Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, multi-talented artist and Renaissance woman, Maria Curcic, milliner, painter, DJ and businesswoman. Paris born, with a strong European appreciation for fashion and style, Maria began creating hats for high-end boutiques in Canada and the U.S. in the early 1990s. The popularity of her designs led to the opening of her own store, Le Chapeau Rouge, in Calgary in 1990. She shifted her attention to wholesale in the late 1990s, providing hats to over 15 stores across Canada and the U.S. Maria is a graduate of Interior Design from Mount Royal University as well as a graduate of The Alberta College of Art and Design. In 2015 she took a class with renowned Melbourne milliner Louise Macdonald. Some of Maria’s hats can also be seen on CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries. When Maria isn’t creating sensational headwear, she’s painting. The most noticeable aspect in Maria’s paintings is the vibrant color. She began creating abstract cityscapes in art school in the late 1980s, and has continued to include the theme in many of her works to this day. The infusion of color into what tends to be drab, man-made architecture provides a whimsical view of what the world could look like given a brighter palette. Maria’s abstract works are less structured, but equally vibrant, providing splashes of color that grabs and hold the viewer’s attention. Maria says that she always starts with a blank canvas, but never a blank mind! To complete her trifecta of talent, Maria is a DJ with a weekly radio show called Mary’s Web. Her musical adventures reflect her style both on air and at live venues. Maria devotes a lot of her time to searching out the sounds that make Mary’s web what it is today, eclectic and electric. Mary also DJs private functions, special events and is available for hire!
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I have always been a multi faceted artist with a vision. I worked evenings in various clubs and lounges as a DJ and during the day I painted (I was represented by various galleries in the US and Canada) and ran my own hat business. My vision was to be my own Girl Boss.
You’re an incredible multi-talented artist. Why hats?
It is more than hats; it is art and music. Hats because my mother always had me wearing hats and special little outfits when we ventured to go shopping or get our bread and cheese at the market. She made me aware of the fashion around me. I found solace and expression in the arts, music and fashion.
Tell us about your ‘first’ hat? What or who inspired it?
I have been involved with arts and fashion since the early 80s, as a model, a designer and even a producer of fashion shows. My life circled around hats, design, fashion, architecture, and music. I really wanted to push fashion-forward hats to women who wanted something that was not mass-produced. So, in 1984 I made a velvet turban with a silk sash to match the dress I made and wore it out New Years Eve. I got a lot of stares and strange looks, but I did not care because it was the beginning of the next chapter in my life.
Your hats have made it to the small screen with the Frankie Drake Mysteries. Congratulations! How did that come about?
I received an e-bay order for a cloche hat with a delivery address for “Shitt’s Creek”. Curious, I followed up and discovered a new show set in the 1920’s (Frankie Drake) was being produced and they were looking for hats produced in Canada. I contacted the wardrobe designer for CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries, and it just grew from there. Once she saw my online store and recognized my millinery skills, she provided me with some color palettes and we discussed some of the show’s needs. I sent CBC over 14 hats. Some were already on my online shop while others I had to make specifically for each costume. A rather incredible experience for sure!
You’ve studied with renowned Milliner, Louise Macdonald. What was the best piece of advice she gave you?
I met Louise back in the early 1990s; she and I have been in touch over the years. She told me to “Keep creating. If its something you enjoy, don’t ever stop.” That holds true to this day.
Who would you like to see wear one of your hats and why?
Bjork. First and foremost, I LOVE her style, her music and her quirkiness. I love that she is different and is not afraid to stand out in a crowd. She is a visionary who goes beyond the norm. I would love to make her a headpiece out of led lights with wires and organic materials. Maybe something living in the headpiece.
We love your abstract cityscapes that are so wonderfully vibrant and filled with energy. What inspired the use of a bright palette in your work? And why?
I began creating abstract cityscapes in art school in the late 1980s, and have continued to include the theme in many of my works to this day. The infusion of color into what tends to be drab, man-made architecture provides a whimsical view of what the world could look like given a brighter palette.
