Repurposed hair cathartic for artist

FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 08:49 19/11/2013
Lara Mumby-Croft
John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ

HAIR TODAY, ART TOMORROW: Why do fallen hairs in the showe become disgusting? Artist Lara Mumby-Croft has been exploring the issue through her work, creating a rug made out of haircut remnants.

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Why are people so disgusted by human hair as soon as it leaves their bodies?

That's the idea artist Lara Mumby-Croft wanted to explore when she embarked on the creation of a rug made from patches of felt created from the remnants of haircuts.

The rug used hair from 174 haircuts gathered from 14 Christchurch hairdressing salons.

Mumble-Croft said the idea came about when she was in the shower gathering up her fallen head hair.

"I collect my hair in the shower and put it in the bin because I don't like it going down the drain. I was looking at it. From there, I made some hair prints and printed with hair."

She began experimenting, doing embossing with hair, paintings of hair and short films about it. She researched the psychology of people's revulsion for human hair. "Why is it that when it's on our heads, it's a thing of beauty, but once it leaves the head, it becomes something disgusting?" she said. The answer could be connected to human brain development.

She felt the same revulsion towards hair. When she began creating the rug, she would often gag as she worked. "I'm very repulsed by it. That's one of the reasons I embarked on this journey.

"There's a lot of people who feel the same way [about hair]. Some people are absolutely fine with it, of course."

Many hairdressers she spoke to didn't enjoy cleaning up cut hair even though they knew it had just been washed and the floor was clean.

At first, she considered spinning the hair into yarn and then weaving it into a rug, but she couldn't find weavers who were willing to help. She ended up learning felting techniques to create the human hair felt squares. One square needed the equivalent of two full heads of hair. Each strand of hair needed to be at least three inches (7.62cm) long. It took her 187 hours to complete the rug.

The rug will be exhibited in Auckland from this week, along with the videos she made about hair. "I want it to be a full sensory experience. Ideally, people will take their shoes and socks off and walk on it. I want it to be in the dark so that they don't even know it's there."

Mumby-Croft would like to hold an exhibition in Christchurch, but she needed to find a venue.

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