Human hair provokes a visceral reaction. When you’re smelling the hair of your child or partner, it’s positive, likely filling you with feelings of love. But when you find a stray hair in your food at a restaurant, your reaction is likely to be very different. Artists play with this varied emotional response, and make use of an abundant natural resource that’s most often wasted, in these 13 weird and amazing works of art.
From afar, these look like they could be ordinary leaf skeletons. Look closer, and you’ll see that they’re hairy. Artist Jenine Shereos creates intricate veined leaves by wrapping, stitching and knotting together strands of human hair. The pieces were created by stitching individual strands of hair by hand into a water-soluble backing, which was dissolved when the piece was finished.
Bare Hair Poufs
Maybe these ‘bare hair poufs’ would be less disturbing if they weren’t transparent, and we could forget that we’re sitting on a pile of other people’s tresses. The pouf covers for this project by Swedish hair studio Vastra Sandgatan are made of recycled PET bottles, and the hair is waste from hairbrushes and haircuts.
Art student Kerry Howley of Cambridge created these rather unsettling intricate human hair necklaces after a friend of her mother’s cut off her waist-length hair.
Shoes and Castles by Agustina Woodgate
Artist Agustina Woodgate has crafted entire castles made from brick after brick of human hair in various colors, the results impressively mimicking the look of cobblestone. She has also used human hair to make shoes that look a bit like woolen slippers.
Blond Hair Dress by Jenni Dutton
Says artist Jenni Dutton, “Cut hair has fetish connotations and such potency. It is the subject of fairy tales and myths. A lock of hair can be a token of love, having hair cut or shaved also relates to strength or to punishment in some cultures. It is very tactile but can be repellant. Whose hair is it? Who does does it belong to now it has been swept up from the salon floor? Would they mind it being used in an art work?
I made this piece two years ago after musing with an ex-student of mine who was working for Toni and Guy’s, about the fate of discarded hair. I collected a plastic bag of hair each week, over a period of about 6 months. When the bag was opened it smelt damp and of conditioner. It was fun finding the seams of long blond hair, such a potent symbol. Is this still regarded as a very desirable asset in our culture? Reactions to the dress are very mixed some people regard it with horror when they realise the hair is human, some want to stroke it. Many men previously full of bravado are rather unsettled by the piece.”
Babel of the Millennium: Human Hair as Written Language
Wenda Gu collected hair from 325 barber shops and hair salons in 18 different countries on every continent to create this incredible 75-foot-high display, ‘Bable of the Millenium.‘ The project weaves hair together into scripted lettering in Chinese, English, Hindi and Arabic on 100 panels.
Comb Your Hair with Hair
Perhaps it’s fitting for hair combs to be made of recycled hair, as weird as the thought may be. Italian designer Giorgia Zanellato created ‘Hairdressed,’ a series of styling implements, with reclaimed hair from salons set into resin-filled molds.
Human Hair Accessories
No, those aren’t hair extensions that embarrassingly fell out unbeknownst to the wearer. They’re intentional accessories by VPL designer Victoria Bartlett. The point isn’t to make it fashionable to wear human hair in this way – it’s to point out the absurdity of wearing animal fur. Why is it luxurious to wear the follicles of one species, but gross to wear our own?
Human Hair Embroidery
Colombian artist Zaira Pulido uses strands of human hair to create unusual embroidered portraits. Says the artist, “This is the first step to a collection of my friends’ hair embroidered portraits. I’m asking for hair from every person I know and I’m into him/her.”
Memorial to Auschwitz Victims: Human Hair Cloth
This particular piece is a somber reminder of one of humanity’s greatest tragedies: a memorial to the victims of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Germany, made from their own hair. Seven tons of human hair were found in the camp warehouses after the prisoners’ heads were shaved.
Flies, grasshoppers, beetles and more appear to be real dead specimens pinned to a backing until you lean in for a closer look. Artist Adrienne Antonson crafts these tiny sculptures from human hair.
Human Hair Shag Carpet
Lounge on the lush locks of hundreds of humans. ‘Shag’ is a project by artist Bharti Parmar, hand-knotted using traditional wigmaking techniques from hair purchased by UK wigmakers. It took 9 months to create. Says the artist, “Hair is material matter. Sight and smell of it provokes physical and emotional reaction. It serves memory through touch and through handling. It is ultimately a work about physicality; it is corporeal from the body and for the body.”
Spirit ‘Lam’ Human Hair Mask
Spirit ‘Lam’ is one in a series of animal masks crafted from human hair by artist Chrystl Rijkeboer, who has been using this material since 1998. “Out of curiosity and by experimenting with unorthodox materials she came across this medium. Responses from viewers made her aware of the impact of hair and the emotional charge it contributes to her work. From this the two major themes of work ‘Memory and Identity’ arose. ‘Hair’ contains memories. Everyone knows the lock of hair kept in a medallion or a braid that is kept in an envelope for years lying in a drawer, memories of our childhood or a lost love. They keep the past tangible. Everything perishes except for our hair. By a lock of hair you can literally touch the past.”