Artist turned hairstylist Janine Ker is known for her colourful hair art. Specialising in intricate carvings and stencils, the Pasadena based hairstylist’s designs reveal both her technical precision and creative flair. While etched clipper designs have long been a part of the barber’s repertoire, Ker’s hair carvings stand out for turning the idea of the buzzcut being a stark, minimal hairstyle on its head.
Using ever-so-slightly grown out hair to full advantage, Ker sculpts elaborate 3D floral and geometric designs in an impressive variety of colour combinations. “I think the most challenging part of creating these looks is the fine line between what is considered contemporary, and what is considered corny,” she says. “I try to derive the designs from a place within myself: the emotion that propels fashion. I grew up in a time where what you wore told people who you were. I always try to keep that in mind when I create on an individual.”
How did you first get into hair? From a young age, I’ve always been conscious of hair’s powerful connection to identity and self expression. In my last year of high school, we had to complete a Senior Project – I chose haircutting for mine. I taught myself the basics of cutting hair from a book, then proceeded to cut my friends’ hair, as well as my own, for the next 13 years. As an artist, cutting hair and treating it as a fibre came very naturally to me. I didn’t actually go to Cosmetology school until I was 30!
You’re well known for your colourful hair carvings and stencils. What do you think it is about these looks that so greatly appeals to people? With hair stencilling, I definitely think it’s the novelty of it. With hair carving, I think what appeals to people is the boldness it takes, not only to shave one’s head, but to go a step further and turn it into an artistic display. Both methods also seem to catch people’s attention because most are unaware that things like this can actually be done on hair.
Do you remember the first hair carving you ever did? I do! About two years ago, with the return of 90s fashion, we started to see hair etching again (the shaving of lines into barber cuts). I dabbled in that for a while but I became really intrigued with buzzed hair’s similarity to velvet fabric. I began to incorporate bleach and colour, and then carving into it to render the designs. I fell in love with the process.
“Hair is kind of like a fingerprint, with its own unique (growth) pattern and texture”
Where do you look for inspiration? My cliche answer is nature, but it’s true. I tend to gravitate toward floral patterns (no matter how hard I try not to). I am also very, very nostalgic. I grew up in the 80s (hence my love for geometric fashion) and the 90s, surrounded by residual 70s references. So I have found myself inspired by era colour schemes I remember from when I was 10: a vintage blouse I bought at a Thrift Store, down to my best friend’s grandmother’s armchair.
What does you own hair mean to you? Hair is kind of like a fingerprint, with its own unique (growth) pattern and texture. It responds uniquely to manipulation and creates its own signature on top of my head. It’s mine.