Hairstylist Seniel Seward has a restless energy that defines many aspects of her personality and has informed her journey through life. The Island-born and raised 26-year-old tends to talk fast and keep several conversations going simultaneously. Her haircutting style — fast and furious, though with method to her madness — has earned her the nickname of Seniel Scissorhands. Her rise, as new owner of Circuit Style salon in Oak Bluffs, has been fast and furious too.
While earning her cosmetology degree from Blaine (now Empire) in 2009, Ms. Seward had to devise one year and five-year plans for herself. Her goal for one year was to get engaged and to “work at a really great salon that I loved.” She managed both on schedule.
She and her boyfriend, Andy Hannagan, became engaged last year. Two years ago, while still in school, Ms. Seward answered a help wanted ad for a funky hairstylist for Maggie’s Salon in Vineyard Haven. She worked for proprietor Maggie Archimbaud and soon moved over to Ms. Archimbaud’s second venture, Circuit Style, becoming manager at that location within a year.
“Maggie was really great,” says Ms. Seward, “She let me create. She let me take the reins, and she listened to my ideas.”
Ms. Seward’s ambitious five-year plan included getting married and owning her own salon.
“My five-year plan is well under way,” she says.
And way ahead of schedule. She bought Circuit Style in March and added her name to the shop, as well as her own personal style. The salon is painted in bright colors — lime green, electric blue, and bubble gum pink and features a huge stencil of Ms. Seward flashing the tools of her trade — Edward Scissorhands style.
Although her interest in hairstyling as a career is recent, she has charged ahead.
“I took it and really dedicated myself to it,” she says, “It’s the first thing I really started and finished.” She finished at the top of her class at Blaine with awards and responsibilities.
Ms. Seward started out studying illustration at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida. “I didn’t necessarily want to be an artist but it was the one thing I was comfortable with.”
After two years, her restlessness got the better of her, and she took a job as personal assistant to a visiting artist from California, Kevin Llewelyn. She moved to L.A., where Mr. Llewelyn is a highly successful artist with a punk sensibility, whose work graces the homes of rock/pop stars (including Madonna) to serious collectors. Ms. Seward, who also modelled for Mr. Llewellyn, has some of her former employer’s prints in her gallery, along with some of her own work.
While living in Hollywood, Ms. Seward was exposed to a style that she found exciting. “That was where I had my first funky hair experience,” she says. “I did things like pink extensions, with bright red underneath.” Her roommate, Jeffrey Starr, a celebrity transvestite known for outrageous looks, was an inspiration.
“He was a huge influence on hair for me,” she says.
As much as Ms. Seward embraced the L.A. style, after a brief visit home, she returned to Hollywood homesick and disillusioned. “I went back after a week and found that L.A. had lost its glamour effect for me.”
Her personal style evolved into her current look, highlighted by multiple colorful tattoos, a hip, eye-catching wardrobe, and hair that has run through a multitude of colors, stripes, and edgy styles. She specializes in trendy looks. The Circuit Style price list includes a “menu” of rock and roll treatments — mohawks, hair tattoos, coon tails, and the scene cut (sort of an updated mullet that is currently very popular).
At first, when she came home, Ms. Seward worked as a landscaper and contributed illustrations to the Vineyard Gazette’s garden column. Her mother, Jenny Seward, had worked as a hairdresser in Cambridge, and the family house features a salon chair. Ms. Seward started cutting her sister’s and her sister’s friends’ hair and discovered an affinity and a talent.
“I have no fear when cutting hair,” she says. She decided that it was time to take charge of her future. “I needed to do something creative with my hands, other than pulling weeds.” She committed to commuting five days a week for six months and earned her cosmetology degree early.
Although Circuit Style’s clientele tends to young people and others seeking fun and funky looks, Ms. Seward reports that she also gets a lot of customers looking to add a little edge to relatively conservative looks.
“I do a ton of middle-aged women who want a bob but are looking for something a little different with a lot of texture,” she explains. Men, too, are regular customers, especially young men interested in unique looks.
Starting on Memorial Day weekend, Ms. Seward will add three other stylists, including Vanessa Ventura, who specializes in ethnic hair, and Thomas Cox, co-owner of upscale salon Alfred in Harvard Square, who will be on board on Wednesdays throughout the summer.
“I wanted to bring the hair I saw walking down Hollywood Boulevard here. I love the look, but I wanted to live here. Martha’s Vineyard was so far behind, but now we’re caught up,” she says.
A good cause
On Monday, May 23, Seniel’s Circuit Style Salon will host Change Your Hair, Become Aware, a one-day haircutting marathon fundraiser, with all proceeds going to the Cystic Fibrosis Fund. Ms. Seward’s 18-year-old cousin, Kara Flanders, a cystic fibrosis survivor, is one of Circuit Style’s best clients, who constantly experiments with new looks.
She told Ms. Seward, “I’ve been in and out of the hospital all my life. This [my hair] is the one thing I have control over.”
“I thought,” Ms. Seward adds, “that was the most amazing statement. She’s so positive and so great. I wanted to do something for her.”
The haircut-a-thon starts at 10 am. There’ll be refreshments and raffles of goods and services donated by local merchants. Ms. Flanders will be on hand to educate people about cystic fibrosis.