Long hair becomes a true art form in the hands of Katje Sabin, founder of Crowning Glory Braids in Northern California. She has been braiding hair professionally for the past 13 years and her intricate creations have often been referred to as "hair sculpture."
Katje was kind enough to answer several braiding questions for LHL and to share some fabulous photos.
LHL: What are your personal favorite braided looks for formal events like weddings and proms?
KS: I love the crown braids. You can do so much with them as far as adding ropes, flowers, etc. Or they just look so classic and elegant all by themselves. A braid like this can go on just about all lengths of hair, which is great for things like a bridal party. It's also fairly sturdy, which is a good idea for those active flowergirls!
The double drape and multiple braids are also nice, and can show off long, healthy hair.
LHL: Do you like to incorporate ribbons, flowers or jewels, or do you like to let the braids 'speak' for themselves?
KS: I've got a bit of a signature style as far as ropes are concerned. I love to use the hair itself to decorate and accent the braids, by twisting little ropes of hair and pinning them hither and yon over the 'do. Criss-cross, swirled, jagged, in a star, in a Celtic knot... I never get tired of playing with them!
But of course I also enjoy using other goodies like ribbons, flowers and jewelry. I've worked earrings and bracelets into hairstyles, and it's looked great.
I've also had good success with those hair snaps, they look just magical "sticking" to the hair. And it's also nice that they don't do any damage, like barrettes and clips so often do.
Once in a while, though, I have to tell a client to "leave it alone!" Thick, rich, glossy hair just doesn't need to be augmented with extras. It can be just so elegant to let the shades and shadows of a hairstyle stand up on their own. However, if you're under the age of 12, you get as much glitter, roses and beads in your braid as we can fit!
LHL: What should a woman look for when hiring a professional braider?
KS: Certainly look at the photos and see it they match up with your "vision" for the 'do you're dreaming of. But keep in mind that we will put in the best-looking photos, and that no matter how hard we try, we can't make permed, sun-damaged hair look exactly like the picture in the album. Still, we can work with you to get to the style you want. Ask her for a reference or two. When you talk to them, get an idea of how long she takes, how satisfied they were, and how gentle she was. I hear so many sad stories of people frightened of braids because they were hurt as a child by someone pulling so tight they couldn't close their eyes!
Braids shouldn't hurt. I'm a big baby myself, and am told that I have very gentle hands. That's because I imagine it's me sitting there!
LHL: How much time should a woman with different lengths of hair (shoulder to knee) budget when booking a hair braider?
KS: It depends on how intricate the braid is going to be. If you are just looking for a crown braid, it won't take more than 20 minutes even if you've got hip-length hair. On the other hand, if you want a double nine-strand with six ropes, it's going to take more than an hour even if you've got shoulder-length hair.
This is why I always recommend a practice session for brides. That way, she can "try on" different styles, and time the one she selects so that she can best plan the big day with no surprises (at least, not from her braider!)
LHL: How should a woman prepare to have her hair braided (wash her hair first, have 'day old' hair, have damp hair, etc.)?
KS: I believe that hair is most vulnerable when it is damp. I try hard not to work with wet hair, but I can do it if I have to. It can be the best thing to braid it wet when you need the braid to stay in during an athletic event, for example.
I love hair. i don't want to ever be the cause of damaging it, so I prefer to work with it dry. I've dampened my hands on windy days or if the hair is extra-clean and flyaway. Sometimes I'll offer the client a dab of BioSilk (a fabulous conditioner from Farouk Systems). Other than that, dry is the way to go.
On the other hand, when hair is extra-clean, it is hard to braid. We have all these wonderful oils that we make to take care of our hair, and we're always scrubbing them off of our scalp! So, if I have my preference, I ask that the hair be at least one day away from a shampoo.
Here's my little soap-box moment: People tell me "I have to wash my hair every day or it gets so oily!" Ladies, that's just your body trying to protect your hair from this daily stripping of the nourishing oils that your body makes for your lovely locks. If you can stand it, let things get back in balance by waiting a day, then two days, then three between shampoos. You probably don't NEED to shampoo hair ... especially long hair ... more than once a week.
And I'm sure you know the rest: don't blow dry, don't curl, don't perm or color, just feed your hair and let it grow! OK, I'm off the soap-box now...
LHL: What else would you recommend to women looking for quality professional braiding services?
KS: Alas, there aren't many of us out there. Ladies who do braids similar to my style are Karen Ribble (www.braidedimage.com) and Mary Berke (www.dreamweaverbraiding.com)
I also teach braiding, and am working on a book of styles and methods. We'll see when it gets done. It's wonderful to see the art and craft of braiding hair is still alive out there. If any braiders are wandering through Northern California, give me a call and we'll make a date to exchange tricks and ideas!