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In Victorian times the hat stand was one of the most prominent pieces of furniture in the household, often the first thing seen upon entering. Because of this, hat stands evolved from being purely utilitarian to being a sign of wealth and taste, with decorative elements overshadowing utility. It was not long before displaying a hat was just as important as merely holding one. Unfortunately today it’d be impossible to fit an entire hallways worth of scribed wood and brass fastenings into the average New York apartment so Sean, owner of Pork Pie Hatters came up with a plan to find a better alternative. The goal: find a method of storing hats that fit into the NY lifestyle that was also a way of displaying pieces to their best effect.
For this project he hit up artist and engineer Matthew Borgatti, who has also been working with Pork Pie hatters on a number of other projects including cnc machined hat blocks and the door displays at both stores (more on this powerhouse collaboration later). A veteran of digital fabrication, Matthew immediately looked to his laser cutter for the answer to Sean’s dilemma. Because like anyone that has the ability to harness the power of lasers, one has to ask “should I use this for good or for awesome?” Modeled after vintage wig stands, the stand is designed to break down and set up with the use of a quarter while still maintaining the primary goals of being functional and attractive. Standing on three legs that end in pigtail curls, the wood is naturally outlined by the scorching left behind from the laser, similar to the way traditional woodworkers burn edges to create clean finishes. The advantage of using the laser cutter is that it handles several of the processes at once, cutting, finishing, and even engraving the tiny pig and Pork Pie logo with precision.
Although the construction of the hat stand was pretty straightforward, the packaging was another story. Looking for a way to convey a complete experience to the Pork Pie customer, Matthew looked to old school block printing techniques to get the proper feel for the packaging. Again using the laser cutter, he was able to etch the rubber and cut the various plates that comprise the printing jig. And although it took some finagling to get everything to fit just right, he was able to construct a customized printing press without waiting on specialty parts and redesigns.
Hat stands have become rare in a society obsessed with being fast and compact. But there is still a demand for keeping hats pristine like any investment in style; all without breaking the bank, taking up space or being an eyesore. The lasercut hat stand is just one of the ways Pork Pie Hatters has been using technology to bring back elements of the traditional. Everything from the hat stand itself to the rubber stamps used for its packaging have been made with a laser cutter, but as a means of streamlining old techniques of construction and printing not replacing. Who is to say we can’t revive the best of the past using the tools of the future?
If you want one of these stands for yourself, they'll soon be available online. In the meantime you can pick one up at Pork Pie Hatters or JJ Hat Center in person. To see more of the stands and what went into making them check out Numi's photos on Flickr.