Experimentation

I experiment. A lot. Sometimes it works and sometimes it goes horribly wrong. I am usually happy with a 50% success rate over the course of a day. It is ok if my smoothie tastes so bad it needs a chaser as long as my drive from the South Hills to the Northside saves me five minutes. I try things and sometimes it is awesome and sometimes it isn’t.

This is a big reason why I like to immerse myself in a world of hair outside of the salon. I am very conservative with my risks in my chair (by my standards) but when I am doing a test shoot or a class, that is really when I can test my limits and really see what hair can do. A lot of people ask me why I do hair in my time off, and this is precisely why. It makes my work week more informed and excited because I get to employ the tricks I learn on the side.

Hair, Music, Youth, Freedom

The further I dive into the beauty industry, the more I see how many enthusiastic, ambitious and passionate hairdressers have connections with the music industry. It is one of those fascinating ideas that should have been obvious, but never fully clicked until this past year and now I can’t stop seeing the connections. So many of the iconic hairstyles of the last fifty years have been made famous by different music icons (The Beatles, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, even Justin Bieber…)

Thinking about music and hair and all the connections brings me back in time to my teen years. Now, I have little musical talent, but music was always extremely important to me. I was by all accounts a pretty nerdy kid growing up. And more than a little weird. I had a uniform of band shirts with collared shirts underneath and jeans. Dressed up was the same outfit, but with a plaid skirt, knee socks and a bow tied around my calf. I chopped at my own hair with reasonable success. I was a quiet, straight-A student and this was as rebellious as I got. I had a quiet angst that expressed itself through looking completely oblivious to fashion trends (other than sort of looking like an indie boy sometimes). I felt most alive at small shows at the WOW Hall in Eugene, OR, letting my epileptic dance moves writhe free.

I never thought of myself as “into” fashion, but I was always intrigued by it, studying Vogue imagery in waiting rooms and admiring the perfection, even though at the time I found no connection to it. My “fashion” came out of nowhere. Like the questions of whether something was relevant or appropriate never popped into my head.

In college I was constantly covered in paint, duct tape, clay, etc, and dressed in jeans and oversized men’s shirts and the occasional sundress. I had the artsy/quirky look down and showered rarely, especially in Pittsburgh winters. I let my hair grow wild.

But eventually I graduated and went to beauty school, graduated that and began a desperate search to find my professional image as a hair stylist.

Long story short, the further I get in my career, the more I feel myself grow in confidence and revert back to some of my old gut feelings and style impulses. A little over a year ago I was in Berlin and the style there was so inspiring to me. To see how effortless and sort of dirty these people looked, yet they still had an unmistakeable sense of style and confidence. Now I am not back to band shirts by any means, and admittedly, I am a bit of a fabric snob, but I feel like a grown up version of who I used to be, as opposed to the beauty professional I imagined myself to be.

Part of this has also been a return to music. I’ve been back at shows for the first time in years. Back in tiny rooms packed with sweaty people, where the music is raw and the music is LOUD and I yell along and feel this surge of emotion and it is inspiring.

Music events also happen to be the best place for hair gazing. There are a lot of do-it-yourself hack jobs that are kind of inspiring to me, either because they are awful or because they have something interesting going on. So many textures and so many shapes. The kinds of shows I go to the people usually don’t do much to manipulate their hair texture so everything is real and it is all about the cut. You get people with a sass and spunk and they aren’t afraid (or don’t want to look afraid) of anything. I remember loving the hair gazing at shows well before I was cutting anyone else’s hair, and far, far before I ever even considered it as a profession.

In the world of music, especially indie music, image is important, but in a way that doesn’t feel superficial, but rather an outward expression of where we are on the inside. There is a confidence and a ease present. An awkward, yet solid, sense of identity. It is no wonder to me why so many musicians have awesome hair and why some of them eventually end up as hairdressers.

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Enjoy these photos of me as an angsty teen.

Permanence Does Not Make Art: Why Hairdressing is One of the Purest Forms of Expression

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First off, say hello to my fresh new cut by Derek Piekarski. He has been a great teacher to me over the years and it is always an honor to get a cut from him. Secondly, onto what this post is about, which is a difficult thing for me to summarize so I am just going to dive right into the middle.

