April 22, 2021 7.00 am This story is over 36 months old

The Lincoln artist creating mind-blowing headdresses for HBO, Selfridges and Disney

When it comes to statement hats, Lincoln-grown talent Liv takes the crown

“Fantasy hats give you the possibility to dream”: words by the world’s most in-demand hat designer Philip Tracey and the raison d’être of Lincoln haute couture milliner Liv Free, who appears to be stepping closely at his heels.

Model, actress, historian, makeup & hair artist and photographer Liv (to name just a few of her enviable talents), 29, is a self taught milliner.

Her out-of-this-world creations are born in her home studio in the quiet countryside near Lincoln.

After 14 years practicing the craft of hat and headdress making, her striking pieces now sell for hundreds of pounds and attract interest from photographers, models, film and TV production companies.

Notable past clients have included the likes of Selfridges, Disney, Grayson Perry, HBO and Universal Studios.

A blood red encrusted masked headdress called ‘The Mask of the Red Death’ – Liv describes as one of her finest pieces she has ever made. Made from silk velvet and entirely hand-beaded with beads made from garnet, carnelian, swarovski & austrian crystal, venetian glass, wood and freshwater pearls. It sold for £785. Photo: Liv Free

A gold kokoshnik headdress called ‘Elena’, made from gold brocade, guipure lace, metal lace cut-outs and beads. It sold for £380. Photo: Liv Free

The Lincolnite spoke to Liv about her fascinating work.

Can you tell us a little about your creative and professional background as a milliner and how the business came to be? 

“I’ve been creating hats, headdresses and accessories now since 2007. It all started from working in the fashion industry as a professional model – I was so inspired by all the creatives I was working with that I felt compelled to create myself! I come from a very arty family and have always crafted various things since childhood so it seemed a very natural thing to do. Hats and headdresses became my passion after being inspired by the legendary Philip Treacy, and one day I just sat down and worked out how to make one! I am entirely self-taught and have honed my technique and skills over the years.”

A gold kokoshnik headdress called ‘Sunburst’ made from gold brocade, crystals, pearls, lace and silk flowers. It sold for £395. Photo: Liv Free

How many hours do you spend on average on each piece including the concept, design and making?

“The time taken to create each headdress varies. For example, some of my smaller pieces may only take a week to create. However, bigger and more elaborate headdresses can take weeks, even months to finish. The longest I’ve spent creating a piece was 2 months, ‘The Mask of the Red Death’, as it was entirely hand-beaded and encrusted with thousands of jewels. I don’t usually waste time on sketching designs before I make them – everything is in my head. Mostly I start with a vague idea of colours, shapes or meaning, and then gather the materials to start the creation process. I only sketch and plan out pieces for commissions.”

A silver encrusted helmet style headdress called ‘Artemisia’, entirely hand-beaded with swarovski, faux pearls, spikes and chains. It sold for £380. Photo: Liv Free

Who buys them? And what types of occasions have they been used for in the past?

“My headdresses are bought by a variety of different people. Usually photographers, fashion stylists, models, TV companies, film companies, and then those who wear them for festivals, weddings, parties and other special events. I’ve known some of my clients frame them and have them as art on their wall.”

A black winged headdress and choker called ‘Crow Priestess’, made from crow feathers, black crystals and beads. It sold for £350. Photo: Chris Harris

A mask from Liv’s latest collection called ‘Death Mask. It’s the sister piece of ‘The Death of Spring’ and is called ‘The Death of Autumn’. It represents Winter, a time of hibernation and regeneration. It’s made from cotton velvet, sequins, beads and crystals. Photo: Liv Free

Have you had any particularly interesting clients and commissions?

“I’ve had many fun commissions over the years, probably the most interesting (and stressful) was a very last minute commission from NBC/Universal Studios a few years ago. They wanted a crown making which would be the centrepiece for an advert for their hit show, ‘Nashville’. It needed to be extremely glitzy, representing the theme of the TV show. I made it entirely covered in swarovski crystals and silver charms – the front was even shaped like a guitar. I had to work day and night on it to get it to them in time for filming. Some other notable and enjoyable commissions have come from Selfridges, Disney, Grayson Perry, HBO, the BBC, among others.”

A mask from Liv’s latest collection called ‘Death Mask’. This piece is named, ‘The Death of Spring’. It represents the change from Spring into Summer – new beginnings blossoming into fruition. It’s made from brocade, silk flowers, crystals and pearls. Photo: Liv Free

Where does your inspiration come from?

“Inspiration is drawn from all around me. My tagline is, ‘combining fashion, fairytale and history’, but there’s more to it than that. I notice details in everything, everywhere. I’m inspired by so many things, from the trees outside my bedroom window to political and environmental issues. Each headdress has meaning and is made with great feeling.”

A black kokoshnik headdress called ‘Dark Iris’ made from black velvet, silver sequins, jet, tassels and crystals. It sold for £450. Photo: Chris Harris

Find out more about Creations by Liv Free here.