You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.
TeJay Mora’s art appears, well, just about everywhere. That’s because this quirky Colorado native uses his clients’ heads as his canvases. Nicknamed TeJay Scissorhands, Mora is an award-winning barber and platform artist who has found a way to meld his boyhood passion for art with a full-time career in hair by creating “wild and crazy designs on people’s heads,” he says.
“I never really wanted to be a barber, but I grew up in barbershops — my mom and uncle were barbers, and my aunt is a cosmetologist,” says Mora. “That’s what benefited me coming to this profession: I was able to apply my artistic ability to what I do to hair.”
Mora’s been a professional barber for about five years, but he's been cutting his own hair and that of his friends for as long as he can remember. After completing the barbering program at Emily Griffith Technical College, Mora landed a gig at Freddy’s Barber Shop in Thornton, and has since gained notoriety with his elaborate, detailed scissors work.
“Head art wasn’t as big when I was in barber school, but even then people were putting stars and numbers in customers’ heads,” Mora says. Before long, he’d jumped on board and upped the ante with Broncos logos and detailed faces.
Many of the clients requesting Mora’s hair designs are kids — but, he says, “You’d be surprised how many adults are into it.” Especially during football season, when people want the faces of their favorite team members commemorated on their scalps.
Moya has taken his art on the road, from big-name hair shows in Nebraska and Las Vegas to smaller local contests in Colorado Springs; he's a seven-time award-winning platform artist. “The way barber battles are set up, you’ll usually have four or five categories that you can pay to compete in,” Mora explains, adding that he typically participates in the “design competition” and “freestyle design” categories. He’s also placed in “portrait design” and “duplicate design”; the latter is especially challenging since it requires barbers to duplicate an image that isn’t revealed until it’s flipped over onstage at the onset of the competition.
During competitions, barbers usually have about 45 minutes to complete their design. Back in his Thornton barbershop, though, Mora might take an hour or more to perfect a piece. The process always begins with a haircut. “I usually do a short fade and line up, and the fresh-cut hair becomes my canvas,” Mora says. He next goes in with trimmers to clean; details are later perfected with a straight-edge raiser. Mora even has a special shave gel that goes on clear, allowing him to see his surface and eliminating guesswork. The final step might be adding color, depending on the client and design.
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Mora’s most common request is the Broncos logo; he estimates that he has done hundreds of those in the past few years. He’s also done Broncos players’ faces.
In fact, the artist’s favorite requests are portraits because they’re more challenging. “There were a few portraits of Ice Cube that came out good,” Mora says. “Anybody can do a star or tribal design, but to enhance a portrait with shading, etc. — that is very difficult.”
Mora plans to continue competing in competitions, but he also wants to give back to younger barbers who have the same passion, ideally by becoming an instructor. For more information on his work, visit Mora’s Facebook page.