Published: 15 November, 2007 - Featured in Skin Deep 154, December, 2007

As an alternative hairdresser, Hanna creates works of art from the scalp-upwards. She wears her influences (quite literally) on her sleeve and likes to mix up styles according to her personal tastes, resulting in her beautifully decorated epidermis. We caught up with Hanna to find out what makes her tick…  


You were born and grew up in Norway. Tell us something about your childhood.

I had quite a happy childhood. The winters are often cold and for much of the time it is quite dark but as children we still often played outside when we could. During the coldest, darkest periods I spent a lot of time reading, watching films and studying, it was then that I relied on my imagination a lot.

How do the scenes and subcultures in Norway compare to those in the UK?

Norway has always had a strong subculture but its not the same as in the UK where you have the Punk, Rockabilly, Goth and Fetish scenes operating on separate levels and in Norway the scene is not so image orientated. From a relatively early age I always favoured a dark look with lots of make-up, black hair and second-hand or retro clothing, usually black. It was a case of taking influences from many different sources, horror moves, silent movies, which I have watched from childhood, right through to theatre and art. I liked to wear red lipstick, painted nails, stockings, anything for a dramatic look, which made me something of an outsider within my own culture. In many ways my look was in direct opposition to that of the majority of Scandinavian women who generally adopt a very natural image with very little make-up.


Have you always felt that you were an outsider?

Definitely, even in the alternative scene. From the age of 13, when I was hanging around with punks, I was still considered different; I wasn’t political, I was more into the art and music side of things. I worked hard to create a look that was different to that of my peers and I must have succeeded, as I have always been perceived as an outsider.

You subsequently trained as a hairdresser…

Yes, luckily I was very successful. And the fact that I was different and not the typical hairdresser helped in terms of my career as people were attracted to me because they recognised that difference. Unlike many other hairdressers, the influences that inspired my styling and hairdressing work were drawn from a multitude of genres including music, art, history, architecture, design and fashion. When you are as passionate about your work as I am, people will always recognise and be attracted to that energy.
Why did you decide to relocate to the UK?

I think it relates to the fact that I grew up in a relatively small country and that can cause one to feel isolated or closed off in a way. As a youngster who was seen as different, I felt that no one really understood me so I felt the need to reach out, meet people and network. In a country like Norway there are so many things you just can’t do, or if you do you will always be perceived as doing it solely to get attention. So for me, London, which is one of the biggest metropolises in the world, seemed the ideal place to live. There is so much here in terms of style, music, fashion, it’s a place where anything that is considered to be underground can find its place. I was only 24 when I opened the salon, H2, in Portobello Rd, I had no previous experience of living in London, and so things were quite tough at first until I had established myself professionally and socially within the city. At the time of opening, the salon was very different from others in London; all of the stylists were Scandinavian. My time in London has been a very good period in my life during which I built up a regular and loyal clientele and made so many good friends.

I know that you have integrated well within the London alternative scene.

I suppose I have. There are so many scenes here, the Goth scene, the Burlesque scene, the Industrial scene, the Fetish scene, but, even so, I still feel somewhat of an outsider as I don’t comfortably into any one of those, I like to mix my influences and my friends come from all walks of life. The problem nowadays is that all of these scenes are becoming so commercial, someone starts things up, the media becomes involved and then its picked up by the mainstream and they take over and that’s the beginning of the end. That’s probably why there are a plethora of scenes continually evolving, the innovators and creative elements will always continue to push boundaries. That’s why I prefer to explore many scenes and take positive influences from them all, that way the creative process seldom falters.

In terms of tattoos, how are attitudes in Norway?

I’ve been away for six years and during that time attitudes seem to be changing. When I started getting tattooed thirteen years ago there were very few girls in Norway with tattoos, and those that did, had very trendy, small-scale stuff. Nowadays you see more people with strong images wearing substantial amounts of work of amazing quality, tattooing is gradually emerging from the underground. Tattoos no longer have such strong connotations with bikers, sailors and roughnecks; they have become much more socially acceptable.

What were the influences behind the designs you wear?

I have always been interested in imagery. In the beginning I was interested in esoteric teachings and symbolism and was interested to see how those concepts could be portrayed onto the skin. Originally I only wanted to have work in black and white but as I have grown older, I have come to like colour work and I enjoy the mix of new and old school genres. And as tattooing has grown more popular, the quality of work available has also increased; there are so many artists nowadays working with incredible artistic flair and awesome technical skill. I started getting tattooed at the age of seventeen and since that time have had some cover-ups and some of the work has been connected over the years, so I’ve gained some pieces and lost others. Some of the work has been done in Norway and some in the UK. Duncan X, at Into You, tattooed my eyebrows and I’m so happy with the results. With regard to the designs themselves, I’ve always liked stars, skulls, pin-up girls, Rockabilly and Horrorbilly as well as panthers and other big cats, but I’m also interested in patterns and these interests are all reflected in my tattoos. I like to mix ideas that are quite bizarre, grotesque and hard with designs that are softer.

Who are your role models?

Betty Page, Marlene Dietrich, Louise Brooks, many other iconic pin-up or burlesque stars, basically everything from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. I do like some 60’s stuff, mostly the trashy Russ Myers leopard print trashy women but I find the 70’s to be quite bland in terms of style. I’m generally drawn to material that is quite dark, gothic, macabre, Victorian medical cabinet type stuff, but I also like films like Pink Flamingos, so my personal style is a mix of many genres, cartoonish, humorous characters juxtaposed with a more serious, dark side.

You got married in 2006. Tell us about that.

We got married in Norway at a place called Hell, on 06.06.06. The wedding had a burlesque theme and attracted a lot of attention. We got married outside by one of my friends who is a kind of agnostic voodoo priest, he designed the ceremony especially for my husband and me. We had the party in an old banquet hall so everyone had to take the train to Hell station. Hell is a small and very beautiful place. I wore a long black wedding dress, my hair was black, the guys all wore 1930’s gangster suits and the women all wore beautiful gowns. The event was covered by a Norwegian wedding magazine as well as all of the big newspapers; even one from Sweden ran a feature. For a wedding, it was so unusual, people were curious to know if we were Satanists, which of course we aren’t, we just wanted to do something different and positive and people will always remember that day. We had good weather, the sun came up and everything was perfect.

You started your business in London several years ago and have built up a
good clientele. Why have you now decided to return to Norway?

I’ve worked really hard here but I think that during the last ten years London itself has changed. It used to be a city where everybody wanted to come if they were a bit different. But its getting so expensive here, its pushing all of the creative people out, its so hard to run a small business in London, so we decided to move back to Norway where we can enjoy a better quality of life and we intend to travel more. Nowadays the World is getting smaller, the Internet has helped with that, so people living in smaller countries need no longer feel so isolated. I will probably do session work as a hairdresser or a stylist but we have also talked about doing something totally different like opening up an antique shop, or mixing a 50’s style diner with a hairdressing salon and shop or club, something that crosses over. I like to mix esoteric with kitsch and we collect anything unusual, voodoo dolls, skulls, furniture, and retro stuff. Neither of us is blinkered in our tastes in terms of art, design or music. We listen to everything from alternative country to industrial noise, there are no limits, and we like to experience it all so for both of us this is something of a new beginning, another exciting adventure.   


Interview and Photograph: Ashley (http://www.savageskin.co.uk) Assistant Photographer: Michele Martinoli


Skin Deep 154 15 December 2007 154