Wellbeing in the Salon Industry Through Art

Earlier this year I was invited to write an article for Salon Education Journal | May 2024 Edition | Reposted with permission

Lamplight London, Paola Minekov

Tell us about your background and how you see art working to improve people’s wellbeing.

As a little girl, I spent endless hours observing my father’s sculptures and creating stories about his characters in my head. While his work, often inspired by Greek Mythology, invites imaginative storytelling, his artistic concepts had little to do with the way I experienced his works as a child.

Also, I don’t think I was meant to dress them up or decorate them with Christmas lights and garlands. But I was allowed to.

The Rape of Europa, bronze sculpture by Ivan Minekov

Europa, Ivan Minekov

His art was a part of my life, not a sacred object on a pedestal, to be revered rather than lived with. This is not to say I disrespected his artwork, which is indeed revered by many. Rather the opposite. I learnt to love it and it became a part of my daily routine. Today, as an artist in my own right, this lesson has stayed with me. I find asking children about my work truly liberating and often surprising. They don’t tend to pick the most realistic pieces as their favourite ones and they allow themselves to experience an image in the most pure way, creating a narrative which is their own.

Circus, Oil on Canvas, Paola Minekov

I believe this is something we need to nurture, rather than lose as adults. But often, sadly, we lose the confidence to dream up stories and express our deepest wishes, the ones which feed our imagination. Instead, we try to intellectualise the world around us and when it comes to art, we seem to believe we need to ‘know’ or ‘understand’ art. We don’t. Mark making is one of the oldest forms of expression and storytelling and we intuitively understand and feel it, if we allow ourselves to. Just like we did when we were little and it didn’t matter ‘what people would think”.

The power of art to heal lies in its ability to provide a form of expression when words fail us. Engaging with art as a viewer can offer a sense of escape, transporting you to a world where you can momentarily detach from your troubles and allow yourself to dream freely.

What positive effect can art have on an individual when they are experiencing negative emotions?

“The core of a commercial image is built on making you feel dissatisfied with your life so that you can consume forever more.” Marine Tanguy

The Visual Detox, Marine Tanguy

In her new book The Visual Detox, Marine Tanguy, founder of MTArt Agency, talks about how the imagery we see shapes our wellbeing. Marine told me that the average person sees about 10,000 commercial visuals a day. It has been proven that for the last 20 years, advertising has been built on the idea of “satisfaction” — and the more it satisfies us, the more we will want to consume. This cycle ultimately leaves us mentally unhappy… and searching for more satisfaction in consumerism. Wellbeing studies show that art, on the other hand, is perceived in exactly the opposite way. Tanguy compares the benefits of experiencing art to those of experiencing nature. The more exposed we are to art, the happier we feel.

Images travel to the brain faster than sound and they reach the primitive side to the brain before our consciousness, pushing us to react and act. The kind of images people are exposed to matters.

How would placing art in a treatment room or reception area benefit the business owner?

“One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.”

This is not to say that you would ever leave a window in your treatment room broken. I know you wouldn’t. But it’s important to understand that our environment plays a huge role in determining our behaviour.

When I lived in The Netherlands as a student, it surprised me to see that the streets were being constantly repaved. Particularly in problematic areas. The thinking seemed to be that if you fix the street, you’ll fix the problems on that street, too. Later, I found out about “Broken Windows Theory” which states that visible signs of disorder and misbehaviour in an environment encourage further disorder and misbehaviour. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/basics/broken-windows-theory)

The opposite is also true. By changing the environment, we can influence people’s behaviour positively. By incorporating art into the salon space, you can transform it into a haven of creativity and wellbeing. Studies have shown that exposure to art can reduce stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of relaxation and calmness. A positive, luxurious space filled with beautiful colours and imagery will stimulate a behaviour appropriate to it and a desire to return to it. And when your clients are in a positive state of mind, they are, of course, more likely to open their wallets and indulge in your services, as well.

The benefits can be even more profound for people with mental health issues. Artist Michelle Baharier, who founded and ran the Mental Health Charity Cooltan Arts for over 20 years, shared with me something she was told once by one of her collectors: “When I look at your artwork it absorbs my pain”.

How do I make you feel? Michelle Baharier

In terms of branding, the presence of art also adds a unique touch to the salon, setting it apart from others and creating a welcoming memorable experience for your clients who will be eager to return again and again.

Do specific colour blends factor into how the mind is affected and do you use a particular palette when creating wellbeing art?

Absolutely. I mentioned branding earlier and I think that it’s important to consider the colours of your brand as well as the colours of your salon.

As an artist, I paint intuitively. However, when I work on commissioned paintings for corporate clients, I am conscious of the power that colours hold in influencing our mood and overall sense of wellbeing. I was lucky to meet colour psychologist Karen Haller early on in my art career and this chance meeting opened the world of colour psychology to me. It became something I actively engaged with in my art practice.

Different colour palettes evoke different emotions and can create a range of experiences for the viewer. For example, warm colours like reds, oranges and yellows can promote feelings of energy and positivity, while cool blues and greens can induce a sense of clarity, calm and relaxation. With Beautician brands, we often see the nurturing and mindful colours typically associated with femininity like pink and purple. You can combine these colours in various degrees to stimulate the outcome you desire.

By carefully selecting and harmonising colour in my art, I aim to create a visual experience that uplifts and improves the viewer’s mood.

Could there be a financial benefit to the business owner by exhibiting an artist’s work in their venue?

“With the market being extremely saturated, clients very much appreciate it if they get a little bit more for their money. They decide how much they want to engage with the art but they definitely all appreciate the space being thoughtfully curated and unique.” Salon C. Stellar

Salon C. Stellar by Alena

Salon C. Stellar by Alena Peschek

I touched on this earlier when we talked about the environment affecting behaviour. I think the single biggest financial benefit for salon owners will come from returning clients, who share the value of promoting art and artists, enjoy the creative atmosphere and ultimately begin to feel like art benefactors and benefactors of your salon themselves. When people are drawn to a visually appealing setting, they are more likely to spend more time and money there.

Done right, this strategy can get you media coverage, build your reputation, distinguish your salon from others, and also build a community around your business.

Salon C. Stellar, a sensorial, experience-centric skin and well-being clinic in the heart of Soho is a great example. They commissioned artist Alena Peschek to design their space, with the idea of creating an immersive, artistic environment that takes customers out of their day to day routine and transports their mind into a different, relaxing world. Alena hand painted a 3-storey mural which greets clients the minute they step into the clinic and follows them all the way up to the treatment rooms. The treatment rooms themselves are themed and feature relevant art works as well. The Moon room for example is a monochrome lilac room and the artworks shown are photographs of the moon from a photographic archive. The waiting room doubles as an art gallery, featuring mid-career as well as emerging artists with changing exhibitions every 6 weeks. This strategy has resulted in repeat clients, who come back to discover new art and recommend the unique Salon C. Stellar experience to their friends and family.

The private views Salon C. Stellar hosts for the changing exhibitions always attract a lot of new people coming to the clinic and a percentage of them will become clients even though they had never had skin treatments regularly before.

Of course, as a salon owner you can also choose to charge commission on the sales of artwork or rent out the space for exhibitions.

How can they find out more about working with you or other artists?

Woman Fire Water, Paola Minekov

Woman Fire Water, Paola Minekov

You can always get in touch with me via my website https://paola.art, by art@paolaminekov.com or book a consultation here https://app.sessions.us/book/digibees-studio-14a07/lets-talk