Clients often ask me if I still paint, knowing that I studied art in college. Funny they always assume that I like to paint. I really never was much of a painter, unless you count the rough splashes of color (like above) that I incorporate into my word art, or the once-a-year, seven-hour-straight session where I lean over a canvas in some ungodly position until I have something that resembles enough of something. I was more into found art, using real materials, never representations. It is amazing I never ended up with any diseases from all the crap I dug out of hillsides and dumpsters. My work was always difficult to explain and frankly I found it exhausting and irritating to explain most of the time. Because if I wanted to explain it in words, I would have just wrote a poem. I could enjoy talking about my art if someone else could start a conversation with some indications that they understood or were trying to understand, but I don’t believe art should be “easy” necessarily and I don’t think I should ever have to sweat through an uncomfortable explanation for someone to just raise their eyebrows, say “Oh,” and walk away shrugging.

I write this post after just recently finishing a piece that I had started last summer. It was a word art piece, which is shown partially above. I began the piece when I was having a lot of negative feelings (and a bad attitude!) and was considering a lot of life changes. It also incorporated my current haircut at that point in time. It was a rough portrait with poetic rants filling large spaces with tiny writing. I thought I would never finish it, but I did just this past week.

I cannot look at it without feeling anger and disappointment.

The paint is dry. The ink is dry. I cannot change it. My words are stuck. Those feelings are stuck. It is static and unnerving. The overall silhouette is too blocky and odd. I wish I could start over. I try to tell myself it is just a portrait of a time and that it does not represent me anymore, but after so much work, how can I not feel any positive connection to it?

I look at the piece and think, I hope I never feel this way about my career. I hope I never take a step back and say, Whoa, where did I lose myself?

Art like this is too static. Therefore it can never be a pure form of self expression. The best it can show is a piece of a person, and often times it is so zoomed in that it becomes distorted. We are not statues, we waver, we fluctuate, we dissolve and then regroup. We change, we grow, we move.

Our hair says a lot about us. A good cut can reflect many different moods depending on subtle differences in styling and no one can deny how much a drastic change in a cut can push along change in a person’s life. Hair is remarkable because it can always be current and in line with a person’s feelings or attitudes during a particular time in their life.

When I cut hair, it is all about being in the present with the individual in my chair. It is freeing to know that they are not stuck with one style forever. And whatever style I give them will change form on its own. Hair is one of the most fascinating mediums because it does have such a life of its own. It moves its own way, curls its own way, there are always unique and different considerations. On some people, my job is more a game of compromising my desires with the desires of the hair.

It is exhilarating to be able to create a full piece of art in under an hour. And to know that that exact same head of hair will transform and grow in a month. There will be something new to work with, something new to create. The person will be in a different place in their life, even if the change is subtle. It is art that can move in the wind, art that can go swimming, skydiving, motorcycling, anything. It can interact with the world and the world can interact with it. Not like my lousy portrait that gives the same cold stare no matter what is thrown its way. No, hair is different, and it has the potential to be the best possible expression of a person’s life. Because it has life.

The New Year, Hospitals and Hair

So far, 2013 has been an odd year, with more hospital visits than the entirety of 2012. There has been a lot on my mind, but one topic that recurs is the relationship between health and hair.

I initially wanted to blog about this after my first hospital visit of the year, visiting a five year old Palestinian boy at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. His father (who had flew sixteen hours with a dying child and was now staying with him in Pittsburgh while his two other children and pregnant wife waited worriedly in the Middle East) had happened upon my salon after dining next door at one of the nicest sushi restaurants in town. I was very touched by his story and could not imagine the stress of caring for someone so young and so sick, let alone doing so so far from home. Long story short, he gave me the number for his hospital room and told me it would mean a lot to him if I could go out and cut his son’s hair.

The boy had the most beautiful dark blue eyes, bushy lashes and the softest face. His hair was wild, overgrown, disheveled. He was in constant motion and, needless to say, it was not the perfect haircut. But his hairline was clean and he could see out of his eyes and there is no doubt that he looked just a little bit healthier. He looked just a little bit more like an average, healthy, five year old boy.

Little did I know that the next day I would be in the hospital visiting one of my own friends. Just six days prior I had seen him for lunch, his curly hair growing wild like all the college boys do. To see him suddenly with his curls shaved except for a few patched and wires and cords entangling him, it was really difficult.

