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Head of the class

Our writer learns a new skill at Rochester Brainery

After two hours, I’m pretty sure this curling iron is out to get me.
In my defense, I’ve been a good sport.

At Rochester Brainery’s “How to Blow Out and Style Your Hair” class, I’ve already used more tools and products and spent more time on my hair than I ever imagined was possible. This curling iron might be the last straw, though, if it burns my hair off or leaves a welt on my face.

But I’ve made it this far.

Stephanie Rankin and Danielle Raymo are the co-founders of Rochester Brainery.

When I stepped into the Rochester Brainery in Village Gate a few hours earlier, I was greeted, offered a glass of water, and directed to the back room where class would be held.The space is simple and industrial, with cement floors, high ceilings, and exposed wooden beams. Mono- chromatic decor from a certain Swedish home goods store dots the lobby.

“We didn’t want it to look like a traditional classroom,” says co-owner Danielle Raymo, twenty-eight. “We wanted to keep it multi- purpose and multifunctional … and we’re fans of a rusty kind of look.We’ve repurposed a lot of things in this space.” Raymo and co-owner Stephanie Rankin, twenty-seven, founded Rochester Brainery in March 2013 as a place for people to do something “fun, affordable, and educational.” It offers a revolving schedule of classes on a variety of different topics (past examples include Intro to Russian, Archery, and Stress Management).

Entering one of the two classrooms in the space, I have the foresight to grab a table with a mirror. The instructor, local stylist Laura Bascomb- Werth, introduces herself to the class while we spray, comb through, and add styling product to our hair. Bascomb-Werth is delighted to see someone brought thermal protection spray.“You wouldn’t put an iron on a silk blouse,” she says, holding the bottle above her head.

I begin the blow out process by drying my bangs as instructed: pulling my hair straight up, then back and forth to create lift and move- ment first, and finishing by drying them back in place on my forehead. Next, I flip my hair upside down and use the blow dryer on my roots. (Most of the ten other participants have tons of volume at the moment, but with my fine locks, I don’t.) After my roots are dry, I part my hair down the middle of my head, to the nape of my neck, and pin up one side. I then part the other half at my ear, grabbing the hair at the back of my ear and pinning it up.This begins the most time-consuming part.

Bascomb-Werth says we’ll be drying our hair ninety percent of the way using only our fingers and a dryer—no brush needed. I pinch small sections of my hair between my pointer and middle finger at the root and pull the hair away from my head, moving my fingers down to the ends of my hair. My blow dryer, with its diffus- er attachment, follows behind my fingers, nozzle pointed away from my head.

When those sections are mostly dry, we finish with a round or flat brush.The key with a round brush is to place it under a section of hair and drag it from the scalp to the roots with the dryer following, only flipping or turning the brush at the ends. The instructor stresses the importance of pulling hard on the hair while drying to help straighten it out. “If you can get some straight- ening done before you bring in any hot tools, it will be that much easier,” she says. “And you won’t have to go over and over your hair and risk damaging it.”

When we’re told to use our hot tools, I’m petrified. Bascomb-Werth is happy to assist and clamps the aforementioned curling iron at my roots, sliding it to mid-shaft and then turning, sliding down further, and turning again until the ends are tucked. She holds the barrel in place for fifteen seconds before she unravels the curl. With her guidance, I’m able to curl a few more pieces on my own—but suddenly, it’s 9 p.m., and the class ends.

In all, I curled about three square inches of hair, and my arms are tired from being constantly held above my head, but I’ve already decided I’ll be back to take another class.

Rochester Brainery, 274 N. Goodman St., 730-7034 or

Jinelle Shengulette is a Rochester-based freelance writer/copy editor and weekly contributor to the Democrat and Chronicle. Find her on Linkedin and 


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