Makeup Museum ideas for now and the future, 2021 update

It's the time of year where I babble on about things I want to tackle but most likely won't be able to.  I reviewed last year's blog post ideas and out of the 30 topics I only managed to accomplish, let's see, 10.  One-third of what I was aiming for.  Sigh.  As for exhibitions, I only did one and it wasn't all that cerebral. Anyway, no point in ruminating over what I should have done so here's a bit of an update. 

In an effort to sort of narrow down the massive amount of exhibition ideas I have, I came up with a priority list of topics that might be doable in the 1-5 years (if the Museum is still in existence) and a secondary list for, well, I have no idea - eventually. I tweaked some of the descriptions as needed.  Also, please keep in mind these are working titles.  Hopefully I can think of better ones!  Once again the husband came up with handy graphics.

Priority:

    1. "Black and Blue:  A History of Punk Makeup"
    2. "Catch the Light:  Glitter in Cosmetics from Ancient Times Through Today" - Aiming to have this up for holiday 2021, but it's a big one and I will need lots of help that I'm not sure I can get.
    3. "The Life Aquatic:  Mermaid Makeup" - I need to think of a better title soon because I want this to go up in June this year.
    4. "Color History Through Cosmetics: Blue" - I decided to scrap the gold-themed exhibition in exchange for blue. I discovered so many fascinating things about blue makeup while pulling together some trivia on Instagram, there's definitely enough there for an exhibition.
    5. "Ancient Allure: Egypt-Inspired Makeup and Beauty" -  I did some polling on Twitter and Instagram and this one won as the next exhibition, so the tentative date is March 2021.
    6. "Just Desserts:  Sweet Tooth Revisited" - It might be good to revisit this on its 10-year anniversary in 2023.
    7. "Aliengelic:  Pat McGrath Retrospective" - Still a priority, but again, I will need lots of assistance and would strongly prefer having a makeup artist co-curate with me. Alternate title instead of Aliengelic:  "The Mother of Modern Makeup".
    8. "From Male Polish to Guyliner:  A History of Men's Makeup" - I know that a new book on men's makeup will be released in June this year and it would be great to have the author as a co-curator.
    9. "She's All That:  Beauty in the '90s" - Oh, poor little neglected '90s makeup book and exhibition. You know I've been wanting to do a comprehensive exhibition and book since at least 2014, but just never seem to have the time.  I do have the chapter outline but I think I need to make deadlines for each chapter and publish the drafts as blog posts, otherwise it's not getting done.
    10. "Pandemic:  Makeup in the Age of COVID-19" - Depressing but historically significant. I'll need to wait until the pandemic is safely behind us, but I am gathering bits of what will surely become history now.
    11. "Ugly Makeup: A Revolution in Aesthetics" - I am so incredibly inspired by Makeup Brutalism and her other effort Ugly Makeup Revolution, I absolutely need to explore looks that completely shatter our notions of makeup's purpose.  The exhibition would be a deep dive into how makeup is going beyond basic artistry and self-expression.
    12.  "Nothing to Hide:  Makeup as Mask" - This was the other choice I included in the Twitter and Instagram polls. While respondents chose Egyptian-themed makeup over this one, the mask theme in makeup goes back centuries and would certainly make a rich topic, plus I could do a subsection on mask-wearing's effects on makeup in the pandemic.

Makeup Museum exhibition list

Secondary list/things I'm not sure about:

