12 years ago, a girl friend and I decided to move to San Francisco. We had had it with Seattle, we were barely twenty and felt as if we had outgrown our hometown to the point of mind numbing boredom and alcoholism. We packed up a uhaul, complete with my 99 Chevy Corsica with the huge brass ‘PANTERA’ cutout bolted to the front grill, and headed to the Bay.
On our way down, we got arrested for smoking weed in a tiny town outside of Portland. We were stoned and stunned. They let us go with a court date a month later, a bummer we couldn’t fathom being able to afford to attend.
When we got to SF, we moved into a 3 bedroom apartment in the Mission with 12 boys from Minneapolis. The apartment had a tiny basement and a tool-shed bedroom conversion in the back yard. Next door to us was an apartment full of rowdy and amazing lesbians from South Carolina.
I quickly figured out life: I could survive off 1 burrito a day from El Matate, and still have enough to afford to drink my Anchor Steam at night after a long day waiting tables at All You Knead on upper Haight street. I walked to work every day, falling in love with the city by the bay in a way that still makes my heart swell to think about.
One day, during my daily walk, every person I passed was eating an Ice cream cone. From the bums and junkies to hippie burn outs and hipsters and corporate stiffs, moms, kids, dads, everyone. It felt like the best dream possible, but really it was just free ice cream day at Ben and Jerry’s.
Every day on my walk, I passed a gorgeous hair salon called Edo and I would slow down so I could see what was happening in there. The stylists looked so unique and happy and the hair happening in there was eamazing nough to make me know that some day I REALLY REALLY wanted to apply for a job there and learn and create along side these people. But first, I needed to get my California Cosmetology license. And to me at the time, that seemed like more red tape and grown up stuff to want to deal with.
12 years later, having left San Francisco (different story for a different day) I have had the pleasure of connecting with Edo through Instagram. I took the opportunity to reach out to Jayne Matthews, Edo creator and owner, and found in her a kindred hair sister. Today, I am thrilled to present you all with words on hair and life with Jayne. Ladies and gents,
Hair and Life with Jayne Matthews, Kindred Hair Sister
What is the Edo origin story? What inspired that particular salon, at that particular time?
My mom was a ceramicist when I was growing up and my dad was a drama teacher who collected flea market antiques. They both taught me that being a small business owner is fun and creative and a great opportunity to build community.
My first real haircut was when I was 11 years old and I held the mirror and directed my mother as she cut steps into the back of my head, leaving one long braided tail down the side. I was thrilled. It was from that moment on that I knew and I will be doing for a living.
In 1996 I met the girl that was to become my closest friend I’ve ever had in my entire life. She moved into my five bedroom flat on Haight Ashbury and we immediately went to work painting every room a different color and thrifting and decorating.
We found that we were extremely good partners as far as building things. Two years later we saw this funky little church on the corner of lower Haight Street with a cardboard sign that said ‘for rent’ in the window.
I had been working at a shop under a extremely eccentric Japanese artist/ hair stylist named Ernest Takai who taught me how to carve deeply into the hair to create organic shapes. I knew he was selling his salon and moving it back to Japan.
At the time my boyfriends mother had helped start the Burning Man festival and told us she would lend us $20,000 as long as we supported local arts to keep San Francisco and the art and craft community alive. We signed the lease on the little church, and we had our little salon. We called it Edo after ancient Tokyo for the man who taught me to carve into hair, and in honor of the fact that In Tokyo entire families work together on one project for many years, even generations.
For the first three years our huge downstairs basement area was all art studios. There was a circus cabaret jug band that practiced there, and our friend wrote a book about the five years he spent riding trains in one of our basement studios.
As the salon grew and the boyfriend went, we took over the downstairs to teach hairdressers how to carve into hair and make it more organically shaped to fit their face rather than architecturally shaped to fit a design.
Now we just needed someone who would teach us how to build the boutique salon with the grassroots vibe of what we were already doing.
As a business owner, what would you say your biggest lesson has been in the course of your journey?
Absolutely finding a mentor that you 100% connect with. At the end of 1999 I snuck into my first Bumble and Bumble class and somehow I connected with the teachers so much they let me stay. We were the first boutique salon to carry their product…… before then they had only been in huge fancy salons.
