Artist collaboration

Worlds of swirl: Kathryn Beals for Laura Mercier

As soon as I laid eyes on the mesmerizing swirls of this Laura Mercier bronzing compact I knew it was a Museum must-have.  Only when I visited their website to find the official name of the compact for the summer exhibition label did I discover that this beauty was the work of California-based artist Kathryn Beals

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

I was hypnotized by the marbleized pattern well as the color scheme of celestial blues with ribbons of gold. 

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

I believe the bronzer is a cream formula so it began "sweating" a bit when I placed it the windowsill to take photos. 

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer

Beals, a self-taught artist raised in British Columbia, is a third-generation painter who began selling her artwork at the age of 13.  Her love of the outdoors led her to pursue a career in forestry studying aspen trees.  She eventually switched to painting full-time, and both her professional background and camping adventures in the Northwest made landscapes her primary subject matter. 

Kathryn Beals, Death Valley Superbloom

Her technique changed in 2017, when she discovered "fluid pouring" in which streams of variously colored acrylic paint are poured onto a canvas to form abstract, yet organic-looking, imagery. "[I] immediately fell in love with the way fluid paintings come out looking like something in nature; from cells to rocks to aerial photos to galaxies," she says. In this way they function sort of as nature's inkblots in that the finished product can resemble different natural phenomena to different viewers: one might see a night sky or geological formation while another sees a microscopic organism or ocean waves, or it could be all of these simultaneously. Beals also credits her grapheme color synesthesia - meaning she sees words and numbers in color - and migraine auras as key influences on the patterns she creates.

Kathryn Beals, Pink and Yellow

Kathryn Beals, Ocean Colors

Beals began experimenting with incorporating metallic leaf into her abstract works to add a bit of structure and sheen to them. She pioneered a unique metal leafing technique by using liquid adhesive to outline natural details (trees, rivers, etc.) and applying gold, silver or copper leaf on top. The paintings are then topped off with a layer of shiny resin for a reflective, three-dimensional effect. Earlier this year she launched her own online course to train other artists in this technique. All of Beals' series are based on nature - riverbeds, forests, and glaciers seem to be her favorite sources of inspiration.

Kathryn Beals, Gold and Sunrise

Kathryn Beals, Gold Aurora Borealis

Kathryn Beals, Glacier series 2

Kathryn Beals, Glacier series 2 detail

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 7

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 11 - green geode

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 6

Kathryn Beals, Riverbed series 6 detail

To give you a better sense of Beals' process I've included this video. I love how it combines a slightly haphazard technique (acrylic pouring) with a more intricate one (metal leaf outlines) to create a perfect marriage of abstraction and traditional landscapes. It also looks like she's left-handed, and you know how cool I think lefties are.

I enjoy Beals' work, but I'm even more impressed by her charitable mindset. She is fully devoted to donating a good portion of the proceeds from her art sales to various nonprofits. She explains, "I want to remember my connection to forestry and the outdoors in my work, so I use my art to raise funding for conservation nonprofits. As a cancer survivor, I want to give back, so I plan to do a benefit series every year with my artwork." In the past Beals has given The Nature Conservancy, the American Cancer Society, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Doctors Without Borders, among others. Her most recent series this month raised over $5,000 for Leave No Trace, an organization that educates those who manage public lands and the public itself on reducing their environmental impact. From 2017 till now, Beals has donated over $20,000 to charitable organizations and hopes to raise $100,000 in her lifetime. I'd say she's well on her way! And, uh, I also know a museum she could donate to. ;)

Anyway, I was pretty excited to find that Beals had posted the original artwork that was used for the Laura Mercier bronzer at her Instagram.

Kathryn Beals

Of course I had to highlight the section that's on the case.

Laura Mercier Mediterranean Escape bronzer/work by Kathryn Beals
(images from kathrynbeals.com and @kathrynbeals)

I'm still itching to know how the collab came about and why Laura Mercier selected Beals for this piece.  I left a comment on the artist's Instagram to no avail, but that's par for the course I suppose given how infrequently artists actually respond to my requests.  Oh well.  I think the company may just happened to have been one of the over 6 million views of this 2018 viral Facebook video/artist interview, and approached Beals for a collab.  But I'd like to talk with the artist and get her views on makeup and beauty, especially since she looks to be bare-faced most of the time - I'd be curious to know if she'd actually use the product her artwork appeared on.  I also think it would have been really cool if Laura Mercier had added clear acrylic on top of the case to make it resemble one of Beals' finished pieces even more.  (Check out NARS's Man Ray lipstick coffrets if you can't picture what I'm talking about.)

