Rigby woman owns business that makes jewelry from human hair

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She has a compulsive hair-pulling disorder and now makes hair artwork

Zen Hansen and artwork
Zen Hansen with her hair art. | Courtesy Zen Hansen

IDAHO FALLS – Zen Hansen would be the first person to tell you she’s always been an eccentric person who’s interested in odd things. One of her “strange hobbies” is now a business venture.

The 41-year-old Rigby woman owns a hair jewelry business called Hair Anthropology. The business makes bracelets, rings and other trinkets out of human hair, which is provided by clients. The purpose is to give friends and family members a keepsake to remember a loved one who passed away. It could also be a sentimental item from someone who’s still living.

Since launching it in January 2023, she’s spent a lot of time researching how hair has been used throughout history to make art, religious relics, ropes, fertilizer and other items, and how it can be used to solve world problems today.

“I really wanted to know how hair jewelry was made, and I started researching and realized how endangered the art form is. There are people who still practice it, and there are instructions, but they’re very old and outdated. I’ve been teaching myself how to do it and crafting my own tools to do the job,” Hansen tells EastIdahoNews.com.

She now teaches classes to show people how to make their own custom hair art.

Her fascination with hair stems back to her childhood. Hansen says she’s always had a “complicated relationship with her hair” because she has a condition called Trichotillomania. It’s a mental health condition the Mayo Clinic describes as an uncontrollable urge to pull hair from one’s scalp, eyebrows or other areas of the body.

As a kid, she was given an antique portrait from her aunt that had basket-woven hair attached to it. It was a picture of Beriah Fitch, a whaling captain from Nantucket who lived during the 1700s. The hair remnants belonged to him, and it piqued her curiosity.

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Photo of Beriah Fitch Hansen inherited from her aunt. | Courtesy Zen Hansen

She’s since discovered the lost art of hair work, and it’s become a way for her to deal with her condition.

“If I’m working on hair tactilely with my hands like I do with my art, then I’m not touching my own and pulling it out,” she says. “It’s therapeutic to me, and there are so many things about it I love, and so many things have brought me to where I am today.”

Hansen says making hair wreaths, rings, chains and cords has been a common practice throughout history. Wigs from ancient Egypt are still in existence and date back more than 4,000 years, she says.

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The tradition of making hair rings and wreaths was popular during the 1800s. Queen Victoria made it fashionable when she made jewelry from Prince Albert’s hair after his death. Hansen says Victoria mourned her husband’s passing for nearly 40 years, and the jewelry was a token to help her remember him.

Hair jewelry started fading out of fashion around 1920, but there was a renewed interest in the practice in the 1990s.

Hansen hopes to keep the momentum going through her business.

“Sweden is the only place in the world where (hair work) has never died. They’ve continued the practice, but they will not teach anyone who’s not Swedish. I’ve had to learn from old American sources, but I hope to actually go to Sweden this summer,” Hansen explains.

She’s writing an instructional book about table hair-braiding and will be presenting her research at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, in August.

Her biggest goal with this venture is to educate people about different uses for hair. She points to one company in the UK that recycles hair waste from salons to make a variety of products, such as compost and fertilizer.

It’s also used to absorb oil and pollutants to clean up waterways. Hair mats are used to cover storm drains, its website says. Particle board, insulation panels, yarn, potting felt, wigs and clothes are made with human hair as well.

“You can add hair to mud and concrete to (make) structures stronger,” says Hansen. “I’ve made my own cordage and fishing line (with hair). It’s a material that could have some usage we are overlooking.”

To learn more, email zen@hairanthropology.com. You can also visit her website and Instagram page.


Fall River Propane increases bulk storage for customers

Courtesy Ted Austin

ASHTON – Fall River Propane, a subsidiary of Fall River Electric Cooperative, just completed the installation of an additional 60,000 gallons of bulk propane storage.

There are 30,000 gallons in Driggs and another 30,000 in Ashton, bringing the total storage to about 400,000 gallons.

General manager David McKinnon says having more propane on hand will allow the utility to better serve customers and keep prices low.

“Our financial success resulted in a $1.5 million dollar rebate to the owner-members of Fall River Electric Cooperative, our parent company,” McKinnon says.


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