In an interview with Fashionista published Monday, Howley discussed the mixed feelings human-hair jewelry seems to elicit -- and cited her own Victorian inspirations:
[Hair is] a material we’re all very familiar with, and it’s something that we take a lot of pride in. We look after our own hair – we brush it and we wash it and we style it. But as soon as it’s apart from us it becomes very disgusting, especially other people’s hair. It’s a deep feeling of revulsion. Also it’s got a history in jewelry. The Victorians used to use it in mourning jewelry; people used to get commissions of hair jewelry using hair from their loved ones.
Although hair is certainly an unconventional artistic medium, it hasn't exactly been neglected -- nor have its uses been limited to the field of jewelry -- since the Victorian era. Contemporary artists employ the material for a wide variety of (often startling) projects. Here are some standout examples:
- Chinese artist Wenda Gu's "united nations project" -- a five-continent-spanning, multi-installation work begun in 1993 -- incorporated hair from "over 2 million people." The series' installations included "an entirely human hair made temple" and a gigantic "banner" made from 420 pounds of human hair (all sheared from the heads of members of Dartmouth College and the New Hampshire town of Hanover).
- Kate Kretz has used hair embroidery to picture everything from closed eyes on a pillowcase to natural disasters (like the twister shown below). You can see more images of her work here.
- Agustina Woodgate, who has made headlines recently for her efforts as a "poetry bomber," is also a hair artist. Her works include the striking "I Wanted to Be a Princess," which consists of castles fashioned out of you-know-what. [via WHATtheCOOL]
- Adrienne Antonson makes two sorts of sculptures out of hair: "clothes" and "insects." Her collection of garment- and accessory-based hair sculptures includes hair-and-glue imitations of spectacles, gloves, boots, suspenders, undergarments, and a change purse; her "insects" collection includes a praying mantis (pictured below), as well as moths, beetles and butterflies. See her complete "look book" here. [via Flavorwire]
- London-based artist Rosie Leventon's hair art includes "The Front Room" -- a dramatic installation piece in which a wall "covered by thick and dense human hair" looms over a normal sitting room -- as well as "Mat," a welcome mat made from (you guessed it) hair that once graced human heads.
How do you feel about hair as an artistic medium? Let us know in the comments.