‘Color Me Bushwick,’ the Annual Cross-Medium Aesthetic Experience at Pickthorn Salon

Alyssa Fisher


Chelsey Pickthorn doesn’t believe in instant gratification. A friend of hers, the owner of a kimchi company, once said, “I’m three years away from my overnight success.” Apparently, it takes 10.

The colorist and owner of Pickthorn Salon trusts in the slow-but-rewarding process of growth, watching it take shape over the last five years with friend-turned-creative director/producer Jocelyn Simone in the form of their annual event, Color Me Bushwick. In the spirit of their symbiotic neighborhood, full of creatives open to creating with other creatives, the salon, at 92 St. Nicholas Ave., will transform into a music venue Friday through Sunday, opening the handmade wooden stage in the back room to budding local talent.

“It’s the fifth year, and we’re just reflecting back,” Simone said. “We’ve compiled a list of every musician we’ve worked with — it’s large. It’s nice to see where they are now. Seeing things through, being a part of it all — that’s the exciting thing. To see someone you’ve worked with for four years getting press…the beauty of growth is pretty amazing.”

Color Me Bushwick full line up and music preview found here.

In 2013, about a year after Pickthorn opened her salon (then on Wyckoff and Willoughby Avenues), she and Simone threw together a variety show, inspired by the comedians, photographers and musicians who walked through the doors every day. They weren’t just looking to be made over; they wanted to define their image.

For that first event, Pickthorn and her team made over the headliners, about three bands. Now, they carve out three days the week of the festival to work with each member of the 23 bands (about 90 people). To prepare, they listen to the artists on loop. If the team hasn’t seen them perform live, they pour over YouTube videos. Taking into account the artists’ sound, performance style, personality and lifestyle (most of the young musicians will have day jobs), Pickthorn begins to collaborate, helping to determine a look that will make them shine.

Sunflower Bean was a new group when Color Me Bushwick first introduced them on stage in 2014, still in their teens. They had maybe one photo on Google, but they managed to strike the right rock ’n’ roll chord. Pickthorn wanted to be a part of their imminent success, giving the Bushwick band looks to match their psychedelic sounds. Now headliners, they’ve graced the pages of Rolling Stone and Vogue, and their most recent album ‘Twentytwo in Blue’ was named “One of the greatest New York albums of all time” by NME.

In Color Me Bushwick’s early years, the team has cut hair on the sidewalk (which I vividly recall stumbling by in 2015, as a summer intern in Manhattan), then in a budget truck. Last year, they moved the salon into a tour bus.

Last spring, Pickthorn and Simone threw Color Me Bushwick into that tour bus and took it on a month-long tour of the West Coast, visiting eight cities. Pickthorn taught a class for local hairdressers, and the rest of the time was spent making over more than 80 musicians and recording music videos.

Pickthorn’s success has been gradual, too. Growing up in Portland, she began cutting her friends’ hair at around 11 years old. At 18 she enrolled in beauty school and worked in Portland for five years before taking a job offer in Qatar. After six months, the 33-year-old joined a friend in New York, decided to stay and found jobs working in Manhattan.

It’s where she honed her skills, finding a specialty in custom hair-painting techniques. 

“To me, it’s the evolution of hairdressing,” said Pickthorn, a black leather baseball cap resting atop her strawberry-blonde pixie cut. “Where there used to be a cap and then foils, now there’s hair painting.”

It’s a free-form coloring method, she explains, and puts focus on maintaining the integrity, care and condition of the hair. The shape and style methods she swears by (such as using a straight blade) follow the same set of values.

In 2012, with just a table, chair, shampoo bowl and handful of clients, she opened her eponymous salon, knowing it was time to leave the chaos of the city and take her aesthetic home to Bushwick. She had a nice CV backing her up: Before working with up-and-coming musicians like Sunflower Bean and Honduras, she colored the hair of top models, international royalty and pop stars. Her work was splashed on the pages on Vogue, as well as seen in fashion campaigns from Michael Kors to Gucci. New York Magazine dubbed her a “Miracle Colorist,” and she has been named the Best Salon in Brooklyn by several publications, such as Vogue, Brooklyn Magazine, TimeOut New York and Refinery29.

“That was just shocking,” she said of New York Magazine’s distinction, which came nine months after the salon opened. “It’s an honor. I feel privileged to be a part of it.”

Pickthorn says people often ask about her social media presence and how she does, or doesn’t, fit into Instagram’s perfectionist movement. She motions around the salon, a rustic-chic space with brick and wood accents. Tchotchkes like a faux longhorn skull line the hanging shelves, and a pillow with prominent breasts lies on the red plush couch in the corner.

“We want to create a community and a place of comfort and inspiration,” she said. “We want things that elevate people and help them grow. My definition of perfection is finding it in each person.”

“We like to say it’s like a house, where people take their shoes off,” Simone added. “Even with the music – we want you to experience new things. We try to play new music in here.”

Color Me Bushwick defies genres, offering a full selection over the three days. Friday’s show runs from 5–10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday are 1–10 p.m. It will also offer hair services, massages, flash tattoos and a photo booth. In the backyard, expect a tequila bar, sake bar and beer fridge. A photographer and videographer will capture the artists’ new look on stage.

“We have this space to curate,” Pickthorn said, “and we want to share an experience.”

Check here for full line up and music preview.

Cover and Article Photos Courtesy of Hailley Howard

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