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Elisa Sanfeliu turns loose strands of hair into intricate shower portraits


TextScarlett Baker

The Spanish lash artist uses her bathroom tiles as a canvas, capturing her friends and works of art with rescued runaways of her hair

What’s a shower thought you’ve had lately? A lot can happen in the shower besides the main objective. Inside the steamy cubicles, our most novel ideas arise. We span life’s greatest existential questions and epiphanies, we question the boundaries of human invention, or we perform a solid rendition of Rihanna’s “Umbrella” like it’s no one’s business, with said apparatus and all. Under the endless trickle of piping H2O, anything goes, but for Elisa Sanfeliu, the shower is home to her humble blank canvas. 

As strands from our scalps spiral into an unsavoury volume in the drain, the Spanish creative attentively rescues the slithers, finding use for the runaways by adorning them against the porcelain slabs of her bathroom walls, as she constructs portraits out of her own hair – a form of art that has also been practised by accounts like @shower_hair_master, @hair.shower.art, @showerstrands, and @hairylinez

“I was combing my hair and sticking it on the wall as usual, as for them not to go down the drain, when I saw an eye,” she shares on the genesis of her textured murals. “So I thought of putting a nose on it, then the mouth, the jaw and the hair.” It was at this point, Sanfeliu began to picture a man, and his presence amongst the downpour made her burst into laughter. “I live alone if you so I took a selfie of me next to the figure and joked about how I was ‘getting some tonight’ which, translated into Spanish slang, would be ‘ta noche pillo,’ my Instagram name.”

Sanfeliu’s spirited approach is is illustrated through her her spindly creations, spanning nude depictions of the female form that celebrate a new mode of erotic artistry. Her temporary silhouettes feature a pair of legs stretched open, a naked woman knelt on all fours looking over her shoulder, to the arcs of bosoms and bottoms with nipples neatly punctuated in thick clusters of threads. “I like to draw women's faces and bodies because of the curvy shapes; it feels more familiar and comfortable for me,” she offers.

Her nimble designs also document those in her immediate surroundings, a circle of Barcelona’s entrepreneurs, such as friend Paloma Lanna, the founder of the fashion label Paloma Wool – “who actually hates finding hairs, but to my surprise she loved then and asked me to represent some of her pieces,” Sanfeliu says – which resulted in a reconstructed handbag to the etchings of La Manso’s kaleidoscopic plastic rings. 

“Some drawings are reinterpretations of things, others are simply faces that I see and are formed naturally when I automatically stick the hairs on the wall. The drawing is almost made by itself. I see faces and then I just add more hairs to shape it” – Elisa Sanfeliu

So what is it that governs her newly-established practice? “Honestly nothing, it was spontaneous and practical really,” she says. “Some drawings are reinterpretations of things, others are simply faces that I see and are formed naturally when I automatically stick the hairs on the wall. The drawing is almost made by itself. I see faces and then I just add more hairs to shape it.”

The dexterous sketches lend themselves to Sanfeliu’s profession outside of the washroom as a lash artist, designing eyebrows and eyelash extensions. But the shower provides her with a feeling of liberation that she’s restricted by in her day-to-day. “I always tell my clients not to wet their eyelashes or eyebrows in 24 hours. When I'm in the shower I feel like I'm working with hair but I don't have to be so precise at all, on the contrary, the water flows and the shapes are made, and if anything is misplaced it doesn’t matter.”

While we’re all conditioned into two types of shower camps: the prune or the prompt, Sanfeliu favours the former, spending around 10-15 minutes alone on her aquatic masterpieces. “Some have even taken me half an hour.” And we all know that we become an octave closer to sounding like Adele in our damp booths – thank you science for proving so – Sanfeliu also translates her musical musings out of her hair too. I drew the cover of the album Calambre by Naty Peluso the other day because her music inspires me a lot. I'm thinking of drawing more things related to music that I listen to in the shower.” 

No matter your timings, the pressure preference or the products – be it Sanex or Olaplex – the shower is a sacred and safe place. But every soul-searching shower has its time and the tranquility of loofahs and lotions eventually runs its cause. Is she glum when it comes to and end and she’s reminded of the impermanence of her pictures? “I don’t feel sad, no. I take a picture and it’s saved forever. I also get super cold when creating these drawings so I kind of enjoy turning the hot water back on, washing it away and getting warm again.” 

With the opening of the shower doors, or the sweep of a soggy shower curtain, reality is restored with a piercing temperature drop and the grasp of an obnoxiously small hand towel, instead of a body one. But thank goodness for hygiene, it’s never too long a wait to return to the drizzling fantasia, proving that even in places we feel overly-familiar with, flashes of ingenuity can be found where we least expect them. 

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