Texas Neighbors Spring 2015 : Page 14

TEXAS NEIGHBORS | SPRING 2015 By Jessica Domel Field Editor From a swath of fine felt to an expertly-crafted crown and brim, the artisans at Catalena Hatters keep the spirit of the West alive. One hat at a time. For over three decades, the Catalena family has made and shaped custom felt hats at their store in downtown Bryan. Their hats are worn by the likes of Willie Nelson, Aaron Watson, Neal McCoy and others. But to the Catalena family, every hat is special. Doesn’t matter if it’s worn by a famous musician, a farmer or just the boy next door. “Texans use hats for what hats were meant to be used for. It’s more of a tool,” Scott Catalena said. “It’s part of the culture. It’s part of that person. After a while, the hat takes on that person’s personality.” Cowboy hats protect people from the elements, keeping their heads warm and dry. They eventually become a part of them. Those are just a few of the many reasons the Catalenas continue to make custom hats for their growing customer base. WWW.TEXASFARMBUREAU.ORG “It’s not a job for us. It’s a passion,” Scott said. “It’s something we’ve grown up doing. We think we’re pretty good at it. We really like doing it.” Catalena Hats start out with what’s called a “raw body” of felt from Winchester, Tenn. What the body is made of depends upon the cus-tomer’s desires. For 10X hats, it’s rabbit fur. For 20X, rabbit and beaver. And for the top-of-the-line 100X hats, the raw body is 100 percent bea-ver, which is long-lasting and weatherproof. The hat makers take the raw body and find a corresponding oval block that matches your head size, which they measure in the store. The felt and block are put in a machine that uses steam to shape the felt to fit your head. The felt then goes through an ironing process, a trimming process and several other steps to ensure the hat is in prime shape. The Catalenas use a flange, which is basically a hot iron steam-heat-ed press, to lock in the fibers. It presses the fur real tight, adding to the longevity. “From that, it goes into the finishing process,” Travis Catalena said.

Crafting a Texas Icon

Jessica Domel

From a swath of fine felt to an expertly-crafted crown and brim, the artisans at Catalena Hatters keep the spirit of the West alive. One hat at a time.

For over three decades, the Catalena family has made and shaped custom felt hats at their store in downtown Bryan. Their hats are worn by the likes of Willie Nelson, Aaron Watson, Neal McCoy and others. But to the Catalena family, every hat is special. Doesn’t matter if it’s worn by a famous musician, a farmer or just the boy next door.

“Texans use hats for what hats were meant to be used for. It’s more of a tool,” Scott Catalena said. “It’s part of the culture. It’s part of that person. After a while, the hat takes on that person’s personality.”

Cowboy hats protect people from the elements, keeping their heads warm and dry. They eventually become a part of them. Those are just a few of the many reasons the Catalenas continue to make custom hats for their growing customer base.

“It’s not a job for us. It’s a passion,” Scott said. “It’s something we’ve grown up doing. We think we’re pretty good at it. We really like doing it.”

Catalena Hats start out with what’s called a “raw body” of felt from Winchester, Tenn. What the body is made of depends upon the customer’s desires. For 10X hats, it’s rabbit fur. For 20X, rabbit and beaver. And for the top-of-the-line 100X hats, the raw body is 100 percent beaver, which is long-lasting and weatherproof.

The hat makers take the raw body and find a corresponding oval block that matches your head size, which they measure in the store. The felt and block are put in a machine that uses steam to shape the felt to fit your head.

The felt then goes through an ironing process, a trimming process and several other steps to ensure the hat is in prime shape.

The Catalenas use a flange, which is basically a hot iron steam-heated press, to lock in the fibers. It presses the fur real tight, adding to the longevity.

“From that, it goes into the finishing process,” Travis Catalena said. “We go to different grades of sandpaper on the pouncing machines that actually sand a little bit of the fur off and actually puts a fine finish on that hat. Then we use grease on the dark-colored hats that actually gives it a nice shine and dark sheen.”

A leather sweat band is sewn in, a ribbon and silk liner put on. The brim will remain flat until a customer is ready for it to be shaped with steam by experts Scott and Travis.

From start to finish, the process takes at least an hour depending upon the X quality of the hat. Higher quality hats take longer to process. But it’s all worth it when a customer leaves the shop with a hat that perfectly fits their head and personality.

“When you come into here and buy a hat from us, you’re talking to the people who made the hats,” Scott said. “We grew up in here. We don’t sell a lot of other things. This is what we focus on. And we make them instead of just doing the sales part of it. We eat and breathe this stuff. And that’s the difference.”

2015 TFB SPRING PHOTO CONTEST

Bigger. Brighter. Better.

Our photo contest is sporting a new look this year. And our new electronic format allows for a better showcase than ever before.

So much better, in fact, that we’re sponsoring two contests this year: one in the spring and one in the fall. And the rewards for budding photographers are greater than ever!

First place wins a $250 cash prize. Second place garners $200. And two runners-up will win $100 each.

“We’re going to double the fun this year with two contests,” said Mike Barnett, editor of Texas Farm Bureau’s Texas Neighbors and Texas Agriculture. “Photos last year were fantastic. We’re anticipating a good crop this year as well!”

So get those cameras clicking! The deadline for photo submissions in the Spring 2015 contest will be Monday, June 1. The contest is limited to members of the Texas Farm Bureau and their immediate families.

As always, rural settings and rural lifestyles are the preferred themes for all submissions, and contestants are limited to one entry per person. As in years past, both digital and printed photographs may be submitted. To enter, follow these simple rules:

• Digital entries should be emailed to photocontest@txfb.org. For publication purposes, photos must be at least 1024 X 768 pixels or higher.

• Print entries may be mailed to Photo Contest, TFB Public Relations Division, P.O. Box 2689, Waco, TX 76702-2689. A self-addressed, stamped envelope needs to accompany your print photo entry if you want your photograph returned.

• Include a brief description regarding the entry, plus the participant’s name, address, telephone number and valid Texas Farm Bureau membership number.

• For the complete list of rules, click here.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Crafting+a+Texas+Icon/1964514/251234/article.html.

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