Jen Cruse was born and educated in Dublin in Ireland before moving to England where she trained and practised as a nurse, midwife and health visitor. Through an aunt of her husband she inherited two Art Nouveau combs in 1978. Intrigued by the beauty of the objects, she set out to discover more about them but soon found that very little had been written on the subject. From the mid 1980s onwards she began to acquire an extensive comb collection, compiling information from numerous sources, learning about the materials from which combs were made and their methods of manufacture. Her personal collection consists of over 1,500 combs, both decorative and utilitarian, the oldest dating from the second century BC.