Alumnas Work on Display in Peabody Essex Museum
As a young child, Denise Shea '94 would carefully observe the meticulous care her stepfather put into his attire before he left the house for one of his many VFW events he attended with Denise's mother.
"He would put on a very nice suit; he was very well dressed. But the last thing he would do is take out his hat box, take out a hat, and put it on his head, taking it to another level. I realized there was a lot of power in wearing a hat," Denise recalled.
Denise's affinity for fashion evolved into a love of art and design, leading her to a degree in commercial art from Elms College. "I told my guidance counselor that I really like art but I also want to make money," she said with a laugh. "He directed me to my art teacher who said 'You need to go into commercial art.'"
Denise's talents led her to various jobs as a graphic designer, art director for BusinessWest, and numerous freelance jobs. She is also continues to paint and write flash fiction with a community writer's group, Souled Out Artists. In 2005, she came back to her love of hats and established her own hat design company, Denishé. Lately, the milliner business has been good for Denise. So good, in fact, that she was contacted by the Peabody Essex Museum who wanted to purchase some of her hats for their gift shop for an upcoming event, Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones.
"It's a traveling show from the U.K. At each venue they've had smaller shows that focus on local milliners. They asked me to try to submit a piece to see if it would be accepted into the local show. So I did and they chose it and now I have a hat on display in the American gallery of the Peabody Essex Museum," Denise said.
Denise's company Denishé (derived from an acquaintance who mistakenly thought her full name was one word) has since sold 50 hats to the Peabody Essex Museum and they continue to ask for more.
As a wife and mother, Denise enjoys the freedom of being her own boss. Her studio is only a four-minute walk from her Maynard, Massachusetts house, she meets regularly with a local writers group, and she generally feels connected to her community. "Of course, it's always hard being a freelancer," she admits. "You work yourself to death because you don't know when the next job is going to come along."