    1. "Queens:  A History of Drag Makeup" - Amazing topic but overwhelming. Need much help!
    2. "From Mods and Hippies to Supervixens and Grrrls:  '60s and '90s Makeup in Dialogue" - In my opinion, cultural developments in both the late '60s and mid-1990s radically changed the beauty industry and gave birth to new ideas about how people view and wear makeup; there are many parallels between the two eras. I feel, however, that I'd need to do the '90s exhibition and book first so this would have to wait.
    3. "Gilded Splendor:  A History of Gold Makeup" - This is nice but the more I thought about it the more I didn't think it would be a priority.
    4. "Design is a Good Idea:  Innovations in Cosmetics Design and Packaging" -  Another that I still like but not so much as to make it immediate.
    5. "The Medium is the Message:  Makeup as Art" - This will trace how makeup is marketed and conceived of as traditional art mediums, i.e painting and sculpture, and also how art history is incorporated into makeup advertising and collections.  Consider it a comprehensive discussion of this post while working in canonical artists whose work has appeared on makeup packaging.  My issue with it is that it's overwhelmingly white.  The artists used in vintage ads such Lancome's are white and even collections today don't collaborate with many BIPOC artists, especially Black ones.
    6. "Wanderlust:  Travel-Inspired Beauty" -  A rich topic and would be timely in light of the pandemic limiting travel for most, but honestly, I'm not that excited about it.
    7. "By Any Other Name:  The Rose in Makeup and Beauty" - I pitched this idea to the FIT Museum as a small add-on to their "Ravishing" exhibition.  They weren't interested and now that the exhibition has passed I'm tabling it for now.

Makeup Museum secondary exhibition list

And now for blog posts!

MM Musings (2):  FINALLY getting up the diversity and inclusion in museums post up this month after a year of working on it, and the other topic to tackle this year will be becoming a nonprofit organization.

Makeup as Muse (3):  I managed to get around to covering Gina Beavers last year, but that was it.  The artists on my list are Sylvie Fleury, Rachel Lachowitz, Asa Jungnelius and Tomomi Nishizawa.

MM Mailbag (2-3):  Once again the MM mailbag overflowed in 2020 and most of the inquiries took a significant amount of time to research and answer.  I'll see what might be feasible. 

Brief histories (4-5): I still want to go ahead with histories of powder applicators, setting sprays and maybe colored mascara, color-changing cosmetics and how makeup language has evolved (for example, why we typically say "blush" now instead of "rouge" for cheek color.) The author of Cosmetics and Skin kindly suggested an article on copycats, i.e. how companies clearly ripped each other off and continue to do so today in terms of packaging, ad campaigns, etc. which is a great topic.  I'm also interested in a history of Day of the Dead makeup.

Trends (1):  Makeup brand merchandise and swag - another I didn't cover in 2020 as planned. I'm also very interested in the video game trend in makeup, but I'm hoping this amazing person writes about it instead!

Topics to revisit (1-2):  faux freckles, non-traditional lipstick shades, and cultural appropriation in cosmetics advertising. I did not update any of these in 2020 so I hope to do at least one of the three this year.  Also, perhaps a deeper dive into surrealism and makeup.

Vintage (6): series of Dorothy Gray ads featuring portraits of well-to-do "society" ladies, '90s prom makeup, and wear-to-work makeup from the 1970s-90s, defunct '90s and early aughts brands (Benetton, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Nina Ricci and Inoui ID to start with), and a slew of other brand histories, especially Black-owned brands like La Jac and Rose Morgan. I'm also itching to write something about Black salespeople and customers in direct sales companies, i.e. Avon, Mary King by Watkins, Fuller, Artistry by Amway, etc. The company I hope to tackle this month if the objects I purchased on Ebay ever arrive will be Holiday Magic...the story is absolutely bonkers. 

Artist collabs (5):  As in 2020 I'm still trying to catch up on some of last year's holiday releases, including Fee Greening for Mikimoto and Cecilia Carlstedt and Morag Myerscough for Bobbi Brown.  There are tons of others from previous years that I'm still thinking about, such as El Seed for MAC, Connor Tingley for NARS, the Shiseido Gallery compacts and lip balms, and a series on the artists whose work appears on Pat McGrath's packaging.

Book reviews (2):  In the interest of saving time and also because my reviews tend to be badly written (even for me), I decided to do regular reviews only for some books and speed reviews of others, combining several books in a single post.  Most of the ones I'm planning on are in the Beauty Library section of the website.

