INTERVIEW // Janine Ker
Whenever // Interviewer: Shane Allen // Hair
What were your first creative outlets as a kid?
Wow... my first creative outlets... hmmm... I would say probably crayons and pencils. I was always a "good drawer" from a young age. But I would say things started to take a deeper turn when I developed a grativation to playing with mud in a more sophisticated way. I really got into it and created shapes and jewelry dishes, sun dried them and painted them. It wasn't actually until 11th grade that I realized I had the potential to be an artist and started to work on my skills, seriously.
Do you remember the first time you had someone's hair? (I'm assuming you mean cut here)
I'm sure the very first time was a barbie, but the actually first time I tried to really, intentionally cut someone's hair was in high school.... on myself. I cut my pony tail off, thinking it would result in a bob. Wow, I was wrong! I ended up getting it corrected into a pixie. But I remember not being afraid of the outcome. The following year, as a senior in high school, we were required to study a subject and present on it at the end of the year. I chose to do mine on hair and so I taught myself how to cut hair from a book. I practiced on as many friends that would let me.
How nervous were you?
I remember not being afraid, but rather getting a rush and release out of it.
When did you get the idea to do the floral patterns?
I did not go to hair school until I was 30 years old and when I did, I had a lot of art experience with me. As soon as I began Cosmetology school and was asked to do something "creative" to hair, my mind automatically combined hair with art practices. It wasn't until about my 5th year in hair, around 2016 that I really started diving into creative buzz cuts. The floral pattern carving came after months of experimenting with geometric shapes, bleaching and color. But I thought to myself... what if I paint a picture on hair... how will that look on the texture itself? And what could I do to render it? Carving it, to pop out the dimension came to mind. Floral patterns always look beautiful and are timeless, so it just seemed like the natural choice.
The styles you give your clients almost make them look like they’re sculptures. Is that how you feel when you’re working?
Yes. I actually began my first endeavor with hair art by using hair as actual sculpture. I created a lot of editorial style floral work because that was an easy and natural form to manipulate the hair into. Over years, it evolved into a more flat work that could be worn by anyone, especially someone into alternative fashion.
Do your clients come in looking for something specific or do you have a lot of freedom when designing?
I'd say both. And both work equally well. I have loved being pushed by my clients ideas as much as I have loved having complete control. Both require trust from the recipient.
How intense is the preparation process for each style? I’d imagine planning is key.
You are so right, the planning is key. And the process is pretty intense, depending on how intricate the end result requires. The main steps are cutting/buzzing, bleaching and preparing the canvas, painting it with hair dye and then rinsing and finishing. Each can step can take up to an hour each at times.
What are the biggest limitations to working with hair?
Hair! haha! Actually, hair is very challenging to work with. It moves, it switches direction, it's fuzzy... so it makes it especially challenging to get really precise. At the same time, because of its texture, you cannot go in and approach it like you would a flat, solid, steady surface. That has to be taken into consideration the entire time. That's why I have not bothered to try everything on hair... some things are beyond my skill set.
Do you have a crazy idea for a look that's just not possible to do?
I used to! Haha... that was pretty much the essence of my approach to hair 5 years ago. And I have had a lot of fun!
Do you ever freestyle a look?
I definitely do! Again, it depends on what I want to see at the end. For the floral hair carving, I painted it by hand and carved it all out by hand. For other's with block lettering, I like to use stencils to keep the work super clean. My animal print hair series was free styled, even though I manipulated areas to be blocked off with tape (the tape itself became my art).
Who are some of your style icons?
First and foremost, I'm a huge fan of the 80's. I always have been. So that has seeped into my own personal style and work a lot. I think anyone who has the courage to completely embrace themselves, despite trends, is always a style icon to me.
Where’s the weirdest source you’ve gotten inspiration for a style?
An old chair.
What's the key to carving patterns on a round object?
Carving is one of my favorite steps and it takes the longest. I'd say the key is patience, first and foremost. I also love to fastly carve the entire head and then go back over the details to really fine-tune it.
Is there anything you have to be careful of not doing when you’re working?
I think the most important thing for me to not do, is get too cocky before I have finished. Life always has a way of humbling you. So until the very last touch, I still have not allowed myself to exhale.
Any good stories of styles going wrong?
Haha... hmmm... I had to think about that for a while. Not because I haven't goofed... but because I am an extremely cautious person when I work with hair. I think because of that very reason, I have avoided distinct (exciting) horror stories!!!