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.

Beauty shots with Paige and Mark Brosius

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Hello everyone! Here is some work from a few months ago. The model is Paige Price and the photographer is Mark Brosius. Let me tell you what products I used for this look!

Skin prep/primer: Embryolisse
Foundation: Make Up For Ever HD with Graftobian Creme foundation for added coverage in places
Cheeks: Ben Nye blush with Tarte bronzer
Eyes: NYX chubby white pencil to prime with Lime Crime’s China Doll palette with Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Seal with the Lime Crime for the liner
Lips: OCC Lip Tar
Powder: Ben Nye Visage Luxury Powder

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.

ChaosMakeupArtist Workshop and Beyond

I have been putting so many miles on my car and my body. Oh my! My five days off in a row from the salon for Thanksgiving break were packed with fun and travel. Lots of indulgent eating (especially considering I was hanging out with my chef brother in New York for two evenings!), lots of reconnecting with people I don’t see very often, both family and friends, and of course, my fabulous education with Megan Martinez.

I’m not going to reveal any huge Chaos secrets here, but I just wanted to gush a little bit about how fortunate I feel to have met and learned from the wildly talented and amazingly sweet Megan Martinez. It was interesting taking a class like this from Megan because what makes her most amazing as an artist is her originality, which is not something that she can give away. What she can do is inspire, and that she does extremely well.

I also came away with an intense desire to indulge myself in trying to get every detail right. In the beauty industry there is intense pressure to maintain the perfect balance of speed and quality. I am continuously finding new ways to be as efficient as possible, as I think every enterprising artist in this industry should. But overall I think I have been trying too hard on individual details by themselves instead of really looking at how something fits into a broader picture. Think big and then small instead of just adding up the small. And basically just not agonizing if each detail isn’t immediately perfect with free hand.

I also got to sneak in a trip to the OCC store in NYC. If you haven’t checked out Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, you should! Their lip tars are getting more and more popular. They are my favorite for lips!

Today I packed in another 200 miles on my body’s odometer with a shoot in Central PA. Even though I got pack to Pittsburgh about less than six hours before my shift back at the salon, I had a wonderful day traveling to shoot, shooting, then going off to another shoot. Indeed, it looks like I won’t get a true break until after Christmas, but that is fine with me.

On My Love for Cutting Hair

As some of you know, I got into cutting hair by cutting my own hair. When I was young I really admired my hair dresser. I was mesmerized, in a strange way. I always hated the forced conversations (“Do you have a boyfriend, yet?” “No.” “Good, it’s better that way.” Then why do you ask me every time…), and I’m sure she was the first of many people to become nervous cutting my hair because of my complete lack of expression. But I like watching people create a million times more than I like small talk. And honestly, sitting in Vicky’s chair may have been the only time I really looked at myself. It has been rare in my life to think of myself as “pretty,” not because I felt ugly, but because I thought of myself in purely abstract terms. But Vicky always made me feel not only pretty, but energetic about who I was inside and out.

To get back on track, I think it is safe to say that Vicky, unknowingly, was my very first cutting teacher. There came a time that she had built up such a huge clientele that it would take weeks for me to squeeze in with her. I grew irrational and impulsive in my high school years and when my feelings couldn’t be sculpted or painted or scribbled out, I would pull out my shears and cut a few months off my hair.

Since then I have had some wonderful cutting teachers both in Pittsburgh and abroad. And some amazing friends/clients to offer their heads to my creativity. Kora will always be one of my favorites, with her boldness and openness, her unique beauty and the personality to pull off any cut. I miss laying down newspapers and ripping arm holes in a garbage bag to keep the hair off. And she was never afraid of my gently crazed expression.

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Since then, of course my cutting is more sophisticated, with mind to technique and shape and sectioning. I have learned so much every step of the way. But I still have this deep passion and deep love of personalization. I could truly spend all day freestyle cutting one haircut, just adding more different details and features. But the ability to plan and lay down a blueprint in my brain is invaluable and brings new fun and efficiency. Something of a puzzle.

What I strive for in hair cutting is not only individuality and fun, but also extreme wearability. I have never been one for just making things look princess-perfect. Or any other kind of perfect. I want my clients to be able to style simply. To have hair that changes every day with their mood. Versatility and spontaneity. I want their hair to look like it sprouts naturally that way. Organic and uninhibited. I want enthusiasm and excitement from my clients and I want them to love what I give them but never become complacent.

Who’s with me?

Call 412/344-9707 for an appointment with me.
-Rachel