Lancashire designer Maxine Tutty has a feather in her cap
PUBLISHED: 22:36 12 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:52 20 February 2013
Maxine Tutty has no problem with success going to her head. She can do things with feathers that produce gasps of admiration from theatre audiences and set rock stars beating a path to her Lancashire door.
MAXINE Tutty has no problem with success going to her head. She can do things with feathers that produce gasps of admiration from theatre audiences and set rock stars beating a path to her Lancashire door.
This talented Tarleton-born woman is one of the world's top designers, making of the sort of elaborate feathered headdresses you see on stage anywhere from the London Palladium to luxury cruise ships.
Her amazingly intricate concoctions have been worn by dancers on the recent Take That 'Beautiful World' tour, in ballerina Darcey Bussell's smash hit stage show, at David Essex concerts and by drag comedian Lilly Savage.
She provides one of the few totally bespoke services for headdresses and fascinators and the quality of her work had brought in orders from around the world. She and husband Bill have travelled as far afield as Hong Kong and South Africa to source exotic feathers to create show-stopping designs.
She has been running Maxine's Feathers, now based in Blackpool, for the last 14 years. The early part of her career was spent in a cellar workshop in a house she bought from Betty 'Legs' Diamond of Funny Girls fame. 'It's a relief to be back in the daylight,' she laughs from her current home in Normoss Road.
After leaving school, she gained an art degree at Bradford in the hope of becoming a painter. But it was a trip behind the scenes at the Bradford Alhambra theatre that set her on her career path. 'I decided there and then I wanted to make hats,' she says. 'I applied for a job at Stageworks at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and got it and spent six happy years making hats.
'Eventually I decided I wanted to make my own designs and so I set up in business. It's a job but I absolutely love - you get to meet some unusual and colourful people.' Business was steady to start with but things really took off when her husband became involved in the marketing side, opening up the business up on the internet.
Now, designers staging top West End shows will ask Maxine to produce designs on paper before choosing the most appropriate designs. The feathers involved are often from ostriches but they can come from more exotic species and a headdress could cost anything from a few hundred pound to 1,000.
When a big order comes in, Maxine has some helpers and the business can see her working a needle and thread at midnight. 'I'm more or less self-taught. I don't know where I got it from. Certainly not my mother - she can't thread a needle!'
One of her stranger commissions ended up on display in a London church. 'W were commissioned to made two wings for a piece of art by a man called Paul Fryer. He had sculpted a wax figure of Lucifer and we were commissioned to make the wings.
'Each was 2.5 metres long with a total of 7,000 feathers individually attached . It took us 17 hours to attach the feathers to each wing. We thought we might have bitten off more than we could chew, but it was worth all the effort. We went to the unveiling and it was breathtaking.'
Maxine has been known to sport a fancy head-piece herself. One of her latest creations was a fascinator to be worn at her brother's wedding. Nothing ordinary, mind you...the centre-piece was made of porcupine quills!