My Week in London with the Hob Academy Team

So, going into 2015 I’m looking at my career. I have had so many incredible opportunities and met/seen so many awesome stylists that, frankly, it’s hard to understand. Because at the end of the day I’m still just an OK hairdresser with loads of passion and a bit of potential.  I’m thinking this is the time where everything gets quiet for me and I just start working really hard so that one day, maybe I can be really awesome.

So what next?

All of my previous European training and quite a bit of my research into the dawn of haircutting pointed me towards London. I set my sights on the Hob Academy because of a recommendation from someone I admire greatly and then everything else just seemed to fall into place, as the name of the salon and their creative director, Akin Konizi, kept popping up all over the hair world’s social media.  The team boasts multiple International Trend Vision winners as well as British Hairdresser of the Year winners and many other accomplishments.

I learned a great deal on this trip, but the most important thing I learned is that after four years, six countries and hundreds of heads of hair, I think I am just beginning to understand what it will take for me to become a great hairdresser.

  
The Hob Academy is nestled near Camden Lock in a bustling, creative neighborhood, but also quite accessible to the rest of London. The interior of the salon is gorgeous and also quite minimalistic, in a way that suggests that it really is all about the hair. My first day was quite intimidating, made worse by jet lag and an unreasonable and unexplainable embarassment of my accent. But I was slotted for two days of Advanced Creative cutting and coloring and two days of Men’s Cutting and despite being a bit nervous, I was very excited to learn from some of the very best in the industry.

Now although we were focusing on Advanced Cutting, this was a great opportunity to work on my basics. I easily fall into a very loose style of cutting, which I partially attribute to my initial training…. which was me in the bathroom with old barber shears, just messing around until the end result was good (enough). Seeing the crispness of all of their lines and sections was inspiring to me, and though I always see it in classes, it meant more to me this time because I am so familiar with their work, so I know they aren’t just saying what they were told to say as educators… I know they live and breath clean part lines and perfected shapes.  And in the back of my mind I keep thinking, well, if that’s what it takes to get that result, then I suppose there’s something to it.

I received a lot of little tips to get my tension more consistent and to simply hold a direct the hair better. A lot of what I learned is in the muscles of my hands, so it is difficult to explain, but I feel like I can hold hair better now.

One of the coolest features of the class was that we had different educators every day, all of which had their own style, but they were also quite cohesive and consistent. On our second day, we were lucky enough to have Akin Konizi himself for the entire morning. His passion and knowledge of the craft was not surprising, but still quite astounding.  Darren Bain, our main teacher, had a very relaxing style of teaching, made better by his dry, meandering humor.  My other instructors included Peter Burkill, Jake Unger, Sean Nolan and Nestor Sanchez (who just happened to win International Trend Vision last year).  I was lucky to get time with each of them, and although they each had quite a different style, they also were very consistent in their approach.

Our two days of Men’s Cutting was more relaxing to me. Out of everything in the world of hair, men’s cuts are one of the most comforting to me. But don’t worry, I certainly got out of my comfort zone on the second day, when I got to do a flat top on ethnic hair. Men’s cutting is simple, but they went over many different length families and textures and watching their various sectionings really helped me out. It was also reassuring to see that a lot of their methods were similar to my own.

Below are just a few pictures including Akin in action, me with Darren and Nestor, my models from the week and Darren polishing a men’s cut.

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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.

Apparently February is the Time for Goals

Today I had a day completely off, which is rare for me.  I’m not traveling anywhere far in the next month.  I have had a lot of energy lately and I’ve stayed up late doing my taxes, cleaning my kitchen, cooking a freezing pots of food, etc. etc.  There is a relaxation in the house that is very foreign to me.

This time of year is often quieter.  I had a fair amount of weddings and travel in January but now I am enduring a true winter lull.  Today I found my goal list from just under a year ago and I remember feeling pretty down then.  Last February I didn’t know what exactly I wanted out of my career or if I would be able to achieve much.  I was in very poor health and actually crashed my car in a snow storm trying to get to a doctor’s appointment.  But one of the best ways for me to deal with a rough patch is to make lists and goals and keep looking forward even if I don’t know exactly where I’m going.

It’s funny thinking about how much changed in the months following that list.  I got to meet my sweet baby niece, train with the Doves and win the What’s Next Awards.  April was a month that changed everything.

My goal list from last year is interesting, because my five and ten year goals have completely changed.  At that time I was looking at other aspects of the beauty industry and wasn’t sure if being behind the chair was best for me.  Since then I have looked at a lot of different paths very seriously and I know I want to be behind the chair.  I know that my clients are the best reason to get up and go to work every day and the relationships formed with them are priceless.

As for my one year goals, most of them are met.  I wanted to cook more and keep my house cleaner, and while I am not exactly a domestic goddess… it has definitely improved.  I also wanted my health to improve and it definitely has.  And the biggest one was I wanted to help Richard graduate college, and we did it!  He graduated in December after 2.5 years off, which is a difficult feat.

So here’s to setting more goals.  I’ll tell you about them when I’m crossing them off.  😉

Notes from Sebastian Training, January 2014

Yes, there were times where I felt like I had flippers for hands. Yes, I was mentally exhausted from so much new information. And yes, it was the perfect start to 2014, at least in terms of my career.

First off, I left Pittsburgh in the nick of time! I have never experienced subzero temperatures so I was thrilled to be flying away as Pittsburgh thermometers were descending to unfamiliar depths. But with the unusual iciness it was not easy to get to Los Angeles! But after a few risks and a few miracles, I made it, and was soon sharing a shuttle to Woodland Hills with some of my favorites: Meghan, Josh and Tony! Such a positive and fun group to be around. They are so easy to be around, it’s easy for me to forget that I’d just met them last summer and that this training was technically my first.

Shortly after, I was reunited with Anthony, Isa, Matthew, Oscar and Heather Rae the next morning, and of course getting to see all of the core team, Christina and Carole, and a bunch of other cool dudes on Urban and Design Team that I don’t know quite as well.

Training started with a wonderful talk from Stephen Moody, the charismatic and successful Brit who has been all throughout recent hair history. His stage presence was inspiring. Then we jumped into the nitty gritty and got our hands on the blades and the shears and I felt like I had flippers for hands, trying so hard to get the cuts perfect. Over the next few days, more cuts, some styling and them presenting in pairs.

Throughout training, and really the last few months, I have felt weighed down by big decisions, most of the decisions circling around the concept of who I want to be. The last day of training I had a bit of a moment, where a lot clicked for me. We had an acting coach come in to guide us through some skits. I had a lot of fun with it and was very eager to jump up and do everything. The coach had started to rely on me as a goto Ginny pig. But then all of a sudden he wanted us to speak about things we loved. Could be anything, silly, deep, person, place, hobby, anything. I cycled through my brain thinking about what I could actually talk about without getting too emotional or sounding too crazy and nothing seemed like it was really representing me and really, at the heart of the matter, I am an extremely private person. Ultimately, I am fairly open to any specifics but always afraid of being type cast, put in a box.

Realizing how much I actually did hate talking about myself was somewhat eye opening. Of course the coach called on me first, and I gave him the, don’tmakemego eyes, and he let me off the hook for awhile. When everyone else went I thought a lot about what a love and what represents me as a person and as a hair stylist. I came up with a pretty good answer, I ended up not sharing it though because I got a good opportunity to talk about storing food in my purse on end and took the easy out.

But what I would’ve said is that what I love is helping people find themselves. I love looking in someone’s eyes and seeing what they need and knowing when I can give them what they need and knowing when they need time. I love healing people who hurt, distracting people from pain, getting people to think about what is important to them, which often times makes them realize they have most if not everything they need. I love making people feel the truth that they are special.

And that is why I started doing hair.

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🙂 🙂 🙂

Next Saturday: Fundraiser for City of Hope/Diabetes Research

Greetings Pittsburgh friends!

Next Saturday, November 30, my former teacher/current boss, Derek Piekarski, will be hosting a fundraiser for City of Hope at his new salon space. City of Hope and the P&G Professional Hair Care lines have been partnering to search for a cure for diabetes with the Hope is in Style Campaign. Come on out if you are in town that night, hang out with a bunch of cool people, drink some beer, and help support the cause!

Diabetes is a disease that hits particularly close to home for me. I grew up in a family with a lot of diabetics, and I always assumed everyone had diabetic relatives until I went away to college and realized how many misconceptions there are regarding diabetes. Most of my aunts and uncles are diabetic, on both sides of my family, as well as three out of my four grandparents, one parent and one sibling.

As many of you know, I am biracial so the two sides of my extended family have very little in common. My mother is Chinese, and one of the few non-diabetics in her family. Two of her siblings are diabetic, but are quite slim/petite. They have Type 1 Diabetes. They eat well, and mostly always have, yet they still need to watch carefully (including making sure they don’t eat too much fruit or other sources of natural sugar). Her little brother was diabetic from a young age, and despite his healthy lifestyle and decades of taking insulin he is awaiting a new kidney and liver. He is in his mid-fifties with two teenage sons.