What do you think of this bronzer and of Beals's work?  If you had to choose, would you buy this one or MAC's Electric Wonder collection?


When pigs fly: Chikuhodo x Mochichito

MochichitoApologies for the back to back artist collaboration posts. I was hoping to have a February recap in between but work has been sapping my spirit even more so than usual, so I ended up abandoning Curator's Corner last month.  I don't think you'll mind too much though, once you see the positively amazing porcine-themed brush from Chikuhodo, who teamed up with illustrator/graphic designer Mochichito (a.k.a. Steph Fung) to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  You might remember how smitten I was with Chikuhodo's Moon Rabbit brush, so as soon as I saw this one I knew I had to add it to the menagerie.  If I remember I'll try to update this post with comparison shots to that brush so that those of you who actually intend on using it can see how the size and shape compare.  I will say that as with the Moon Rabbit brush, the quality of the bristles of the Mochichito one appears impeccable - super soft and fluffy.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito brush

The detailing and craftsmanship are simply stunning.  The handle has a scene depicting two piglets resting on fluffy silver clouds and a gold crescent moon, while silver and pink cherry blossoms bloom behind them.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Naturally I had to take tons of close-up shots so you can appreciate the beauty, but I'm not sure if they do it justice...it's much more charming than my pictures were able to capture. 

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

As with the Moon Rabbit brush, there's a touch of iridescence on the silver portion.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Just when you think they couldn't possibly get any cuter, Mochichito ratchets up the adorable factor by giving the piggies tiny silver dimples.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

So who is the woman behind all this preciousness?  Fortunately I didn't have to do much digging, as Beautylish has a brief but informative interview with the artist posted online.  Mochichito is the brainchild of Steph Fung, a graphic designer who began focusing more on her illustrative pursuits several years ago.  Fung earned her BFA in Digital Media from Otis College of Art and Design in 2011. While she is an accomplished designer, the Mochichito project allows her to indulge her love of anything kawaii and handmade crafts. A lifetime doodler - "I loved drawing in notebooks when I should have been taking notes," she says - the Mochichito brand is a natural progression of Fung's passion for illustration.  Interestingly, Fung is primarily a digital artist, i.e. what you see is not made by hand on paper and then translated into a digital format - her illustrations are originally drawn on a screen.  Adobe Illustrator is her favorite tool, as she claims she's "never been very good at traditional mediums."  I find this fascinating since I believed it would actually be much more difficult to be creative with digital illustration techniques given their limitations, but the ingenuity displayed in Mochichito shows that if you're a true artist, the medium doesn't matter - you'll find a way to uniquely express your vision.

Fung's subject matter consists largely of animals and flowers, with some playful critters that don't actually exist in nature.  Yes, there are mermaids!  She explains: "I would probably describe my style as kawaii cute! I always try to have fun with word play or convey a fun idea or concept in my art. I love bright colors (but also pastel), animals, and cute faces (is that weird?)".  Nope, not at all!

Mochichito - Bunilla

Mochichito - flower kids

Mochichito - Mother's Day mermaid

Mochichito - frog mermaid

Mochichito - Mushrumbrella

Fung finds inspiration in a variety of places.  "I’m very much influenced by anime, stationery and lovely packaging, fashion, music, and other people’s art—there is so much to see at your fingertips these days."  Indeed, Fung is mindful of what her fellow artists are up to, and seems to enjoy participating in 100 day Instagram challenges with them.  My favorite are these cheeky illustrations she completed for #100daysoflittledudes, which also show her aforementioned love of word play. 

100-little-dudes-34

100-little-dudes

The Mochichito store offers an array of stickers, pins, and more recently, acrylic toys based on the illustrations Fung created for the "100 days of tiny terrariums" Instagram challenge.  I hope to see stationery or even stuffed animals some day!

Mochichito stickers

Mochichito pins

Mochichito - terrarium toy

Mochichito - terrarium toy

Speaking of which, I think another reason Mochichito's work resonates with me so much is the fact that she has a stuffed teddy named Little Bear that accompanies her on her travels.

Mochichito - Little Bear

As for the Beautylish collab, previously Mochichito was responsible for designing the store's Lucky Bags, which are essentially Japanese fukubukuro - a custom for the new year where bags are filled with mystery contents offered at a much lower price than if you purchased them individually.  For example, a $75 Beautylish Lucky Bag typically has full size items worth $150 or or more.  In 2018 Fung took inspiration from the Japanese legend of the Seven Lucky Gods who are said to grant good luck (shown top to bottom, left to right in the illustration below):  Bishamonten, Daikokoten, Hotei, Benzaiten, Ebisu, Jurojin, and Fukurokuju.

