See those flowers? They’re made of human hair. In point of fact, this wreath was made from the hair of fifteen different people.
Hairwork was once a popular craft, though it’s fairly rare today. Sometimes it was made up into display pieces like this one, but it was more often used to make rings, brooches, and other small pieces of jewelry. In fact, it was often referred to as ‘jewelry of sentiment.’
That sentiment could be quite varied, too. While hairwork is often associated with mourning, it was also popular for lovers to trade hair jewelry and was also made up to give friends and family members who were about to go on long journeys or move long distances. A parent might have a piece made of hair from his or her children. In the days before Polaroids, hairwork was a good way to keep a small piece of a loved one close.
And then there are the pieces made of the hair of famous people. Long before every autograph hound could get a celebrity to sign a paper napkin or glossy 8″ x 10″ a select few could get a lock of a war hero’s hair made up into a ring. Sometimes there were enough pieces of jewelry floating around that one wonders if the subject had gone bald under his periwig… or perhaps was using a surrogate to obtain enough hair to meet demand.
The piece shown above is not an antique. It’s a modern piece a woman named Erica wore on her wedding day.
That’s right, there are folk still doing this today. In fact, here’s where to find the official Victorian Hairwork Society. If you’d like to learn more about the history, technique, or future of hairwork, head on over and check them out.
I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking of giving it a try.