Michael Gordon and his curriculum for business and being transparent and having one-on-one relationships with your work family really taught me that what matters in business is love, not money. If you really love what you do the money will follow.
Anytime I make a decision compromising what my gut tells me because we are broke, it never works out well……. it’s only when I go with the love and the creativity that things start work beautifully again.
Also, my relationship with my business partner and shy copilot Chri has been an incredibly special part of the entire experience. If you’re going to start a business with another person make sure it’s somebody who complements you well and when things get hard go to therapy! We went for a year 🙂
What is your personal specialty, hair wise?
When I cut hair, I cut petals, rather like a pinecone. I carve into the hair without making it stringy but making it like a flower with petals.
I’m extremely good with looking in a persons eyes and the cheekbones and their jawbone and figuring out where to leave bits that will accentuate their face and bring out their own natural beauty.
I also love color. I love doing all different types of blondes from Champaign blondes to golds and pastel blondes. Of course I can do dark hair is well, but I’m just really inspired by the translucency of pastels and blondes. Especially muted tones. It just feels so Victorian.
What are your favorite lines of color, hair products, etc? What brands do you love?
I’m not really a brand loyal list. Sometimes I find myself using hand lotion when I am doing cuts at home. That said, if I was on a desert island I would bring Davines Authentic Replenishing Butter. It makes the hair so smooth and soft and silky yet still have texture and movement and defined curls. It’s amazing for short hair as it gives a little bit of separation but also amazing on curly hair and on straight hair! It’s just amazing.
I also love John Masters Sea Spray. It’s made with three ingredients salt, water, and lavender. I use it on the roots of almost everybody to give beefy hair at the crown where the hair tends to get oily. And of course, I love hair powder. Nobody in the world can wear a set of bangs without a little hair powder to suck up those forehead oils.
I’m a big fan of New Wash from Hairstory Studio. Of course I will always be a fan of them because of Michael Gordon, but it is so brilliant to wash your hair without stripping it’s natural oils. I only wash my hair about every eight days and New Wash feels like a perfect solution.
Tell us about your transformation into motherhood, your detox, and your life overhaul into a super conscious, toxin-free organic stylist, followed by the revamp of Edo?
It was the hardest year of my entire life. We try to put on a happy face, but if somebody could’ve really looked into my eyes and seen the fear and pain and stress I was in, they would have seen a different story.
I came back from maternity leave, and our 16 year old shop had to undergo an indefinite earchquake retrofit, and we had to move into a tiny little pop up with low ceilings . We were still using ammonia color and Bumble and Bumble styling products and as they were being washed and blown dry into the hair the steam filling the air gave me the worst case of asthma and a migraine headache like nothing I’ve ever experienced. My bones even hurt and my mouth tasted like metal.
It basically felt like I was being poisoned….. which I was. Dr. after Dr. was convinced I was just having a panic attack and there was nothing wrong with me. Finally I found an incredible naturopath who tested my blood and found it filled with aldehyde.
This was strange to me as we don’t do any keratin treatments inside of Edo whatsoever. As it turns out, formaldehyde is just one word for a big umbrella of chemicals that are snuck in to every day ammonia hair color as well as most styling products from blow-dry creams to spray powders.
The heartbreak of my life wasn’t that I had to stop breast-feeding my daughter at six months old so I could go on a cleanse that would flush the toxins out of my body. I immediately removed myself from my own shop and sought out the only organic hairstylist that I knew and the entire bay area and begged her to let me work out of her shop and teach me to use chemical free products.
My daughter was six months old, we had been kicked out of our shop, and I was the primary breadwinner for my family. I had no idea how I was going to support us without doing what I had been doing my entire career……traditional ammonia hair color and bleaching.
I picked myself up and plopped myself into Plum salon and threw myself in to this weird new oil-based colorline. I’m not going to lie…… I messed up a lot of hair but eventually I got it and once I did, I realized it was incredible. I
it was like relearning everything I had previously known about hair color, while raising my daughter and going through a massive detox. Not to mention a major salon build out project that was way beyond our means.
Here’s the interesting thing about it though…….Five years ago I met someone I really connected with. I went to her home in Sedona and did a six-day fast with her and had a vision that I was no longer OK pouring chemicals down the drains and into our oceans and into our landfills and poisoning myself, the family that worked for me and trusted me to keep them safe, and my clients. It hit me so strong but I had no idea what to do so I stuffed it way down inside. And it came back out with a vengeance!
