Thursday, October 7, 2010

Hair Art ~ Jewelry to be Worn Close to the Heart

During the 18th and 19th centuries, one art form was making jewelry and ornamental objects from human hair.  Instructions for making them were printed among other places in Godey's Lady's Book, and it was common for ladies especially during Victorian times to make jewelry or hair flowers as a momento of a loved one.  The jewelry was made as a token of love and remembrance of a family member and each piece had a story behind it. 

Table WorkOne type of hairwork is created  on a special table using a weaving or braiding type method and weighted bobbins similar to bobbin lace.  This produces either a hollow tube or solid length (depending on the method used) of woven hair which was used to make necklaces, bracelets, or watch fobs and could also be formed into decorative brooches, earrings and other jewelry. 

Sepia Hair Painting

Hair painting is done by using finely ground hair as the coloring agent for the paint.  This technique is combined with the palette work technique to create paintings of a unique nature.  Sometimes, but not always, a pastel color was added to create the sky, otherwise the only color used is the actual color of the hair.  These pictures are sometimes called "Sepia Paintings".

 Palette Work
"Cut work" or "palette work"  is done by laying the hairs flat and  up against each other, then gluing them to a base similar to tissue paper.  When dried, shapes are cut out, formed into a pattern and glued.  This produces a very delicate type of art which is usually placed  in a brooch or pendant type setting.

Hair Flower Wreaths
Another form of hairwork is hair flowers.  These are formed by "stitching" the hair with fine wire over a rod which forms a series of loops which are then formed into different flower shapes. Most of the hair wreaths were formed into a horseshoe shaped wreath that was placed on a silk or velvet background inside the frame.    When memorial wreaths were made, hair was collected from the deceased and added to the wreath whenever any one died.  The top of the wreath was always kept open at the top....ascending heavenward.  It was said that the newest addition would be placed in the center, and then moved to the side to become part of the large wreath when the next person passed away. 
Not all hair flower wreaths are memorials, some contain the hair from an entire church, a school, family etc.  These wreaths could get quite large in size.  They were made at a time when there were no pictures.

Hair Art Pictures
Hair pictures are made to hang on the wall as an ornamental decoration.  They are made entirely of hair, and maybe with an embellishment of cultured pearls or seeds.  The pictures are usually somewhat small in size, many of them being around 6" or so in diameter. 
This particular picture is 5 x 7"

Only a handful of people today are doing hair work, it is almost a lost art.

All these methods require a great deal of patience and attention to detail when making them.

Find out more at  Victorian Hair Jewelry

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