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The Road To NAHA Part 3: Jake Thompson

Sam Villa

Author Sam Villa | Founding Partner of Sam Villa

In preparation for NAHA 2014, we will highlight accomplished NAHA winners in a series called, "The Road To NAHA." Click the links below to view parts 1 & 2: The Road To NAHA Part 1: Charlie Price The Road To NAHA Part 2: Sherri Jessee


Jake Thompson lives, eats, and sleeps hairdressing. He’s an inspiring educator on all levels - from classroom, to salon (he’s co-owner of Lunatic Fringe Salon in Sugarhouse Utah), to stage. His passion is intoxicating, his creativity infectious and his mentoring unparalleled. Lunatic Fringe won “Salon of the Year” in both 2012 and 2013, not to mention, his business partner was a finalist in the men’s category and one of his stylists won “Stylist of the Year” - as you might guess, creativity is fostered at his salon. He is ardent about art and sees NAHA as inspiration to create and share work. Creating is what drives Jake behind the chair, in front of the lens, and even behind the lens - he shoots, edits and publishes his work too! As an “Avant Garde” finalist the past two years and winner in 2011, Jake has a unique perspective on hair. He has crafted 21 NAHA shoots and we’re excited to learn more about how he approaches the process in this third segment of “The Road to NAHA.” To learn more about Jake, visit his website or blog. You can also follow Jake on Twitter and Instagram.


Where do you get your inspiration? Various websites, underground fashion magazines, art books, independent designers, peers, Alexander McQueen, books, etc. I usually turn to my studio, it’s my Zen place. Just spending time there, not even creating collections but creating in general, keeps me moving and my creative juices flowing. Ideas can be stemmed by accident, inspired by something or somebody - a video, an image, daydreaming…anything.

Can you tell us a little more about your studio? Believe it or not, I moved all the furniture out of my living room so I could practice techniques and build shapes at home, and then one day a friend of mine asked where my furniture was and basically told me that my house wasn’t comfortable to hang out in. He had a point, it probably wasn’t inviting to anyone but me. So, I decided to look for an outside studio and was lucky enough to find a 700 square foot space in Downtown Salt Lake City on a road with many other artists working in various mediums; clay, clothing, photography, etc. I moved all my stuff there and it soon became my Zen place. I also kept my studio very private, a personal sanctuary. Many artists are insecure and if they’'ve created something - finished or not - and someone judges it or offers opinions, it can stifle creativity, so I choose to keep it very private. Although in the last year, maybe because I feel more confident, I’'ve invited people to come and collaborate with me at my studio. It’'s a very special place to me and I know I would not have produced the kind of work I have produced had it not been for my studio.

How often do you go to your studio? I feel like hairdressers do better with schedules, so I schedule myself to go to the studio Friday afternoons, Saturday, Sunday and Monday to tap into my creativity. If I’m not there, I’m doing post-production work at my office.

You shoot, edit and publicize your work, how did you learn how to do all that? Our creative director, Fumi Eguchi, encouraged me to invest in a camera and then I went from there. Everything else was self-taught, publicizing my work started with building relationships with editors - I kept sending them different collections/images until I got a “yes.”


What is the inspiration for your next NAHA shoot? I have a lot of inspiration this year, as I’m entering into a few different categories – I’m excited about progressive and futuristic influences, with hints of natural and organic accents. I’m also playing with light. I recently spoke to Charlie Price about doing a shoot for his Beauty Underground Magazine and did a B&W fashion erotica collection where I played a lot with the lighting, and it actually inspired the lighting for my next NAHA shoot.

How do you go about putting your team together (makeup, wardrobe stylist, photographer)? It’s all about networking - I find people that are like-minded and have the same vision and style as me, once I find those people, I usually work with them for a long time.

How do you express your vision to the team? I create a mood/vision board containing images, videos, fabrics, etc., that have inspired my particular vision. I then ask them to bring/create something “similar” so we work together cohesively to ensure we are all on the same page.