Dream Teams series (1-2):  I did actually start this series last year, albeit without the mockups I had wanted to do.  Stay tuned for more fantasy artist/makeup collabs. I especially want to focus on BIPOC artists and flesh out the idea I had back in 2016 for a Rrose Sélavy-themed collection. 

Color Connections (5+): I returned to Color Connections last year but only once.  They just take so much time. However, I've been toying with the idea of putting them as a dedicated series on Instagram separate from the Museum's regular account.  That way it might make me accountable in terms of working on them more regularly.

Finally, there will be lots of other random things popping up, and I have so many people I want to talk to so I hope to nab some interviews and guest posts. :)

And here we have my book ideas.  They're the same as last year.  The first one is an alternate title for the '90s exhibition.  The second one would basically be the accompanying catalogue for the Makeup as Art exhibition.  I still want to do a coffee table book of pretty makeup, but my concern is that it won't be diverse.

Makeup Museum book ideas

Any of these topics interest you?  Which ones would you like to read about/see first? 


Curator's corner, December 2020

CC logoI was too tired and sad to do a 2020 version of Curator's Picks and Pans, so I'm skipping straight to Curator's Corner for December.

- Mother has become a Dame!  Huge congratulations are in order for Pat McGrath, who became the first makeup artist to receive damehood from the queen. I remember when she got the MBE in late 2013, so I was thrilled to see this. 

- I was also really pleased to see Allure's digital feature on accessible beauty.  Just wish it was in their print version.

- I was not, however, happy to see that the president of Japanese brand DHC is under fire for some racist remarks. The really sad part is that instead of making an attempt at any sort of apology he just shrugged it off, but I guess that's to be expected as he has a history of doing this.

- Interesting piece on beauty and makeup as instruments of political power over at Teen Vogue, the author of which will be releasing a whole book on the subject.  I only hope the fable about Elizabeth Arden handing out lipsticks to suffragettes doesn't make it in there, as no one has been able to produce solid proof.

- Wallpaper had an article about the new marketing and branding for Shiseido.  How nice that the company they hired gets access to their archives for "guidance" and "inspiration" but researchers like me are repeatedly shut out.

- While I'm being a cranky old lady, I must confess that new tech advances like digital makeup printing and Google's virtual makeup try-on service seem rather stupid.  There's also Moi lipstick, which I grudgingly admit sounds somewhat interesting in terms of being able to match basically any color in the world, and I understand the need for reducing makeup packaging waste...but it also reeks of a futuristic dystopia.  

- Sad news from happi.com (the irony): Benefit co-founder Jane Ford passed away. I imagine it was tough to go on without her co-founder and twin sister Jean, who died in January 2019.  Flori Roberts, founder of her eponymous line that catered to Black women as well as Dermablend, also passed away.  More to come on Roberts as I have mixed feelings about her.

- And because I'm lazy and various news outlets have covered them already, I'm linking to some articles on beauty in 2020 and what's in store for 2021. In 2020, the biggest trends I saw were the rise of TikTok, a slew of celebrity lines, an emphasis on skincare, experimental and "ugly" makeup, and video game/makeup and beauty crossovers, whether that meant a collaboration with a video game or beauty brands making an appearance in Animal Crossing and the like. Of course, the impact of Black Lives Matter and other calls for diversity and inclusion in the industry cannot be ignored; however, I refuse to see it as a passing trend that was unique to 2020.  Both companies and consumers need to keep up the momentum.

The random:

- I love grey and yellow together, as evidenced by my wedding colors and some beloved Museum staff members, so I'm very in favor of Pantone's picks for 2021.

- "A virtual experience of high quality is not just second prize to being there in person, it may offer fresh revelations." Great piece on why digital museum exhibitions should become standard accompaniments to real-life ones.

- If Reservation Dogs is half as funny as What We Do in the Shadows, it will be hilarious. 

- Memes were one of the few things that helped keep me somewhat sane in 2020.

