Photos: Behind the scenes with Utah Opera’s wigmaker
When constructing a hairpiece for a Utah Opera production, wig and makeup designer Yancey Quick usually starts with a commercially manufactured wig. "I was taught to build from scratch, but you don’t have time with a show like this," he said. He uses either human or yak hair (which is coarser than human hair and, because of its white color, is especially handy for old-age wigs); synthetic hair "reads like plastic" onstage.
In this series of photos, Quick deconstructs the base wig. "It’s machine-made and wouldn’t look good onstage," he explained. "I go in and make it look like real hair." He removes the hair, a lock at a time, then pins it to a cast of the singer’s head. He takes measurements the old-fashioned way, with a sewing tape measure; uses batting to duplicate contours of the singer’s head; and covers the cast with plastic wrap, marked to indicate the wearer’s hairline.
After pinning wig lace to the head, he pins down the locks of hair to be hand-stitched into place. It’s important for the front of the wig to look lifelike, so he ventilates it — the industry term for attaching hairs, two or three at a time, to the lace with a tiny hook and invisible thread. He usually listens to a book on tape while ventilating. "It’s nice to have something to occupy the other side of my brain while my hands are working."
Last, he styles and hand-colors the wig. Because he wants this one to be as lightweight as possible, it gets its shape from a cage made of millinery wire. "You can only back-comb the hair so much," he noted.