Glad to see you again!
Lately, I’ve been blogging quite a bit about history, and after some feedback from my readers, I’ll be switching it up every now and then to talk about Never Forgotten and my journey as a hair artist. This way, we’ll have a lovely blend of past and present!
It’s no secret that most people today have never heard of hair art, and the ones that have usually know very little about it. When others learn that there are an estimated two dozen people worldwide that practice these old techniques, the first question I get asked (no surprise) is, “How did YOU get started doing this?”
Well, I have always been a lover of the arts. Since an incredibly young age, I’ve explored every type of art I could from dancing to painting, music to acting, and more. Whatever my medium or form of expression, I have always been an artist at heart.
Alongside my love of art, I’ve always adored reading and history, and I have a particular fondness for the Victorian era. The Victorian era had an influence on what I read, what I learned, and even what I wore (one might say I was a little obsessed…..okay fine… I AM a little obsessed). So, being a lover of art and history with my eyes particularly focused on everything Victorian, I learned of hair art many, many years ago. I thought it was beautiful and sentimental. I was astonished with how intricate the work appeared. Above all, I wondered why we didn’t practice it any longer.
For a long time I enjoyed learning about it leisurely by watching documentaries and reading any modern literature I could find on it, because as it turns out, hair art is the rare kind of thing that you can’t learn about on Wikipedia. Knowing that it was virtually a dead art, I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never know how to do it.
Everything changed when I met a wonderful woman named Leila Cohoon. Leila is a retired cosmetologist who may just be the only person on the planet as passionate about hair art as I am. As a young cosmetologist, Leila discovered a small piece of hair art by chance among other antiques and immediately fell in love. She, like myself, set out to learn as much as she could about it.
Leila traveled the world trying to find someone who knew these techniques or find literature from the era that could teach her. After years and years of looking, she came up blank, but along the way, she had collected hundreds of hair wreaths and thousands of pieces of hair jewelry. As a last resort, she finally decided to take apart some of her hair wreaths in an attempt to reverse-engineer the process.
When Leila met me and saw how in love I was with this art form, she offered to teach me what she knew of hair sculpting. After many days of sitting down and creating art with her, I had a solid grasp of many of the hair art techniques. Of course, I didn’t want to stop there. I had a desire to learn and practice all the techniques including the ones Leila couldn’t teach me.
My other techniques, such as hair jewelry, sepia hair paintings, and certain flatwork techniques came from more extensive research. There is very little literature on hair art, but I hunted down every scrap of writing I could from novels, to articles in magazines, to old Swedish proverbs in the hopes of learning all I could about the history behind the art as well as how to perform the other techniques.
After I had found some information directly from the 1800s, the rest was a lot of self-teaching and trial and error. A lot of the supplies they recommend using are not common items to find today. I’ve had to make many substitutions for supplies, simply because we don’t make them anymore. A substituted item is never going to be as effective as the original, so along with these have also come many experiments and MUCH frustration. If you can imagine it, my sources are also not quite as easy as follow as a Wikihow article. The language is different and the illustrations (if there are any) are certainly not the best.
Despite the headaches and mishaps, it has definitely been a grand adventure learning all of these techniques and tracking down what I need to teach myself. Of course, I’m still practicing these techniques to make them perfect, and find better ways of doing them. I also don’t believe I’ll ever be satisfied with the amount of history I’ll be able to uncover. Surely, there will always be more to know. What I learn, I will share, and I can only hope that enough people will take an interest in the movement I’m creating, that we will not let this art form die!
Your Hair Revolutionary,