Are you looking forward to the new year?  I have to admit I'm not feeling optimistic, not just about the pandemic nightmare but the Museum and my family.  It was more of a slow burn of trauma and grief in 2020 rather than the sudden, unexpected events that took place in 2019...and I'm not sure which was worse. I hope 2021 will be better but based on these past two years the outlook is bleak.  :( 


Fox weddings, weaving cranes and moon princesses: Kate holiday 2020

As usual, there was no shortage of artist collabs of the holiday season. Kate is an affordably-priced Japanese brand owned by Kanebo, maker of the beautiful Milano compacts.  I was immediately intrigued by the packaging for their holiday collection, and when I saw it was the result of a partnership with illustrator Kotaro Chiba, I knew I had to get my hands on it for the Museum.  Entitled "Neo-Folklore: Reinterpretation of Japanese Folklore Heroines," Kate's holiday collection features modern reimaginings of the women in three Japanese folk tales who "face and shape their own destinies".  There were lip gloss duos, eyeliners and eyeshadow palettes for each story. I just picked up the palettes since the designs were the same for all of the products.

Kate Neo Folklore holiday 2020 - Kotaro Chiba

The first story in the collection centers on Japan's vast array of fox-based fairy tales.  Foxes, or kitsune, have a long-standing place in Japanese culture - there are entire books written on fox folklore - but the story Kate selected involves one version of the fox wedding, Kitsune no Yomeiri.  As the traditional lore goes, foxes would create rain to keep humans away from the forest where they held wedding processions.  But as foxes were also known to be shape-shifters, some lady foxes would change into human form and marry an unsuspecting man.  Sometimes she'd be able to keep her true form a secret forever, but sometimes she would accidentally let her tail slip out.  Once a family member sees that she's actually a fox she can no longer remain with them and must return to the forest (not sure why.)

The palette artwork depicts a woman clad in a black dress with swirls of voluminous fabric in the back (perhaps mimicking a tail?) and a fox curving around the edges. The golden white spheres on the right are most likely hoshi no tama, or star balls. These magical orbs are said to hold the fox's life force.  If a human manages to get a hold of one they can control the fox.

Kate Neo-folklore collection - EX 101 palette

Kate Neo-folklore collection - EX 101 palette

The company created a makeup look and brief video to accompany each story.  This one is called "Hint of a Wispy Flame," referencing the warm tones of a red fox and Inari shrines.

Kate "Hint of Wispy Flame" look

The video depicts a fox wedding which the bride apparently abandons.  The "ghostly forest light" mentioned is known as kitsune-bi, magical fire produced by the foxes during wedding ceremonies and other processions.  I'm still scratching my head over the ending...so she doesn't get married to a human but doesn't stay with her fellow foxes either? Where does she run off to? 

The second story, known as Tsuru no Ongaeshi (Crane's Return of a Favor), or more specifically, Tsuru Nyobo (The Crane Wife) involves a man who helps an injured crane.  I'll let Japan Folklore tell the tale, as it was the most straightforward version I found.  "Long, long ago in a far off land there lived a young man. One day, while working on his farm, a brilliant white crane came swooping down and crashed to the ground at his feet. The man noticed an arrow pierced through one of its wings. Taking pity on the crane, he pulled out the arrow and cleaned the wound. Thanks to his care the bird was soon able to fly again. The young man sent the crane back to the sky, saying, 'Be careful to avoid hunters.' The crane circled three times over his head, let out a cry as if in thanks, and then flew away.  As the day grew dark the young man made his way home. When he arrived, he was surprised by the sight of a beautiful woman whom he had never seen before standing at the doorway. 'Welcome home. I am your wife,' said the woman. The young man was surprised and said, 'I am very poor, and cannot support you.' The woman answered, pointing to a small sack, 'Don't worry, I have plenty of rice,' and began preparing dinner. The young man was puzzled, but the two began a happy life together. And the rice sack, mysteriously, remained full always.  One day the wife asked the young man to build her a weaving room. When it was completed, she said, 'You must promise never to peek inside.' With that, she shut herself up in the room. The young man waited patiently for her to come out. Finally, after seven days, the sound of the loom stopped and his wife, who had become very thin, stepped out of the room holding the most beautiful cloth he had ever seen. 'Take this cloth to the marketplace and it will sell for a high price,' said the wife. The next day the young man brought it to town and, just as she said, it sold for many coins. Happy, he returned home. The wife then returned to the room and resumed weaving. Curiosity began to overtake the man, who wondered, 'How can she weave such beautiful cloth with no thread?' Soon he could stand it no longer and, desperate to know his wife's secret, peeked into the room. To his great shock, his wife was gone. Instead, a crane sat intently at the loom weaving a cloth, plucking out its own feathers for thread.  The bird then noticed the young man peeking in and said, 'I am the crane that you saved. I wanted to repay you so I became your wife, but now that you have seen my true form I can stay here no longer.' Then, handing the man the finished cloth, it said, 'I leave you this to remember me by.' The crane then abruptly flew off into the sky and disappeared forever."   There are some variations to the tale, such as the replacement of the man for an old couple who essentially adopt the young woman as their daughter, but the overall message remains the same: respect people's privacy.

