Before Hair: The Makings of a Texture Engineer

Before hair, I can’t think of any one thing I have ever been so focused on.  Well, with one exception.  The summer after my sophomore year of college I was awarded a Brackenridge grant from the University of Pittsburgh to create my own art installation.  So basically, I was a professional artist for three months.  I often say that this project was the most fulfilling of my life, but the mental and physical fatigue is not something to be looked over.  By the end of that summer, I was certain, beyond doubt, that I wanted to be a hair stylist.  I knew I wanted to do something visual and creative, but that I wasn’t strong enough for anything that involved long hours being alone with my art.  Richard would pick me up at the studio every day after 8-10 hour shifts and I would not want to leave, despite being hungry and dirty and barely being able to string a sentence together.  It’s hard to explain, because I loved it, I really did, it just couldn’t have been sustainable.  I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing the intricate bark textures I’d been creating all day (like when you play Tetris too much).

I keep so busy with hair that sometimes I stop seeing new things.  That’s when I look back to my other loves for inspiration.  Sculpture.  Found art.  Poetry.  Short fiction.  Music.  I wanted to share some of my old pieces from that summer.  Mainly made from duct tape, newspaper and stuff from the hardware store.  It was a sexual assault advocacy piece intertwining my love for writing, shapes and textures.  It took about 2 1/2 months to complete and then showed for a couple weeks at the William Pitt Union on campus.  Enjoy!


Image

ImageImageImageImageImage

Let’s Talk About Balance

A popular topic around beauty blogs and magazines is that of face shapes and determining which cuts/makeup/etc.etc.etc. is right for you.  Now, I am a little bit untraditional.  I didn’t grow up feeling like I had to look more Caucasian or like Barbie.  I felt no pressure to wear makeup or even really to style my hair, although trying to keep my skin healthy and have a good cut was important to me.  I never remember people telling me that I needed to look a particular way.

Modern style isn’t about looking a uniform way.  It isn’t about everyone having one haircut, or one of five haircuts.  People are even willing to embrace their natural texture.  And yet, sometimes the verbiage I hear when discussing face shapes in the salon is very outdated.

First off, I don’t believe in using hair to conceal.  I believe in using hair to balance.  It sounds like a meaningless linguistic difference, but really I think it denotes an important shift in mindset.  If we believe our faces behold some defect, and our mission is to disguise ourselves, that puts a limit on the joy you can get from your haircut because you feel like, “Well, I really want ______, but because of _____ I have to have _____ instead.”  Even if someone using this formulation does like their haircut, they probably would like it more if they didn’t feel like it was one of their only choices.  Besides, sometimes when the only goal is to conceal, it backfires and just points more attention towards whatever is being hidden.  The most exaggerated version of this is the extreme combover.

When we talk about balance it is all about creating harmony with the client.  And it isn’t just about face shape.  It is about individual facial features, overall body shape, size, overall style and personality.  It’s about drawing attention to the positives and working with overall (objective) shapes in order to create something visually appealing.  It isn’t about oval being good and square being bad it is about creating a cut that is holistic, that embraces the client’s individuality.  Some women look darn good with a strong jawline and whether the woman wants a strong shape or a soft shape depends more on where she is in her career and with her life than on something being “right.”  Sometimes obsessing about face shape will cause you to miss a golden opportunity in highlighting gorgeous eyes.  And you can give the perfect cut to create an illusion of slightly more height on a petite woman, but if it doesn’t fit her personality, what is the point?

It’s not about one style looking bad, it is about another looking better.

I believe that cuts and color services should be flattering, but I don’t believe in black and white rules.  I don’t believe in approaching a service with a list of things I can’t do.  I believe that as a hairstylist, my vision for my client should be both attentive to their overall aesthetic and sensitive to who they are as person and where they are in their life.  I believe that part of my job is to instill pride and comfort in one’s own body, in one’s own identity.

