliant makers

Sophie Cooke is a milliner based in the city centre creating hats, fascinators and hair accessories via my label Imogen’s Imagination. She moved to Sheffield as a student in the late 1990s and fell in love with the city. She returned to live and work here in 2004 and has lived in Hillsborough since 2005.

By Barbara Craythorn
Wednesday, 29 May, 2019, 14:18
Sophie Cooke, pictured at Exchange Place, Studios. Picture: Marie Caley

Exchange Place Studios Not many people can say that their workplace is their favourite place to be, so I guess I’m very lucky.  I have a studio at Exchange Place, a city centre studio complex owned by Yorkshire Artspace. My 5 th floor studio has massive windows, over-looking the site of the old Castle Market and out towards the north of the city. She moved into the studio in Summer 2014 and it is a vast improvement on cluttering up the dining room at home. The sense of community and support within the building is fantastic and something I really lacked when working from home. The highlight of the studio year is Open Studios in mid-November when you can visit nearly all 60 of the studio spaces. If you’ve ever wondered “what do artists “do” all day?” this is a great opportunity to find out. The range of makers, artists and designers in the building is incredibly varied and very surprising.

 

Sheffield's Winter Gardens...Pic Steve Ellis

Winter Gardens The Winter Gardens is a real gem in the city centre. A place of sanctuary in poor weather and an oasis of calm amid the hustle and bustle. However, it’s also a really important place for my business. I have been a regular tenant of the pop-up shop space in the Winter Gardens over the last few years in collaboration with other makers and have very fond memories of my experiences there. I’m very excited to be returning to the pop up shop this June, although I am a little nervous. I will be on my own this year and it’s a surprisingly big space to fill with stock when it’s just you! I’m really looking forward to spending my fortnight surrounded by the beautiful and exotic plants which are always such a joy to see.

 

Burly Q My absolute favourite night out in Sheffield is Burly Q. This event has been a large part of my business over the years business as I’ve had regular stall at the show, but it’s also just so much fun. I believe in mixing business with pleasure and my social life does very much revolve around the work-related events I attend and the people I meet there. Burly Q is a fabulously eclectic, yet brilliantly, curated night of cabaret and burlesque. I’m so thrilled that their 10 th birthday also coincides with a big birthday I will be celebrating in summer, such a perfect birthday present to myself…and I will just be watching the show, not working.

 

Millennium Gallery

What isn’t there to love about Millennium Gallery? A celebration of art, science and technology in Sheffield combined with breath taking skills and craftsmanship. Every visit I see something new, learn a new fact or am inspired by the skills used to make the exhibits. One of my career highlights was being invited to exhibit in the “Made in Sheffield” exhibition in 2016, it will take quite a lot to beat that! I made a hat in collaboration with another Exchange Place studio holder, Giles Grover, combining traditional millinery techniques and laser cut leather. I also like the calmness of the exhibition spaces, a feeling I’ve had even at events where I’ve run workshops or demonstrations. It’s always such an honour to be invited to do anything at the gallery as it makes me feel really connected to my adopted city and part of Sheffield’s legacy of making.

 

Tall Poppy Having my hair done is a time to relax and something to really look forward too. I’m not one for a rigorous beauty regime and being a milliner has destroyed any hopes I may have of having nice nails ever again! However, having my hair looked after by Rachel is always a treat and I do love a head massage. Whilst it’s lovely to just stop working and settle in for a chat, I do find it difficult to switch off completely. Whilst my colour is cooking, I can usually be found with my foils in whilst doing some hand sewing. After nearly 10 years as a customer, the very patient staff have now got used my multi-tasking.

Swimming This is quite new addition to my favourite places as I have recently started swimming regularly at Ponds Forge. It took me a long time to build up the courage to dig my swimming cozzie out from the back of the drawer (still with the tags on from a holiday 5 years ago!). But once I got over the initial fear and finally got into the pool, I realised quite quickly that I was still a proficient swimmer. That really boosted my confidence. I’ve been trying to go three times a week over the last couple of months and mostly managed to stick to my routine. The reason this has become a favourite thing so quickly is because it is a total brain wipe. I genuinely can’t think about anything else apart from counting which number length I’m on. I may be able to multi-task whilst sewing, but not whilst counting!