Adam Rush



Go Create

An Interview with Jo McKay of Aveda

Jo McKay is Aveda’s European Technical Hair Specialist. I had the privilege of sitting down to chat with her recently at the Melanie Giles Apprentice Talent Competition. Here is what she had to say…

What does Aveda mean to you personally?

If I’m honest, everything. I have been working with Aveda for 12 years so it kind of means everything. The environmental side has always been massive for me, and the products are so clean in terms of that. It is like this wonderful, holistic thing where it is all included – it is much more than just the final product.

And I really absolutely love the products. I mean really the aromas and the smells are so wonderful. It is impossible not to fall in love with them. And, of course, the people. I love the people who I work with. They so inspire me to take risks.

Already this evening you have spoken about the importance of being able to keep going in the difficult moments. In the most difficult moments of your career what is the thing that kept/keeps you going?

For me it has been love for what I do. I really couldn’t walk away from it even if I wanted to. I think that having a love for the craft has kept me going – the opportunity to continuously create is a joy.

You have spoken about research as being vital to creativity. Is there anything else that you would say is absolutely fundamental to maintaining creativity?

I have always had a real love for photography. It is something that really inspires me. I am a bit of a geek in that I archive images – like a lot of images. I am constantly looking for inspiration that way. It is just the visual aspect that is so important for me. When you are looking at something – it kind of helps to tell a story.

And Aveda, I guess, is all about telling stories. The message of what we are about is communicated through stories. It helps all those involved to understand the information that we put out there.

Why did you come to Melanie Giles in Bradford-on-Avon this evening? 

I had heard that Abi (manager at Melanie Giles Bath) had been following my career in hairdressing, and for me that was enough to convince me to come tonight. I had been actually looking for an opportunity to come to meet with Abi and when I heard about the Talent Competition I just felt I had to be involved. It has been such a joy to support the apprentices tonight. I hope I have been able to inspire them in some way. It is incredible for me to be able to inspire young people to do things with their lives. And inspire them to take a risk on being creative.

Where is your favourite place in the world?


Wow, that sounds amazing – why so?

I don’t know. I just think it’s amazing. It likes going to the moon. It is this wonderfully pure, beautiful and picturesque place. And the people are so kind.

What is the best cup of coffee in London?

I don’t actually drink coffee.

OK, that’s a bit awkward…

No it’s OK! I’m more of a tea person. I carry my own tea with me. And wherever I go I actually buy tea there. I sort of collect it and then take it on my travels. There are some wonderful little teahouses across London but for me it’s all about finding places I can buy my own. 

Harbourside Foodies Festival

It has been over 4 years now since my last journey to Bristol for the ‘foodies festival’ which takes place annually at the Harbourside, and I cannot comprehend why I have waited so long to go back. 

This festival brings together local suppliers, food demos by top chefs and live music to create a bright and yet relaxed atmosphere. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in July there is nothing more appropriate in my mind than a glass of pimms, the company of good friends and the sights and wonderful aromas of any number of food stalls surrounding you. For any food lover this was paradise.


Melanie Giles Apprentice Talent Competition

"Creativity is contagious, pass it on" Albert Einstein

The world of hairdressing intrigues me. I must admit it is an extremely fascinating industry. For me, it somehow brings together the everyday and the extravagant. I like that.


Those of you who have been to any of Melanie’s salons will know that it is an experience in itself. To be in one that is hosting a talent competition for all of their apprentice stylists was an absolute joy. The sense of anticipation, that the judges would finally see several months of effort and endeavour, was palpable even as I arrived.


Overall award winner Emily explaining her look to Melanie.

Speaking to those involved, from apprentices to models, from owner to managers, you could see just how much hard work had gone in to this showcase of some exceptional talent.

And I found myself slowly becoming a part of it all. An environment where creativity and passion are encouraged and cultivated is somehow refreshing. Witnessing those in, perhaps, their first year of hairdressing receiving encouragement from someone as inspirational as Jo McKay was beyond exciting.

Jo is Aveda’s European Education Specialist in Colour and her love of all things hair related is remarkable. It is really impossible not to want to be involved in some way. As she spoke to the room she opened with, ‘This all feels very Aveda’, swiftly followed by, ‘…for me, it feels like, you are the future of hairdressing.’ By the end of her address I was more convinced than ever that creativity, and indeed passion really is contagious. What makes Jo extraordinary is her willingness to pass it on. Her desire to inspire others to take risks, and to create. 


