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Sprinkling salt, burning gunpowder, carving watermelons, wiping dust, cutting hair. To most people these would sound like a string of random activities that have nothing to do with each other. Put Roberto Ferrel, or, more commonly known as Rob the Original into the picture and suddenly it makes sense. The San Antonio based barber slash artist makes art out of anything he can get his hands on, but his perhaps most jaw-dropping works are the hair portraits he cuts and shaves into the back of his customers’ heads. Think of the most significant people of our time and chances are, Rob the Original has created a hair portrait of them: Tupac, Steve Jobs, Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee, Heath Ledger’s Joker, and the list goes on. INFRINGE takes a look at a selection of his hair art and talks to Rob about his journey to becoming the social media sensation Rob the Original.

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What have the reactions been like when you show celebrities portraits of themselves that you’ve done on someone’s head? Everyone that sees themselves in a hair portrait is always in awe. They can’t believe the resemblance. Most will immediately share on social media!

Hair art is difficult in the sense that you can’t repaint a canvas – you can’t instantly grow new hair. You’re incredibly talented, but everyone makes mistakes. What happens when you do? I am proud to say I have never made a significant mistake that is noticeable.

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Most of your art can only exist temporarily. Salt, dusty windows, carved foods, even hair grows out. Doesn’t that bother you? It does not bother me that my art is temporary, I always take lots of pictures and videos.

How long on average does it take to cut a hair portrait? On average a hair portrait can take me anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours. The hair portrait that has taken me the longest was The Last Supper because of how intricate and detailed it was. It was definitely worth it because it gained a lot of attention and it has millions of views worldwide.

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You wanted to be an artist before you became a barber, but ended up combining the two very well. Can you talk about your journey to this harmonious blend of professions, and why you decided against the traditional art route? Ever since I can remember I liked to create art. As a child I was handed crayons and a piece of paper to entertain myself and my parents would talk about how good I was at drawing. I never really thought about becoming an artist I just liked to do it as a hobby. Growing up, I had a lot of jobs that had nothing to do with art, such as: cook, construction worker, and jeweller. I am the 5th child out of 9 and we grew up having not a lot of money so I would cut my own hair as well as the hair of friends and family. I never looked at Barbering as a job but more like something that came to me out of necessity. One day I needed a haircut and my clippers were broken so I decided to go into a local barbershop. When I told the Barber that I cut my own hair, he offered me a job. I went back a few days later and started cutting hair. Young kids started coming in, asking for small designs and it came easy to me. One day, I decided to challenge myself and do something that I had never seen before: a hair portrait. My favourite rapper is Tupac and so I did his portrait. Now I make Art out of anything.

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Credits

Images Rob the Original
Interview Katharina Lina

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