“Stuckness” might not be an official medical diagnosis but burnout is. Feeling burned out, uninspired and perhaps afraid can create a feeling of being stuck in your circumstances, with no light at the end of the tunnel. But the old saying, “the only way out is through” might apply to the journey undertaken by hair artist Roxie Jane Hunt (@roxiejanehunt), who, at different points in her life, found herself feeling hollowed out and unhappy but not sure what to do about it. Eventually, though, she found a way forward and initiated a change in a healthier direction.
The Getting Unstuck Journey
In addition to her work as a hairstylist, Hunt (shown above) is an artist, writer and Founder of the Free Your Hair movement. She debuted her first book, UNSTUCK: Magic + Method for Stepping Into Your Worth, this January. Hunt says the book is for working creatives who want to feel more ease, freedom, and purpose in their lives and is a blueprint on how to initiate change from the inside out.
But every journey begins with those first steps. In a phone conversation with Hunt, we heard a story of someone born to be an artist.
“I had my hands in people’s hair from the time I was five or six, braiding and playing with it," Hunt describes. "When I was 16, I had a school counselor who said, I see you doing haircuts every lunchtime and I see you’re also failing your classes, so why don’t you go to cosmetology school.”
It was the right place for her, and when she launched into her career, she did editorial work and also built a clientele doing hair parties. One of her early mentors was Victoria Gentry at Vain Salon in downtown Seattle. “In those important, formative years, she taught me how to cut hair in a different way, how to be with people in a different capacity, and the art of a really good consultation. She broke all the rules of what I had learned in my beauty education in a very good, and intuitive way.”
With her skills and her confidence sharpened and strong, she launched into the busy life and schedule of a hairstylist—and about five years in, experienced her first bout of burnout.
“I was tired all the time, I felt like I was bad at what I did, and I didn’t know what was up,” Hunt says, describing the experience. “All I could think was that the salon culture I was in felt toxic to me and I was not able to work at a pace where I was able to do my best work. Looking back, the pressure to just keep going and to fit as many people in as possible and just to crank them in and crank them out, my art form had lost its creative edge and its meaning.”
Also having become a Mother at this time, she quit the salon job and started doing haircuts at home. “I had this great hutch and I would open it up and make a salon parlor in the living room, until my kids got home. Long term, I knew I didn’t want to work out of my living room but I was a bit desperate and I know it was temporary.”
As she continued to work this way, enjoying the convenience and the ability to work at her own pace, she identified possible contributors to her feelings of burnout. “There wasn’t that noisy culture around me of never taking break. Also the backroom culture—the competition and cattiness—was gone. I think those conversations perpetuate harm on stylists and clients.”
Getting Unstuck Through Creativity
During this time, Hunt carved out space in her schedule for some creative discovery.
“I had visions of what I wanted to do with hair color but I had never been able to experiment and take time to do that,” Hunt explains. “I rented this little art studio where I brought all my color and I started to play with wefts of hair, pulling all these techniques from the fine art world—stenciling, spray, different ways of mixing—and I got really excited about what I was discovering.”
When she started to share the results of her creative exploration using the hashtag #freeyourhaircolor, Jayne Edo of Edo Salon in San Francisco noticed—and asked her to come teach these color techniques to the team at Edo.
“ And I said, I’m not a teacher but I can show you what I know and what I’m playing with.” And she did. “We had this highly imaginative, very collaborative and really fun session. After, Jayne said this class helped change the culture in their salon. She also said, you have to keep teaching.
“Looking back, I realize now that this was me climbing out of burnout,” she says. “Having an outlet to practice my skills was so important. A lot of us get into doing hair because we’re artists, but it’s easy to lose that when we are in a culture of pushing and pushing and being overaccommodating. Without creativity, things can get stuck and we lose meaning.”
How to Get Unstuck and Initiate Change
When talking to other artists about her journey, she encourages them to put one day a month aside for rediscovering their art.
“Once a month, take time to commit to being creative. If you can, even take a half or full day for your creative pursuit with hair. Oh, and find your muse. I have about ten of them, clients and friends, who I can call on and they are always down to experiment.
“But you don't have to be working on a client. Maybe you're using a mannequine and you’re braiding, or you're coloring a weft and it scratches that itch of that curioisty you have about hair,” she continues. “It will pay off, I promise, tenfold, because you will develop something new that you can use on a client. The creativity is part of healing from burnout.”
Hunt says banishing burnout also required her to remember the why she worked with people and the impact a stylist can have to help transform a person’s life.
“There is that cliché we have about the breakup cut but there is so much to it. People have been using hair as an initiation for ages—new hair can propel them—and we as hairdressers have a role in helping to facilitate change. People know when they come to me, they can try something new. I say, what haircut do you need to bring in that change? And then every time they look in the mirror, they are reminded of the commitment that have made to themselves to get sober, to move across the country, to end a toxic relationship.”
Hunt has a self-paced online course called The Alchemy of Change. “It’s how to work with initiation and ritual in your services.”
Of her book, Unstuck, Hunt says, "It is a living seed. Plant it in yourself. Let it come to fruition. Sow new seeds and share them. My deepest prayer with this book is that it can be an irresistible invitation for you—and by extension, your community—to get to know and share your unique medicine right now.”
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