WILLCOX — When it comes to being all right with where one lives and what one does, Joshua Elliott and his wife, Teresa, were doing all right — until they weren’t.
Feeling disconnected with their community, the couple needed a new place to hang their hats.
The short story is, they gave up what appeared to be an idyllic life south of Seattle, quit their jobs and packed it up for Arizona where they looked to buy a place near Tombstone in hopes of setting up an AirBnB, or something along those lines, to start their new life here.
No initial luck with a place near Tombstone, but they fell in love with a plot of land between there and Willcox with a view of the Chiricahua Mountains, bought it in late 2020, and began building their own home in 2021.
“We were drawn to the area, we love the desert, the beauty and everything about this place, and just the history here, we love it,” Joshua explained.
“When it comes to the number of people, the place we were from was not a friendly place,” he recalled. “It was really hard to make connections with people, and that’s why it made it so easy to leave, because we were not attached to many people and family wasn’t close.”
Teresa added, “since coming here we’ve made nothing but deep connections with people.”
They recall a time of being comfortable, a decent paying job at Boeing for Joshua, but growingly aware they weren’t setting the kind of roots that connected them to the community.
Both creative types, her previous job designing displays for Macy’s and their hobby work with jewelry were combined with a passion for fashion and hats.
While designing for men’s fashion displays Teresa noticed a lack of men’s jewelry to accessorize with. It was here they began creating together, making extra fashion jewelry to accompany the displays.
Joshua became a milliner, a designer and maker of hats, and is now ready to be the city’s local hatter at the soon-to-open Dusty Desert Hat Company & Accessories.
The Elliotts have a plan to open their hat shop next to the historic Willcox Commercial Building at 180 Railroad Ave. They will move in January and will open doors in April.
The creative duo currently works from their ranch, sells online, and makes appearances at the farmers market at Source of Coffee. The cafe in Willcox hosts local producers for a pop-up market 4-6 p.m. on Thursdays.
The new shop will allow for a custom hat-making experience, getting expertly fitted then watching your hat built while having a hand in the custom design of your hat bands and accessory jewelry.
The hat bands, made of beads, feathers, rivets, leather and fabric give each hat an artful personalized look and each hand-crafted piece is unique.
They hope to capture a market of hat wearers who travel to Tucson for repairs, restorations and cleaning work.
“We make them by hand, we fit your head and we make sure everything fits exactly the way you want it,” Joshua said. “We customize every piece of it. A custom hat could last hundreds of years, be waterproof, hold its shape, not have many issues.”
The known use of felt for hats dates to prehistory, while archeological samples of felt date back to the Neolithic period, 6500-6300 B.C. Felt’s water repelling properties made it a useful building and clothing material before the advent of knitting and weaving.
Joshua works in either 100% beaver or 100% rabbit felt for his hats and stays away from blends when crafting the headwear.
The hat company has a presence online, @dustydesert.hat.co on Instagram and @dustydeserthatco on Facebook, or can be reached at 520-344-3850.
“There’s something about hats,” the new town milliner said. “There was a time when men wouldn’t leave their home without a hat, and I think that everyone can wear a hat. It’s up to us to make a hat that fits them right and looks right on them.”