Creating works of sculptural hair art is all in a day’s work for Gemma Taylor.
As one of Aberdeen’s most sought-after bridal hair stylists, the 40-year-old’s elaborate designs are at the root of the magical memories made on the biggest day of people’s lives.
Calm and with a confidence born from 18 years of hard graft in the intense world of hair styling, Gemma is celebrating a milestone moment of her own after opening TAYM, her first salon based on Raeburn Place.
“I rented chairs in a few different salons over the years but I always wanted my own space,” says Gemma.
“So I bought my own premises early last year, in my 40th year, as I was starting to feel like it was now or never.
“So it was a bit of a 40th birthday present to myself.”
From banking to backcombing
Weaving and waving like one of the stunning updo hairstyles she creates, Gemma’s path to hairdressing wasn’t a linear one.
Encouraged by her mum to pursue a career in hair or make-up after recognising her raw talent, Gemma instead embarked on a career in banking.
“I had a career in banking initially and then decided that my mum was right and I should be doing hair so I left the bank and moved to London where I trained with Toni & Guy,” says Gemma.
Cutting her teeth – and hair – at the training academy, Gemma’s heart was in hairdressing from day one.
“It was good as I trained at the Toni & Guy Academy in Oxford Street,” says Gemma.
“It was an intense training course but a great experience as I got lots of opportunities to work in salons and I also assisted at London Fashion Week which was amazing.”
Staying in demand after ten years in Aberdeen
After a few years in the big smoke, Gemma moved back to Aberdeen where she continued her voluminous rise in the industry, working in two city centre salons before going it alone as a self-employed bridal hair stylist.
“It was empowering,” says Gemma.
“Going self-employed is a great thing for any stylist to do as it allows you to take control of your own life and earnings.
“I’ve never looked back.”
Ten years on and Gemma is now one of the most in-demand local bridal hair stylists.
Predominantly specialising in bridal hair, Gemma also does cuts and colours in her new salon.
“I love updos’ as it’s almost like creating a sculpture as it’s entirely visual,” says Gemma.
“I just love the creative side of hairdressing.”
Managing expectations and making waves
Working at a wedding must come with pressure – apart from the kind that comes in a can of hairspray – but Gemma doesn’t let it affect her.
“I’ve done weddings for years now,” says Gemma.
“If you’ve got a good skill set, you know your timings and you’re not rushing against the clock then it’s really good fun.”
Managing people’s expectations is also a huge part of Gemma’s role.
“A big part of it is able to manage people’s expectations as you can only work with the hair that you’ve got but it’s about being able to advise on alternatives,” says Gemma.
“For example if someone isn’t blessed with a gorgeous mane of hair then there are clip-in extensions and padding that can be used – where there’s a will there’s a way.”
TAYM’s Aberdeen hair workshops
On top of bridal hair and running her own dog-friendly hair salon, Gemma also arranges training workshops.
“With my training and workshops I’ll maybe get make-up artists coming along who want to be able to learn how to do hair as well,” says Gemma.
“For doing bridal hair or occasion hair or any kind of styling you don’t need to be a hairdresser.
“So I’ve got women who want to do something while their kids are at school and they can build a really good business out of it.
“It’s purely through having a bit of talent and putting the work in.”
Clients safe in Gemma Taylor’s hands
It’s clear that Gemma has put a huge amount of work into her business over the years, especially during lockdown.
“When we were in lockdown I did a lot of work on my mannequin heads and started posting on Instagram,” says Gemma.
“Every day I was in my dressing room with my dolls heads just practising and I think it definitely improved my work so I started making tutorials and that’s when I thought about training others.”
Describing her business as three separate entities – the salon, the training and the bridal hair – Gemma is certainly going to be kept busy this year.
“My focus going forward is going to be on training,” says Gemma.
“I’ve been really pleased with the interest as I’ve had enquiries from Glasgow and Manchester so hopefully I might be able to spread my wings a wee bit with that.”
Gemma is also proud to be part of a supportive local community of hair and make-up artists.
“There’s a good community, not just in hair and make-up but we spend a lot of time with photographers and we know the florists which is great,” says Gemma.