Mochichito - seven lucky gods

Mochichito - seven lucky gods

Mochichito - seven lucky gods for Beautylish 2018 lucky bag

This year, Beautylish tapped Fung again to come up with an illustration for a Chikuhodo brush to celebrate the lunar new year.  Fung shares the creative process behind the adorable end result:  "Since the design was for the Lunar New Year, I knew I wanted to include a moon. 2019 is the Year of the Pig, so I thought making a large, gleaming moon as the pigs' playground would be so cute. Incorporating some floral elements into the design would add some soft, delicate touches to frame the scene.  The story behind the design is really up to the viewer! I wanted to keep it kind of open-ended. You could think of the pigs as two lovers, a mama or papa pig and their piglet, or just two frolicking friends." 

Chikuhodo x Mochichito - original brush illustration

It was Fung's first time designing a brush handle, and I think she translated the design to suit the handle beautifully. "It was definitely different from anything I’ve worked on in the past. I had to keep in mind the shape and curvature of the brush and make sure all of the important parts of the artwork would be seen from the front of the brush, but also how I might continue the artwork around the sides and back of the brush, while also keeping in mind how it would photograph."  I agree that you have to think differently about how an illustration would work in 3D versus on a flat surface, and Fung executed it perfectly.

Chikuhodo x Mochichito

Overall, obviously I'm in love with this brush and all of Mochichito's work.  Art with a more serious style or message is great, but sometimes your eyes and brain just need cute things.  And it could be because I've just discovered it and have been watching it nonstop, but Mochichito's characters remind me so much of those from Adventure Time, a truly whimsical kids' cartoon that I can't seem to get enough of lately. There's just something so comforting about cuteness!  As for Chikuhodo, the designs on their brush handles tend to be more elegant and sophisticated, so going the kawaii route was a refreshing change of pace.

What do you think of this brush and Mochichito? 


Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

There's a reason you haven't seen much of Pai Pai at the Museum as of late:  unfortunately, the company wasn't doing enough business in the U.S. so they ceased their short-lived shipping here.  But the good news is that a fellow collector sussed out another Mexico-based store that carries the line and will send it to the States.  After missing out on several really cool collaborations I was finally able to resume adding Pai Pai to the Museum's collection.  Without further ado, I introduce their latest release, a collaboration with Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

I had hoped to get the exclusive scoop on the collection and emailed the artist for an interview.  Much to my disappointment she did not respond.  (And you wonder why I'm continually discouraged - this is the second artist in a row to turn me down).  Nevertheless I was able to cobble together some information on Leovy's work.  For the Pai Pai collection, it appears she created four different paintings to be used on four lipstick cases.  To my knowledge they are untitled. 

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Nuez

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Beso de Angel

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Opalo

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Copal

Here are the colors in case you're not a crazy collector and actually want to use them!

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Nuez and Beso de Angel

Pai Pai x Ana Leovy - Copal and Opalo

Ana Leovy is a young Mexico City-based artist whose vibrant, woman-centric paintings have garnered the attention from everyone from the likes of Man Repeller to Elle Mexico.  Originally trained as a graphic designer, Leovy reignited her love of painting after earning her Master degree in illustration at a university in Barcelona.  Upon completion of her degree she moved back to Mexico to pursue painting full-time.  She states in an interview, "Although I love graphic design, being an artist gives me so much more creative freedom. People come to me now because they like my style and they trust what I will create for them, whereas from my experience working with design clients, they were a bit harder to please – and I was stressed all the time. Art doesn’t feel like a job at all, it brings me lots of joy and peace, especially when seeing the reaction of people who have bought my work, it’s the best feeling ever!"

Ana-leovy-flowers

Thematically, Leovy's work consists mostly of the female form.  Their bodies are often asymmetrical, out of proportion and show a range of colors, reflecting Leovy's commitment to depicting diversity in body shapes, sizes and skin tones.  "We all come in different shapes and colors, I think that is so interesting and awesome. We should learn to embrace our uniqueness. I like playing with distorted bodies in order to avoid falling into any specific beauty category. I think it’s important to encourage diversity; my work isn’t about creating beautiful people, but trying to send a message of self-love and empowerment. Perfection is not necessarily beautiful; to me different is more exciting.  We already have perfection in photography...I want everyone to be able to relate to my work regardless of their skin color or body shape." While this may seem disingenuous coming from someone as gorgeous as Leovy - I tend to roll my eyes at beautiful, thin women (especially models and actresses) who preach "loving your body" - I believe she is sincere.  The proof is in her work; you will not find skinny, conventionally beautiful model types in any of Leovy's paintings.  This is a refreshing change from other illustrators, especially the more fashion-based ones.  Leovy's women are modern and yes, well-dressed (the artist loves fashion, citing Mara Hoffman and Elie Saab among her favorite designers), but without the reinforcement of beauty and fashion stereotypes.  This makes her work seem much less intimidating and achieves her goal of being relatable to the average woman.

