Conversations

The main reason I love working in a salon and cutting hair is the direct one to one interaction I have with clients. It’s a privilaged position to be in. For instance one minute I could be talking about why one side of our hair behaves differently to the other – due to it growing in a spiral from the crown – the next minute i’m talking about a new local resturant or venue that has just opened up.

My job is situated in a hotbed of tacit knowledge exchanges. It is through the construction of the information gathered from my many conversations that I learn all about the local area within which I am working. In this way Italo Calvino’s 1973 book ‘Invisible Cities’ comes to mind. In Calvino’s story Marco Polo returns to tell the Emperor of all the cities he has visited on his many travels. Marco Polo describes each city with great detail, each appearing in stark contrast to the other cities. Eventually it is revealed that each tale is actually of the same city but seen anew. My own primary experiences of a place becomes distorted through so many conversations. Have I actually been to the many places I know about? I doubt it.

As well as being a hairdresser, designer, artist ect I am a fisherman. This is a potent combination for storytelling. The fish I caught while bopping along in my kayak just off the coastline gets bigger everytime I tell the story, while tales from any holiday I may have had get shorter. – note: its better to concentrate on and extrapolate the details of a holiday to make it more universally engaging.

In a nutshell this is the process of how I work and how new project ideas come about – through direct interaction with the public.

Its important to not overlook the fact that in my role as a hairdresser I touch people. For most people the idea of touching a stranger or being touched by a stranger today is unnerving to say the least. Even for me out of the context of a salon, somebody sitting too close to me on a train for instance, is uncomfortable. It’s about personal space and having a sense of control over who we do and who we don’t let in. As a hairdresser I must earn a clients trust and I do this by listening to them, not just to the words they’re saying but also to those that they’re not. I must look for other clues that give me more information about this person – what are they wearing? what do they do for a living?what magazine/website are the images they are showing me taken from? – all of this is important information to input before I adjust my cultural compass in a direction that earns their trust to be responsible for contributing towards an individuals cultural identity.

Touching is connecting, a merging of my experience and the clients desires results in an expression of style. I am not unaffected by this process of connection hence when I begin to recognise that I am telling stories, the genesis of which I do not know is fact or fiction, I take off my hairdresser hat and put my artist/designer hat on.

William Burroughs pronounced that “language is a virus” and insomuch as I find myself telling these stories I am inclined to agree with him.

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