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July 2014

Into the MM archives: Shu Uemura BTB24 compact

I was going through my Shu storage and realized I had never posted about this lovely little collection released back in the summer of 2007.  In honor of the 24th anniversary of the first Shu Uemura boutique in Omotesando, Tokyo, the company collaborated with noted Japanese graphic designer Hideki Inaba. 






I just picked up the empty palette, but there were some other items in the collection.

(image from flickr.com)

Hideki Inaba has no formal education in design (he studied mechanical engineering), but that has not stopped him from producing cutting-edge work and collaborating with companies such as Nike, Sony and Levi's, in addition to Shu Uemura.  Says one critic, "[His work] has an amazing sense of lightness and movement, while his use of proportion and composition is spot on, giving it a very Japanese sense of harmony and balance," while another states, "His gestural design evokes both the calligraphic traditions of Japan and the contemporary aesthetic of computer graphics."  He refuses to reveal what software he uses to create the floating, swirling shapes he is best known for, but observers believe it's a combination of computer-generated lines and techniques borrowed from traditional Japanese woodblock printing (ukiyo-e).

Inaba produced his "New Line" series in 2004, which was later used for the Shu collection.


(images from designboom.com)

In 2010 and 2011 Inaba shifted slightly from his earlier colorful, seemingly weightless forms with Burst Helvetica as well as several other works. 

Burst Helvetica (closeup and installation view):


(images from hidekiinaba.com)



In 2011 he had an exhibition consisting of several works in a series he called Small Idea. 




(images from hidekiinaba.com)

Some of the elements in this series were later colorized and used to adorn the facade of an Agnes B. store.

Agnes B Inaba
(image from facebook.com)

In 2013 Inaba made a return to his earlier work with his "Vecta" exhibition, which paid tribute to the numerous and intricate vector lines used to form his signature shapes.


Overall, I like Inaba's work as I find the swirling patterns to be almost hypnotic.  I just wish there was a little more info available about his technique and the meaning (if any) behind his work.

What do you think of this collab? 

Not quite fit for a queen: Signature Club A Nefertiti collection

Once again I've stumbled upon something interesting while researching a completely different topic.  I came across this Nefertiti-themed collection by Signature Club A at the Home Shopping Network (HSN) website.  The design on the powder is a bit...strange.


Another view:


And a bronzer:

(images from hsn.com)

Compare the designs, if you will, to the Egyptian Museum Berlin's bust of Nefertiti, which dates to 1340 B.C. and is perhaps the most well-known image of her.

I don't see much of a resemblance, do you?


(images from egyptian-museum-berlin.com)

Egyptian-inspired makeup is not a new concept.  From Liz Taylor's turn as Cleopatra back in 1963 to Katy Perry's "Dark Horse" video, Westerners' perception of Egyptian beauty remains in the foreground of many makeup artists' and celebrities' imaginations.  Additionally, both Cleopatra and Nefertiti are both renowned for their beauty which makes them ideal for makeup collections.  Indeed, many products are inspired by Nefertiti's legendary allure - off the top of my head I can think of a gold nail polish by Deborah Lippmann and a (discontinued) highlighting powder by Becca that are both named after this queen.  A 2002 MAC face chart shows how to get a Nefertiti look, while this vintage lipstick is printed with heiroglyphics and Nefertiti in profile.


(images from etsy.com)

So I don't find a makeup collection based on this woman to be odd.  What I do find weird is the actual design that is supposed to be Nefertiti in the Signature Club A powder.  To my eye it looks like some sort of alien, what with the abnormally long neck and misshapen head.   And while I'm no expert in Egyptian art or history, the rectangles positioned behind each side of the head do not resemble an ancient Egyptian headdress in the slightest, and certainly not the one that adorns the most famous depiction of Nefertiti.  All in all, it's bizarre.  Or just bad design. 

What do you think?

Behind the scenes at the Makeup Museum, part 2

Today I invite you check out what goes on behind the scenes of the Makeup Museum's exhibition installation (see part 1 for the more general blogging aspects.)  I provided a brief glimpse into exhibition setup with Sweet Tooth, but that was for a one-of-a-kind show.  This post will cover the process of setting up the basic seasonal exhibitions using the summer 2014 exhibition as an example.

In terms of "curation" I generally start thinking about the seasonal exhibitions months in advance.  I don't just go pulling objects out of museum storage willy-nilly the day I install and photograph the exhibition - it's planned over months.  I draft a blog post and list newly released items I want to include.  Based on those, I work in items from previous years, and if it seems like I need to add more (I need to have enough for 16 shelves, after all), I start poking around for vintage items that would make good additions.  I usually have no idea what objects will go on which shelves, but I always know the items and any additional materials (ads, pictures, etc.) that need to get installed prior to the actual installation.  I also have to get the label text ready in advance, which is trickier than it sounds since most of the time when I write a post about an object I don't use the formal name of the product, so I have to go hunting it down.  And sometimes for older items for which I can't remember the release date I have to look that up too.  I put everything in a Word document and the husband lays out the labels in InDesign with the Museum's logo - how sweet is that?