I <3 My Clients

I was gone from the salon for about two weeks from training with Sebastian, assisting on some NAHA shoots in LA and gallivanting around Austin, TX. I will post more on that later. On the journey home, husband and I contracted food poisoning in the Houston airport…. Worst trip home ever after a phenomenal trip. But basically, I got back, went to the doctor and rested one day and was right back at work the following day, nice and early for a wedding, followed by a few hours of rest and then my salons belated holiday party for a little while. I disappointed everyone by forgetting it was an ugly sweater party. Everyone was expecting something bright and outrageous and I showed up in flowing black layers like some kind of goth pilgrim (I don’t know….)

But the point is, I was fairly worn down and still on a mostly liquid/cracker diet when I went into work today. I hate to feel physically worn down when I start the day.

And yet, as soon as I got to the salon and saw my jam packed day, I was just delighted. It is truly magical, the relationships you build in this industry. To be able to look at my day and see all these people that I have such a fondness for… It is awesome and it is exactly why I wanted to do this job.

Thank you, to my dear clients, for brightening my work days! And when any of you are having a down day, you know I will always do what I can to give you a little spark back. 🙂

<3<3<3
Rachel Lynn Carr

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!

20131118-173041.jpg

20131118-173122.jpg

20131118-173136.jpg

My Most Memorable Haircuts I

Yesterday I asked my Facebook friends about their most memorable haircuts, either given or received, and I heard back a lot of beautiful, inspiring stories. Big hearts and so much passion. Because I tend to be long winded I thought I would jot down my own response here rather than on my own status.

I follow my gut, and a lot of times it leads me to strange places that I never would’ve imagined. A prime example is probably my most memorable haircut to date, because it was so odd and made me think a lot about hair in the populations that don’t make it to the salon regularly.

A Palestinian businessman came into the salon once at the end of my shift and I stayed to cut his hair. He had tight curls and a thick accent (I think he understood me quite well, but I had some difficulty understanding certain words from him) and just wanted his hair cut in some common American style. For men, especially curly hair, I can’t say there is one style that is suited for everyone, and while in the US a businessman with curly hair would probably cut his hair quite short, but I hate getting rid of the curl if it isn’t socially mandated.

We talked a lot about Palestine and where he currently was living, Qatar, and all the sorts of ethnic food we both like and the places we have both traveled to. He talked about how in the Middle East a man would never get his hair cut by a woman. He talked about his wife back home and what a wonderful mother she was and about his children… Which brought me to why he was in Pittsburgh. One of his sons was very ill, an illness I did not fully understand, but had multiple organs failing. They had flown 16 hours with a nurse and doctor to get to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. His wife was home with the rest of the children and pregnant with another.

At the end of his haircut he asked me if I could cut his son’s hair. He gave me the hospital phone number and I said I could see what I could do. Long story short, a few days later, shortly before he was due to fly back to a hospital in the Middle East, I went to the Children’s Hospital and the man game down to the lobby to check me into the floor his son was on. When I got in I was a little shocked to see the five year old with a bandage wrapped completely around his abdomen. He could not talk. The father said he had been quite a talker before the illness. But he was a beautiful child… there’s just something incredible about a kid with enormous brown eyes and thick, black lashes. Gorgeous skin and rich brown hair that brushed his shoulders in the back and obscured his eyes in the front. He was watching Cars dubbed over in Arabic and rocking back and forth during the entire haircut. I reached over the bars of his bed and his father held his head still so I could cut his hair.

Kid’s cuts can be difficult, especially if the kid is strong and busy bodied like this boy. The cut was not perfect but it didn’t need to be. The fact is, five inches off and a shape cut in and the difference was remarkable. He was a beautiful boy before but after the haircut he was beginning to look healthy again. To see him play without needing to swat hair out of his face and to look at those big brown eyes without a curtain of hair in the way… It was a very profound moment for me.

Again, Posting About Male Hairdressers

Today I was reading an article about the most famous male hairdressers throughout history.

