Victorian hair art
Sep 1, 2014 | by Becky Oeltjenbruns
Artists have always experimented with a variety of media: found objects, paint, wool, metal – the list is almost endless. But perhaps one of the most exotic examples is something we all have an ample supply of: hair. Yep, that’s right – our beautiful locks used to provide the inspiration for some very stunning pieces. Lyndsie, the owner of Retro Rejuvenation, recently added a great illustration of Victorian hair art to her collection. Seeing the fine workmanship got us thinking – what is this artistry all about?
A brief history of Victorian hair art
Before the days of photography, hair tokens were the best way to celebrate friendships, showcase a love affair, appreciate family history, or honor a loved one’s death. Because hair won’t decay, a certain mystical quality is lent to the final product. After all, there isn’t much the average person can handcraft that will last indefinitely (provided you don’t let it sit out in a rain storm). The example from Lyndsie is over a hundred years old, but has retained all the luster from the day is was diligently woven. Creating hair art and wearable jewelry pieces remained popular into the mid-1920s. But we’re pleased to report the exciting news that these techniques are experiencing a renaissance in our modern times!
Many feel this form of expression started in Scandinavia, with women braiding bracelets made of human hair. These were given as love tokens for couples who were enjoying a successful courtship. What is commonly seen as a way to mourn loss, was actually used for many other purposes as these origins show. After all, many a lady and school kid would keep scrapbooks of friends’ locks. We adore this appreciation for sentimentality and next we’ll discover more about the example Lyndsie shared with us.
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A few words on Victorian hair wreaths
These detailed pieces weren’t just used for mourning – they were the guardians of a family’s lineage, growing in circumference as time slipped by. Weavers would collect hair samples from family members, creating individual flowers that would represent each one of their loved ones. Then these flowers would be placed in a U-shape. Much like the rest of the wreath, the geometry also holds significance. By keeping the tall “arms” reaching upward, it signaled the heavenly aspirations of each person. When a person passed away, their flower would be lovingly placed between the arms for about a year out of respect. The flower would then be moved to its rightful place among their predecessors, expanding or elongating the U.
For our readers: What do you think about hair as art? Would you wear a locket of your loved one’s hair?