Thom Ciarniello, owner of Casal's de Spa and Salon, with locations in Canfield and Howland, Ohio.

Thom Ciarniello, owner of Casal’s de Spa & Salon locations in Canfield and Howland, Ohio, is one of five professors for the Aveda Business College, where there are blueprints for everything a salon owner could ever want to teach from customer service to cutting techniques to consultations and everything in between.

With 240 employees, Ciarniello uses this set curriculum within his salons every Monday from 9am to 2pm and believes it is an effective way to educate.

But Ciarniello saw a need for something extra in the creative department, so he developed his signature Masterpiece class.

“It’s my job to motivate the artists,” he says. “In between the set curriculum, I thought there needed to be something to develop my stylists’ sensibilities as real artists.”

A painter and artist himself, Ciarniello knew the techniques he studied in art could be easily applied to the hairstylist, so he decided to offer an artistic class to help his staff hone their skills as cutters and colorists.

“It’s exciting for the stylist—a break in the monotony, which we know is important in psychology,” he says. “It’s a proven fact that the student gets energized by something different—it keeps them paying attention.”

The Masterpiece class gets thrown into the mix of the regular curriculum about six times a year. An artist comes in to teach drawing, painting or even sculpture. Ciarniello applies the lessons learned in Masterpiece to regular curriculum topics like cuts or color.

“If I have an artist come in and teach how to do a drawing in charcoal, I’ll explain to the class how delicate charcoal breaks and then we’ll apply that to highlighting or doing a razor cut,” he says.

The Art of LearningLearning about watercolor painting has proven effective when it comes to teaching color mixing.

“I explain that you can mix colors, but you can get mud really easily,” says Ciarniello. “It teaches them color theory without talking about the color wheel.”

There has even been a class on arranging flowers, which stylists then apply to creating a balanced updo on a mannequin head the following week.
And for the spa employees, classes in sculpting educate massage therapists and estheticians about what their hands can create and the power of touch.

In addition to learning about their craft from another perspective, stylists also uncover hidden artistic talents and take great pride in the results of their efforts.

Ciarniello encourages this excitement for the artistic world with gifts to deserving stylists.

“I frame some of the artwork and then present it at a later time to someone who may have achieved stellar numbers one month and the staff goes crazy for it,” he says.

Being an artist himself has given Ciarniello a special passion for the Masterpiece program that also fulfills his own need to break away from the business aspect of the salon at times.

The Art of Learning“I’m always teaching a business curriculum, but it’s really fun when I get to teach them art. The whole atmosphere lightens up,” he says.

In fact, Ciarniello places so much emphasis on the importance of art that in the two institutes he owns (Casal Aveda Institute in Austintown, Ohio and Aveda Institute Las Vegas), graduating classes leave a collage behind.

“They create a collage of where they feel they are in the industry,” says Ciarniello. “They take pride and ownership in it, and I hang it as artwork in the institutes.”

The Art of LearningUltimately, Ciarniello wants to bring the very best out in his stylists, who he feels are artists working every day—in front of a mirror with a tough critic.

“When you are doing someone’s hair, it’s a daunting task,” he says. “My job is to keep you motivated and plugged into the best part of you. If Masterpiece doesn’t work, I’ll think of something new. My education program isn’t just about placing foil—it’s about making ourselves more creative and challenging everyone who works here.”