Now let's look at how I physically install the seasonal exhibitions.  First things first:  I need to remove the items from the previous exhibition that are still on the shelves, and for that I employ some good old white cotton gloves for handling the objects.  This way they don't get all fingerprint-y.  Down with spring 2014, up with summer!


I arrange the objects into various piles either on the shelves or on the floor according to where they're stored.  For example, all brands from A through G get stored in the top drawer in the master closet so I group them together. 



All other brands except for Paul & Joe and Stila go in the hall closet, so here's that pile.


Then I take the labels off the shelves.  As you can see, years of using double-sided tape to secure the labels have left a ton of residue which I can't seem to remove.  (Any suggestions that won't take off the finish?)


Then I start gathering the objects I plan to use in the upcoming exhibition. 


I print out any collateral materials and the labels in color.


Any pictures that are included in the exhibition are printed out on regular paper and then spray mounted to a sturdier cardstock. 


And this is where the husband comes in (again).  He's amazingly crafty - I'm not sure whether it's because he's a designer and has a lot of experience or because he's just naturally skilled, but he's very good at assembling the collateral materials.  Here's the spray booth (and our little labbits!) located beneath the cork board in the office:


He sprays the picture backs with glue and then affixes them to the cardstock.  When I try to do this it's always crooked or lumpy, and it takes me forever.  He can do it perfectly in a matter of seconds.


Going over it with the roller gets it nice and smooth.


He then cuts out the pictures very straight with an Exacto knife.  Again, when I tried to do this myself it was a disaster.  Not only did I cut everything crooked despite using the ruler, I nearly chopped off a finger or two.



The labels don't get spray mounted since they will be attached to the shelves, so they just get cut out.


Et voilà!



So once I have everything - items, labels and pictures - I start putting stuff on the shelves.  Some of them I know will have to be on the highest shelves due to the height of the pictures or ads.  There was no way I could cram that Max Factor ad on a lower shelf!


This is the hard part.  I generally spend about a half hour to 45 minutes rearranging the objects so that the format is both visually appealing and not repetitive in shape, theme or brand.  For this exhibition, I wouldn't want the Armani and Dior next to each other (too much couture), and I wouldn't want the DuWop shell compacts and the Benefit shell compacts next to each other because they're too similar.  And I didn't want mermaids sitting next to each other, and I don't like two items from the same brand next to each other.  I make an exception for Shu cleansing oils, however - I don't mind having two on one shelf and two on the shelf next to it if they're from the same collection, as you can see from the spring exhibition.  Anyway, I play around and sometimes I don't even have a reason as to why I want the items arranged a certain way.  I just know when it looks "right".

Once I get everything in place, I start setting it up to be photographed, i.e., taking everything out of their boxes and attaching additional pictures to the wall.  Depending on the height of the objects I can lean the picture against the wall behind it, but if it's an open palette that will block it, I have to tape the picture above it. 

Generally speaking I prefer to hang up the vintage ads with metal clips.  However, for the vintage ads used in the summer 2014 exhibition, those were cut and spray mounted because they were included in much larger magazine pages, and they looked better by themselves than being surrounded by text.


I make any final tweaks and once I've decided I'm satisfied with the placement, only then do the labels go up.  Then I open any palettes that need to be opened and start shooting.  The top row is difficult to photograph since I have to get on a ladder.  

Here's the finished product.  If you'll notice I switched the Wet 'n' Wild palettes and the Laduree items...the shapes (open round compacts) of the Wet 'n' Wild ones were too similar to the Chantecaille palettes to have in the same row.  At least, that's how it seemed to me. 

Final summer 2014 exhibition

After I photograph everything I don't put it away.  I close any open palettes and put them back in their boxes so they don't get dusty, but I just leave all the items on the shelves instead of putting them back into storage.  The labels stay up until the next exhibition as well.

And that's how it's done!  Questions?  Comments? 

Curator's Corner, 7/6/2014

CC LogoDid everyone have a nice 4th of July weekend?  I did!  Here are this week's links.

- MAC will be teaming up with designer Prabal Gurung for a special holiday collection.  I hope the packaging is spectacular. 

- Refinery29 brings us one beauty junkie's plea to stop judging her for using chemical-laden products. 

- In an unsurprising effort to get men to use more products, Neutrogena launched a "junkface" campaign urging men to use a dedicated face wash rather than the same bar soap for the rest of the body (including their "junk".)  The accompanying infographic is hilarious, make sure you check it out!

- Eyebrow makeup sales are booming:  they increased a whopping 28% in the past year, compared to only a 3% increase in overall prestige cosmetics.  I'm not sure whether it's really the "Cara Delevingne effect" or whether companies are simply introducing more brow products, but either way brows are definitely on the beauty radar of many women.

- My own experience with Botox was less than stellar and I decided I wouldn't get it again, but some new evidence shows it can help cure depression.  Maybe I should reconsider?

- Finally, in the truly absurd new beauty/health product category, we have the Kgoal Activity Tracker, which, as you might have guessed, helps women to "exercise their pelvic floor muscles correctly".  Do we really need this?!

