Berlin Changed my Life

[Written originally on a napkin on my derailed flight home from Connect]

There are always certain things that we don’t know that we know, things which can only be fully discovered when we attempt to explain ourselves to someone else. I discovered something about myself last week, which should have been obvious, allowing myself to place the appropriate due nostalgia on a truly transformative trip.

A little over a year ago I spent three days in Berlin. I had just finished hair classes in Budapest, where I had received a lot of flattering comments from the teachers. It was the first time that hairdressers I deeply respected pulled me aside to tell me that I had talent and potential. I transitioned into visiting friends in Berlin who were feeling a little gloomy. This was lightened by the fact that the sun was making an appearance for the first time in many, many months. The first day or spring is the best day to visit any country. There was so much happiness in the streets, the parks, the fields.

Immediately, Berlin left a significant mark on me. Which isn’t to say enough: Berlin truly changed my life and forever altered my conception of myself as a beauty professional. I saw a distinct and aggressive fashion sense. It was rebellious. It was free, it cared just the right amount. Prior to the trip I had tried to conform to the successful girly-girl stylists I knew. But it was never quite right. It was impossible to make me want the things they wanted, to have passion for dressing, acting, speaking the way they did. For the first time, I saw a fashion I could own. One I could contribute to and belong within. There was a defiant confidence in the culture, a cold coolness that was contagious. It was raw, gritty, undone. It was everything that I had tried to suppress in hopes of finding success as a hair stylist.

Additionally, the art: the graffiti, the murals, the installations. It was a city in adolescence and it renewed within me a certain youthfulness. The art fit so neatly within my own style, invigorating and validating. There was so much I had left behind in order to “grow up,” in order to make it out of adolescence alive. This trip came just in time to reawaken those creatively rebellious impulses and I was ready, mature enough to focus and refine those impulses into a style I could call my own.

Picture below: My shadow interacting with an installation at the Hamburger Bahnhof. Kick ass installation art museum, and I am picky!

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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.

What’s Next Awards Part II

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Here is a backstage photo of my model and me

The day of the show I began working on my model shortly before 9AM. I was pacing like a mad woman… going into the weekend I was just proud of getting to the finals and meeting lots of interesting people (and potential role models), but by competition day I was fired up with one singular vision, to win the spread in American Salon.

Starting off, I was hesitant about my design, since it was impressive in more subtle, technical ways and I wasn’t sure how it would read from afar. I knew the judges would spend time up close and I took the gamble that they wouldn’t downgrade me just because the look wasn’t quite as “runway” as all the others. My piece was extremely meticulous and I am the sort of person who uses every minute. I could’ve prepped in two hours or in ten hours and since we had ten hours I spent every minute possible really perfecting every detail. Seven or eight hours in I started feeling frustrated and dissatisfied with my piece. Still, I worked continually until the show began.

It was pretty incredible to see the show. It was very inspiring to see top artists from Sebastian’s Design Team do looks inspired by the same cities we were creating looks for (Berlin, Shanghai, São Paulo, and San Francisco). At the end of it all, I was in disbelief when Carole announced me the winner of the New Talent category. I stumbled up to the front of the stage, and was greeted by hugs and kisses from the Sebastian team. Before I had a chance to let the moment sink in there was confetti and a procession off stage and then off to the black carpet and the inspiration wall to take lots and lots of pictures.

Here I am with the judges and Daniel Lozada, the Professional category winner!

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Black Ops, Pittsburgh

Yesterday I went to Sebastian’s Black Ops event in Pittsburgh held at Capristo in Shadyside. Sebastian sent in Design Team member Will Bostock in from Philadelphia to teach a few cuts, a short cut from the Nightshade Masquerade collection and a medium length cut from the Urban Explorers collection. I was thrilled to see the short cut because, after seeing it on a Sebastian video earlier this year, it inspired me to start growing out my top and undercutting the bottom. I love the versatility, the movement, the texture… I can’t imagine having any other haircut at this point in my life. (Although I say that every time I really love a haircut.)

Will had a similar cutting philosophy to the Dove’s, so it was a nice follow up to my class two weeks ago. I really like the intuitive, organic approach to hair, although it is interesting to have someone else explain it because it really is about how you see hair and how you visualize it. Will has a very soothing disposition and it was refreshing just hearing his passion for hair. He talked a lot about staying present within one’s craft and about staying energized and attentive in between those energizing moments we all feel. Something about the way he talked seemed to resonate and connect with many moments in my past with all of the different art forms I’ve dabbled in. Almost spiritual, and reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest, though he is a Philadelphia native.

Sebastian is all about texture, shape and feel. At the class, they went over a lot of different texturizing techniques with a razor, scissors and texturizing shears, as well as an overall approach to cutting where texturizing and creating shape go hand in hand from the very beginning. Here is my cut from the class:

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Since becoming a finalist in the What’s Next Awards, I have been sent numerous interviews and I keep getting different variations of: What do you want out of your career? That question has also come up a lot with friends and family. My husband finishes college at the end of the year and we are no longer tied to Pittsburgh. It isn’t that we want to move, but simply that our world opens up a little bit. So all these questions of my future have been bombarding me the last several months. And I kept wanting to say, “I will know by the end of April,” with a frightening certainty. This month has taught me a lot about myself and the beauty industry. A little bit of travel has helped me think realistically about the kinds of cities I will feel most alive in. And I am on track to having a pretty good idea what I want from my career by the end of the month.