We had the good fortune of connecting with Deb Larsen Culig and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Deb, what do you attribute your success to?
After 40 years in the advertising/marketing/creative industry, and now the addition of this new adventure as a custom hatter, I’m not sure that there is truly a “most” important factor to success. I think what’s important has changed over the years; it depended on where I was in my business and where I was in my life… I’ve always advocated the importance of networking and connection. I believe change and flexibility is essential to any long-term success. A strong work ethic and always being true to my word were the foundation of my professional (and personal) promise to my clients, friends – and myself. But probably the most important factor for me to feel successful was that “ah-ha moment” when I realized that I’m not only pretty good at what I do, I absolutely love doing it! Coming from a corporate mentality to an artist’s reality has been quite a change for me. Success in the ad industry was measured in money spent VS results obtained. It’s all pretty black and white. As an artist/hatter, success is only a matter of someone liking and/or wanting what I make. Those simple affirmations are tallied as a “success” in my mind. ‘PacaHats are one-of-a-kind creations and completely handmade from the animals I raise on our ranch – from everyday feeding and care, through shearing and the actual making of the hat felt from their fleece – there’s a lot of time and effort involved. It’s hard not to get “up close and personal” with every hat, and every customer. I love the fact that I now feel a great deal of satisfaction when someone puts on a hat and it fits them perfectly. I relish when people stop me on the street and ask, “Where did you get that hat?” The meaning of success in this new career isn’t a bottom line number. Success is a feeling.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Where I first got the idea to try making western hats out of alpaca came while I was watching a documentary on John Stetson. On a hunting trip Stetson threw a handful of beaver fur in a pot of boiling water over a campfire, “mushed” it together. threw it on his head and declared it was a hat. It got me wondering if I could do that with alpaca. What sets ‘PacaHat apart from that initial process – a process that is still used today – is that the animal doesn’t have to die for me to make a hat. Unlike beaver or hare, we simply shear the animals once a year…it’s totally ethical, sustainable and animal-friendly. How to felt a hat is not a secret, but it did take me a couple years to dial in my process. I found old books on hatmaking and I can’t tell you how many YouTubes I’ve watched…and how many hats I’ve thrown away! I’ve studied a lot of custom hatters over the last couple of years; they all seem to do the same thing. They order in a manufactured cone and then iron, steam and pull the hat into shape over forms. I MAKE the cone, which is the hardest part. The decorating is easy! So when I say it’s custom/handmade…I really mean it! Although I’m still involved in the agency business, hatting and the lifestyle that this affords is the journey I want to be on for the future. It’s what I see myself doing in retirement. At that point, success for me will again change; I will “get” to create – I won’t “have” to create!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
There’s a lot to see and do in Colorado but I think the mountains are what most people want when they come here. The ranch is 150 acres of “good times”, so I KNOW this is where we’d be for most of their trip. There’s nothing like having your morning cup of coffee sitting out on the patio watching the elk graze in the fields. Cocktails around the campfire watching an alpenglow sunset on the Divide is spectacular. 4 wheeling, hiking, skeet shooting, cross country skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, pond and fly fishing…I live in paradise…why would we go anywhere else? EXCEPT…I HATE to cook! So we’ll need to run into town for fish tacos and infused tequila at Pepe Osaka’s. We’ll also have to hit Bistro 28 at the Pole Creek Golf Course (their praline fried chicken is TO. DIE. FOR!) Plus, both of my ranch neighbors are great cooks and simply the best people you’ll ever meet. They will want to invite my friends over for lunch/dinner/drinks…friends should probably plan on staying longer than a week because we have A LOT to do!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I owe a lot to two women who are both alpaca breeders and fiber artists in the Denver area. Karen Champion of Blazing Star Ranch and Sylvia Gibbons of Aristocrat Alpacas gave me my first animals and have continued to mentor me on their proper care and herd maintenance. Sylvia taught me how to felt and dye fleece and Karen’s yarn shop displayed and sold my hats when I first started out. There’s nothing quite like having someone there who is totally selfless with their time and teachings. I’m lucky; I’ve had TWO someones!
Linkedin: Deb Larsen Culig