N A R R A T I O N S & F A B R I C A T I O N S

  • A METAPHORICAL HAIR SHIRT

    An unexpected gift came my way on Valentine's Day, when someone at the studio said he'd spotted a box dumped in the street and, on seeing its contents, had thought of me. He'd even taken a photo. Was I interested…? It was a box of wigs.

    The junction he directed me to has been strewn with curious things in the past, so I couldn't get there fast enough, increasing my pace the closer I got, just in case some like-minded soul was doing the same from another direction. The box was surprisingly heavy as I scooped it up, only then noticing that it contained not wigs, but real lengths of hair. What treasure! What creations I could make…

    Within minutes, I was overcome by guilt. I thought of a friend who'd donated her long hair to a children's charity to be made into a wig. How could I justify keeping the hair? Close examination revealed dozens of plaits in various colours and styles; natural, dyed, curly, waved, frizzy and straight, and all tightly bound at each end.

    My bounty was rapidly becoming a burden, and I decided I shouldn't think too deeply about what I could make with it. I texted my news to a friend, who requested a few pieces for his 'office dressing up box'. No way! I had now started moralising about the hair and its ownership. I thought about the original donors. And potential future recipients…

    The charity's website had a list of requirements, and the clean-smelling, fragrance-free hair seemed to tick all the 'suitable' boxes, except… it had to exceed 17cm in length because 10cm is lost when a wig is made due to the knotting process.

    All the boxed hair was too short. That was why it had been discarded.

    Now the self-imposed weight has been lifted from my shoulders, I have yet to decide what I am going to make, though feel an inexplicable responsibility to keep it all together.

    I have long celebrated the potency of hair in my work. It is a medium that flags fashion trends, reveals the status of our health and diet, as well as our ancestral DNA. I believe it retains the aura and energy of the person connected with it. Hair has a biological life cycle while we live and, since it doesn't rot, gains an eternal existence once we die. It is the remains, the absence and the memory of a person.

    I must honour it wisely.

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NARRATIONS & FABRICATIONS

Artist Jane Hoodless presents a personal glimpse at some criminal, cultural and curious aspects of British social history, and shares a little of the inspiration and research behind the work she creates.

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