By Elaine Omann
Russell Sweet is currently a hairdresser at a cool salon called Foiled Rotten, located in the Baymeadows Shopping Center on the same side as Publix. He is self-employed, rents his chair from the owner, and sets his hours based on his customers and followings. Sweet is married with a daughter and grandchildre grandchildren. He and his family live on the Southside and have been part of the community for a long time.
- What brought you into the business as a hairdresser?
I began my career as a hairdresser by default. I had been working for years in manual labor types of jobs, working in the heat, the cold, and doing the heavy lifting. At one point I had enough of this work and wanted to be a barber. About this time a scholarship became available for training as a hairdresser and I accepted it and became board and state certified. Thinking over my choices and successes, I see the creative-thinking part of me, my fine motor skills, and the problem-solving decisions integrated into my work and my hobbies or interests influenced me. Working in skilled labor and a self-taught kind of guy, I carry that practice into today in everything I do.
- What other experience do you have that is unique?
There was a time when I was also a lead guitar player for a major rock and roll band. I played in upscale venues. I still play the guitar but not as much and not in venues. Music and the experiences in the rock genre shows up in some of my images and designs.
- What are your other hobbies and interests?
I spend much of my time between two different types of hobbies or crafts: I work in leather and wood. I am self-taught and have learned everything from YouTube videos and experimentation. It takes a lot of studying and then you just need to do it and see what happens. I design, create products, and make my own tools. My products are unique and one of a kind in design, color, and materials. For example, much of the wood I have found in my yard or the parking areas, fallen limbs and trees from storms, and exchanging with friends and neighbors. The leather products I develop include the tools I used in making items and I create what I need specifically for my use. The stains, the polish, and many of the materials are one of a kind that I make rather than purchase.
- Do you sell your work and how do you market? What would you like to do with your craftwork?
Most of my product I show to people in the shop or friends and family, which results in sales. The idea of mass producing is not something I want to do. I pay attention to detail in my work and I will take time to explain to people who are interested how I create pieces. If they like pieces and want to buy them, I can make these more personal to their specifications. I would like to jury into shows where quality work and craftsmanship are required to be accepted. At some point I will accomplish this goal, but it takes making sufficient product, building a set up for booths and displays, as well as high entry fees, promotional pieces, and time. I have a few venues in mind that I would like to consider.
- Many changes have occurred in the hairdressing business. What have you noticed the most?
There are more options and loyalty does not dictate where people go to receive services. I like to build my customer base and schedule time when they are available and I can meet their time. Color has become a key design and permanents seem to have gone away, with more people wanting an easy care hairdo. Laws and practices now allow for more transitions with clients, which makes it possible to define a business by setting hours, developing followings, or advancing in particular areas of the field.
Photo courtesy Elaine Omann