Run the World: Jaime, the Stylist & Curator

Jaime, Owner and Stylist at Canvas Salon & Gallery

Jaime Brawdy, Owner and Stylist at Canvas Salon & Gallery

Do you ever meet someone and think, “I want to be her!”? That happened to me when I sat down to talk with Jaime Brawdy, owner and stylist at Canvas Salon & Gallery. If you’ve been following along with Run the World, my series about inspiring women in business, you know that I love using the term career badass. But Jaime, she’s a badass in every sense of the word.

Her confidence, kind demeanor, and relatable dialogue make Jaime a role model and inspiration for women in any field. After talking with her, I left feeling motivated to get out there, stand up for myself, and carry out my dreams.

Jaime’s own dream, her hair salon, is unique—it doubles as an art gallery. The space is a welcoming, creative environment for its clients and the community alike. We recently got together to chat about her story and how the salon/gallery concept came to be.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA TO COMBINE YOUR SALON WITH AN ART GALLERY?

They’re two of my favorite things, so it just seemed natural to integrate them. I’ve been doing hair for 16 years and have always been a huge supporter of the arts. When I was younger I was metalsmithing and working the art show scene after hours while working behind the chair. I loved both professions and always felt that they linked together so closely; they were just different mediums. Experiencing the show circuit was interesting because I began to see the need for a dedicated space over a longer period of time for small-time artists. It was very natural for me to combine both passions to create the salon & gallery as one creative functioning space.

It’s important out here in Clarence, too. [Canvas is located in the town of Clarence, New York, just outside of Buffalo.] There’s a ton of culture in each town around Buffalo, but people are not exposed to the arts like they are downtown. So, it’s kind of nice for everybody that’s local to have this space. It’s a 5, 10, 15-minute drive versus going downtown, dealing with parking and all that other stuff; it’s right in your backyard.

Canvas Salon & Gallery

Canvas Salon & Gallery, Clarence, NY

YOU SAID YOU DO METALSMITHING; DO YOU STILL MAKE ART?

I apprenticed for years with Irwin Franco; he’s a master metalsmith. It was just a fun outlet for me in college, and I really enjoyed it. I was on the art scene for a while; I’d do all the local art shows, and venture out a little bit to the Southern Tier art shows. And I loved it, but that’s kind of when I started getting very business-minded. Everything that I see, I want to know how it works, or how it functions. What’s your setup? What’s your program? How do you organize that? It got my brain ticking a little bit, and I got exposed to all these amazing different types of artists, different styles, and different mediums—mixed media, jewelry, paintings, sculpture, pottery.

TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE ARTISTS YOU FEATURE AT CANVAS.

We feature a new artist every 3 months through a juried selection. I review their content, subject matter, technique, medium and process. I do not like to overlap styles annually. Most of the artists are local, but I have entertained or juried a couple people outside of New York state; I’m actually looking at a couple people in Pennsylvania and Canada right now.

Stylist stations at Canvas Salon & Gallery

At Canvas, artwork is integrated throughout the space.

DO YOU TYPICALLY FIND THE ARTISTS, OR DO THEY FIND YOU?

Both. I like to go out and scout. I’ll often walk around art shows and see if anything pops at me. But I do get applications through referrals. Regardless, every potential artist fills out an application. I want it to be somebody who has made it their career and takes their artwork seriously. And I want to be able to showcase that as a whole, as a full exhibit. This is the person—this is who they are, this is how they work, this is what they do. And to really highlight the artist as a real-life human being, instead of just a name on the canvas or whatever.

I give the artists free reign when they come in here to do an installation. There are other places that carry local artists’ work, but there aren’t places that just do it one at a time. Here, this is your solo exhibition. The space is you; it’s yours to take over.

ALL OF THE PIECES ARE FOR SALE WHEN THEY’RE HERE TOO, RIGHT?

Yes, we deal for the artists. So, they come in, the artist and I curate the space the together, we do a little opening for them, they’re on display for 3 months, and during that time, we sell for the artist. We have 1300 clients in the salon on a regular basis between our stylists, so they have that immediate exposure, and people walk in just to come and look at the art.

Artwork for sale at Canvas Salon & Gallery

All artwork is for sale at Canvas.

I WAS WONDERING IF PEOPLE OFTEN STOP IN TO LOOK; THAT’S AWESOME THAT THEY DO WITHOUT FEELING INTIMIDATED.

It was hard to break that mold and let people know that you don’t have to have an appointment to come in and see the artwork. You can just pop in anytime. We’ve been open about two years now, and I think we’re starting to get the word out that you can just come in, have coffee, sit and check out the artwork, shop, and talk with people or whatever you want to do.

