Sybille Paulsen uses cancer patients' hair to form jewellery
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Sybille Paulsen creates jewellery for cancer patients using their own hair

Berlin-based designer Sybille Paulsen has worked with people undergoing chemotherapy treatment to create bespoke jewellery from their own hair.

Tangible Truths by Sybille Paulsen

Sybille Paulsen's Tangible Truths project enables cancer patients who cut off their hair, rather than lose it gradually as a result of chemotherapy treatment, to wear it in a different way.

The items she creates are mostly necklaces, which incorporate bunches of braided and loose hair bound together at one end and glued into beads or set in resin.

Tangible Truths by Sybille Paulsen

The hair is combined with coloured wool threads, copper, brass, silver, gold and cast-resin pieces, in colours that have personal significance to the clients.

"Women who undergo chemotherapy leave their hair to me to transform it into a unique and personal piece of art," said the designer. "The braided hair is quite soft and light – metal and resin are an interesting tactile juxtaposition to it."

Tangible Truths by Sybille Paulsen

Paulsen sees the pieces as symbolic objects that help people to transition through their illness, and provide a starting point for difficult conversations with friends and family.

"Each woman is touched differently by the sickness and its treatment," she said. "Not only the person affected, but also the people around them, pass through a transformation. The artefacts I create mark this transformation and disclose a new access for the people involved to the commonly overwhelming situation."

Tangible Truths by Sybille Paulsen

Each piece is handmade over a period of up to two weeks – a period that Paulsen also spends getting to know the client.

In addition to the main piece, Paulsen can make smaller bracelets for the patient's loved ones.

The designer said that most people have reacted positively to the project, but that the idea is polarising.

Tangible Truths by Sybille Paulsen

"I am aware that this project polarises and that for some people the use of human hair as a material is uncanny," Paulsen said. "For me as a designer it is a highly valuable and unique material and for my clients it is a material that carries a lot of their identity in it."

Tangible Truths by Sybille Paulsen

Other jewellery products made from hair include Anna Schwamborn's pieces created with the locks of a dead loved one.