Ana Leovy

Ana Leovy

Another reason Leovy's work seems more welcoming than other depictions of women we see so frequently in beauty collabs is the overwhelming spirit of camaraderie and sisterhood.  “All my life women around me have been nothing but inspiration. I love being able to confide in them," she says.  I particularly love this scene of women having a picnic in a lush garden, clearly enjoying each other's company (along with some wine and Vogue magazines!)

Ana Leovy
 

Ana Leovy

I also enjoy the feminist bend in Leovy's work, which shows an awareness of the inequality faced by women.  She states:  “Sadly we are still a very chauvinist community where you get blamed for being out too late or the way you dress...It has never been my intention to become too political, however I think now more than ever it is important to stand up and support what you believe in. It is amazing to see so many movements all around the world demanding what should be natural; equality, love and acceptance. So after seeing all this it is impossible not to feel vulnerable, getting involved in such topics are a small way of showing support.” 

Ana Leovy

Ana Leovy

Depicting women by themselves, enjoying their time alone is another way Leovy expresses a more feminist angle.  "[Mexico] is a country where most women are raised to be married and have children, nothing else. Even though this has been a year of very feminist-oriented social media, I believe we’re still lacking the day-to-day actions that go in hand with these movements, to really practice what we preach,” she says.  Showing women without a male partner, and even happy without a male presence, emphasizes the notion of women's independence as well as a rejection of the societal expectations of marriage and procreation.  It's rare that you see women living "happily ever after" totally on their own; single women are generally still viewed as defective, or at the very least, lonely spinsters.  That's why I love seeing Leovy's paintings of women in a room by themselves, reading, watching TV in their sweats or simply having a moment with their thoughts, as these pieces fight back against the stigma single women endure.  (And even if you're partnered, it's important to have some time alone on occasion to maintain your sense of self.)

Ana Leovy

Ana Leovy

Now that we've covered the main themes in Leovy's oeuvre, I want to talk a little about her style, particularly her use of color.  The landscape and textiles of her native Mexico as well as the tropical environment of the Caribbean, where she lived for several years, shaped her preference for vibrant colors.  The unexpected combinations reflect Leovy's "no rules" approach.  "When it comes to color in my work I believe the more the merrier, it's the part of the creation process I enjoy the most, I follow no rule or guideline whatsoever and I love it...Choosing the color palette is my favorite part, I love letting myself flow and see what comes out. I think the colors I choose are sort of a personal journal of my mood swings."

Ana Leovy

While Leovy's style is uniquely her own, I can't help but notice a striking resemblance to Matisse.  Another article points out the similarity between Leovy and Matisse in terms of color, but I'd also argue that the use of a somewhat flattened perspective, background patterns, and overall composition are reminiscent of Matisse's interiors.  Some examples, alternating between the two artists and starting with Matisse:

Henri Matisse, Anemones and Woman, Harmony in Blue
 
Ana Leovy
 
Matisse, Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937
(image from henrimatisse.org)
 
Ana Leovy
 
 
Henri Matisse, La Musique, 1939
(image from henrimatisse.org)
 
Ana Leovy
 
Henri Matisse, Interior with Etruscan Vase, 1940
(image from clevelandart.org)
 
Ana Leovy
 
Even the way the vases of flowers are rendered look like Matisse, as seen in his Yellow Odalisque (1937).
 
Henri Matisse, Yellow Odalisque, 1937
(image from spectator.co.uk)
 
Ana Leovy


In terms of format, Leovy enjoys both large and small scale. “Every format has its good and bad side, big canvases might feel intimidating at first but once you get started they are so much fun, love a big white space to intervene. However, tiny pieces are the cutest and I also enjoy doing them. So I guess I love them all, I like being able to change formats and not being stuck with only one, I think I would find that boring,” she says.  For the Pai Pai collection, I thought for sure the works she created would be large, but they actually look tiny.