My abstract works are less structured, but equally vibrant, providing splashes of color that I hope will grab and hold the viewer’s attention. The work is timeless, fun and complex enough to provide fresh stimulation with each viewing.
You’re a DJ and have a weekly radio show called Mary’s Web. How did that come about?
Back in 1984 I was already a DJ in a nightclub as well as part of a record pool. Later that year, in college, I met a guy who was doing a radio show and he invited me to do a 30-minute set. Immediately after my set, the radio station director rang the studio and said he loved the show and asked if I would be interested in my own show. I was absolutely thrilled at the idea of having my own radio show! This relationship began with a one-hour show, which over time, increased to three hours!
Before the station director succumbed to a long battle with cancer, he asked me to keep the station going. Radio Radio is no longer broadcast live, but we maintain a tremendous archive of past shows and post new weekly shows (DJ Grey and Mary’s Web) a monthly show (DJ Kitty Scratch) and occasional guest DJ shows. Radio Radio’s motto is “Narrowcasting for the broad-minded.” Radio Radio provides a refuge from commercial radio and a place to hear a unique blend of mixed, non-commercial, “alternative” music, much as it has since its beginnings in 1972.
What have been the biggest challenges or obstacles that you’ve overcome – personally and professionally?
As a female DJ I struggled to receive the same respect as the male DJs. The industry in the 1980s was very male dominated without allowing any room for the good female DJs and there were a few. By persistently providing high quality service and good music, I established a great reputation and a loyal following.
As a headpiece designer, I had to deal with design theft (an entire collection of ideas, fabrics and styles), which is extremely difficult to prevent in the fashion business. I keep creating and continue to push my own boundaries, keeping my product fresh and hopefully one step ahead of the wolves. I continue to find it challenging to get people to wear hats of ANY kind, never mind the more avant-garde pieces.
As a painter, the challenge is to sell artwork to an ever-dwindling audience. Everyone owns a television. Few people buy original art.
What do we need to know “for sure” about making a living as an artist?
Be prepared to supplement your art revenue with other sources of income. Work hard but do not forget to play! Do not give in or give up. It probably won’t ever be easy, but will always be very rewarding…for your soul. I worked evenings as a DJ in various clubs and lounges. During my days I painted (I was represented by various galleries in the US and Canada) and ran the hat business. I also put in my time with various retail outlets, cheese and coffee shops and furniture stores to carry me through the thin times.
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
Pursue what makes you feel good about what you do. Do not let anyone get you down or tell you that you cannot do it. If in your heart you feel it, then go for it. It goes for anything in life, no?
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
Find your niche. Follow your gut.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
My friend Norma Shephard has always been a huge inspiration to me. She has always been a supporter of the fashion industry, publishes a millinery blog and has written a few books on hats and vintage fashion. She is fearless in the hat world and is not afraid to stand out in the crowd. I love her for that; I wish more women would be brave enough to just let go.
I am hoping to work more in film and television as well as incorporating my art into headwear.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I have been making hats/art and DJing for over 30 years. I would love it if the local market was big enough to support fashion, art, design and more female DJs, but realistically, my market is the entire world. I promote my product locally, but also continue to expand my online presence, reaching out to markets where my works are appreciated and respected. In short, my plan is to continue the same path that I have been on for the last 30 years, create, create, collaborate, live, and enjoy the process!
What makes you laugh uncontrollably?
Cry out all the tears?
Seeing people disrespect nature, in all aspects.
If a song were written about your life, what would it be called?
You can see more of Maria’s unique headwear here: www.mariacurcic.com
And her vibrant artwork here: www.curcicfineart.com
Follow Maria on Instagram: @hatgoddess https://www.instagram.com/hatgoddess/
And on Facebook at:
Listen to Mary’s Web on Radio Radio here: Radioradio.ca
Check out Norma Shephard’s millinery blog: http://mobilemillinerymuseum.blogspot.com
Check out CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries and spot Maria’s famous headwear: http://www.cbc.ca/frankiedrake/episodes/season-1