I was so flattered when the very intelligent and creative Jenn at Literature Couture asked if she could interview me! If you don't already follow Literature Couture, you need to - it's an amazingly unique look at beauty and makeup, and many posts are inspired by Jenn's background in literary studies.
She asked some really thought-provoking questions, and I hope I answered them in a satisfactory manner. You can also check it out at her blog here.
How long has your site been live? Since August of 2008, so nearly 4 years now.
Can you provide a brief explanation of the concept behind the site? It’s a place where people can visit and explore makeup from a more artistic perspective. I wanted people to see makeup as art, as something that can be displayed rather than actually used. I also like to discuss how makeup can relate to certain artists’ work or movements and have other people see the connections.
Which theorists (philosophers, sociologists, critical theorists, feminist theorists, etc.) do you think have influenced the site and why? That’s something I’m still wrestling with! I can’t think of anyone in particular right now, but I guess fashion theorists have been a big influence since makeup and fashion are so connected.
How does your feminism influence the site? I try to bring it up whenever I see an item or ad that I think may be positive or negative for women.
What do you think cosmetics as art objects can tell us about the culture in which we live? I think it tells us that consumers are expecting more design-wise from everyday objects. They’re getting more savvy and realizing that some objects don’t have to be strictly utilitarian – they can be pretty to look at as well. I think this is true of a lot of household goods, but makeup in particular has been upping its packaging and design in the past decade or so because the market is getting so saturated. So many brands are competing for consumers’ attention (and cash) so I think they feel they have to make their products stand out by making the packaging visually interesting.
How many exhibitions a year do you create? At the minimum, 4 – holiday/winter, spring, summer and fall. This year I’ve started launching some special exhibitions in between the regular seasonal ones.
How do you go about planning and executing an exhibition? The seasonal ones are pretty easy to plan. I basically take the new releases for that season and incorporate them with some older pieces from seasons past. The special exhibitions require a bit more thought since they revolve around a particular theme. Once I recognize patterns or trends in makeup design and packaging, they become special exhibitions. This can take a year or more.
How do you store all your objects? How much space do they require, do they need climate control, etc.? I store them in my “makeup room” (a.k.a. our master closet) in my home. Since makeup items are small they don’t take up much room, but in the past year I’ve had to transfer some to another closet at home. Since I store them at home I can control the temperature so that’s not really an issue, and they’re in drawers to shield them from light.
What is the shelf life of an object you buy for the museum? Do you ever have to deaccession an item because it’s gotten moldy, etc.? I haven’t had to deaccession an item yet. Most of them are powder-based products, which can last for decades. The cream-based products are a bit more worrisome, but as long as they’re stored properly they can last a pretty long time as well. The only thing I worry about is color fading. Over time I imagine the pigments would leach out due to light exposure, but since they’re only exposed to light when I photograph them for exhibitions, it’s not much of a problem right now. If the museum existed as a physical space, where the objects would be on display 24/7, that would be something for which I’d have to come up with a solution – putting UV-resistant clear plastic on top of them or something.
Which existing physical museums do you use as models for the MM? I look mostly to fashion and perfume museums/exhibitions. I find the Shoe Museum in Toronto very inspiring, along with the Museum of Bags and Purses (Amsterdam), the 2010 Perfume Diaries exhibition at Harrod’s in London, and the Amore Pacific Museum in Korea.
What is your philosophy of curation? Hmm, no formal philosophy – I try to collect things that I think people will have an interest in or that I think are important to preserve from a historical perspective.
What makes an item worthy of display in the museum? It has to be very rare, interesting to look at, or have some kind of historical component to it (i.e., it represents the company’s heritage in some way). Sometimes though, as in the case with Stila, I display certain objects just because I find them cute or fun.
Where do you see the MM in 5 years? I hope that it occupies a physical space in some way. If not a permanent space, maybe a temporary exhibition at a local gallery or a pop-up museum (I wish one of these big makeup companies would sponsor it!) If it doesn’t occupy a physical space, I hope that the website would be overhauled to make it more of a virtual gallery/exhibition space with less emphasis on the blog aspect.
What do you do when you’re not blogging, or is this a full-time gig? Sadly this is not full-time. I work a regular full-time day job and manage the Museum on weekends or before/after work during the week.
Is there anything else you’d like to share? Just that I would like to have more of a dialogue with Museum visitors – anyone who drops by, please leave comments and feedback. I want to hear from you!