When Josh Washel was a child, he used to love visiting his mother’s hair salon, Hi-Tek Hair on East 10th Street. “It was like magic every time I would go in there, seeing people transformed,” he says. Now he’s become one such magician himself, and brought mom Rebecca onboard with his new salon, The Looking Glass Hair Studio, at 406 1/2 W. 6th St.

The name may call to mind rabbit holes and mad hatters, but Josh, 31, says his concept has no connection to Alice in Wonderland. “I chose Looking Glass to mean a reflection of self. When people come in, we listen to their stories, their hopes, and their dreams, and then create a portrait through their hair.”

The studio, now two years old, deals only in hair, forgoing the nail- and skin-care services that Rebecca offered at her salon. “Now I just get to be a hairdresser,” she says happily. “Hair is what I love and hair is my passion. I see a head of hair and I just want to touch it. It’s why I get up in the morning.”

Situated across the street from the Near West Side Bloomingfoods, the studio has a lush, slightly whimsical feel. Ornate mirrors and tapestry curtains accent the blond wood, slate tile, and leather couches. The mother-son duo are the only employees, with Josh as owner and Rebecca as the second stylist.

She works primarily with long hair and more classic styles, while he takes on the “avant-garde” clientele. Both stylists, however, share the uncommon practice of cutting hair while it’s dry. “I prefer to cut dry because it’s like working with the grain of wood,” Rebecca explains. “You can see the direction of movement and get a clearer concept of the cut.”

In addition to the satisfaction of running his own business, Josh says that owning The Looking Glass has been fulfilling by making him part of the west-side downtown neighborhood. “This is an artistic area of Bloomington,” he explains. “The feeling is really mellow and relaxed here. It allows us to be creative.”

The Looking Glass is open Tuesday through Thursday 10 am to 8 pm, Friday 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday 10 am to 5 pm. Consultations are complimentary; cuts start at $26 and color at $55. Call 332-3434 for more information.