By Jennifer Pund
Gold Hill resident Joanne Cole never considered herself crafty, at least until she moved to Colorado and met Grandma Miller. Now known for her “Gold Hill Goo” balms and one-of-a-kind “Where Did You Get That Hat” hats, she gets “great satisfaction” from finishing and selling them, if only to be able to buy more yarn. In an effort to keep up with high demand, Cole will only be selling her hats and balm locally at the Nederland Holiday Market, Dec. 5-6, so be sure to find her table and grab a gift along with something unique for yourself.
Growing up, Cole said she was more of a tomboy and never really sewed anything. “I took Home Economics in school and barely got by. The first project was a beach bag and I could do that, but a skirt was the second project, and the zipper was just too daunting,” she explained.
It wasn’t until she moved to Colorado that Cole had any interest in anything crafty. She first picked up the “addiction” of creating handmade items living with her mentor Grandma Miller. Inspired by a quilt of Miller’s, Cole began creating a Texas Star quilt, her first project.
“Grandma Miller was a dear friend and mentor,” Cole said. “When I decided I wanted to make my first quilt, she pulled out this pattern from next to her chair she always sat in. It was the one she had on her bed that I admired. So, I hand sewed this beautiful star for the first Cole grandchild.”
Calling herself an “addicted quilter,” Cole said when she found quilting, she finally had a release to become an artist. She would meet each week with the ladies of the quilting circle at Boulder’s First Presbyterian Church by the Boulder Post Office and became more proficient. “It’s a very old church with a very old quilting circle,” she said. “They meet every Thursday morning and they taught me everything I know about quilting. If anyone ever wants to learn the art, those are the ladies to go to.”
Her experience with colors, textures and fabric while quilting was the perfect springboard for her “Where Did You Get That Hat” hats. Cole hand-knits each uniquely original hat and hand-sews each fleece liner to perfectly fit on any head. “I saw a young girl knitting with a circular loom, similar to the pot holder thing that we all used as a child. I thought surely if she can do it, I can do it, so I bought one of those looms and I started making hats,” Cole said. “My grandmother taught me how to knit when I was about seven, so I thought I am going to see about this knitting thing. Immediately it came back to me.”
The name evolved from “Knitted Hats” to “Where Did You Get That Hat” for obvious reasons. “Every time I get repeat business, they tell me people ask them, ‘where did you get that hat’, they will ask me for cards to give out when asked,” she said. “I was just calling it “Knitted Hats,” but now it has a name.”
She said her hats have evolved over the years from very simple, to a one-of-a-kind style incorporating traditional yarn with speciality textured yarn to create each wearable work of art. “I never monkey around. I just look at the colors and start. Now my hats are this multi-textural thing and that’s what makes them so distinct,” she said. “If the colors don’t work, that’s OK because I’ll just make another one, but most of the time they work.”
Ever since the addictive bug of fabric collecting bit her with quilting, Cole has discovered interesting places to find quality yarn for her growing stash. “I have this yarn thing, and it’s out of control. It’s like a cornucopia, you use it and it keeps getting bigger,” she said. “I get great satisfaction when I use up a skein, tremendous satisfaction. When people buy my hats I thank them and tell them they are fueling my addiction, now I can buy more yarn.” Calling herself a “compulsive crafter,” Cole says the act of creating releases endorphins. “I always tell people I could be a junkie, but I am a knitter instead,” she explained.
Aside from quilting and knitting, Cole thought she would try her hand at soap making. Inspired, once again, by her mentor, she and a neighbor tried it. “Grandma Miller would transform a gallon of bacon grease into the most beautiful carved bar of soap you’ve ever seen, but it never smelled very good,” Cole said. “I was really into the art of perfumery when I started making soap.”
The artist explained that making soap is hard and each batch was a trial and error process. “Sometimes we’d make good stuff and sometimes it was bad,” she explained. “Soap making is very difficult, especially when you don’t follow directions well, which isn’t my strong point. You can’t ad lib in soap making, try as I might.”
Her neighbor found the perfect combination for a hand salve that worked beautifully on mountain skin. Cole incorporated her special blend of herbs, oil and wax—all especially designed for the skin—to create her own salve blend called Gold Hill Goo with a light lavender and orange aroma. “It’s so easy, so I started making it… It’s really lovely stuff,” she said. “And, it has a fragrance that is light and lovely most people enjoy.” She also makes a fragrance-free salve for anyone called “Boy Balm.”
Gold Hill Goo and Boy Balm are “good for what ails your skin.” Dry and cracked hands, feet, elbows, knees, cuticles and, of course, lips. “It’s an all purpose hand salve,” Cole said. “It’s designed for skin, but people just love to put stuff on their lips. That’s fine, it’s designed for all skin.”
Originally published in the November 2015 issue of the MMAC Monthly.