Network Under 40
Join Network Under 40 on June 21 at AJ’s Good Time Bar, country music star Alan Jackson’s restaurant and bar, located in the heart of downtown Nashville. With
Local creatives Kelly Diehl and Elizabeth Williams have launched New Hat Projects as an art and design studio that’s creating visually arresting, custom wall coverings and multi-media installations. From simplistic and elegant, to abstract and unique, their inspiring designs are showing up in homes and businesses all over Nashville.
The artistic duo first dreamed up the idea for New Hat after years of friendship and a deep respect for one another’s creative endeavors. Diehl has worked as a muralist, artist assistant, and a baker while Williams, who received her graphic design degree at Belmont, worked at Emma as a brand art director, and later with letterpress artist Bryce McCloud at Isle of Printing on the long-term art project Our Town, as well as other art and commercial projects.
“Our first collaboration was in 2014 for Dozen Bakery, where I was working at the time,” Diehl says. “We decided to hand-paint wallpaper sheets with a design we’d drawn together.”
When the timing was right, the two decided to get serious about starting a design-centric business together. “Our paths have been so parallel—we’ve changed jobs at the same time, experienced artistic restlessness together, and then found major opportunity,” Williams says. “We finally realized we weren’t afraid of looking into the void of uncertainty—and we knew it was time to jump.”
Through New Hat, the duo offers unique visual perspectives, and they’ve quickly become the go-to girls for those looking to enhance an interior space, like the new Germantown restaurant Henrietta Red, which features their wall coverings.
“It was great to work with a women-led team to create artwork that was strong and feminine and slightly unexpected,” Diehl says.
The richest part, Diehl adds, is the inspiration they find within each other. “Often, I lean toward architectural and spatial, while Elizabeth has an affinity and genius for pattern, design and material experimentation” she says. “Our diverse backgrounds allow us to bring different strengths into the studio.”
Their creative process often involves collaboration—and a vast mixture of activities.
“There’s intermittent dancing, soft yelling, constant admiration of one another, wringing of hands, pacing, eating, and sitting quietly in front of computers,” Williams laughs. “But ultimately it’s about feeling so thankful that we’re spending our days doing something we love.”
Their individual work at other entrepreneurial businesses has given the women a strong perspective on the positive impact a business like theirs can bring. “We’re very dedicated to making art and visual language an important expression within the city of Nashville. There’s a market for creative professionals to pursue their passions and make a living, and there’s truly a collaborative, entrepreneurial spirit here,” Williams says. “We feel supported by so many smart, art-focused people—especially women—whom we respect and admire. We couldn’t pull this off in any other city.”