Dec 29, 2011

Marvelous Marv

Marvin Johnson, aka Marvelous Marv, has always been an artist, but his first medium was paper not the human head. “I knew how to draw before I knew how to cut,” he says. Yet, when etched hair designs became popular in the African American community, Marvin embarked on a new career that has brought him national acclaim. We talked to the Savannah, GA-based owner of Jazzy Cuttz barbershop about his artistic method and his favorite designs.

Tell us how you got involved with hair designs?
I started cutting hair at age 14. In the late 1980s and early ‘90s designs shaved into hair became a huge trend in my neighborhood. I started cutting friends’ hair on my porch and my clientele grew steadily. A local barber saw my work and asked me to be his apprentice. After that, I went to get my Master Barber license. When designs came back in style four years ago, I went to the Bronner Brothers Show in Atlanta. I took classes and really stretched my range. Major League Barbers took notice and asked me to join their team. I don’t travel with them, but I meet up with them for demonstrations at Bronner Brothers and at Premiere Orlando.

Who are some of the famous faces you’ve carved into hair?
My first big one was Martin Luther King, Jr., for Major League Barbers at the Bronner Brothers Show. I also did Obama in 2008 – election year. The original design took me about an hour to do, but now I can easily finish it in minutes. After Michael Jackson died, I decided to etch him into my son’s hair. It started out as a simple idea to do one silhouette and grew into several portraits of him throughout his career. It took about three hours to complete. After I did the initial design, I refined it with various details. With art, you can always add more. My Obama and Michael Jackson designs were picked up by various news outlets at the Bronner Brothers Show.

Who’s next?
I’m thinking about doing Muhammad Ali. I like doing icons; people everyone knows.

Do you use a stencil for your designs?
No, I do them freehand. As long as I see a picture of the design, I can do it. If it’s my first time with a particular image, I practice on a dry erase board. I basically make a surface area of black and then scrape off the marker to carve out the picture.

Do you have to be a great artist in order to be good at etching?
You don’t have to know how to draw. With hair, you shape, not draw. When I started getting recognition for my talent, I realized there were a lot of people who wanted to learn how to do what I do, so I created an instructional DVD, Cutoonz Color & Design. [To order, call 912.224.2756]

Tell us about opening your own shop. Do a lot of your customers request intricate hair designs?
Three and a half years ago, I opened Jazzy Cutzz barbershop, which was a dream come true. I’d say that about 98 percent of the jobs I do now are classic cuts. Occasionally, I get asked to do a design. A lot of sports fans want team logos. I usually charge a base price of about $25 for something simple like, say, a Philadelphia Eagle silhouette. If the client wants something more complex, I charge about $50 per hour for detailing. I teach my students to always charge for creativity and not undervalue their talents.

Go Back


First to Know

Join and get the latest news, offers and style tips delivered to your inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.