Exquisite Hair Art
Hair Art; 0.18: This lovely work of art, done in the shape of a floral horseshoe and nosegay, is made from human hair from seven different people! Crafted by Nancy Elizabeth Scott during the 1880s, this would have been a cherished memento made from the hair of dear friends and family. Hair work was as popular of a drawing room occupation as knitting or crocheting in the nineteenth century. Locks of hair were commonly exchanged between dearest friends and loved ones and were turned into a myriad of objects besides wall art, including bracelets, earrings, rings, watch chains, shawl and cravat pins, pencil cases, and even riding whips. These delicately wrought pieces also served as memorial pieces for loved ones who had passed away.
Godey’s Lady’s Book, which was considered the go-to publication for ladies’ style, published instructions on how to prepare the hair, provided patterns for making these treasured pieces, and sold the tools and materials for hairwork. Strands were washed, dried and tied off onto lead weights which were then laid across a frame which could be as simple as the band-box of a hat or even a piece of paper, although freestanding wooden frames were available. The hair was then woven according to the chosen pattern. The resulting finely wrought pieces might be kept or gifted, and displayed or worn with pride. Currently, hair art pieces are highly-prized collectibles, much sought after by collectors of Victoriana.
The exquisite example of this art form on display at the Harmony Museum, created by Nancy Elizabeth Scott, was donated by her paternal granddaughter, Martha Cleland.
Commemorative Plate from New Harmony; 4.46: