Headspace Salon & Gallery, which opened last September in a storefront at 12 Market St., is not just about having your hair done. It’s also a place to check out some cutting-edge artwork, linger, relax, chat and get a respite. “People are seeking an experience,” said proprietor Heather Williams, 29. “The name of Headspace means, yes, there’s a hair salon and gallery, a space where people can come together. It’s where hair and art meet, but it’s also about a thinking space, where you can come and be yourself.”
In her quest to “encourage the free flow of ideas,” Williams has furnished the two-room space with a couple of upholstered chairs and painted end tables. In the back room, where her two hair stations are set up, muslin fabric, normally used to wax eyebrows, and Plexilight covers printed with a photo of blossoming trees against a deep blue sky (the item is designed for dentists’ offices) camouflage the drop ceiling; when the fluorescent lights are turned on, the blue color of spring casts a soft glow. “Everything in here is vintage, hand-me-down or found,” said Williams. “I wanted to have an eclectic, comfortable feel, as if you were getting your hair done in your living room.”
Instead of glamorous head shots of models sporting spiffy cuts, the walls of Headspace’s front room are hung with photographs that challenge conventional notions of beauty. They include Ashley Gallo’s large color shot of an elderly, pear-shaped woman in a pink tank top wearing curlers, Justin Schmidt’s photographs of rotting deer corpses, a wide-eyed deceased rabbit and a spooky shot of a cemetery, and depictions of modern ruins, including Sean Cynamon’s haunting black-and-white photographs of Detroit (they were taken on his dad’s film-loaded camera and in one case superimposed on a pre-existing negative of a lake) and Karissa Coffey’s depictions of abandoned classrooms in a grandiose building that was once a girls’ school. The artists belong to a regional collective called Flood the Valley, who range in age from teenage to mid-40s.
“I participate in Saugerties’ First Fridays (gallery openings),” said Williams. “This brings people in who might not otherwise go to a salon, and the salon brings people to the gallery who might not otherwise come to the gallery. There’s usually a performance,” which at the Jan. 31 opening of the current show featured a DJ. “There’s another salon in California that is also an art gallery, but I haven’t seen any in this area. I just wanted to bring in something different.”
Headspace sells hand-knit scarves, priced affordably from $15 to $30, jewelry by an Uptown Kingston tattoo artist called Karma Tattoo, and jewelry racks and other items crafted from used pallets by the one-man company Wild Refuge.
What are the roots of your combination hair salon and art gallery?
I’ve always been interested in art, and my parents called me creative. I went to Kingston High School and got started in photography in my senior year. Then I went to Sage College in Albany to study photography. I left Sage and came back to Kingston where I was born and raised and started going to Ulster Community College. I got an associate’s degree in individual studies, with a concentration in art and business. After I graduated in 2005, I worked in retail. Since I was 18 I’ve been in and out of retail management. I’m a person who wants to do a bit of everything.
My family said, “You should do hair.” I went to school for hair when I was 23 and hated it, so I quit. I went back to Capri Cosmetology, in Newburgh, two years later to give it another try and I loved it.
I was at Capri for eight months and took the state licensing exam. I thought I had failed and came home crying, but I passed and started working in salons. I probably missed a step in between: I’m the type of person that once I set my mind on something, I have to do it.
How did Headspace get started?
I came from the [hair salon in the] mall. It was a great start. There are great stylists there and I left on great terms. But it was time for me to go out on my own and try something different. I take the best part of each place I worked at and try to find a happy medium.
I went to the Ulster County Business Resource Center and sat down with a business advisor. All the services are free, and when you tell them what you’re looking to do, they help you create a business plan and find the options for funding. A woman named Miriam helped me every step of the way. There are certain things you don’t think about, like insurance, taxes or licensing for the business.
It took about a month to come up with a solid plan, and then I took a loan out from Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union. I thought about crowdfunding or tapping private investors, but this was the best option for me. Crowdfunding can take a lot of time and I didn’t want to be asking for money, I wanted to do this on my own.
