From the cutting room floor

Emily Bates spins human hair into elegant works of art. John Windsor met her
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
After the hair shirt, the hair skirt. These 10ft-tall artworks by Emily Bates are made of the sweepings from women's hairdressers in Glasgow. She scoops the damp hair off the floor - any strands over two inches long will do - spins it on an old-fashioned spinning wheel, knits the bodices by hand and the rest by machine. Then, she shows the disbelieving hairdressers photographs of what has become of their customers' crowning glory.

Everybody asks her, "Can you wear one?" To which she replies, "I wouldn't like to. It's too itchy. And, anyway, I'm not Kate Moss." Hair, she explains, gives an aura of who you are in the same way that clothing does. At two London exhibitions showing her work, the aura is one of morbid fascination. People touch the hair sneakily when they think no-one is looking. Some are revolted by it. "Nazi hair!" one woman hissed. "Does she know what that means?" Bates, 26, a graduate of Glasgow School of Art, has done her research on hair garments. Those flesh-mortifying hair shirts of the ancients, she says, were not made from human hair but scratchy raw wool, horsehair and cotton.

Bates' hair garments are on display in "Revelation: Textile Artists Addressing Issues" at London's Barbican Centre until 13 April, and at "Off Centre: An Exhibition of Contemporary Women's Art" at Swiss Cottage Central Library, London NW3, until 8 April.