Ana Leovy for Pai Pai
(images from @analeovy_art)

So that brings us full circle to the Pai Pai collection.  Overall I really enjoy Leovy's work, as it's a change of pace from the fashion illustrations we've seen in various other collabs, and obviously I love the feminist vibe.  I also like how Pai Pai switches it up for each collection by choosing artists with wildly varied styles. Leovy's paintings are totally different from, say, the work of Jorge Serrano and illustrations of Pinut Brein.  Pai Pai always keeps me guessing and it's another aspect I love about the brand - they never stick to one type of artist.  I just wish I could have gotten some information about how the partnership with Pai Pai came about, what Leovy's approach to makeup is (if any - she looks rather au naturel!) and whether anything in particular inspired her paintings used for the collection. 
 
What do you think of this collection and Leovy's work?  Which image is your favorite?
 

Pearls on the half shell: Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre

Over the years I've become much more aware of brands sold outside the U.S., but this holiday season I discovered yet another new-to-me brand based in Japan.  Mikimoto is a historic purveyor of fine pearls and jewelry, founded in 1899 by Kokichi Mikimoto, the first person to successfully create cultured pearls.  The cosmetics line was established in 1970 and as far as I know is not available for sale in the States.  When a fellow collector alerted me to their holiday lineup, a collaboration with French illustrator Emmanuel Pierre, I took one look and knew it belonged in the Museum.  The appropriately themed Wish on a Pearl collection playfully celebrates Mikimoto's heritage thanks to the delightfully strange collages by Pierre. 

Can we just take a second to appreciate how beautifully the two key pieces from the collection were wrapped?!  A sturdy blue tote bag was also included.  This sophisticated wrapping is a refined contrast to the unbridled weirdness that lies inside.  Get ready, it's gonna be a wild ride!

Mikimoto-wrapped

The eyeshadow palette has a bizarre scene depicting a winged seahorse, several figures whose lower halves consist of a bird, fish and shells, and a cheeky little boy gleefully picking his nose and wearing a hat made of coral.  He sits atop a crescent moon, which is being hugged by a girl-jellyfish hybrid. My favorite character is the lady on the right holding a lipstick above a Christmas tree decorated with coral and pearls.

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

The palette itself has equally peculiar figures:  another half-seashell, half-woman wearing a hat adorned with a tomato and holding a spiral shell sprouting berry sprigs, and a man dressed in 17th century (?) garb with a mandela blooming around his waist. 

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

After spending a solid week looking at these images and others by Pierre, I still couldn't make any sense out of them so I asked my fellow former art history major husband what he thought.  He seemed to think they had a slight fairy tale or children's book vibe, and as it turns out, he was spot on (of course).  The Mikimoto cosmetics site provides a little bedtime Christmas story for the characters represented on the packaging.  As always, Google Translate doesn't help clear things up, but at least I found that there was a brief narrative behind the collection.  The first section is called "In the Sea" and is accompanied by one of the images from the palette box.  The text reads, "Christmas soon. The pearl sparkled in the sea, It seems to be a star hitting the night sky. Fish, shells, starfish, too. I'm counseling gifts. sand of star. A stone mirror. Coral lipstick. One from a gorgeous conversation. The girl is crying. 'You lost the pearl you kept.'"

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

The next segment is called "The Shining Night" (which, from when I can deduce, signifies Christmas Eve in this story) and introduces a mermaid. "A pale girl. The mermaid that can not be left alone, Pearls I owned I will give it to the girl. That night, The mermaid woke up with a bright light. The pearls decorated in the Coral Forest raise the moonlight, It seems as if it melted all over. A young man appears from over there. The two danced together."  The mermaid on the right appears on the box for the stationery set, which I'll show in a minute.

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

The final section is entitled "On Christmas Day" and features the couple from the palette: "The next morning. Mermaid is a night event I noticed that it was not a dream. That young man came over. In his hands the pearl that should have given the girl shine. Mermaid's skin looks like a pearl. It was glossy and transparent. This is transmitted from long ago. The sea Christmas story."

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018
(images from mikimoto-cosme.com)

I can't say I understood any of that, but I do like the overall sea theme and mention of a mermaid.  I'm guessing it's a story about giving the gift of pearl essence for Christmas and how its luster makes one's skin luminous and dewy like a mermaid's?  Anyway, there's no mention of the blonde bird lady or little boy, but they do appear again on the face powder box.  The powder itself is encased in a pearl-shaped container with an iridescent finish. My photos can't even approximate its beauty.  (The palette also has this finish but I couldn't seem to capture it there either.)

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

There was also a little makeup bag and a set of note cards which came free with the purchase of both makeup items.  A brush set and train case were additional gifts-with-purchase, but I was too late to get my hands on them.

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Two of the three postcard designs are the same as those on the makeup, while the third shows a half shell/half woman wearing a hat made out of a crab and holding a heart-shaped gift box.  Additional shells and pearls are scattered towards her "foot".

