Do you like to craft?Â Do you have hair?Â Well if you answer yes to both of these questions then you might want to put Leilaâ€™s Hair Museum on your list of places to go after you see the worldâ€™s largest ball of twine or the migraine inducing four-level Forever 21 in Times Square!Â Located in Independence, Missouri (a town made famous for producing a U.S. president, being the meth capital of the nation, and according to the Mormon faith the setting of the Garden of Eden) you can find Leilaâ€™s Hair Museum off Noland Road just past the miracle mile of auto dealerships.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Listen kittens, once you have toured Leilaâ€™s it is highly unlikely you will ever forget it.Â Iâ€™m sure we are all acquainted with hair weaves and the those up-dos that defined 18th century aristocracy before the peasants revolted, but the exhibits at Leilaâ€™s are a bit differentâ€¦primarily because the wreaths are made of human hair!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Here is where Iâ€™m going to pause a moment so that can sink in.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Some of you Iâ€™m sure are going to be grossed out by the idea of people plucking hair from their heads (or the heads of their relatives who may or may not have been alive at the time at the time of plucking).Â Some of you think any human oddity is fun and hair wreathing is yet another example.Â Then some of you will simply shrug your shoulders and confess that creativity seeps out of the human condition in many forms. Honestly I thought I was one of those lovers of everything human oddity oriented but found out once in close proximity to the wreaths that Iâ€™m actually kind of freaked by both the creations and the idea of making them.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Leilaâ€™s is divided into three rooms because the woman has so many antique wreaths of human hair that she needs a lot of room to display them.Â Besides hair wreaths there is jewelry made of hair, lockets painted with hair, and even pieces of celebrity hair in order to clone in the future Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, and Abraham Lincoln.Â (My friend and I had a serious discussion as to just how one would obtain hair of these dead celebrities â€“ did people pluck them from their still living heads or scavenge them after a haircut?Â Surely the hair wasnâ€™t snipped while they lay in their casketsâ€¦please tell me it wasnâ€™t that.)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â If you are a craft oriented person you have to appreciate the time and skill it must have taken to create these hair wreathes however I couldnâ€™t get over the whole hair thing for several reasons.Â One, its hair taken out of context.Â Discarded hair can be categorized as human waste.Â I mean it isnâ€™t exactly, you know, but it isnâ€™t something that one saves except in cases of perhaps Locks of Love donations.Â I understand that in eras past that locks of hair were considered something personal and were an indication of intimacy indicated, but Iâ€™m too much a creature of the modern age and canâ€™t divorce myself from the idea that these wreaths are akin to a form of cannibal crafting.
Â Â Â Â Â There was also the realization that these very personal items were made for families to pass down from generation to generation yet they all ended up in the hands of Leila.Â What took long hours and incurable eye strain (not to mention a bald spot now and then) was simply not coveted by the descendants of their makers.Â No one wanted great-grandmother Millieâ€™s framed wreath of hair.Â The celebratory wreaths spelling out 1876 or 1910 were neglected by 1956 when Leila, then only a humble hairdresser, spotted her first hair wreath in the window of an antique store located within the countryâ€™s first shopping mall.Â She now has over 600 of them.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The last thing that freaks me about human hair used as hobby material is that technically it can last forever.Â Mummies tend to still be sporting mullets when pulled from crypts.Â As the museum guide related, the reason the wreaths are placed in sealed frames isnâ€™t because of the hair may rot away, but because the wire will fall apart.Â Yet with that said, I found the hair far from bouncing and shiny and more reminiscent of the tree twigs and faded flowers that they were shaped to resemble.Â Very Blair Witch Project if one must know.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Like most popular forms of home crafts, hair wreathing morphed into other art forms and on the walls museum goers can spy hair crosses, die cuts of infants who sport different hair styles due each having been made as a homage to the passing of a little one, and two different memorial plaques of Ronald Reagan (as if one wouldnâ€™t be bad enough but two â€“ Leila, girl, please!)Â What I found was when some of the wreaths were done with colored thread, or even horse hair, I was more drawn to them and interested in trying to replicate the artistry.Â Apparently Leila has been industrial enough to figure out most of the hair wrapping techniques because she occasionally teaches classes on the craft.
Â Â Â Â Â Â So there you have it a roadside oddity which is fairly normal in Missouri (although we lost the Elvis is Alive Museum to Mississippi).Â If you find yourself near Americaâ€™s Garden of Eden then you should stop in.Â The price isnâ€™t prohibitive and you will walk away with a hair-raising story.
Westerfield Â© 2013
This article is dedicated to Madam Donna because she once saw me in a wig! Â : )