Something about too much or too little hair just begs questions. Too much tends to imply neglect, too little tends to imply a loss or hardship. Recently I have met a few ladies who wear wigs for medical conditions other than cancer, and cancer is always the assumption if they let their bold heads show. I also see many women in the salon who undergo significant amounts of hair loss from different medication/hormonal changes. It is a hard thing for many women to accept, that their hair will change, and in significant ways, between texture, density and color. We expect our skin to change dramatically, but our hair we expect to remain relatively constant, except, perhaps, for the need to color it.

This month, I am proud to say that I have already had two lovely ladies come into the salon to donate their hair, which fills me with joy. Not just for the opportunity for me to give them a new style, but for the opportunity they have given to others to present the sick and the stigmatized with a new framework for their face.

Sebastian What’s Next Competition

Hello! It has been awhile since my last post, mainly because I have been extremely busy in the salon! But I have a lot to tell you all about the first part of my year so keep your ears perked up.

Most importantly, I am working on becoming a finalist in Sebastian’s What’s Next Competition! It has been causing me a lot of stress because a small part of the final score involves getting votes and the page is coded in such a way that you can’t vote from certain devices, which I know is hurting my ability to get votes. I have this fear welling in me that I just won’t get enough votes and that will be the difference between becoming a finalist or not becoming one.

I know how style judging is subjective to a degree, but I KNOW my look is very different than a lot of the other styles and I KNOW that the look, while very odd in some ways, is not so advante garde that they couldn’t use it alongside their commercial work. I tried to stay true to Sebastian’s aesthetic, the theme “Nightshade Masquerade,” and Sebastian’s current shine kick. I worked with Mark Brosius and model Lexii Nichole for this style and they both did a fabulous job. My work is notably different in both silhouette and detail from that of my competition.

In short, I believe I have what it takes to get into the top four. I really do.

Making the top four would mean that Sebastian would fly me to LA to compete on stage against the other finalists. That in itself would be an incredible achievement and I would get to meet with and get a mentor from the Sebastian style team. If I were to win that, I would get a photoshoot in LA with the style team and win sponsorship to NAHA, which is one of my next goals, and I would be flown to New York Fashion Week to help style there. It would give me a chance to see a whole other side of hair.

Please, friends and followers, please vote for me! To see my look and vote click here.

Behind the Brush

I figured the most appropriate way to start my new blog would be to give a brief history of myself as a hair and makeup artist, to contextualize myself in relation to the enormous topics of beauty and image.

First things first.  I am a Pittsburgh-based hair and makeup artist offering both in salon and on location services.  I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh after several years spent covered in paint, clay, graphite and duct tape.  I have always been a constant student of art, but tend to bounce around from medium to medium.  Art is a study in articulating feelings.  Makeup artistry is a great way to articulate feelings, but it is more interesting than that because of the societal associations swimming around the features of a woman’s face.  A person’s hair is cut with many psychological strings attached.  The artistry of beauty has an inherent depth worth writing about, which is why I am starting this blog.

I was never a girly girl.  I wear little makeup myself, and prefer low maintenance hairstyles.  It is what works for me.  As a child, I would cornrow intricate patterns on my American Girl doll.  Spirals, criss-crosses, zig-zags… I would spend hours on a design, always wanting to truly create something different and new.  In high school, I learned to cut my own hair as a sort of stress relief.  I was much more calculated and skilled than you might expect.  I began cutting friend’s hair.  In college, I was constantly cutting hair.  After a summer spent as a professional artist (being paid to create my own four piece installation) I was worried that most creative fields would be lonely and draining and I wanted something social.  I knew that doing hair was something I could pursue with fervency, without the intensity of being locked in a studio all day.  I could be creative within the realms of everyday life and talk to all sorts.  One of the most thrilling things about working in the salon is the ability to live vicariously through my clients.  To have clients who are living out different paths which I have considered for my own.

I began doing hair and makeup for photoshoots while I was in beauty school.  It was incredible to start learning about the potential hair had as a sculptural form.  To study shape and space, abstracting human features… wonderful.  Soon, I began doing makeup, too, because the face will always be closer to the focal point of a picture than the hair.  The work of the makeup artist can mold the soul of the photograph through shadows and colors.  Especially with an expressive model, the work of the makeup artist can be as profound as it is beautiful.

And that is a brief explanation for why I do what I do.