The palette shows another woman in black holding a cat's cradle of yarn between her outstretched fingers.  She appears to be watching the sliding door in the background. The head and neck of a red-crowned crane form a graceful arc over the scene.

Kate Neo-folklore collection - EX 102 palette

Kate Neo-folklore collection - EX 102 palette

The color story for this palette is also a nod to the red-crowned crane, according to the description at the Kate website. 

Kate "Secret Sounds of Wings" Neofolklore makeup look

As with the fox wedding story, I'm not really sure what the video is trying to say.  At first the crane/woman is upset her trust was broken, but then seems okay with it? 

The third story is the tale of Princess Kaguya, which dates all the way back to the 10th century.  Move over Sailor Moon, there's another princess from our big round friend! Here's an abbreviated version from this website.  "A long time ago, an old and humble man who was cutting bamboo saw that one of the logs he’d gathered was glittering in a strange way as if it was illuminated by the moon. Taking the log in his hands, he realized that inside was a beautiful and tiny little girl, about 7 centimeters tall. The man took her home because he’d never had children, and between him and his wife, they took care of her as if she were their own daughter...The strange girl grew into a beautiful woman of normal size, and over the years, people began to learn of the existence and beauty of this lady. Suitors traveled from all over to request her hand. On one occasion, five honorable gentlemen approached the house of the bamboo cutter trying to persuade him to allow his adopted daughter to marry. He was old and didn’t want to leave her alone upon dying, they argued. But she refused to take any husband, making impossible requests of her suitors in to avoid marrying them.  The existence of the beautiful young woman came to the attention of the emperor, who requested that she appear in his court. When she refused, he visited her and, upon seeing her, he too fell madly in love with her. The emperor tried to take the girl to his palace to marry her, but the young woman assured him that if she were taken by force, she would become a shadow and then disappear forever.  Each night, she watched the sky with melancholy. It was time to return to her place of origin, and it was then that she confessed to her adoptive father, in tears, that she had come from the moon and that her time on Earth was to end. Upon learning of this, the emperor sent guards to the house of the bamboo cutter, to try to prevent the princess from returning to her place of origin. One night, the moon was covered by a cloud. This quickly began to descend towards the Earth, while the sky grew ever darker. A carriage manned by luminous beings arrived for the princess. She left a letter and a small bottle with the Elixir of Life for the emperor before leaving. Frightened, he ordered that both be taken to the top of the most sacred mountain of that land and there, burned.  To this day, it’s remembered that when there is smoke upon Mount Fuji, this is the letter and elixir that the Princess of the Moon left for the emperor, and these will continue to burn at the mountain’s peak."

Princess Kaguya is shown on the palette wearing a black kimono and standing in front of a stylized blue moon. Bamboo stalks in the background represent the princess's earthly beginnings, while the rabbit in the foreground is a reference to another lunar-themed tale, the moon rabbit (Tsuki no Usagi.)