THAT’S GREAT! SO, WHAT IN YOUR BACKGROUND LED YOU TO HAIR AND ART?

My mother was a really phenomenal artist, and I always worked with my hands better than I did with a book. I started doing hair very young, in high school. I went to the BOCES program, and that was the best thing I ever did. [For those outside NYS, BOCES is a career and technical program in New York.]

It was honestly kind of on a fluke, walking into the cosmetology program. I was country girl, so I walked in and thought, what am I doing with all these girls? There’s way too much lipstick in here. How am I gonna deal with this? But once I got my hands in it, it was like, this is freakin’ great. And it felt like the first time that I was really good at something.

So, I always worked in hair. I loved it and loved my clients; it’s just the best job in the world. But I am the type of person that needs to have something going on all the time, so when I was doing the art shows, or I was apprenticing with the jeweler, all that stuff made me a better hairdresser. It made me better equipt to handle somebody’s requests, or see somebody’s face shape and create it because I got to see a piece of sculpture that really inspired me. It’s just a different medium. We’re not painting on a canvas; we’re painting on our clients’ hair.

When I started dabbling more in the art world, it was a hobby for me. And then I started picking up artists here and there and saying, “Let me sell for you. Let me get you a postcard, or help you organize an event.” And then I would rent out a space; we did a show at the Town Ballroom one time. We had a ton of artists in there and did a big show. I just kind of started dabbling in it.

Eventually, I’d get phone calls from artists letting me know they had a new piece and asking me if I knew anybody that would be interested. I’ve been expanding my network with designers, interior designers, and I have the little black book now. Anybody can call me and say, I’ve got a piece or a living room remodel, or I’ve got this weird spot in the bedroom that I need to fill, and I can fill that for them with something unique.

Canvas Salon & Gallery openings

Gallery openings at Canvas. Photos courtesy of Jaime Brawdy.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO OPEN CANVAS?

I knew I wanted to open my own salon when I was 15. I actually came up with the name then. All the times that I went through college, and I got a bunch of little silly degrees or whatever, I always used that as my thesis. I was working on my business and marketing plan through everything. I loved it.

I rented a chair in East Amherst for a long time, and I loved the place that I worked, but it was becoming mundane. That’s what really pushed me. I was getting antsy and would think, “Ok, my book is full, and I’m booking 3-6 months out. What else can I do? How can I make this better?” I thought that I had just reached my peak with my career. I thought, “Do I just ride it out? That’s boring. I can’t do that! This can’t be it!”

I actually went back to school and started pursuing the arts more, and I finished a degree in museum study and preservation practice. I thought, at the time, that maybe a 9-5 was better. I ended up picking up a job at a local museum, and I loved it at first. When I was in there, I got to work with all the archives, be in the collection storage area, and do lots of fun stuff. But my brain took me right back to the front end where I would be doing more business things. And then I ended up getting a job offer to work there and help them with development, events, marketing…and when I took the job, I kept my hair business. I never left it; I just rearranged my hours, and I cut back a little bit. But, I thought, I’m just going to ride this museum gig out for a little bit; maybe this is the change I need.

Working in a non-profit was frustrating for my for-profit mind. I was always thinking, “We’re not doing this good enough, or I need a bigger budget, or this isn’t gonna work this way, or why can’t I do this?” It’s very rewarding, but there are a lot of limitations working for non-profits, which is very frustrating when you need to be constantly perfect.

So, one day I just kind of had a little light bulb moment. I was doing something with paperwork, and I just put my hands down and said, “I did my hair business all wrong.” It was straight up light bulb. When you see the cartoons, with the light bulb…that happened to me!

I went home, looked at my boyfriend, and said, “Do you think I’m nuts if I quit the museum and I open up a salon? And I’m gonna integrate the gallery and art agency into it.” And he was like, “I thought you were nuts when you went back to school, but I mean, that’s just you…” And I said, “Ok..so you’re cool with this? You’re really cool with this? Cause I’m gonna do it.”

And within the next week, I was driving and saw that they were bulldozing this corner where there used to be an old motel. And I literally ran to the developer’s office and told them, “I want your corner spot. I have nothing drawn up. We can shake on it.” And, so we did.

I’ve always had the vision for what I wanted this place to be, and then to see it come to life was amazing. I never would’ve gotten here if I didn’t get off track for a minute and get outside of my normal realm of doing hair, experiencing what it’s like to work for somebody else in an office and realizing I’d rather starve and do what I love than be stuck behind a desk all day. The light bulb happened only because I experienced it that way.

Canvas Salon & Gallery interior

Artwork by Matthew Palmo on display at Canvas Salon & Gallery

I LOVE THAT! WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART NOW THAT EVERYTHING IS DONE, AND YOU’VE BEEN IN BUSINESS A FEW YEARS?

