Austin Creative Alliance tirelessly serves the area’s creatives, organizations, and cultural consumers by building infrastructure, offering audience and career cultivation services, and offering myriad ways for people to connect with all that’s happening in the community. This three-part series provides a look into the scenes that comprise our creative community.
This is the first post in our 14th and Chestnut series! What was originally a vacant, run-down building on the east side is now a location for three inventive, versatile businesses. The first in our series is Hearts and Robots, a hair studio influenced by a creative, artistic atmosphere. The other two tenants are Fuzzy Popsycle, a commercial arts services studio, and Doe Studio, an all-female art space. Hearts and Robots is the brainchild of Scarlett Vivienne, an Austinite by way of Los Angeles. Here she talks with us about how hair design, art and community work very well together.
What’s the story behind Hearts and Robots? How long have you been in business and where did the name come from?
Hearts & Robots Hair Studio is a fashionable hair studio for guys and gals. We provide innovative, creative, personalized and fashionable styles at an affordable cost. It was founded by myself (Scarlett Vivienne) in December 2010 as the result of a desire to find an alternative to the traditional beauty shop. We were previously located on East 6th Street.
H&R opened its doors 8 months ago at the now closed Art Projekts, which was an artist community on east 6th Street and Pedernales. I was attracted to the element of being located among artisans like painters, screenprinters, metal sculpture artists and a recording studio because I believe hairdressing is an art form, and I wanted to promote this aspect of our industry which is often unrecognized. Also because we double as an art gallery showcasing artwork of local artists, we wanted to create a space where we could be influenced by the varied arts and feed off the synergy of creative environment. Most of the H&R stylists also practice another art form and some of us study studio art and art history (such as myself) in college prior to entering into the hair industry. H&R had to relocate on short notice when the city of Austin decided to close the Art Projekts for ongoing fire and building code violations against our landlord.
I scrambled to find us a relocation spot and discovered our awesome current location while driving to grab a coffee at Thunderbird. The entire building had been vacant for almost 8 years before we moved in. I leased two of the three spaces and referred friends who leased the third space which is now called Doe Studios and is home to four artists who utilize the space as their art studio. A portion of the space I leased is currently under construction as I begin another business venture, this time with my boyfriend Chris Holloway. The shop will be the home office and studio for our commercial art services business called Fuzzy Popsycle which will offer outdoor advertising and marketing related artwork for businesses and brands. We wanted to recreate the arts community we had to give up and feel we have done so in our current location by bringing the artists to us.
What aspects of being located on the East Side have helped your business?
When I first moved to Austin 2 years ago from Los Angeles, I noticed the abundance of hair salons but the lack of any unique spots. They exist in larger cities like LA and New York but everything in Austin seemed so ordinary and predictable. I wanted to do hair in a funky, hip, and edgy environment while staying true to my DIY principles and lifestyle.
Thus, H&R was born out of sheer determination to create a unique space for stylists to work and clients to come, get their hair done and hang out. When I moved to Austin from Los Angeles just 2 years ago I knew nothing about East Austin though I realized my first week of being in town that I wanted to both live and work east of I35. The East Side had an energy that I had experienced in similar neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Silverlake. I knew that the arts community was strong and that the area was populated with many young creative types whom I wanted to surround myself with. I’ve lived in my adorable East Side home since that second week in Austin. When making the decision to open a salon it was clear to me that I wanted to locate in the neighborhood that I saw as being the greatest fit for the vision I had for the shop, which was creative, urban, unique, alternative culture, cyclist-friendly, community driven and convenient to mine and my client’s favorite hang out spots.
What’s your history as a hair stylist and how did you end up in Austin?
I’ve been cutting and coloring hair since I was a young girl with plastic scissors and rainbow colored markers and Barbie dolls were my regular clients. I went the traditional graduate high school, go to college route where I studied Art History at UCLA. While in college and afterwards I was cutting and coloring my friends and families hair. I knew that this was my calling and it took me until my late twenties to finally get my focus as my career. I studied at the Paul Mitchell School in Los Angeles but finished my education at Avenue Five Institute, a Vidal Sassoon Partner School here in Austin. I moved to Austin on a whim. I never visited, didn’t know a soul and had no idea even where I would live once I arrived to town. I drove from Los Angeles in my Prius with my entire life packed up in my car. What didn’t fit in my car I sold or donated before I left. I guess you could say I took the Buddhist approach to my journey, less is more and that you must let go of everything to find what is truly meaningful and joyous. I am proud to say I have accomplished this goal and live with this gratitude-filled mentality daily.
A customer walks in to your studio without much idea of what style he or she would like. How do the stylists help them decide what look would work for them?
Ask the right questions and really listen to what the client is saying. All of the H&R stylists are great question askers and great at translating the clients’ ideas and thoughts into great looking hair. What we would ask a first time guest unsure of the desired hairstyle/color are questions such as, how do you usually wear/style your hair? What’s your styling routine like? What products do you use and how do you use them? What would you like to see your hair do? What do you like about your hair? Are you growing your hair? Are you good at maintaining a style/color at home? How often do you wash your hair? One of the most powerful things in life is change.
One of the easiest things (and less costly) to change is our hair. A new hair color, haircut, style is a great way to break out of the old and introduce newness to our lives. Hair should be loved, nourished and understood. Most often we don’t realize how simple a great haircut and style can be and how we can maintain that style at home with a little product, a little time and a good relationship with a great hairdresser. We at Hearts & Robots believe that great hair can be achieved in a hip and eco friendly environment (90% of our shop was built with repurposed and upcycled materials and furnishings) at a reasonable cost. Style should reflect our individual clients and be easy and simple. We love to accentuate natural curls and waves and definitely promote natural hairstyling to guests with this type of hair texture. Our commitment to the earth and environment is just as important as our love of beauty and looking great. We use and retail organic products, recycle more than 70% of our waste and are working on a hair recycling program.
Last question, Hearts and Robots manifests itself into a woman, and said lady is attending a show somewhere on the East Side this weekend. What would she be wearing and what hairstyle would she be sporting?
She would be distinctively unique and one to grab the attention in the room. I’m feeling especially fond of reds this season so I’m going to have her sporting a coppery red, texturized, and shoulder-grazing bob with pieced out eyebrow-skimming blunt cut bangs and lowlights of deep brunette and golden brown pieces throughout her crown.
She’d be wearing some wild patterned leggings beneath a large oversized vintage sweater with a few large plastic bracelets and cocktail rings, and hovering in platform ankle booties with a fringe covered saddle bag. Wow, sounds great and totally unlike what I’m wearing as I conveniently answer this in my skinny jeans and T-shirt printed by my boyfriend.
Thanks, Scarlett! You can visit Hearts and Robots’ site here. To make an appointment or for more questions, call the studio at 828-7434.