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

The poems on the cards offer no explanation for the images nor do they seem to align with the narrative from the website, but obviously Pierre continued with ocean/shell/sea creature motifs to tie in to the pearl theme.

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

At first glance, Emmanuel Pierre (b. 1958) seemed like an odd choice for a collaboration with a fairly traditional company like Mikimoto.  It wasn't until I noticed his work for the likes of Hermès and the New Yorker that it started to seem like a good fit.  Still, I find his work to be incredibly strange.  It's one of those "the more you look at it, the weirder it gets" styles.  And that's a great thing for me, given my love for all things offbeat and oddball.  I couldn't find any interviews with the artist and my art history training is failing me yet again so I can't give a thorough or even remotely accurate analysis of Pierre's work, but I will say I think it has a slight Dada feel to it given the emphasis on collages and absurdist imagery and text.  These characteristics provide a different flavor than Surrealism, whose bizarre scenes tended to be rooted in an attempt to represent the unconscious.  Pierre's oeuvre also lacks the occasionally unsettling or menacing vibes of Surrealism; I find it more whimsical and humorous than creepy, and the Dadaists were well-known for their sense of humor and quick wit.  To put it briefly, I'm thinking more Duchamp than Dali when I look at Pierre's work.  So let's take a peek, shall we?

While Pierre certainly proves his mettle at conventional illustration styles, it's his collages - fantastical scenes depicting figures dressed in anachronistic clothing and oddly combined with a range of objects and animals - where I think he truly excels. Take, for example, these ladies engaged in some sort of strawberry/comb exchange...and did you notice the kitty paws on the woman on the right?

Screen Shot 2018-12-28 at 2.53.43 PM

And this jellyfish lady made me smile. You can see the lower portion of her bell on the makeup bag.

Smile of jellyfish

Mikimoto x Emmanuel Pierre, holiday 2018

Here are the very clever 2015 annual report and Wanderland exhibition catalogue he designed for Hermès.

Hermes 2015 annual report illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

Hermes 2015 annual report illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

Hermes 2015 exhibition book illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

Hermes 2015 exhibition book illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

Hermes 2015 exhibition book illustrated by Emmanuel Pierre

These illustrations for World of Interiors magazine show that, while Pierre's choice of motifs seem totally out of left field at first, they actually make sense in that they always express the topic they're accompanying.  As with the Mikimoto collection, the artist brings together fanciful images to form a cohesive theme that represents whatever subject he's working on - in this case, the food, tea kettle and brick chimneys signal home decor. 

Emmanuel Pierre, World of Interiors

Emmanuel Pierre, World of Interiors

Emmanuel Pierre, World of Interiors

The husband's earlier observation about the fairy tale quality of Pierre's work made me wonder whether he's illustrated children's books.  Sure enough, he completed a book for kids on the Carnival of Venice.  The strange masks and costumes can be downright scary for little ones (and, um, even for grownups such as myself), but Pierre's skillful, whimsical touch ensures nothing but fun through the canals and streets of Venice during the festivities.

Emmanuel Pierre, Venice Masquerade

Emmanuel Pierre, Venice Masquerade

Emmanuel Pierre, Venice Masquerade
(images from @emmanuelpierre_illustrateur, emmanuelpierre.fr, and tiphaine-illustration.com)

I also wonder whether Pierre is influenced at all by late 19th century greeting cards.  The human-animal-object hybrids and anthropomorphic figures are reminding me of the more bizarre scenes sometimes found in Victorian holiday cards.  Compare a few side by side (Pierre's work on the left/top, antique cards on the right/bottom). 

Emmanuel Pierre/19th century greeting card

Emmanuel Pierre/19th century greeting card

Emmanuel Pierre/19th century greeting card

Here are some examples of the animal-humans (human-animals?).  The first three are by Pierre, the next three are from the late 1800s.

Emmanuel Pierre

Emmanuel Pierre

Emmanuel Pierre

19th century greeting card

19th century greeting card

19th century greeting card
(images from @emmanuelpierre_illustrateur and designyoutrust.com)

Those turn-of-the-century folks had some weird tastes, I can tell you that!  (Their imagery also goes a lot darker and creepier than you would expect, especially for what are supposed to be joyous occasions.)  These also have me questioning whether Pierre comes up with his own vintage styles for these collages or if he uses authentic vintage sources, i.e. does he come up with all these characters and then draw everything by hand or does he somehow trace or cut out pieces from vintage magazines and other ephemera?  I'm very curious about his process.