My favorite part is my work family. I love them; they’re the best. My girls are amazing people inside and out. They’re easy to work with, and it’s just a very welcoming and relaxing atmosphere.

I never want people to feel like they can’t walk in here after their workout, or to get their roots touched up. Or, they’re having a bad day, and they came in with Starbucks and no makeup on. I want people to feel welcome, and my favorite part is that we have that type of environment. And my staff makes that possible because we’re all on that same wavelength of wanting people just to feel happy and comfortable. I love seeing how people enjoy their time when they’re here.

Canvas Team

Canvas team with current resident artist, Matthew Palmo. Photo courtesy of Jaime Brawdy.

AND WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE BUSINESS SO FAR?

Most challenging personally is just managing my time and knowing when to go home because I am a perfectionist. I’ve been training myself to pump the brakes. I specifically built an office at the salon so that I didn’t take any work home with me. Home is a safe place, and when I go home, I am home. I’m not working at home. Period. I don’t want to do bills on the kitchen table, I don’t want to look at emails on the couch. When I leave the salon, I’m done.

And the most challenging part was adjusting to that. For the first couple months, I’d be here from 7am to 1 in the morning. I had to coach myself; I’d write on my board, “Go home at 8. Stop it!” So, prioritizing and also being able to walk away from it and let everybody do their thing. You don’t need to control everything. I’m blessed with an amazing staff, so I can let go. I don’t lose sleep at night when the girls close up the shop. But, at first, that was extremely difficult. Leaving your baby for somebody else to take care of was the hardest part.  

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO MAY BE LOOKING TO START A BUSINESS?

Plan, plan, plan, plan. Your marketing plan, your business plan. What’s your mission statement? I planned this for years and years and years of my life. And when I came in, I still felt like I was missing a couple things. But, I had my ducks in a row. I did my research, I was organized, I got my shit together. But, no matter how much you plan, you’re still going to have hiccups. You just have to accept them.

Also, be who you are. I’ve seen so many people who start out with, “Yeah we’re this!” And then they add 20 other things onto what they are. If there’s a fad coming in, and you want to latch onto that fad, is that fad who you are as a business? Or who you are as a person, and what you want to be reflecting?

Your business is you. So, if I’m latching onto 50 different things, I’m losing my focus. A lot of people come in here and say, “Do you do waxing? Do you do massage? Do you do nails?” No. We do hair, and we do makeup because we’re really, really good at it. It’s focused. I think being focused with your plan and following through on that—the one-year plan, the three-year plan, the five-year plan—it sounds so textbook, but it’s so important.

Canvas Salon & Gallery artwork

Artwork on display from past Canvas artist, Sean Huntington. Photos courtesy of Jaime Brawdy.

WHAT LESSONS HAVE YOU LEARNED AS A BUSINESS OWNER?

When I was doing the build-out, I experienced a lot of different things that I hadn’t before. I experienced a little bit of sexism, and it was a very tough barrier for me to break through and deal with. I would think, “What do you mean? I’m the boss here…listen to me!!” And it was a lot of, “Oh, that’s ok, honey” and, “Don’t worry about that…” or, “No, that’s not how you do that…” or my all time fave, “Oh you’re opening a salon?! That’s so cute!” I would just scream inside. I know how to read a blueprint. I’ve worked my ass off all my life to get here. I’m not an idiot. Why am I questioning myself suddenly?

I almost got a little overly tough because I felt the need to prove something that I didn’t even realize I needed to prove, to people I didn’t think I had to prove anything to. I was under an immense amount of stress, but my new found toughness wasn’t really who I was when I started that process; it’s what I learned during it.

I would say that was a huge learning point for me, knowing how to deal with people that don’t care as much as you do. Nobody is going to care about it like you care about it. I just think everybody does their job to the best of their ability because that’s that what I do, and not everybody is like that.

Primpin' Ain't Easy

WHEN YOU WERE IN THAT SITUATION, FEELING LIKE PEOPLE WERE BEING SEXIST, HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THAT?

I definitely overemphasized the toughness. In hindsight, I would’ve probably cooled off a little bit. The reality is, I knew what I was doing, but I was doubting myself when I was being questioned.

I kind of went through phases where I was really meek in the beginning and I would say, “Ok…I guess I don’t need that.” Or, “Ok, I guess you should add that.” And then I went into an angry phase. “Oh, you guys are on your fourth fucking coffee break today? Get back to work.” And then towards the end, it was less talk. I would just come in, look at things, and say, “Wrong. Fix it.” And just became very blunt. And when I became very blunt, I stopped over-explaining myself and stopped being worrisome. Because, I think when you over-explain, you emit this self doubt, and people read that.

