Learn The Art of Victorian Hair Work - Atlas Obscura

Brooklyn, New York

Learn The Art of Victorian Hair Work

In this hands-on workshop, you'll immerse yourself in the Victorian craft and tradition of mourning jewelry in the form of hair art.

In this three-hour workshop, you'll learn the techniques needed to create beautifully sentimental wire-work hair items in the Victorian memento mori style. Your instructor for the class is Karen Bachmann, jewelry master, artist, and and professor who specializes in memento mori and Victorian hairwork jewelry.

The 19th century of the Victorian Era was a time rife with sentimental culture. Death rates were high due to numerous factors including disease, war, and high childhood mortality. Queen Victoria was an unlikely fashion icon and submerged herself in mourning after the deaths of both her husband, Prince Albert, and her mother in 1861. Aside from her mostly black wardrobe, she was widely known for her love of mourning jewelry, which very contained hair of a loved one inside.

Victorian hairwork became very popular in both jewelry and shadowbox form during the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th century. It transcended the concept of a wearable human relic into a fashion statement during this time period.

We will be working with copper wire and horsehair to form intricate twists and braiding that can be manipulated in various ways to form flowers, leaves, berries, and other shapes. Participants will be able to make an item suitable for mounting in a shadow box frame (included in the class), or wearing as a brooch or hairclip.


All materials, including durable horse hair, will be provided. Alternatively, attendees are also welcome to bring human hair, 4" or longer, to work with. Hair may be sourced from self, hair salons or wig/beauty supply retail shops.


Email larissa.hayden@atlasobscura.com.

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