2023 Student Award

The 2023 MAA Student Design Award celebrates the work of Millinery Australia student members and students of millinery both with in Australia and around the world. The theme for this year’s award was ‘ALIVE’. 

Judging criteria for the competition included originality and creativity, relevance to the theme, quality of workmanship, degree of difficulty and wearability in terms of comfort and stability. 

The judging panel included Christine Martin, Lisa Watt and Possum Ball with Michele Cameron awarding the Mary Lock Encouragement Award.

Thank you to Georgia Skelton for managing this award. Congratulations to all of the students who entered!


Araks Nazarian ‘From the Ashes’

Two years ago, I visited the Botanic Gardens in Sydney and participated in an indigenous weaving workshop where we were asked to introduce ourselves and whose land we resided in. I was pretty embarrassed when it got to me as I did not know who lived on the land before settlers arrived. Because of this, I decided to do some research for myself. I had a one-on-one session at the local Aboriginal Heritage office. Here I learned that the people in my part of the city were completely wiped out within four years of white man moving up into our area. No language, no history recorded…nothing. When I learned this, I burst into tears.

I am the grandchild of a genocide survivor. To this day, our lands and people are still under threat and as you read this, there are 120,000 people in an illegal blockade with no access to medicine or food and cut off from family and the rest of the world. But we still fight on. As with the Indigenous people of Australia, my people have fought and pushed through. Every day we fight to stay alive and to keep our culture and history going.

Australian flowers are incredible and they bloom in the harshest of conditions. Indigenous Australians would burn off the forest to help regenerate new seedlings and encourage growth. My Student Award entry, ‘From the Ashes,’ is a flowering gum nut that has survived a bushfire. Even though it has suffered great distress, it has pushed through the fire and bloomed into a beautiful flower. Its colour and beauty and delicate nature, teamed with its crazy petals are awe-inspiring. It tells my story of being alive!

Second Place

Angela Sullivan ‘Buzzz’ 

My Grandparents owned beehives and helping my Nan harvest honey was a cherished part of my childhood. She instilled in me the importance of bees for the environment and almost two-thirds of Australian agriculture relies on bee pollination. My Nan was a bright light in my life and her love for life and bees was contagious. She was so proud of my passion for millinery and I am grateful for the memories we shared. Nan, you will always be alive in my heart.

Third Place

Amanda Brason ‘Kiss of Life’

Feeling alive is often taken for granted and in an instant things can change. The heart stops beating and life begins to fade away. Those crucial decisions, in the moments after tragedy are often made in the midst of despair. By putting your lips onto another’s and breathing warm precious air into the person you are resuscitating them from the darkness. A skill everyone should learn!

Mary Lock Encouragement Award

Amber Louison – Suwal ‘Truffula’

The Lorax was my inspiration for the theme ‘Alive’. Truffula trees are said to be light and feathery but very strong. Trees produce oxygen which keeps us alive. It’s about nurturing our trees so we can continue to exist on Earth.

Joanne Cooke ‘Feel the Magic’

FEEL THE MAGIC is an Australian charity providing early intervention grief educational camps for kids experiencing pain and isolation due to the death of a parent, guardian or sibling.

My design portrays a darker under-side that illustrates grief and winter feelings and a brighter upper side that represents sunshine and feeling better. The string work represents a circular game played which connects campers, mentors {ME} and loved ones who have passed. Embellishment represents our fire ceremony where notes to loved ones are burnt, ashes fly upwards, followed by brilliant stories celebrating loved ones when they were ALIVE.

Harri Harrison ‘Cornucopia’

After a bout of serious illness last year, I felt like I had been in a cocoon and when I emerged, my health improving, life seemed so much more beautiful. The butterfly evokes the change felt and the Australian native flowers abundant nature bursting out, irrepressible.

Examining the native flowers I found inspiring and constructing them in millinery materials was a delightful challenge. I used some paper flower-making techniques and translated them to hand sculpting in more sturdy sinamay and leather, with gum nuts made of florist tape.

Nicholette Pottier ‘The Ageless Anemones – Immortal’

This remarkable sea creature sparked my interest with the magical word ‘Ageless’. Its appearance, vivid in colour and organic structure, appears quite beautiful to behold. It is made up of three sections, Oral Disk (top), Column (sides) and Basal Disc (undercarriage). The basal disc attaches to a surface and very slowly moves/slides around.

