Along comes the PEM inspired show — and voila — she put her considerable talents into action and made the prototype of what she calls “Warrior Coverage.” As we know the media likes to say we are battling cancer — as if we had weapons to combat it! Grillo wanted the comfort and coziness of a hat but to cover her head like a wig.
A single mom, she remembers her young son stroking her hair and being left with a clump of hair in his hand. She went on to wear wigs because that’s all you could get reimbursed for and to see her son stroke her head and be surprised that there was no hair left in his hand. But the idea of the “Warrior Coverage” hat in her sketches had yet to be realized until 2011, after she was diagnosed with stage 3 again in 2010 and the news emerged that SAA would hang a show about hats.
She knew this time she “had to do it!” Despite myriad complications, including a flood in the closet where she stores her sewing machine, she managed to finish that plus another hat and both pieces were juried in the exhibition. They had to be completely hand-sewn.
Working under the trade name Lily Royale Productions, she will make custom hats for those who would like them in the material of their choice. She can be contacted through Salem Arts Association, where you will find some of her work in the Salem Arts Gallery on Artists’ Row. Many folks stopped to enjoy her entry without the knowledge of the story behind it. In fact one woman wanted her email because she has a sister fighting the disease and it resonated with her unknowingly. Wigs can be itchy and hats are so much more comfortable!
Ellen Hardy, also a breast cancer survivor, is now interim executive director of the Salem Arts Association.