Inspiration: For Hair, From Lives

To break up all these “this is what I’ve been up to” posts, I just wanted to take the time to type up something a little more introspective.  Sometimes it feels like one topic keeps popping up or like I keep talking (maybe too much?) about a given issue and I get really pumped about it!  Lately, I have had a TON of educational opportunities which I have taken advantage of from many different lines, including: Sebastian, Nioxin, Sassoon, R+Co and Oribe.  Now for me, classes are not about inspiration, they are about technique.  As I said recently on the Hairbrained forums, I see so many incredible hair pictures everyday from all of my different sources that I am almost immune to their charm.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the imagery and believe it pushes me to get better and better technically, but it doesn’t usually generate a true feeling of inspiration.  At least, it’s pretty rare.

See, I have always had two competing drives within me.  I have always been a sort of creative free spirit on the one hand and then a total nerd on the other hand.  Classes and hair photos mostly appeal to the nerd in me and I am prone to breaking things down into very formulaic and almost mechanical functions.  This is the part of me that takes comfort in order, in things making sense.  I look at a photo and I see where if the hair were one centimeter higher it would change the proportions of the image, how the shapes could maximize their impact.  In classes I am always wondering, “Why?” and “Could this be done in a better, more efficient way?” and “How would a small change in technique change the final outcome?”

But the other side, that is the side that makes me really love my job.  Yet it is the part of me that is easier to ignore, since it is often hard to know what it needs to thrive.  Throughout my travels it has been the people, the architecture, the art, the subway stations, the weather, the trees of every shape and color, the rivers and lakes and harbors.  It is the people I meet who are very nice, and the ones who can be quite nasty, too.  It’s the artsy youth of Toronto that somehow look so much more British than the alternative kids in the US (they seem to have a better sense of balance and aesthetics).  It’s the way people from the UK say “cool” like it means something.  It almost gives me chills.  It’s the way the vibe of the bar changes when the woman in the corner stops screaming at the pinball machine.  Or when a different song comes on.  It’s how when driving for 8 hours straight you feel a difference in the steering wheel from one CD to the next.  It’s how you go so long between showers you see what your hair really looks like.  It’s seeing a four year old tumbling in the grass near Boston Harbor, trying to compete with the street performers.  It’s stopping at rest stops in Central PA in black denim and black leather and black shades while everyone else is wearing sweatshirts from wherever they came from.  It’s going to shows and seeing the swing of the hair while everyone is dancing in their own little worlds. It’s those friends you have who always twist the same section of hair around a finger when they’re nervous.   It’s seeing a friend in the hospital and her hair is  cascading so perfectly it’s hard to remember she’s so sick.

My Goals as an Artist

Hello everyone! I thought today was as good a day as any to jot down some of my artistic goals I will be working on throughout the coming year. These are mostly for me to be able to look back at and assess how I am doing, but it also opens the door for others to tell me how I am doing and offer friendly criticism. I would also encourage other hair designers and other sorts of artists to take an honest look at your work and think of productive ways to make it that much better! These goals are mainly for improvement as an editorial stylist, but I find that what I learn from photo sessions also teaches me a lot about other facets of hair styling and even just general design.

Here are the three areas I will be working on this coming year:

1. Juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is something I have always thought about with other forms of art, from poetry to painting to sculpture, but my recent trip to LA with Sebastian really opened my mind up to the idea of juxtaposition as a way to highlight and add emphasis to parts of a style. Strong textures can become muddled without an opposing texture to create contrast.

In the Urban Explorers collection, the Shanghai styles are a great example of what juxtaposing textures can do, adding emphasis in subtle ways. For the Shanghai styles, the models had black or near black hair, which is great for creating an architectural style with high shine. But in order to really showcase the shine, the micro crimper was used to matte areas so the shiny areas can appear shinier and the hair can still have dimension in a two dimensional picture. It is often a problem getting shapes to show up in dark, solid colored hair, which is why certain updos can look much more interesting on blondes, but with juxtaposing textures, it is possible to create dynamic styles even if the hair color is fairly flat.

For me, I do a lot of braid work and waves and just generally love texture. I am working on taking control of the textures in my work and knowing when to add some smooth or tames areas of a style in order to add emphasis to the wilder parts. Otherwise the eyes don’t know quite where to look.

2. Form/Silhouette. The overall form or silhouette of a piece is almost always what attracts me most to a hairstyle. So why on earth am I say meticulous and detail oriented to the point that I completely lose track of what shapes I am building? I get swept away. And I don’t step back enough. It is important to me this year that the overall shapes I create be completely intentional and not just the result of stacking detail upon detail. Part of the problem is I treat styles as if they will be examined from every angle rather than focusing the design on the front (or three quarters view, or back) and letting the side details be secondary.

I think planning and staying dedicated to a plan will be of utmost importance for this goal, as well as assessing my work multiple times throughout the creative process.

3. Efficiently Refining Textures. This is probably the most important goal, as it also applies to bridal clients and other salon work. I want to learn everything I can about perfecting and refining textures…. quickly! Smoothing and taming hair is always a delicate balance between keeping textures organic and free, yet making them smoother and cleaner. It is about precision and getting the texture exactly how I want it rather than just a general idea. I mean curls that are soft and frizz free without going to far and making them crispy. I mean teasing that looks whimsical rather than like a mess. I mean tight braids that are perfect and loose braids that are controlled and clean with well planned wisps.

I want to achieve ultimate control and most of this is about product knowledge, which Sebastian has been helping me with quite a bit. It is about knowing what to grab and when because the wrong pomade in a braid can make it to crisp and the wrong product for taming curls during a comb out can weigh the hair down.

Luckily, I have my whole career to strive for perfection in styling. When I am satisfied that I am taking each of these elements into consideration for every style I will make more goals. I know each of these will be a never ending journey to perfect, but as long as I can keep them at the forefront of my mind during this year, so that I can continue improving and evolving, I will consider my goal met.

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.