Monday, March 16, 2009

Modern Hairwork

One of the most fascinating mourning rituals from the Victorian era was hairwork - creating jewelry, watch fobs, wreaths and other items from a loved one's locks. Hair is the only physical remnant we can hold on to, and for that reason it's incredibly intimate. The loving detail of Victorian hairwork is a kind of alchemy. In the hands of these crafters, hair almost becomes threaded gold, copper or silver - transforming the ephemeral nature of hair into something permanent like jewelry. It's a beautiful way to remember someone, yet honestly, if it's not your loved one, it can come off as a little morbid. I think this is why the tradition hasn't really found its way into modern times.

Artist Jennifer Perry, however, continues to work with hair in a new medium - canvas. She uses hair to sew ethereal images. I love this modern interpretation, the bringing together of needlework and hairwork. Although her work isn't commissioned, perhaps it's the beginning of a new tradition.

Here's more information from her blog:

Many of the women who were skilled in this specialized art came from a small town in Sweden called VĂ„mhus, and they traveled all over Europe to take orders and sell their work to combat the extreme poverty that they were experiencing in the late 18th to early 19th centuries (more here). Hairwork made by the Swedish women and others was called "tablework;" the hair was plaited using a special table with a hole in the center and bobbins to weigh down the strands of hair (similar to bobbin lace and Japanese Kumihimo). The results were gorgeous bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, brooches, and wreaths.

In the meantime, if you are interested in having something created out of hair, there are services available. The Victorian Hairwork Society is a great place to start.

1 comment:

Modern Hairwork said...

Hi! It is so funny that I just found your blog today and was going to email you, and then I saw that you had already posted about my work! Thank you so much!

I am actually thinking about doing some commissions, so we are on the same wavelength. Some people seem so grossed out by the hair, but I'm sure that a few would be interested, don't you think?

Best wishes,