For Jewel Shepherd, a head of hair is a blank canvass and she is the artist.
“It’s the opportunity to create, to transform a woman and make her feel better about herself,” Shepherd said. “Sometimes my clients come in and they don’t know what they want. But because we have a relationship and they trust me, I make suggestions and begin to create.”
Shepherd has been a beautician and stylist for more than five years. Her specialty is braiding, weaves and extensions. She has a shop in her home where clients can come to her. But she also goes to them.
“Sometimes my clients would prefer to come here so that they can get away from their kids and the things that need to be done at home,” she said. “Other times, they want me to come to them, especially if they’re getting ready for a special event.”
Shepherd said she knew she wanted to go to cosmetology school after she began working in a salon at age 19.
“I was a friend of the owner and I started working as a receptionist, just helping her out,” Shepherd said. “I knew how to braid and even though it was more of a barber shop, I got to do some braids.”
Braiding was something she taught herself.
“At first, I would braid my dolls’ hair,” she said. “Then I did my own and when it didn’t come out, I knew I must be pretty good. So I began braiding my friend’s hair.”
As the only daughter in her family, with four older brothers, Shepherd admitted she was the princess in the family. Her father was in the Navy and Bremerton was her home.
“We didn’t have a lot of money,” she said. “But I loved hair and makeup and shoes. Every time I had the chance, I’d buy something to use in my hair.”
In 2007 she began attending cosmetology school at Olympic College West Sound Skills Center in Bremerton. She graduated in 2009. With her license in hand, she began working in salons and eventually, in 2011 she and her husband built their home.
“We made this room my salon,” she said. ‘We picked out everything and decorated it ourselves.”
Her salon, done in black and white and purple, has a stylist chair, a sink, two hair dryer stations, and, most importantly a television.
“My clients love being able to come here and relax and watch TV while they get their hair done,” she said.
Her talents include single braids, cornrows, micro-braids and twists. She does all coloring techniques including highlights, foils and frosts. She cuts hair, and applies relaxers, permanents and straightening products. Her clients include women and children and she works on all ethnicities.
“Children can be challenging,” she said. “But coming here to an in-home salon makes it less scary. And I have these cute little kid-sized capes with penguins on them. They get so interested in the penguins that they forget I’m cutting their hair.”
Shepherd has also found a specialty. She helps mothers of mixed-race children understand how to care for their children’s hair.
“Sometimes some mothers aren’t use to working with African American hair,” she said. “It’s not anything they’ve ever had to deal with. So I help them understand the care that this hair needs. And salons also refer people to me when they can’t provide the service that is needed.”
Shepherd does cut men’s hair, but prefers to work on women’s hair.
“I know the technique of side-shaving,” she said, of the style often seen on African American men. “But it’s not my main service.”
One service she provides that is really important to her is working with women who have lost their hair because of cancer treatments.
“It’s very humbling,” she said. “Knowing what these women have gone through with chemo and radiation, I love that I can help them feel good. I can style their wigs and I make wigs. And as their own hair grows back in, I can work with them to create a style they are comfortable with.”
All the products she uses are professional grade. She buys online and from local hair supply stores. For the extensions, she uses both synthetic hair and human hair. Depending on the kind of hair a client wants, extensions can run from $50 to $200. Some luxury hair, such as Brazilian or Bohemian, can be as much as $400. Hair is attached with a carotene bonded glue and sometimes sewn into the clients actual hair with a thread and needle. Extensions can last for several months if the hair is maintained well and washed and dried often.
Some braiding and extensions can take from six to eight hours to apply. Some micro-braids can take up to 18 hours to complete, depending on the amount of hair.
“I have had some times when a client will have half her hair done one day and then come back the next to finish,” she said. “It’s a real work of art and it can be stressful. But it’s worth it especially when you see the results.”
Shepherd considers herself an artist and a businesswoman. She is going to school to get her bachelor’s degree in business. She keeps her own books and she does her own marketing. Right now, she works in between classes and studying. But she takes all the appointments she can, especially for extensions.
“My favorite thing to do is extensions,” she said. “And I love doing hair for brides.”
For a wedding party, she can work on as many as five to eight women at once.
“I go with a friend who does makeup,” she said. ‘We start about seven in the morning and by noon we have everybody ready to be in the wedding. It’s a marathon.”
She also does hair for young women before proms and prior to other performances and she has been involved in preparing contestants for the Miss Kitsap pageant.
Whether she’s working at home or out on the road, Shepherd has just one thing in mind.
“I want to help women feel good about themselves,” she said. “Hair is such a big thing in our culture. Not everybody naturally has great hair. But with some help, everybody can have great hair.”
Shepherd is available at House of Glam at 360 990-3372.