Kate Neo-folklore collection - EX 103 palette

Kate Neo-folklore collection - EX 102 palette

I have to say none of the looks the company came up with seem particularly thoughtful or interesting. The collection allegedly centered on dismantling tradition and setting new narratives, yet the makeup seems rather safe and conventional.  I understand Kate is a mass market brand, but something more daring couldn't have hurt.

Kate "Moonlit Bamboo Grove" look

Anyway, the video changes the ending of the tale, revealing that Princess Kaguya chooses to stay on earth.

Perhaps if I had any sort of grasp on the original tales and understood the videos I might have better insight of how these heroines were reinterpreted.  At first I thought the Neo-Folklore collection was telling the same tales but emphasizing the independence of the women, portraying them as active agents of their own destinies rather than passive characters that things merely happen to.  In the usual narratives, the crane/woman leaves her husband and the kitsune leaves her family so that they can fully express their true selves. Princess Kaguya, although sad to leave her parents, refused to accept a traditional married life and returned to her celestial home. But the videos the company made complicate these interpretations; the intent was to change the women's actions entirely.  The kitsune abandons both her fox family and the prospect of marrying a human, the crane is proud to show her avian form when her secret is discovered, and Princess Kaguya chooses to stay on earth.  I'm not sure the revised stories present any sort of significantly more "empowered" outcomes, but they at least attempt to depict these women as setting a wholly new course for themselves rather than adhering to the original story.

In any case, the artist Kate selected to highlight the women in these tales is a perfect fit. Kotaro Chiba is a self-taught artist based in Niigata, a relatively quiet, snowy city in northwest Japan.  His father, a convenience store owner turned Buddhist monk, and mother, a piano teacher, were of modest means but instilled a love of art and culture in their son.  "My family was poor in money but rich in culture. The little house where we used to live was full of art, music and literature. I started to study seriously the art myself when I worked part-time after my graduation from high-school. Of course, I would have liked to attend an art school, but I wasn't able to make it for financial reasons," he says.  Chiba began his career around 2007 making t-shirt designs.  He found he wasn't inspired by one particular style or theme, but a combination of manga, modern Western fashion and traditional Japanese style.  While his work continues to evolve, the end result is surreal, fanciful and at times unsettling. 

Kotaro Chiba, Housenka, 2018

Chiba's experience illustrating a book of Japanese fairy tales in 2019 more than qualifies him to take on the Neo-Folklore collection.

Tales of Japan illustrated by Kotaro Chiba

Tales of Japan illustrated by Kotaro Chiba

His work sometimes takes on a more video-game, sci-fi fantasy vibe while still incorporating elements of traditional Japanese costume, such as this warrior character he created for an app.

Illustration by Kotaro Chiba, 2019

Chiba is also adept at modern fashion illustration, particularly for women's dress.  "I am not a fashion-addict or a fashionista and I don't have any good sense of trends, but I'm fascinated by fashion design. I just love it.  I like the fact that fashion is sexual but doesn't express sexuality directly. I want to mix pop culture and classical sense," he says.  Examples of this combination include his portraits of women consuming ramen, some with a decidedly modern appearance and one with a slightly more traditional Japanese style.  While you'd never mistake them for antique wood-block prints, their flatness and composition reference the centuries-old art.

Kotaro Chiba, Fernanda, 2017

Kotaro Chiba, Ramen Gacho, 2017

Kotaro Chiba, Ramen Gacho, 2017

Chiba notes that as a self-taught artist, he had no one to help guide his style, so it evolves organically with little input from other artists.  "I am self-educated, have no teacher or boss, so no one corrects what I do.  My style is not static," he says.  And he's right - in looking at his Instagram, it's hard to believe it's the same artist. But some of his pieces seem to be influenced by others.  The lines on the woman's hair and the fish's tail in Kuro (2019), for example, are particularly reminiscent of Hiroshi Tanabe's work.

