Beltera's Magic Hats
It could be said that it is impossible to improve something that is already perfect. And in our eyes there is nothing more perfect than a fine Akubra hat.
Creative genius and free-spirited soul Jules Holland of Beltera has gone ahead and achieved the impossible by passionately crafting bespoke, uniquely Australian embroidered designs onto to a range of Akubra hats. The stunning result elevates an already perfect hat to incredible new heights.
The Beltera website perfectly outlines Jules’ labour of love by stating, “Beltera’s incredibly unique process can take up to 30 hours to complete, this is slow fashion in its most patient and devoted form. Love and Magic is weaved into every design.”
We asked Jules a few questions about her embroidery practice and her inspiration.
Jules Holland. Photography By Renae Harvey
How long have you been stitching these beautiful creations?
Growing up on our family’s farm, which was tucked away in the Pyrenees Ranges in Victoria, I learnt the basics of ‘fancy work’ from my grandmother. I loved learning these types of traditional crafts. Even now, in my spare time I might carve spoons, make preserves from recipes passed down from my grandmother or simply garden. I still have my little biscuit tin full of ‘treasures’, cotton thread offcuts that my grandma gave me to practice embroidering onto doilies and cotton handkerchiefs. I love learning these types of traditional crafts.
Fast forward twenty years, and I was working as a ranger in Cape York. I was on a ten-month secondment and was the only woman in my unit (which isn’t a rare occurrence in parks) and was feeling isolated far away from friends, family, and all of my art supplies, and I was in need of a creative outlet.
My mum and grandma pulled some threads and bits and pieces together and posted them up. I think I lasted about 15 minutes embroidering into the hoop they sent before I looked over at my trusty, worn out Akubra Coober Pedy and thought ‘That might be interesting’…. I proceeded to embroider some very rough-and-ready daisies around the crown completely unaware of how it would change my career and life forever.
The Coober Pedy that started it all...
So, you could say it was a magic moment between you and the hat?
Hats have been a part of the fabric on my life. First, as a rural kid and then a Park Ranger working across Queensland. I clearly remember as a kid when Dad took me into a hat store in Alice springs, and bought me my first one. He taught me the crucial lesson to always size up, and after much deliberation, I chose the style he wore, The Coober Pedy.
At the time when I decided to embroider my old hat, I thought it was simply a moment of creative curiosity and what the heck, my hat was so old and worn out it could only be improved at that point. When I look back, I can see it was the moment I had been waiting for.
I used to say, ‘One day I will combine my love of working the land and conservation and my art, I just don’t know how’. And I really did have no idea how it was going to happen, only faith that it would. Once I embroidered into my own Akubra and started wearing it around, I immediately started getting orders and inquiries and the rest is history. Since starting Beltera I have invested my waking hours into all things hat. You could say I went down the rabbit-felt hole.
Jules feels her embroidery practise is the perfect expression of her love for the land.
Can you tell me a little bit about being a park ranger?
It’s the best job in the world! Being a park ranger is the most fun way to make a living. Every day was a big adventure and as a bit of an adrenaline junkie and Gypsy, it gave me the opportunity to see this incredible country and do some cool stuff.
From taking part in traditional burning in Cape York to Cyclone Recovery in Central Qld and turtle rescue on Moreton Island. I was also lucky enough to work as a ranger in Papua New Guinea and volunteer on a game reserve in South Africa. It was an incredible part of my life and I often miss the ‘hard dirty work’ when I’m sitting in my cushy embroidery chair, stitching away. I have gone from one extreme to another!
A Kookaburra design on a Sand Cattleman
What do you love about a good hat?
A good hat is an extension of your personality. I think it’s essential to have a good work hat and then a dress hat. I love that a hat can protect you from our harsh Australian elements. It’s tough out there and you’d be buggered without a good hat, that’s just the truth of it. A good hat keeps the sun and the rain at bay. I love that slowly over years a hat moulds itself to be completely unique to you.
Jules creats custom one off designs, like this stunning floral number on a Bran Riverina
Do you have a favourite Akubra?
I have always worn the Coober Pedy my whole life, It’s a perfect work hat. Now that I’m not out on country, working, my hat serves a different purpose. I recently bought myself a Riverina and am in love with it. I find it to be Akubra’s most feminine design while still being practical and sturdy.
Jules takes her work everywhere she goes
What is your favourite part of the process when creating a new hat?
I love sketching out new designs and collaborating with clients on their dream design. If I am embroidering something for the first time, I research the subject and sketch it out in my sketchbook until I feel comfortable starting the hat. This is where my brain is really working, trying to get the composition and colours just right, and making sure it’s an artwork that suits both the hat and the client themselves.
I think the gumnut blossom must be my favourite design to embroider for many reasons. The gumnut encapsulates the Australian spirit and honours this beautiful land we call home. It is also, by far, the favourite for Beltera clients. This design has struck a chord with so many beautiful people across Australia I always enjoy creating it. I can create the Gumnut Blossom design over and over and I love that it’s never the same. I draw each design freehand, so each gum leaf and blossom are different from the last. I think the gumnut blossom really represents Beltera as a brand, there are no two blossoms the same, and Beltera hats the just as individual.
A Gum Blossom design on a Fawn Cattleman
What do you see for the future of Beltera?
I have a lot of exciting collaborations in the pipeline this year which I am looking forward to. My embroidered hats have been a method of artistic expression for me that so many people resonate with, but I don’t pigeonhole myself in that niche. Right now, I am spending most of my time embroidering but I also teach art classes and workshops through my side business Aphrodite Art School as well as paint and exhibit large abstract oil paintings.
I see myself as an artist and designer rather than an embroidery artist therefor the sky is the limit for Beltera. I have a very clear vision of producing my own line of hats. This is a daunting prospect, but it feels very much like the natural progression of things. I know hats inside and out, I know what my clients are looking for and I can see gaps in the market there, especially for women on the land.
Not just for the girls. Jules new hat tattoo's customised for the blokes
Contact Jules through the Beltera website If you are interested in Jules creating a Bespoke design on your Akubra, or if you can’t wait and need one straight away, there are a range of ready-made hats on her site to browse as well. Follow Beltera on Instagram and Facebook for your daily dose of magical hat inspiration.