Brief  History of Hair Art    

Hair Art is jewelry and artwork created using hair as the artistic medium.  It was created most commonly from the middle ages through the 1800's.   It was believed that hair jewelry increased one's love if the piece was made using the hair of the living, and was seen as a way of wearing one's love if the person was deceased.

During the Victorian times, Queen Victoria wore many pieces of hair jewelry and it became very popular due to her interest in this old art.   During this time mourning jewelry reached it's peak of popularity and there was great sentiment attached to it.  There are many fabulous pieces still in existence today created during that time. 

At one time hair jewelry was created mainly for the upper class who could afford to have custom made gold jewelry with precious stones.  It wasn't until the later 1800's that the average person was able to find instructions and they could create these pieces themselves.  

Godey's Lady's Book was a magazine published in that time and it printed patterns and offered starter kits with the necessary tools for sale.   Mark Campbell was the author of a book titled "Self-Instructor in the Art of Hairwork" and it has instructions on hair art and other crafts from that time period.  (This book is available for sale even today)  These instructions enabled the average person to learn and create these pieces on their own.

The women of Mora, Sweden, became experienced in hairwork and their creations made it possible for groups other than the very wealthy to afford hair jewelry.  Since they did not have the money for expensive findings, their jewelry was mounted with wooden beads that they covered with hair.  There are many examples of their work in existence today.

Table Work

Bracelet Made Using TableWork Technique

One 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

Sepia Hair Technique

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

Roses Made Using the Palette Technique

"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

  Wreath Made from Hair Flowers

Hair Flower Wreaths

Another form of hairwork is hair flowers.  These are formed by "stitching" the hair with a fine wire over a rod which forms a series of loops which are then formed into different flower shapes.   Longer hair is needed for this technique.

Most of the hair wreaths were formed into a horseshoe shaped wreath that was placed on a silk or velvet background inside a 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 body of the wreath when the next person passed away.

Not all 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 photos.

             Large Picture Made Using Hair

Hair Pictures

Hair pictures are made to hang on the wall, or if smaller to sit on a table.  They are made entirely of hair, and maybe with embellishments of cultured pearls or seeds or something similar. 

In general longer hair is needed to create a picture.

This picture is 5 x 7"        


Only a handful of people today are creating hair work.  It is almost a lost art.

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

This jewelry is "Wearable Art"

   Sandi Johnson, Hair Artist