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A century of colour

Take a trip back in time to a period full of grace and grandeur, as PAINTER Jayson Gray shares his take on working with wefts on-set of a period drama


Jayson Gray

“Wigs, wefts and powdered noses – exactly what springs to mind when you think of any kind of period drama setting. For me that was my newest and latest challenge; creating nuance and seamless tone that’s real and authentic looking.

The task itself was to create and deliver a colour palette that fitted the setting in question – 17th century Russian aristocracy to be exact! A period in time full of opulence, grace, grandeur and excessiveness. Hair around that period was very ‘coiffured’ and the idea of any type of colour being applied was not yet in existence.

My job was to colour the heads of some of the main characters involved in the project and then blend specific wefts, stems and even eyebrows to the same recipes.

As we know, colouring a head of hair that is attached to someone is one job. Then to have to blend the hair onto extended pieces, and then blend that to a half or partial wig that has been hand-flocked and made bespoke to the bestowed heads of hair, is a REALLY big task in itself.

What’s really great about this project is that it involves a lot of thought, and is a real technical challenge; something to really get my teeth into. The whole process starts with a visit to the wig makers – in this case it was the iconic Ray Marston, the hero behind many great film and theatre productions.

We started with colour matching and finding the right formula(s)  that will marry the two together and create the right periodic blends. Eyebrows needed attention too, as the fashion around that time was very natural brows and ‘heavy set’. Powdered hairlines came in much later, so brown, auburn, and golden blondes were much in favour when it came to excessive taste.

Getting all the different aspects to match up and look the same is the real test! The elements need to be cohesive, look real and be robust on set. There’s no room for error. This line of work is so enjoyable and challenging, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thankfully everything is working well and everyone is happy (with me). Watch this space – big coloured hair is on the way!”