Getting back to the Mikimoto collection, I'm still wondering how the collaboration came about and why the company selected Pierre.   I guess they wanted some charming French flair for their holiday lineup, which is a good choice.  I love more modern illustration styles, but for the holidays I find myself craving more quaint, vintage styles since I get so nostalgic.  In any case, I'm assuming as with his other clients Pierre created the images used on the packaging especially for the Mikimoto collection, although he never revealed it when he shared them back in April on his Instagram.  I have many unanswered questions, but overall I enjoyed the collection.  As you know I'm obsessed with mermaids and their underwater lairs, so weird half-seashell/fish people are right up my alley!

What do you think?  What's your favorite image from Pierre's work that I've shown here?


We're all mad here: Clé de Peau holiday 2018

Over the past few years I've really been enjoying Clé de Peau's artist collaborations for their holiday collections.  They select artists with very different styles but ones that somehow always do an amazing job representing the brand's vision and aesthetic.  This year the company partnered with Italian surrealist illustrator Daria Petrilli, who, as you will see, is as mysterious as her dreamlike artwork. 

According to this interview with the Shiseido team responsible for the collection, Clé de Peau's makeup director Lucia Pieroni selected an Alice in Wonderland theme, or a "winter fairyland" per the translation of the French "féeries d'hiver".  Consisting of pale pinks and greys contrasting with bold berry and a dash of soft shimmer, the color scheme is meant to evoke a winter tea party in an English garden.  It was packaging designer Kaori Nagata who suggested collaborating with Petrilli and who translated her beautiful illustrations to equally gorgeous boxes and palette cases.  Simply put, the team was "mesmerized by [Petrilli's] talent."  They were also searching for an artist who could elevate a theme usually intended for children and create a grown-up version of Wonderland to match the style (and price tag) of a high-end line.  As Shiseido rep Saiko Kawahara notes, "Brands of low to mid price range create many products that are 'adorable,' but I think that is precisely why it is necessary to add some refinement, such as 'a grown-up joke' or 'spicy playfulness,' when a prestige brand attempts to create an 'adorable' product."  Indeed, while Disney-fied versions of Alice worked well on mid-end brands like Beyond, Paul & Joe and Urban Decay, I don't think they'd be appropriate for Clé de Peau.  And I don't mean that in a snooty way either - that style just wouldn't be a good fit for the brand.

Now let's get to the goodies!  I picked up the eye shadow quad, pressed powder, stick highlighter, and one of the lipsticks.  I think the colors for the makeup itself are lovely, but what really blew me away is the mix of aqua, light pink and fuchsia with hints of coral and deep wine throughout the packaging.

Cdp-x-daria-petrilli

Eyeshadow-box-2

Eyeshadow-case

The playing card embossing is a stroke of genius.

Eyeshadow-open

I adore all the packaging, but the white rabbit peeking out of the box for the powder highlighter and the woman's rosy cheeks and chic dark lips on the outer case are possibly my favorites out of the collection.

Highlighterbox

Highlighter-case

Highlighter-open

I'm also very fond of this flower lady, as she embodies the talking/singing flower garden Alice encounters.  (That was my favorite scene when I was little!)

Highlighter-stick

In addition to the key, checkerboard and playing card motifs, the names for each product were also carefully chosen to align with the Alice theme.  This lipstick, for example, is called Paint Me (the other is Follow Me), an homage to both painting the queen's roses red and the "eat me/drink me" signs in Lewis Carroll's classic book.  Meanwhile, the eyeshadow quad is named Tea Party, the pressed powder Pink Push Me, and the stick highlighter Light Me.  

Lipstick

Lipstick2

The company even came up with an ad featuring a poem for each item.  The animations are looking a little Monty Python to me, but that's probably just because I've been re-watching it on Netflix the past few weeks.  It's still pretty cute.  

The moisturizer is the one piece I did not buy, as I couldn't justify the $535 (!) price tag for just the outer packaging.  Even if the jar itself was decorated I still couldn't have bought it - too rich for my blood.  Still, it's beautiful, and the keyhole cut out, along with the cut-outs on the other boxes, emphasize a connection to the entire Clé de Peau brand.  Says Ayumi Nishimoto, another member of Shiseido's creative team, "Not only does this tie in with the holiday concept ('open the door to the extraordinary'), it is also brilliantly linked to Clé de Peau Beauté’s tagline, 'unlock the power of your radiance.'"  Indeed, "clé" is French for key, so this detail creates complete cohesion across the holiday collection and Clé de Peau line.  Now that's what I call synergy!

Cdp-cream-

Apologies for the lackluster photo, it was the only one I could find of the cutout.

Keyhole cutout

The keys were also used on the skincare sets, none of which I purchased but still covet.  