What does the average shoot cost? When I was first starting out, I didn’t have any money, so I would find models and team members that were looking to build their portfolios. Now, my average shoot can cost around $2,000-4,000, which includes all tools, hard materials, rental fees and model fees. I do most photography and post-production myself. When a bigger company backs you for a shoot, your budget can be much larger.


What are three tips you can give a stylist that is entering NAHA for the first time?

  1. Don’'t spend all your time creating one great image/look; remember that the other two images need to be just as strong - all three should create a story together.
  2. Models and photographers can make or break your look, so try to find ones that know how to shoot hair and bring your vision to life.
  3. Don'’t create a collection to please other people, do it to please YOU.

What’s the best advice you ever received relating to creating hair for a shoot? Finish the model’s hairstyle about 70% off camera and then have the photographer shoot it so you can see it two dimensionally. This allows you to continue working the hair to get the shot you want versus spraying it into place and not being able to change it. You can overwork real hair very quickly – models touch their hair, the natural oils come into play, so you have to have a soft touch and not overwork it. The more experience and confidence you have, the easier it is to pull off – less is always more with real hair. Synthetic hair can be manhandled a little more. For my last NAHA shoot, I prepped all the hair and then reworked it on the models only to realize that I wasn’t happy with the direction, so I started teasing and pulling it apart for a more organic feel and at that point I know it was ready to be shot. Synthetic hair is much more forgiving.

Any tips and tricks for doing hair on set?

  • Come prepared - bring all necessary equipment to get the job done. If you think you won’t use a certain tool, most likely you’ll end up needing it. Have everything laid out and organized - you’'re limited on time and the last thing you want is to be searching for tools or products.
  • Having an assistant helps tremendously, it can even be a fellow stylist that’s willing to help you out.
  • You may have a favorite product that you use in the salon, but remember that it may not apply when styling on-set, so remember to bring a variety of products. And, consider the type of hair you’re styling - real or synthetic. I once did a shoot with all synthetic hair and the hairspray I was currently using was not working, so I had to use a shellac varnish spray from Home Depot.


What are your MUST HAVE tools and products for a NAHA shoot? I have two different “session kits” containing tools and products, which vary depending on my target for the shoot. Session Kit #1 (Styling):

  • 3/4” Marcel Curling Iron
  • 1” Marcel Curling Iron
  • Sam Villa Textur® Iron
  • Sam Villa Sleekr® Iron
  • Large Crimper
  • Vent Brush
  • Pick Comb
  • Y.S. Park Round Brushes, Clips, Combs & Diffuser
  • Y.S. Park Pin Set: U Pins, Regular and Large Bobby Pins
  • Single and Double-Pronged Clips

Session Kit #2 (Hair):

  • Synthetic Hair - Natural and Pop Colors
  • Real Hair - Natural and Pop Colors
  • Wigs - Usually Pop Colors
  • Zip Ties
  • Glue Gun and Glue
  • Wig Caps
  • Pin Set & T Pins
  • Mannequin Heads and Stand

Products (for both kits):

  • Bumble & Bumble Hair Powders
  • Redken Hot Sets 22
  • Sebastian Hair Sprays
  • Kerastase Elixir & Nectar Thermique
  • Towels & Cap
  • Clear Face Shield
  • Scissors
  • Water Bottle

Can you provide 3 guidelines for retouching (what to look for to make an image better/pop/shine)?

  1. The hair should be the main focus; cancel out anything that is distracting.
  2. Don’t over-do it!
  3. Make sure you’re staying consistent with your main goal/vision.

Why do you enter NAHA? I always try to take things to the next level, whatever my original vision was, I take it even further and that’s when I get the best results. Entering NAHA is my legacy - it allows me to create and capture my art, and share and inspire others.

The Road To NAHA Part 1: Charlie Price The Road To NAHA Part 2: Sherri Jessee

If you have any questions or comments please leave them in the box below.

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