The random:

- The Center for the Future of Museums discusses a MOOC (massively open online course) being offered through Harvard on "Tangible Things", i.e. the study of material culture and how items can become centers for interdisplinary study.  Wish I could take it!

- Here's a warm welcome to art history joining the 21st century in this piece on how Instagram can be used in art history courses

- A macabre new show that examines the history of funeral wear will be opening at the Met.  Since I am rather morbid at times I'd like to see it.

- I plan on downloading this Curator app, which has just been redesigned.  Sounds pretty neat.

- Finally, who's watching the first part of The '90s:  The Last Great Decade? tonight on National Geographic?  I will fall asleep well before it's over but it's a must-see for this '90s woman...been salivating for it since April.

What have you been up to this week?

MM Summer 2014 exhibition


I wanted this summer's exhibition to have an ever so slight vintage feel, along with fantastical creatures.  I'm still in awe of the turn of the century drawings predicting what life would be like in the year 2000 so one of them was chosen to be the exhibition poster.  And of course I'm still obsessed with mermaids so there are a few in there too.  Finally, I liked the idea of mixing kitsch with high-end...for example, Armani's elegant Écailles mother of pearl palette is perched next to Too-Faced Quickie Chronicles palette and MAC's hibiscus-embossed blush.  So no overarching theme this year, just a blend of cheerful summery goodness.  Enjoy!







Top shelves, left to right.

Givenchy Terre Exotique Healthy Glow Powder:




Stila 2003 calendar and DuWop Sea Shell compacts:



The Balm Hot Mama, Bahama Mama and Cabana Boy:




Another mermaid-y shelf:  Max Factor ad from 1962 and an adorable cardboard box that held cotton pads. 




I had no idea what Coets was when I spotted this on E-bay but I had to have it since it had a mermaid applying makeup!  I found out that it was THE go-to company for cotton pads until they went out of business some years ago.  Apparently they had some kind of partnership with Helena Rubinstein, which I looked into but couldn't find any info on.



Second row, left to right.

Fragonard perfumed soap...I didn't get the best angle but there is a seahorse on the soap itself.


Too-Faced Quickie Chronicle in the Bathing Beauty and MAC My Paradise blush:


Armani Écailles palette:


Benefit She Shells lip glosses...thought these were gone for good since they're from 2002.  But they popped up on E-bay and I was so excited.



Third row, left to right.

Dior Transat palette:



LM Ladurée highlighting powder and lip balm:



Stila travel palette and Benefit Hoola bronzer...this might be the first time I've worked a non-collectible into an exhibition.  I actually use Hoola, as the worn edges attest.


Chantecaille La Baleine palettes:




Bottom row, left to right.

La Cross nail ad from 1941 and a Volupte seahorse compact from the '50s:






Wet 'n' Wild Color Icon Bronzers from 2012 (looked everywhere for these and couldn't find them at the time - once again, E-bay came through) and 2014:


Paul & Joe blotting sheets:



Benefit makeup bag:


While I'm very pleased with how the exhibition turned out, I would dearly love to get my hands on this Bourjois Evening in Paris oyster edition perfume.  I know that fragrance is outside the Makeup Museum's purview and that this is wildly overpriced for a cardboard box and bakelite oyster shell, but it's in excellent condition and would be so perfect for a summer exhibition.  Maybe someday if someone else doesn't snatch it up!

What do you think of the exhibition?  Are you hearing ocean waves and feeling the sand between your toes? 

I scream, you scream, we all scream for (Stila) ice cream!

I find it extremely hard to believe that Stila is turning 20 years old!  I mean I know it's the truth as I wrote a post on '90s beauty some time ago, but wow!  I'd love to do a brand retrospective blog post and/or exhibition but that will have to be for another time.  Right now, I'm going to talk about the Ice Cream collection*, a lineup of eye shadow trios and blush duos (oh how I love the return to the old round packaging!) that Stila released in honor of their 20-year milestone.  Alas, there's nary a Stila girl to be found, but there are some ridiculously cute illustrations of sweet frozen treats.  They're fun and girly without being childish.


(images from meccacosmetica.com.au)

The collection does not appear to be available in the U.S., at least not yet.  I clicked on this link for the U.S. Asos site for the eye shadow trios and in tiny letters beneath the product description, it says that this item does not ship to Australia or the U.S.  Then why, pray tell, is it listed at the U.S. side of the Asos site?!  Sigh. 

On one hand I think the collection is worth tracking down through other means since it commemorates an important anniversary for one of my favorite brands, and I adore the old round cardboard packaging.  On the other hand, there are no Stila girls involved, which frankly baffles me.  Those girls helped make the brand a success in its early stages and should have been used for such a momentous occasion.   Stila, if you're still in business in another 10 years, let ME handle the design of a limited edition collection for your 30th anniversary.  I guarantee it would be a smashing success as I know what Stila fans want.

What do you think of the collection?  And what are your favorite Stila products/packaging/memories of the brand?

*Thanks to British Beauty Blogger for the heads up on this collection!