Waltraud Reiner conceived the idea of Hats for Happiness during her years as a milliner, as well as travelling widely to teach hat making. During the 1990s a period of adversity struck Waltraud and her family: her husband had an accident which left him with paraplegia, her sister-in-law was fatally struck by a car when trying to rescue a turtle from the road, and Waltraud herself had to learn to overcome her own depression and eating disorder. Waltraud translated all this pain into making and using metaphors around hats. After her husband’s accident he started talking about suicide, at which time her own depression was at its highest, she found solace and respite in art. That time led her to drop the need for her peers’ approval or for judgement about the right way to teach stitching skills. Waltraud’s right way to make was to express the heart and she coined the saying ‘Hat and art is in the HeArT’. Hats for happiness was born.
About one in four people worldwide suffer some kind of metal illness during their lifetime. Many suffer in silence, lacking the words or means to express their pain or make sense of it. Through active creativity, and reaching out to make connections with others, Waltraud found she could break through layers of silence to find new ways where none was initially apparent. People may not know what to do but they do NOT have to do it ALONE.
Hats for Happiness Inc became an association in 2014 and has to date instigated Hatwalk and the Little Hat project.