Straight and Narrow Isn’t The Only Way

It’s often believed that art school is the way forward when you want to make your first step into the creative industries. Employers are super impressed when they see you went to a prestigious arty educator in the middle of the city, I mean it must mean you’re the best of the best right?

…Not entirely correct. Yes art school is wonderful and congrats if you got a place because it’s bloody hard to get in! But your full creative career does not balance on the fate of you making the cut into your dream school and mega successful artist, Paula Cooper would tell you just that.


Paula is a 44 years old milliner based in Paisley with a portfolio that would make your mouth drop to the floor.


What is millinery I hear you say? Millinery is the art of making apparel for the head… So that wonderful fascinator you wore to your cousins wedding is a perfect example. Paula tells us that she has been creative ever since she was a ‘wee’ girl. Drawing up the wall and on the furniture, she was lucky that her mum taught her how to channel her creativeness into something a little more productive and learned to sew from the early age of 4 years old. Before she knew it she was creating a whole load of stuff from dolls, to clothes, to cushions and even on to jewellery. There was absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that Paula was going to pursue a creative career.

“Unfortunately I got no encouragement from my school Art Teacher who said I ‘wouldn’t amount to much’ so I didn’t really know where to channel my energy” There is nothing worse than being discouraged by your teacher… and oh how this teacher couldn’t have been more wrong! The John Downes Award for Art, International Milliner of the Year Nominee and Scottish Fashion Awards Accessory Designer of The Year Nominee are only a few achievements to Paula’s name. Although, Paula did admit she felt a little lost after her teacher so cruelly put her down; “I didn’t really focus on making a portfolio for Art School because I didn’t know what course to apply for”. Paula ended up going to study Graphic Design because it was the only course she was accepted on to, she then went on to study printing and worked in a printers for years before deciding to take her career into her own hands and following her dream.


“I’ve always been obsessed with hats and hairstyles. When I was younger I used to go into Arnotts in Paisley and try all the hats on!” Working in print but knowing her passion lay within the hat-designing world, was undeniably frustrating; “I didn’t even think it was possible for me to ever be involved in millinery though, I lived in a Council Estate in Paisley, no one really did that sort of thing! So I was just plodding along with my Printing job” Deciding to break the status quo Paula signed up for night classes to build a dreamy portfolio while tackling her day job, she was accepted into Millinery studies at Kensington & Chelsea College and completely packed her job in on her 30th birthday; “Best day of my life!”

Shortly after graduating Paula’s career took off taking her to Australia to work with one of millinery’s top designers and now back in her homeland of Scotland she has her own thriving business designing beautiful head pieces, leading workshops and is also a business mentor.


“Your work won’t amount to much” a prime example of don’t listen to negative people, if you believe in something and work hard there is no reason you can’t follow your dream… I bet Paula wishes her art teacher could see her now.

Success doesn’t always have a straight and narrow road.

Check out more from Paula Cooper:


Facebook: @peacoopermillinery

Twitter: @peacooperhats

Instagram: @peacooperhats

LinkedIn: Paula Cooper


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