Kotaro Chiba, Kuro, 2019

And I'm getting a Patrick Nagel feel from Ame (2020). You might recall Nagel was partially inspired by Japanese wood-block prints.

Kotaro Chiba, Ame, 2020

Despite being born and raised in Japan, Chiba says that manga and anime styles don't figure prominently in his oeuvre.  I'm inclined to agree.  As he states, the surrealist nature of some manga is present in his work, but not so much the aesthetic.  "Manga is certainly different from western culture, as it doesn't fit in a logical world. It may represent a kind of surrealism. I carefully watched Dragon Ball Z on TV when I was a child, but in reality, I don't know much about manga. My foreign friends know better than me. Nevertheless, I can't deny the influence of Manga-anime."

Kotaro Chiba, A Dead Secret, 2018

Chiba's preference for illustrating women is another reason Kate made the right choice for a makeup collaboration focused on reinventing women's roles within fairy tales.  The artist explains, "I prefer to draw female things. In fact, I'm more interested by gender than by womanhood and sexuality. I hate masculinity because it's too simple...My illustrations are often said to be 'too feminine', even when I draw male characters." For the most part, Chiba's female characters are depicted as independent, powerful and sometimes even fearsome.  A girl wearing an animal skeleton while nonchalantly observing a six-headed dog growing out of the ground, for example, is not someone to be trifled with.

Kotaro Chiba Atai Kuyoh

Nor is a strange bird-vampire levitating in a blood-spattered room above the carcass of the animal she has presumably exsanguinated.   

Kotaro Chiba, Winged Ghost, 2017

The illustration he created for a cover of a novel earlier this year is similar to those for the Kate collection, with the cat's form cradling the central character in the same way the fox, crane and rabbit - also rendered in white - curve around on the palettes. The skull held by the woman, the cat's skeletal tail, and the floating sperm-like shapes point to a story about life and death, perhaps? 

Kotaro Chiba, 2020
(images from kate.global.net, @kotaro_chiba, and kotarochiba.portfoliobox.net); artist quotes from interviews at kyoorius.com and hiwo.tv)

I wish I knew more about Chiba's inspiration for the Neo-Folklore collection and how the collab came about, but my request for an interview went unanswered.  Ah well, it's the holidays.  But he did shed light on his process during one interview, noting that he creates straight from memories or visions he has in his head, rather than directly referencing a photo.  "I like to design all objects in the picture by myself: outfit, furniture, landscape, etc...that is the feature of my works. I don't like to draw something from reference photos (though I'm sometimes obliged to because I'm running out of time). The idea of the design usually only exists in my brain."  In the case of the Neo-Folklore collection, it seems that he simply translated his familiarity with these fairy tales growing up and the particular characters and objects associated with them (animals, yarn, bamboo, etc.) to his own style. If it were me, of course, I'd read every version of the fairy tale and look at every illustration before trying to come up with something of my own, but that's why I'm not an artist. ;)  Nevertheless, I see some similarities between us. He likes living in a smaller city and set out to do something creative, even though he lacked formal training, just because he thought he would enjoy it.  And maybe it's because Chiba is self-taught, but he seems quite unpretentious and relaxed compared to some artists I've come across. "I didn't want to specifically to be an illustrator. I wanted to create something. I knew that this would make me happy...I love that quiet atmosphere [of Niigata].  My favorite place is the Starbucks in the neighborhood! If I had to move elsewhere, I'd chose the countryside. My daily routine is to buy a coffee at the convenience store nearby. I think a good sleep brings better productivity. I don't go to bed late because I want to reduce stress as much as possible. It took a long-time to have self-confidence. I still have just a little confidence, not enough to fight with the world." 

What do you think of Chiba's work?  And which story is your favorite?  They were all kind of sad to me, even the revamped versions, but I love the idea of foxy lady shapeshifters since they remind me of some mermaid stories where they can switch between mermaid and human form.