With a lot of therapy with my partner, a lot of faith, and a lot of stubbornness on my part we re-opened Edo Salon and Gallery last year as an eco-friendly hair salon. My business partner was frightened out of her mind (she manages most of the money side) but I swore to her that this was the answer and there was no way I could stay unless the chemicals went. In America there are 156 chemicals that are in our beauty products that are 100% illegal in Australia and Europe. I wasn’t okay with that.
If you weren’t a hairstylist what would you be?
I have been slowly going to school to become a life coach so I can help people with their personal journeys and also help small businesses really figure out who they are and how to create a healthy culture. So I would say number one, I would be a life coach.
I would also love to be a photographer, I would love to own a vintage clothing store, as I used to deal vintage clothing before I was a hairstylist and I love finding treasures, and then oddly enough sometimes I dream of doing clothing styling for editorial……. It’s just in my blood. I have been playing dress-up since I was a child. I was sent to a Waldorf school so we had no television, no Barbies, no Legos, no plastic toys. We had a huge basket of dress-up clothing and a lot of musical instruments.
Where do you get the most inspired? What artists do you just love?
Well lately I’ve been getting the most inspired by Instagram which is hysterical. I get really inspired by gardens but I do not have a green thumb. I just love the organic shapes of flowers and plants and the way that they evolve together.
Off the top of my head some artists that I currently follow in love would be Liz Rob, Matthew Barney, Jose Ramussi, and I am totally inspired by Eva Hesse. I have the pottery and weaving obsession going on as well, but I’m trying to be more selective about choosing art.
The next artist showing at Edo is one of my favorite people, April Rose of Rainbow Kimono! She is so colorful, so eccentric, yet so humble. I just love her both her work and just her as a human being.
How is the work/life/mama balance going? Do you have any tricks or wisdom to share about how you navigate being a boss woman and a mama?
I have an incredibly supportive partner who is endlessly nurturing to both myself and to Sylvie. I try to stay off the Internet and have dance parties with scarves and spend as much time really looking into her eyes as I can when it’s our days together. So when I’m at work, I’m at work and when I’m with Sylvie, I’m really with Sylvie. Every little moment with her means so much.
And meditation! I try to get to work 10 minutes early so I can sit in my car and meditate. It’s not glamorous but it changes everything.
What are you excited to see more of in the hair industry?
People taking the time (and that includes myself) to really do something special and interesting and connect with nature and photograph it to inspire others. Using hair as a means to help people connect with themselves and the natural world.
I would really like to see hairstylist taking their health a lot more seriously. Working in our industry means having regular exposure to really dangerous and harmful chemicals…..And as sick as I got, I don’t wish that on anybody. I hope for a movement like the farm to table movement, to happen in the hair world.
What are you ready to say goodbye to in the industry?
The harsh chemicals and the competitive energy.
Tell us your favorite go-to hair tricks for great DIY hair at home.
After five days of not washing, my hair and a huge tangled mess and I just pull the hair apart and do a big fat French braid from right above one ear down to the other ear and snake it around back of my head again and then kind of pull it a part so it purposely looks like I teased it even though really it’s just bed head.
It’s funny, I get the most compliments when I wear this way and it’s literally the one I go to when I can barely get my fingers through my hair.
Another trick is to stick your head in the sink and wash the bangs only and even maybe the crown a bit but leave the length dry. So quick, and so great for a shiny clean top to your messy chignon or braid.
Any future projects that you are dreaming about?
I’m excited to become an educator and teach people about organic hair color. I still feel like I’m learning it myself but that’s what I’m working towards. I’m also looking forward to doing a residency in Nevada City every few months and taking care of all the incredible Artist in that community live and create in that magical world and desperately need a hairstylist.
Hear that, Nevada City? You lucky gold country artists can look forward to some hair love from Jayne in the coming year. The rest of us can just enjoy her creations and her journey by following her and Edo Salon on Instagram, and booking an appointment with her next time we are in the Bay Area.
Jayne, and Edo, we are so glad to know you. Thanks for helping to keep our industry real, inspired, and community and art driven. We salute you and all you do!