Instead of saying, “I really wanted the outlet three and a quarter inches over because…” I should’ve just said, “This is incorrect. It needs to be three and a quarter over.” End of story. Not because I don’t want the cords showing, or that I think it looks messy, or that it’ll collect dust…just be direct and straightforward. You’re in charge. Emit the confidence that you know what you’re doing. Whether you’re opening a salon, a bar, or a yarn shop, you know what you’re doing. That’s why you’re doing it. So, you just need to make sure that your physical presence reflects that.

THAT’S GREAT ADVICE FOR WOMEN. AND YOU FELT LIKE THAT BROUGHT RESPECT?

Yeah! Some of them got a little scared of me after the bitch phase (laughs), but I also think, because I’m not a mean or nasty person, it’s not the best reflection of myself to act like that, and that was very weak of me. So, it was learning process and a growing thing for me to get to the point of saying, “No. I know what I’m doing, and this is why we’re doing it this way.” End of story.

Canvas Salon & Gallery, Clarence, NY

IF YOU COULD DO ANYTHING ELSE FOR WORK, NO SKILLS OR EXPERIENCE REQUIRED, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I always pictured myself as one of two people. I was either going to be the businesswoman in a suit with the briefcase and a really tight look, walking in the city with my kitten heel, or I was going to be some wild mountain hippie mama.

And I’ve lived both of those lives, I guess, but I always wanted to be this really free spirit. And I think, when you have a very OCD mindset, the idea of being free-spirited is very alluring. I emit that in some form, here and there.

When I was younger, my boyfriend and I used to go follow bands all over the country and camp. We’d close our eyes, open up a map, and just go there. And that was the coolest fucking thing ever. We did that for years when we were younger. We used to think, I can make jewelry, we can go to these shows, go see concerts, and camp. But, it was also definitely out of my realm.

I think, owning a campground in the mountains —hunting, fishing, archery—doing all the old school, silly camp stuff. I love that shit. Being outside all day, doing some outdoor chores and touring people around, taking them to the lake, sleeping under the stars, organizing get-togethers. But, see how I just took it to the business level? Organize? JUST BE THE FREE SPIRIT! This is my brain, I can’t let it go.

Stylists at Canvas Salon & Gallery

Stylists Taryn (left) and Liz (right) with clients

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY DOING OUTSIDE OF WORK?

I am definitely an outdoorswoman at heart and a crazy animal lady. My best day is when I wake up, go out to my chicken coop and hang with my girls for a little bit—give them their little snacks, get some eggs—then come in the house and cuddle with the dogs. Just really have some good, lovey time with my animals. But, Shawn and I are big performing arts people too. I love to go out and see him play, and I love the theater.

I LOVE THAT THOSE THINGS ARE SO OPPOSITE.

They’re totally opposite. I grew up country; we’re big hunters and gatherers. We do our own thing. I’m a canning freak. I love my garden.

In the fall, my sisters and our dad, we go down to our cabin and go hunting. We do the old-school thing. That’s the elk antler that you see in the salon. Not a lot of people know that about me, but some people take offense to that kind of stuff, so I don’t try to dig into it too much.  But, it’s what I know and grew up with.

All of those things tie together because they’re all self-sufficient. Taking care of yourself, taking care of your family, putting food on your table and providing for yourself is the name of my game. Take care of yourself; rely on yourself. You have your family, your husband, all these people are in your life. I’m not saying don’t rely on those things, but provide for yourself, whether it’s work or food or whatever else.

WHAT’S ONE THING YOU COULDN’T LIVE WITHOUT?

I instinctually want to say my family, Shawn, and my little babies, but those go without saying. So, I couldn’t live without music. That’s the generator of everything. It’s your mood. It’s your vibe. It’s your space. It gets me going.

When I’m feeling really blah, I say to myself, “Listen to music. Do it.” Again, coaching myself. Turn on Bob Dylan right now and just veg out, or turn on The Band and just really love it. Or, let’s do a little throwback and throw some Dead on and just really zone out. Or, I’m feeling romantic, and I want a little gypsy jazz, and Bireli Lagrene’s gotta go on. Or, I just want to hang out down by the creek in our backyard and throw some Floyd on or Hank Williams or whatever. I’m all about the mood—what’s your space, what’s your vibe? And I think music is a huge part of that. I couldn’t live without it.

Exterior, Canvas Salon & Gallery

Photo courtesy of Jaime Brawdy

So, what do you think? Jaime inspires me. Who inspires you? Read about more empowering women in past Run the World posts.

To learn more about current or past artwork, or to schedule an appointment at the salon, visit Canvas’ website. You can also find them on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Thanks, Jaime!

{Photos by me unless stated otherwise. Photos provided by Jaime Brawdy used with permission.}