At the centre of the oral disc is the mouth/anus -an ‘incomplete digestive system’. Self-explanatory and weird! Around this area are the tentacles, each equipped with coiled hollow tubes called Nematocysts. When prey comes into contact, hundreds of capsules of barbed fire tubials inject poison like a harpoon.

Like the anemone, humans have built-in barriers to protect us from the harms of the outside world and the anemone has similarities to humans in that it has genes and organised genomes; however, their cells do not mutate, meaning they don’t get tumours or cancer, they shed cells, then there is a constant replacement of cells. They don’t age they only get larger. There has been a documented case of one living for 100 years! So, unless an external cause comes into play, anemones appear  immortal.

My interpretation of the theme ‘Alive’ is this colourful organic structural shape, which is fun.

Olya Ryjenko ‘Big Sister is Watching’

“It’s alive! Alive!” – this line from the 1931 film Frankenstein spun in my mind. My entry is inspired by humans’ fascination with recreating life artificially and how this is portrayed and celebrated in film. I also took inspiration from the Surrealist movement in art to bring a notion of the absurd into my piece, seeking to question whether the audience is looking at the piece or the piece is looking at the audience.

Carolyn Kelly ‘Mother Nature’

What makes me feel alive is the living things I love, so I decided that my hat should represent mother nature. The hummingbird represents the fauna and was created by making a body from clay and blocking sinamay over it, the orchid and leaves are the plants with a couple of lady beetles hiding at the back for the insects and of course, the person wearing it will be the people who you share a laugh with.

Kelli Dart – Fagan ‘Botanique Vivant’

The sense of ‘being’ or ‘feeling’ Alive is a varying experience for everyone. A place where I feel alive, excited and full of energy after each visit is within Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

I have been visiting the gardens since I was a very young child, where I fondly remember rolling down the many grassy hills and running between all the beautiful flowers and trees. I regularly visit the gardens and now share the experience with my daughter as I did with my mother. It’s a place I feel at ease and gain great joy in seeing ‘new life’ of the plants, trees and wildlife within the gardens. I wanted to design a piece reflecting my interpretation of the gardens and the living work of art the garden provides to me each visit.

I have used materials I believe conjure the image of walking through a garden. The use of cobweb fabric for moss and grassy hills. Feathers to suggest the appearance of fountain grass with soft and feathery plumes dancing in the breeze and flowers fashioned out of crinoline tubing to create the sense of walking through the garden and seeing all the beauty within this space.

Mary McCann ‘Breea’

Breea is like a beautiful bloom that dances in the light of every day and makes you feel alive. I am inspired by my beautiful niece, who exudes happiness and joy. To recreate Breea dancing, I created a wire sculpture attached to a music box that plays music from the ballet Swan Lake. Gently wind the music box clockwise from the back of the hat to make it come ‘Alive’.

Lucy Walters ‘Ladybird’

After completing my millinery mentoring sessions with Rebecca Share last year, I was inspired to try out some of the techniques that she taught me. I love working with leather because of how it looks and feels once it is blocked, silky smooth and luxurious but, also because it’s a great way to use a by-product of the meat industry.

Alive – nothing makes me feel more alive than when I am pushing myself to make a hat that is out of my comfort zone and this piece certainly was! I don’t have a percher block so have blocked a button shape twice in buckram and then leather to create this shape. The flowers are also made from leather and wired into place. One of the hardest parts was making the head fitting for this piece as I wanted it to be secure and comfortable.

Ladybird is a statement hat that is fun while also being elegant and sophisticated in design.

Image Credits

Photo Production: Lisa Watt Productions
Photographer: Georgia Skelton / Richard Shaw
Model: Scarlett Mayer
HMUA: Amy Kenny


Thank you to the following sponsors for their support of the competition:

B-Unique MillineryBonnetry MillineryCherry Ribbon, Guy Morse-Brown, Hat Academy, Hat AtelierHat Blocks Australia, HatalkHatlinesHatters Millinery SuppliesHaute Dog CalendarHouse of AdornJo Maree Millinery, Louise Macdonald Milliner, Michele Cameron, Millinery AustraliaMillinery HubMillinery.Info, Richard Shaw Photographer, Rose Hudson MillineryThe Hat MagazineTracy Chaplin Milliner, Wendy Scully Millinery Yering Farm Wines

Print Partners:

IMMIJ, Mezographic