A visit to Wellema Hat Company exemplifies the importance of practical arts

The Pasadena Waldorf School (PWS) third grade class recently took a field trip to Wellema Hat Shop in Altadena. The trip is part of the third grade curriculum, focusing on practical arts. Practical arts are a mainstay in Waldorf Education.  While all PWS classes from Preschool to High School weaves practical arts into the curriculum, the stronger focus in grade three gives the children of that age an understanding of how things come into being and a respect for the creations by others. When students engage in practical arts it instills in them a sense of confidence and accomplishment that will carry through into adulthood. The PWS third grade practical arts curriculum includes once-a-week lessons in cooking, building or gardening, along with several field trips throughout the year to local artisans in and around Los Angeles introducing the children to artisanal professionals.

“We feel fortunate to have such a fine example of a person doing careful, precise craft work right in our backyard,” shares PWS third grade class teacher Mr. Dennis Demanett. “The children were in awe that each hat is made by hand. Cody showed the children the binding on one of the hats, sharing that the binding alone takes about two hours as he stitches it by hand. We want the children to see precision and attention to details that can lead to creations using only our hands and a few simple, beautiful tools. The children learn that with determination, a willing to take risks, and a strong sense of aesthetics, a person can find fulfillment by performing a needed activity.”

Cody Wellema, founder of Wellema Hat Company is a self-taught hat maker. He and his wife learned the art of hat making by taking apart old vintage hats, using them as “textbooks”. They studied each piece as they tore it apart, a sort of reverse engineering and learning as they went. The store now houses a collection of hat blocks, most dating back 100 years in which they make each and every one of their hats on. Most of the business is bespoke, made to measure to the nearest 1/16th of an inch to a person’s head. Each hat is built to be as unique as the person who wears it.