The Beginning of Helen’s Creative Journey
Helen Reich didn’t venture into visual arts until she turned 50. Before that, she was a trained musician who worked as a professional orchestra violist. She started making fabric hair accessories through trial and error. It took her two years to start making acceptable kanzashi flowers. Figuring out the geometry of it and the necessity behind the precision and symmetry also took a while to understand. In 2009, inspired by a friend’s spectacular barrette, she started making and selling women’s formal fabric hair accessories on Etsy.
In 2014, a guy in New York asked Helen to make tiny fabric kanzashi lapel flower pins for his new men’s accessories business. After two months of designing, sending materials, and paying for the finished pins, he disappeared. Helen wasn’t disappointed for long. One day, at a boring party, she thought about all these fun lapel pin designs and things started from there.
Unique Lapel Pin Designs
After transitioning from women’s to men’s accessories, she needed a new name for her business. A friend once called her hair accessories exquisite, and she decided to use them to turn lapels into a personal statement. She also makes pocket squares and kanzashi Christmas tree ornaments.
Current lapel trends are leather flowers, puffy fabric ones, funny enamel pins, and beautiful antique Victorian stick pins. To stay innovative, Helen feels that lapel designs don’t have to end with flowers. The kanzashi tradition includes objects such as leaves, fish, butterflies, and symbols such as Japanese pinwheels. She has made all of them fit on a lapel. Her creations have extended to making lobsters, crabs, fleurs-de-lis, triangles, ducklings, fruits, vegetables, Christmas trees, Christmas wreaths, and flamingos. Past designs include Christmas ornament cardinals, a Chinese dragon, and a sea turtle.
Creative Ways of Self-Expression
Many of her favorite projects came from the ideas of others. She loves making lapels from unique objects, especially when the result brings a smile to peoples’ faces. The whimsical designs are the ones she has the most fun with. Helen wants to see more diversity in the lapel industry.
A fun moment she recalls was when a musician friend asked her to make a lobster pin for her brother. The customer’s brother is a jazz pianist in Florida, and it turns out that Helen’s boyfriend, also a Florida musician, knows him. He said, “Oh yeah, Richard really does have a thing for lobsters,” followed by several amusing lobster stories.
The second memorable moment was when a man in California fell in love with her silk button lapel pins. He bought a few and absolutely waxed eloquent about them in a way that only a true fashionista could. These pins are her highest profit item because they’re the fastest and least-stressful things to make. Helen says, “They were easy and fun, and I use silk brocade, which always has an interesting texture.”
The most bizarre request she received was to make eight goldfish lapel pins for a Salt Lake City wedding. She was at a nearby conference in Park City and met with the newlyweds. She recalls the meeting being delightful and interesting. Coincidentally, the bride is a professional violinist.
One thing Helen has learned is don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. Each fabric behaves differently. She also learned that not every fabric will make the desired shape. It’s a fight you’ll always lose.
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