Meet the designers creating each day objects and artwork from human hair

Written by Francesca Perry, CNN

There’s a pure product we develop ourselves which can be utilized to make clothes, ropes and even constructing supplies — and far of it goes to waste each day. However maybe not for lengthy. An rising wave of designers is harnessing the facility of human hair to faucet into problems with the round economic system, identification and sweetness by means of provocative objects and installations.

“It’s totally light-weight, versatile, oil absorbent, excessive in tensile energy — and it would not require any additional vitality, land or water to develop,” mentioned Dutch designer Sanne Visser by way of video name. After not too long ago finishing a residency at London’s Design Museum to discover recycling human hair, Visser is presenting a brand new set up for London Design Competition (LDF) this month. Titled “Prolonged,” it includes eight mirrors held on ropes constituted of hair collected from salons and barbershops in West London.

Visser adopts ropemaking as a way throughout her initiatives with hair, each to emphasise its energy and to make use of it as sustainably as doable, with out the necessity for different supplies. Sorting the collected waste hair by coloration and size, she sterilizes and washes it, then sends it to a spinner who turns the strands into threads and yarn utilizing a conventional spinning wheel. Visser subsequently feeds the yarn into her personal rope machine to make various kinds of rope, which have been used to create canine leashes, netted baggage, shoulder straps, and swings.

By utilizing ropemaking and a traditional spinning wheel, Visser creates everyday items like bottle holders out of human hair.

By using ropemaking and a conventional spinning wheel, Visser creates on a regular basis gadgets like bottle holders out of human hair. Credit score: Sanne Visser

When Visser began working with human hair six years in the past, the hairdressers she approached to ask for waste cuttings had been skeptical. Many mentioned no. As she has constructed up a physique of labor, nonetheless — and as new initiatives selling the reuse of waste hair have grown — it has develop into simpler. One among these initiatives is Inexperienced Salon Collective (GSC), which works with hairdressers throughout the UK and Eire to recycle hair. GSC collaborates with producers or designers (together with Visser) to show hair into new objects and merchandise — from hair booms (cotton or nylon tubes full of hair cuttings used to cease oil spreading in seas and on seashores) to constructing supplies.

The latter sees GSC working with structure and design studio Pareid on an set up additionally at this 12 months’s LDF, comprised of two intertwined, hair-covered columns at a salon in West London. The hair used for the undertaking, titled “Chiaroscuro 1,” is felted and utilized as a floor overlaying.


Entitled “Chiaroscuro I,” by design studio Pareid, brings collectively two columns of intertwined human hair. Credit score: Andy Keate

Pareid is eager to make a totally immersive area utilizing human hair and has been experimenting with utilizing it as a binder for mud bricks. The early prototypes do not precisely look stunning, nonetheless: “We’re drawn to issues that is perhaps thought of ugly or unappealing at first,” mentioned Pareid co-founder Hadin Charbel in a video name. “Waste like human hair possesses a type of icky high quality — it has that confrontational aspect to it.”

Confrontation, and difficult perceptions,was are additionally key to the work of Alix Bizet, a French designer working with hair to deal with problems with racialized identification, group expertise and marginalized magnificence. “I found, as a Black particular person, in society there may be good hair and dangerous hair — that is the place the undertaking began. this discarded materials, we are able to study a lot about society,” she mentioned over video name.

In a 2020 undertaking referred to as “Afro Hair Futurity,” Bizet created crown-like headpieces from afro hair, introduced alongside podcasts of interviews with individuals speaking about their private {and professional} experiences of afro hair. For earlier initiatives equivalent to “Trade” (2016), “Hair Matter(s)” (2016) and “Hair by Hood” (2017), Bizet made clothes together with hoodies from felted human hair; in workshops with London college college students for “Hair by Hood,” the designer prompted discussions about how tradition and identification is expounded to hair, and the function that hair salons play in communities. Different initiatives have explored the displacing affect of gentrification on afro hairdressers in Peckham, South London, and methods to decolonize museum collections by means of gathering extra numerous tales of hair. “My intention is to design for range and with range, giving visibility and empowerment to all narratives of hair, together with afro hair,” mentioned Bizet.

Again at LDF, Anouska Samms — who makes use of human hair to discover identification on a familial stage, in addition to interrogate mythology and symbolism — will exhibit a few of her placing hair-infused ceramic items as a part of group present Unfamiliar Kinds. These come from her ongoing “Hair Sequence” (2019-2022), which makes use of human hair — collected largely by means of Instagram callouts — to create sculptural clay vessels and a tapestry, as a strategy to replicate on maternal relationships. “I used to be at all times teased for my hair,” Samms recalled in a video name. “It was simply big, curly and ginger. My mum and grandma are ginger, and I come from a protracted line of redhead girls.”

In Bizet's project

In Bizet’s undertaking “Afro Hair Futurity” she shows crown headpieces manufactured from Afro hair. Credit score: Boudewijn Bollmann

Samms’ massive hanging tapestry, “Massive Mom” (2022), weaves locks of pink human hair collectively (some artificially dyed) with cotton and yarn. By means of it, Samms hopes to reference a protracted custom of weaving that’s linked each to girls and the concept of beginning and creation. Her ceramic vessels, in the meantime, contact on the traditional relationship between pottery and girls: in prehistoric societies, girls had been the first potters.

Utilizing waste hair is not the identical as utilizing different waste supplies, equivalent to plastic bottles. Hair is each an intimate human materials, and a sustainable useful resource that may be harnessed in sensible and inventive methods. Though initiatives equivalent to GSC provide the potential to scale up its use, some designers are fast to level out the significance of retaining private narratives and connections.

“Hair is a dwelling fiber,” mentioned Bizet. “Simply because we acquire it as a discarded materials, it doesn’t suggest we’re free to make use of it with out interested by the moral points. This quick capitalist world of utilizing hair as a brand new fiber removes the identification of it. By means of sanitization, the hair will lose its human side and narrative.”

Like Bizet, Visser is eager to attach works that make the most of human hair again to the individuals who donated it. She hopes her “Prolonged” mirrors will ultimately discover a dwelling in every of the eight salons and barbershops she collected hair from. There, common native clients will be capable to see the mirrors hanging on the wall and know that, more than likely, their hair made it occur.

London Design Competition runs September 17-25, 2022.

High picture: A clay sculpture adorned with ginger hair as a part of Samm’s “Hair Sequence.”

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