Melanie Cook-It's all about Hairlooms
I don't really consider myself a collector, since I have only one piece
of hair jewelry - just a fan, and artist.
My interest in hairwork began when I repeatedly read the word "hairflower" in
the diaries of Emily Hawley Gillespie, a woman who lived near my childhood home in
Manchester, Iowa in the 1800s. When I tried to find information on how to make
hairflowers, there was absolutely nothing in print. After months of fruitless
searching, Emily's hairflowers were discovered in Michigan.
Hairflower bouquet, Emily Hawley Gillespie, c. 1865. Key of names in lower
right corner. 30"x40" solid walnut frame, shadowbox 6" deep.
Mildred Hawley, the spry caretaker of the hairflowers, led me to a lady in Flint,
Michigan, who had been demonstrating hairflowers. I took a vacation to meet Mildred
and see the hair of 50 people whom Emily had written about. We had a delightful
afternoon together. Then I went to Crossroads Village where Pamela Ehrhart, a
volunteer, gave me a couple hours of her time to teach me the lost art of hairflowers.
I came home from Michigan and taught my 9-year-old son, Adrian, how to make them.
Every time I make a hairflower,
I'm still amazed at how simple it is.
But even more baffling is how such a sentimental and beautiful art that enjoyed such
immense popularity was not preserved in books. I have made it my goal to bring this
art back for the 21st Century, and provide seekers like me with more available
My first book, The Art of Victorian Hairflowers, will be ready for the new millenium.
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Victorian Hairwork Soceity