The Caucasian side of my family is ripe with diabetes. They mostly have Type 2. Both of my grandparents on this side of the family were diabetic. My grandparents both died in their sixties. And more recently, my father’s older sister passed away, also in her late sixties, after at least a decade of regular in home dialysis treatments. Dialysis is a common treatment for diabetics. Basically you are hooked up to a machine that filters your blood because your organs are no longer able to.

My father is also diabetic, but with the help of my mother has always worked very, very hard to eat well, and is on his way to being the first in his immediate family to make it to 70 in a few years. He does have the genetic predisposition towards diabetes, but he is also a Vietnam Veteran and Veteran’s Affairs acknowledges a spike in diabetes for Vietnam Veterans due to exposure to Agent Orange. He probably would have been diabetic eventually regardless, but who can say for sure whether he may have had a few more years disease free? And regardless is it is true for him, countless other veterans may have diabetes due to Agent Orange exposure.

During my sister’s first pregnancy she was diagnosed with Type 3 Diabetes, which is the only sort of diabetes that isn’t necessarily lifelong. Type 3 develops while a woman is pregnant and then usually goes away after, but it is a warning sign that the woman may develop Type 2 later on.

I tell clients that I try to eat well because I am worried about diabetes, and they always say, “But you are so petite!” And I am, but I have seen diabetes in every shape and size and it is not only no fun, it is also deadly.

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Looking Back; Two Year Anniversary

Wow. Wow. Wow. Two years in the beauty industry and I am just thrilled for the years to come.

When I entered beauty school in January of 2011, I knew that hair was my passion and my future, but my experience was still somewhat traumatic. I had been living on my own for some time. I had just graduated college a month earlier. I was planning my wedding and commuting by bus which was over an hour and a half each way (with about a half hour of walking in the snow). I didn’t particularly get along with most 18 year olds when I was 18, so I didn’t know what to do with myself as a 22 year old who looked 14. And it didn’t help that I was very serious. I have always been very serious with regards to my dreams. There were good people there but they were mostly stuck in webs of toxic drama.

While I was in school I entered my first competition. Looking back I am thankful I didn’t win, knowing what I know now about that company and how forced it felt for me to try to style entries for them. The important thing about that shoot was the contacts I made. It was an incredible start to my portfolio and that shoot got me a lot of work in the coming months. I also learned a lot about planning a shoot from Brian Herman, the photographer, and about scheduling with models, communicating my vision, etc. etc.

Richard always talks about how worried he was, that I would always be in the midst of drama in the industry and we are both thankful that I found a place at Salon Vivace where I get along so well with my coworkers. When I started two years ago, though, it was very difficult. Assisting was hard. I was told that I should be able to read my boss’s mind and that was just never going to happen. I learned a lot but our styles were so divergent, I didn’t know how to be myself without taking over and often overcompensated, coming across as too passive.

It took me a long time to get into the swing of assisting, and in some ways I never really did become a great assistant. I remember this sinking feeling I would get, this fear that I would never make it. I remember having similar feelings regarding ballet in late elementary school. I would go every week and just be miserable and wonder why in the world I was doing it, why I was working so hard, but once I earned my pointe shoes in middle school I fell back in love with ballet. A deep love that still makes me sad/nostalgic when I see live ballet. But with hair, towards the end of my time assisting my boss would regularly sit me down and ask me if I was sure if this was the career for me, and at the time I really wasn’t sure, but I had been wanting it since sophomore year of college and I knew there must be a reason even though I couldn’t remember.

Once I hit the floor and fell into a style of my own, everything felt like it was my own again. I found clients I adore, and even though I still have weeks where I am sitting and waiting for new appointments more than I would like, I thrive on my time spent with my clients. I love being there for them and being a part of their lives.

My travels to Budapest and Berlin also changed my career for the better. I found different inspiration and new styles and techniques. I found a beauty that was rough and rugged, and I felt for the first time like I might fit in somewhere
in the beauty industry.

Of course, winning the What’s Next Awards fast forwarded my career both in the experiences I have been fortunate enough to have and on the amount I have learned. I can’t believe how much I have learned in the past six months. I have presented at Intercoiffure, I have taught classes at salons and beauty schools, I have traveled all over the place and it is incredible!

It’s been a great two years and I can’t wait for more!

Photos from my first photo shoot!

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