Hair is supposed to be a woman's crowning glory.  So it is not surprising when even a temporary loss due to chemotherapy adds to the stress and trauma of the necessary treatment.  German fiber artisan and designer, Sybille Paulsen, understands how much hair evokes sentiment. She creates handmade jewelry out of the hair of cancer patients in her unique project called Tangible Truths.

Mary Beth with her hair necklace
These designs turn out to be a sort of healing rite, something tangible to mark a difficult and transformative period.  The hair she receives from her patient clients are not only made into one of a kind jewelry for the women undergoing treatment, but she can also braid necklaces and wristbands for family members and close friends to link together those who will be providing important support.

Mary Beth, who commissioned the very first piece Sybille ever did, said :   “What Sybille created touched me really deeply. The free flow design of the project meant that my hair had not been transformed simply into a piece of art that was separate from me, the flow of the necklace she created somehow seemed to still hold pieces of me within it. The waves of the hair ... still looked so alive and so full of life. ... Her work touched not only me, but also those close to me here in Berlin who have seen it or seen the pictures. One person close to me even teared up because the necklace still looked like my hair and was a reminder of what it had been. ... I was impressed by what she had produced and very proud to have been a part of her project." 

Sybille did have some initial qualms about working with such precious hair.  There is no second chance with this material!  But in the end, she was able to tailor the design to fit Mary Beth right down to the preferred accent color, yellow.

The tightly square knotted hair cord of Romina's necklace design was paired with a long tassel of beautiful chocolate colored hair.  Sybille explained, "When we met for the hand over of her hair,  Romina and I played with the brushy ends of the braids, commenting on the unique sensation. I knew then that this sentiment had to be a major part of the design."

Romina's Hair Necklace

Her approach for Melisa's necklace was different. Here she had 5 tightly braided strands encased with marbled concrete ends and brass accents - a look inspired by the Postmodernish architectural style.

Melisa's Necklace

The necklace for Joanne was different.  The braided hair was teamed up with an older necklace and mixed with charms cast from the sea shells Joanne found on the beach.  She has a special affinity with the sea.  A separate hair bracelet was also made for her daughter.

What Sybille does is remarkable. Mary Beth put it so well, " I love the idea of helping create beauty out of what for many of us is a ugly process: chemotherapy. ”


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