Jo Mckay giving her feedback to one of the apprentices.

Each of the apprentices involved had worked tirelessly for several months all to come to this point. Their ‘mood boards’ adorning the walls on both sides of the Salon, one of the four judges Maddy Wood told me they were looking for, ‘…a strong representation of the boards. I want to be inspired by what the apprentices are doing.’ One by one the models took to the floor and the final look was revealed. The judging process could begin.


Mood boards hanging on both sides of the Salon in Bradford-on-Avon.

"What Mel has achieved in 6 years is just incredible" Emma Hodgkins

And it really is incredible. Speaking to Mel and Bath Salon Manager Abi at the end of the evening, they both said their favourite thing about the night was that everyone was under one roof. And no wonder – to begin just 6 years ago with 3 people in one salon – and now to be sitting in this wonderful, spacious salon-number-three with a little over 50 Melanie Giles employees. It all became a bit of a love in. It was, I’m afraid to admit, difficult not to get involved.

What brought all of this together so beautifully was this idea that inspiration, creativity and passion are not only contagious, but central to all that happens at Melanie Giles Hairdressing. They have brought together the everyday and the extravagant in a rather unique way and it was a pleasure to be involved. 

“What I do is a lot of research. You need to look for inspiration – seek these things out.” Jo McKay

Melanie Giles Apprentice Talent Competition

Judging Panel

Jo McKay // European Education Specialist in Colour (Aveda)

Melanie Giles // Owner (Melanie Giles Hairdressing)

Maddy Wood // Manager (Melanie Giles Hairdressing)

Emma Hodgkins // Company Trainer (Melanie Giles Hairdressing)


1st Year Apprentices – Katherine James

2nd Year Apprentices – Faith Reed

3rd Year Apprentices – Ben McRobert-Thompson

Overall Achievement Award – Emily McLaughlin

'time is unstoppable and it transforms the event.' Joel Meyerowitz

Melanie Giles


Melanie Giles Salon in Bradford-on-Avon is a wonderful experience.

For anyone who has been to their Bath-based Walcot street equivalent you will have some idea of what I mean. The team is extremely welcoming; the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting. It is the kind of place you want to spend an afternoon in, and not just for a haircut.

And now it seems you can. The new Salon in BOA, besides being very beautiful, also boasts a café space serving Monmouth coffee.


Having just opened in late May, the Salon design is light and modern with individual touches of brilliance that make Melanie Giles so special. From gorgeous lettering to a stunning wood burner upstairs, this is a space that will have you desperate to stick around for that bit longer. I would highly recommend grabbing a flat white, and a copy of something (Cereal is my personal favourite right now to read while you spend some time in the café. 


Hawk House | Chill Pill (Experiment 2)

Dan & Jen Tie The Knot


There are few things more moving than seeing two of your good friends get married.

Set in deep, lovely countryside in Devon, the location for this wedding was always fixed to be a beautiful one. The infusion of vibrancy afforded to the area by guests – family & friends – helped to bring the day, and evening to life. The ceremony itself was delicately put together. Nothing seemed over the top or cheesy and yet there was a feeling of bold authenticity about it. Every word that was said; every note that was sung; they added to the occasion – not so as to overwhelm, but to bring fulfilment to each moment.

As the day progressed it was abundantly obvious that Dan and Jen had succeeded wonderfully in getting the balance right between creating something beautiful for guests to enjoy, and getting a sense that this was very much a day that was individual to them. From the photographs around the marquee, to the hand painted toy animals on the tables, and even the gloriously informal barbecue food on offer – this was unmistakably Daniel and Jenny Miles. And magnificently so.  


Everywhere you looked was an ‘instagramers’ dream. And yet, everyone appeared to be present. The mix of food, dancing, summer fete games and plenty of time to simply celebrate together made it incredibly difficult not to be. As though every so often someone would think, ‘I really should take more photos of this’ before getting lost in another Stevie Wonder song played by the band or grabbing another glass of Sangria and sitting out in the sunshine with a group of friends.


As though to underline the perfection of the day, an impromptu first dance was hastily organised for the happy couple after their taxi was delayed. The band struck up to play a Prince song, the dancefloor was packed and after a few moments of bride and groom shape throwing, everyone got involved… singing and dancing our hearts out to Prince as the night drew to a close. Splendid.