Sidsel Østbjerg

Experience Designer and Qualitative User Researcher
HI! I'm an experience designer from Copenhagen, Denmark. I have a passion for bringing communities together in unconventional and humorous ways. Since moving to New York I have been fascinated by what truly makes you belong somewhere and how people and places are in constant conversation. Additionally, my experience from working with renewable energy has taught me to approach all projects with a sense of sustainability in mind.
Thesis Faculty
John SharpIsaac HoffBarbara Morris



A social practice project that explores the enduring community that is a part of New York’s beauty culture. Through community-sourced materials in the form of human hair, this project puts a spotlight on the static people that make New York City a dynamic and ever changing backdrop in our  lives.

Yarn spun from human hair suspended in wooden frame in front of a mirror.


Roots is a depiction of my personal struggle to find a sense of belonging in New York City. Said insecurity left me starving for connection to the people who, like me for the past two years, are in this city as the seasons change and the tourists diffuse in and out. By talking to other international students I found that haircuts are a natural ride of passage for many of us. I remember getting my first haircut in the city, something that took me over 16 months to do. I, and other transplants, have a tendency to get our haircuts at “home”. I found this discovery interesting and after my own first New York haircut, I knew I needed to dive deeper into the construct and understanding of “home”.

In this project I reached out to hair salons across the five boroughs to ask for donations of hair. I was met with a lot if silence, curiosity, excitement and questions. This project has taken me all over the city and introduced me to wonderful people who have all been kind and inviting. More than 15 salons have donated hair and more than 10 individuals have donated hair by collecting hair from their hairbrush or from cutting it at home. I deeply appreciate the dedication and participation and value all the connections I’ve made along the way.

Getting in touch

Getting in touch with people was the most difficult and crucial part of the project. I reached out to every hair salon I could find on Google Maps on their email, Instagram and phone number. Most either ignored or declined to participate. The most repeated reason for why was to protect their clients, which I completely understand.

Instagram story from outreach.

I had the most success with getting donations and positive response from salons in lower Manhattan, East Village and all across Brooklyn. Therefore almost all of the hair in the project are from these areas. I wish there was a bigger geographical and biological diversity to my samples of hair, but I am just grateful for the hair that was donated.

Example of a message sent to hair salons on Instagram.

Collecting hair

After arranging to pick up hair from salons I packed my camcorder and went to their salon. I filmed everything on the way to make a video for the exhibition. All appointments started with a conversation with management. It was interesting and reassuring to see how salons take care of their clients even after they leave. It was important for every salon to understand my project completely before donating hair.

Jenny Jetski getting a haircut by Mags Naylor in Exhibit Salon, Greenpoint.
Collection of hair by April 3rd

Spinning yarn

Some would call it brave. Other would call it stupid. Whatever adjective you choose, I’ve probably agreed at some point or another, when I chose to make my first time making yarn should be for my thesis. However, I live to tell the messy tale of how it all went down. Starting with raw wool was my first mistake. After spending hours carding the raw wool I gave up on making it work. Luckily, I had wool rowing as a backup that turned out to work beautifully. The human hair was blended into the rowing on a drum carder. After removing the wool/hair blend from the drum it was introduced to a the electric spinning wheel.The electric spinning wheel turned out to be a wild ride with a steep learning curve. It is important when using the electric spinning wheel to keep tension and consistent, both of which are difficult to master

Raw wool on drum carder
Human hair and wool rowing on drum carder
Electric spinning wheel for spinning yarn

It took many tries to even get something resembling yarn out of the electric spinning wheel. In the end I got a yield I was somewhat happy about. Ideally, I would have loved to reduce the ratio between animal fiber and human hair even further, but the short trimmings of hair leaves it with little integrity to hold a strand of yarn together.

Final human hair yarn


Hair samples labeled with location of donation
Test April 4th

Throughout the process it has been important to me to keep bringing my work and ideas to others. In addition to having conversations with friends and strangers outside of DT, I have tested with my peers as well. One important test was the first test of the exhibition setup on April 4th. This was my first time compiling all the elements (in some shape) to get input from my peers. I

Production and Exhibition Form

After spinning yarn I built a wooden frame in the woodshop to suspend the yarn. The frame is supposed to hang in front of a mirror at the time of exhibition. This is to include the audience as an active part of the installation, making them part of the evolving and ever changing narrative of New York City.

The mirror is custom made by Canal Plastic Center downtown, and is mounted directly on the wall. The frame and mirror share demensions 24″ x 36″. The wooden frame was made of poplar board, jointed by miter joints, and painted black before I drilled wholes in the inside rim and lines it with 3/32″ eye screws. These were the perfect size eye screws for the yarn to fit snugly through.

Elements for the frame cut
Ready to glue and nail the joints
Finished frame

The exhibition plan includes the wooden frame with suspended yarn hung approximately 30″ in front of the mirror. Besides the main installation is a table with the a monitor, playing the process video containing footage from the whole process from going to the salons, spinning the yarn and building the frame. Additionally, the pockets with hair samples from different locations will be displayed.

Exhibition plan

The frame was loaded with the human hair yarn and placed in front of the mirror in the place of the exhibition. Below are the photos I have in the time of writing this of the final look of the exhibition of the main element of the installation.

Human hair yarn suspended in the frame. The yarn sheds the hair
Audience member inspecting the installation
Audience member from behind the frame inspecting the yarn
Audience inspecting the installation