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  And yet, sometimes the verbiage I hear when discussing face shapes in the salon is very outdated.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.

Let’s Talk About Attitude and Getting Paid (More)

Hello lovely readers! Today’s post is especially for the hairdressers, but some of this will also be helpful to the makeup artists, estheticians, and even the freelance photographers, models, wardrobe stylists, etc. Particularly those new in the industry.

Let’s talk about money. We all need it to live, and yet, amongst creative people there is a tendency to be ashamed of this fact. Sometimes I see an internal struggle within them, like it is immoral to charge what they feel on another level is the right amount to charge. I don’t claim to not have these feelings. But I recognize them and understand that if I say, “That will be $115 today,” like I am embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid, people will obviously feed off that energy and feel like it is too much. You can’t talk about money with an apologetic tone or else people feel like you might not be worth it. Which is never the feeling you want people to have. If you say, “That will be $150 today,” in a decisive, confident tone, people will generally be fine. Sure, there are some cheap clients out there who always feel like they are getting slighted, but you can’t treat everyone like that, or people who weren’t otherwise cheap and distrustful might start to act that way.

I am not saying overcharge. I am just saying, don’t undercut yourself or the other professionals around you, as that devalues the hard work we put into this industry.

My mother lives in a small coastal town in Oregon and the market for cutting hair is quite different. She pays $15 including tip for her haircut for a very experienced hairdresser with a substantial clientele. There is not reason for her not to raise her haircut from $2 every couple of years. The only reasons I can think of are fear of losing clients or making them upset or being doubtful that it would make a big difference. Who is really going to be that upset over $2? Not many people, and some who grumble will still come back anyway. You might love a small handful, but you would probably still be making more money and working less. Also, people will tip more.

Above all, people want to see confidence in their hairdresser. As I said before, I am still new at all this and this does not come easy, but it has always been important to me to examine the most successful people I meet and see what makes them different.

As beauty professionals we need to have pride for our work and truly believe it is worth what we are asking. If we don’t believe that to be the case, we need to find what is missing and add it into our services. If it means more education, get more education. If it means a more thorough consultation, spend more time! Even go Vidal Sassoon style and take voice lessons if you think that will make a better, more luxurious experience for the client.

Now, my last point is one very important to me! It is related to not speaking with an apologetic tone about money. Don’t talk to clients about your money problems! Never, never, never! On some clients it will make them tip better or feel less bad about paying more, but you never want the client to feel like you are unreliable, like your mind is on other things than their hair, that they are paying because you need it not because the service is worth it. Clients will feel that their hair doesn’t look as good, even if that is not remotely true! They will look for excuses to go to someone else. They will feel like a burden. And most importantly, they will not feel recharged!

People don’t want to give money to someone who needs it. They want to give it to someone who deserves it. They are paying for experiences and for compliments.

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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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.