It got me thinking again about the differences I see in how men treat their clients. I admire their authoritative style when it comes to consulting and recommending. I may be a small human being, at only 5’1″ but it is amazing the respect I can command with just a good hand shake and the right tone of voice. I don’t claim to be on my A game every day, but I keep getting better. Male hair dressers watch out because I have been studying very closely… It’s not a competition, I know. But there is the charming, precocious, tiny female personality within me and there is the authoritative, intelligent, yet charismatic personality and that is the one that cuts hair.

Check out my take on why clients prefer male hairdressers.

Dressing for New Clients

I always try to dress professional, yet artsy and expressive, when going into work. But some days, when I know I have a new client in my book that will be difficult to impress (such can be gathered by how they interact with the receptionist), it is especially difficult to hit the right note.

To dress mature, yet youthful.
To wear clothes that fit without looking too thin.
To be trendy, yet approachable.
To have enough visual interest to intrigue the client without giving them the need to say, “it must look very conservative!” over and over again. (The end result tends to be too conservative for their taste.)
To show the side of myself that they want to see.
To be cool, yet timeless. To be progressive but not too far ahead.

My goal is always to appear 27.

Chit-chat in the Hair Salon

One of the beauties of working in hair is that almost everyone in our modern American society goes to someone to get their hair done. There are countless options in terms of type of salon and varying price points, even different charities and organizations that provide free haircuts to those in dire need. I became a hair dresser because I am interested in all kinds of people and the different relationships people have with their hair at different times in their life and throughout different cross sections of society. Recently I stumbled on a few different blogs where people cite reasons they don’t like to get their hair cut. One of the big ones, which I will address today, is that some people seem to hate talking to hair stylists. As a hairdresser with a lot to say, this makes me very sad. Making lists always cheers me up.

Reasons People Don’t Want to Talk to their Hair Stylist

They are introverted or just don’t care for talking. I can certainly relate to this one. I was never much of a talker with my stylist, mostly because I found the craft so interesting that I enjoyed watching the cut. But I was never made to feel uncomfortable with my quiet nature and I still enjoyed my hairdresser. Salons are very welcoming and open environments and I would encourage all you shy people out there to allow yourself to open up. No one is forcing you, but it can be kind of fun. And if you can’t connect with your hairdresser–you should at least be able to talk openly about hair if nothing else–maybe it is time to find a new one.

They assume they won’t have anything in common with someone who cuts hair. This is probably the point that makes me the saddest. I often wish people could come from a place of assuming similarities instead of differences. Hairdressers are not all the same and it isn’t fair to go into a salon and assume that you will have a bad experience. Really, this goes for numerous other situations… Condescension not only offends others but also makes you miss out on what could be a good experience. Look at your hairdresser as an artist and an entrepreneur, not as someone who didn’t need a four year degree. I admit there are some real duds out there (and a higher percent of duds if you are going somewhere absurdly inexpensive), but some of the brightest and most ambitious people I know are hair stylists.

They are self-conscious or insecure about their appearance. I actually think this is one of the biggest issues, and often goes hand in hand with the issue above. Some people think they are not the sort of person who should be in a salon, which leads to condescension because people conclude that the salon is a shallow and insubstantial place. They see themselves in the mirror, dripping wet and parted in strange places or with their hair smeared in color and up like a troll doll, and they hideous. Even just the act of looking in the mirror for long periods of time is distressing to some. Honestly, I am not the type to look in the mirror much and I get how it can be freaky, but that’s all the more reason to talk to your hairdresser! We are there to make you feel beautiful, or at the very least, comfortable in your own hair! For more on this sentiment read my post about how the beauty industry is for everyone.

They are in a hurry or otherwise stressed out. When people are on their way somewhere or their mind is elsewhere they feel like having a light, pleasant conversation will somehow make all of their problems worse. Most hairdressers can still cut quite efficiently when talking, as long as it isn’t something they are overly enthusiastic about, and honestly, usually just chilling out for fifteen minutes will only help a stressful situation.

They feel like if they don’t pay close attention the hairdresser will make a mistake. Staring at us with the death glare doesn’t really help. Once again, we are trained to talk and cut.