What brought you to Saugerties?
Originally I wanted to be in Uptown Kingston, where my boyfriend and I were living, but I came to Saugerties one time and kind of fell in love. This is a great space and location. It was a skateboard shop and before that an auto parts store.
My biggest startup cost was putting work into the space. The wood paneling came down and the walls were royal blue and black, so I had to do a lot of priming and painting. The glass windows over the door and in the bathroom door were covered in paint. I put in track lighting, covered the drop ceiling with muslin — I’m the queen of Pinterest — and put in a ventilation system.
How did the gallery part evolve?
My boyfriend, Christian Gallo, is an artist and he always talked about having his work in a gallery. He curated this last show and is doing the next two. Plus, I’ve always gone to a lot of art openings. The art part is tied to the space. I have a lot of the same clients and they’re always seeking something different to look at. Every two months I change the art and the walls are always different.
After I graduated from SUNY Ulster I thought, “I’m not doing anything with my degree.” It wasn’t until I opened the salon that I said, “Oh my God, I’m using everything and working for myself.”
What services do you offer?
The only thing I don’t do here is perms. I do it all myself and am open Tuesday through Saturday.
I try to schedule my clients accordingly so they all have their own time. I want them to have an experience and feel comfortable. They’re paying me not just to get their hair done, but for an individualized experience. I have three clients who drive up from the city. It’s much cheaper here than in the city. The women’s cuts are $30 but if you get a cut with color I take $10 off the price of the cut.
Was it difficult getting customers when you opened?
No. I brought my clients from my previous jobs in Kingston and Woodstock. Pretty much all of them came with me. It’s a very personal connection. I know about their families. Sometimes I’m the first person they tell if they have a crisis. They let me in on their wedding day. That’s an honor for me.
What do you like best about doing hair?
Doing color is one of my favorite things. I like to play and experiment, and my hair is a different color every month. I was a blond over the summer. Right now I have an ombre, in which the top is darker and fades down to a lighter color. I still take classes on different techniques. It’s important to keep it up.
What’s your favorite product line?
Schwarzkopf, which is a line of color and styling products, is my absolute favorite. They have the best coverage for gray and also a line of 10-minute color, so it doesn’t take 30 to 40 minutes [to color your hair]. [For people worried about using chemicals], I carry a vegan line. Pastels are huge right now, and the most popular color is silver. Besides the ombre, another trend is balayaje, in which you paint on different sections, close to the highlights, rather than use foils. The advantage is you have more creative control and get a more natural look.
What styles are in?
Short hair is making a huge comeback. I just did a pixie cut on someone, and cutting all her hair off cuts down on time [shampooing and styling] and brings out features you necessarily wouldn’t have seen before, like a beautiful long neck or an earring. A lot of people come in with pictures or a Pinterest board with ideas. I want people to feel they can be creative. They come in with an idea and I make it more personal to them.
How did the current exhibition come about?
My boyfriend is part of Flood the Valley, a collective of artists and musicians from the Hudson Valley based in Kingston who do different events. They throw events at my other job, which is bartending at BSP. BSP has amazing bands and the back room is incredible. It’s a great way for me to build my clientele.
Are there many people you grew up who have stayed in the community, like yourself?
My three best friends [are all here]. One I’ve known since kindergarten, and she owns Cornell Street Studios [in Kingston], so we do a lot of cross-promoting. One just opened Wild Refuge, the company that makes things from pallets, and the other friend is helping out with his family’s business, Adirondack Roofing.
Both guys, at Wild Refuge and Adirondack Roofing, have girlfriends in New York City, and the gap [between the city and upstate] is quickly getting smaller. There was lots of stuff going on here before us, and I don’t want to take away from the people who have been here a long time.
The influx from the city is helping it grow more. My friends and I used to go to the city to get away, but now the city is coming here. It’s really great.
What’s the future for your business?
I definitely want to hire someone in the near future, and I want to build relationships that last. In this day and age of social media and information bombardment, of overstimulation, it’s nice to go into a shop and be one-on-one.