Cdp-set

Finally, there were some very nice gift boxes and bags featuring different images, which were offered with the purchase of any two items from the holiday collection at the Clé de Peau website.  Since I eagerly bought the collection as soon as it became available at Neiman Marcus (so I could use my store card and also get 10% cash back via Ebates), I missed this as well.  I might hunt for one on ebay.  

Giftbox_pc
(images from cledepeau-beaute.com)

As for the worldwide marketing of the collection, both online and in-store advertising were simply dazzling.  The advertising and design team created a truly magical video where Petrilli's illustrations spring to life.  Unlike the ad above, this one features much more sophisticated animations and cutting-edge 360 degree technology so that the viewer feels totally immersed in Wonderland.  Nishimoto and fellow team member Satoko Tomizawa explain:  "As global campaigns are launched in various countries around the world, it is necessary to create something that is highly versatile and universal. This time, we took on a new challenge of making not just a campaign video, but also a 360-degree video that anyone, anywhere, can experience through their smartphones. Viewers can enjoy more of the wonderland that we have created.  While remaining respectful of Daria’s illustrations, we paid special attention to giving the campaign videos a sense of worldliness unique to 3D animation. We asked the production studio Shirogumi, Inc. to produce the CGI for the story of a rabbit jumping through keyholes and traveling through wonderland."  

Additionally, I must say the set up at their Omotesando Hills location in Tokyo was spectacular, rivaling the decor used for Kathe Fraga's breathtaking collection last year.  Tomizawa states that the collection theme allowed the company to show a more whimsical side of the brand and push the boundaries of not only packaging but also store design. "We created a spatial experience, where visitors could enter as the mysterious wonderland as if their bodies had shrunk small. Not only was the Clé de Peau Beauté Store in Omotesando Hills in holiday mode, but entire complex invited visitors to experience wonderland. Large banners hung from ceiling to the floor, blownup packaging made their appearances in the staircase, a mysterious tea party setting along with the 360-degree video was on display. It was the first time that the holiday collection was featured in such a large-scale event. Inspired by the packaging design, we were able to expand on many playful ideas for digital and spatial design. Through this wonderland we were able to show a more imaginative, playful side of the prestige brand."  I would have loved to visit this magical setup!

Cdp-store

Cdp-store-inside

Cdp-store-steps

Cdp-keyhole
(images from shiseidogroup.com)

Now that we've covered the collection, let's delve into the world of the highly secretive Daria Petrilli.  Born in 1970 in Rome, she graduated with an MA in Communication and Design at the Università La Sapienza, then moved to London and completed a degree in Experimental Illustration at the London College of Communication, a school within the prestigious University of the Arts London.  Petrilli has been commissioned for magazines (most recently, her work accompanied a rather depressing piece about suicide in Oprah Magazine), children's books and has had several solo exhibitions.  Her illustrations also served as one of the inspirations for fashion label Delpozo's fall 2016 collection.  However, it seems that Petrilli prefers to remain out of the spotlight.  She has no website, Tumblr or Instagram.  The only social media platform she uses is Pinterest, and she uses it to highlight "illustrations made ​​for my personal joy, without bosses, and even publishers ...only for my pleasure."  She has granted only two interviews and her work has been discussed in just two brief articles that I was able to find online, and they're either in Italian or badly translated, so I'm not sure how much of it I'll be able to use.  As we know, relying on Google more often than not results in nonsensical translations, but I will try to decipher everything as best I can.  It's a shame she's not as willing to put herself out there as much as some artists are, because I'm dying to know her thoughts on working with Clé de Peau and her own approach to makeup.  The few photos I was able to find of Petrilli show her seemingly barefaced save for one. 

Anyway, onto her work. I won't pretend that I can explain it or provide any real insight, but here's a brief description. Many of Petrilli's illustrations depict ethereal, brooding women occupying dreamlike landscapes and interiors, often with animals.  As with other Surrealist imagery, the scenes are odd and even a little unsettling at times.  Most of the women appear melancholy and isolated; they seem to be alone even when other figures are included.  Perhaps one is meant to be the real self and other figures/animals are a projection of her innermost thoughts and feelings, or in true Surrealist style, a representation of the unconscious mind.  These women contrast with those in the Clé de Peau collection, who seem to be peacefully relaxing within the magical realm of Wonderland.

Daria-petrilli-lady-ofthe-ibis

Daria-petrilli-in-the-garden-of-good-and-evil

While she started out painting, admiring the Renaissance frescoes of her native Rome and using the techniques of the Old Masters, Petrilli found that digital illustration best suited her interest in creating surreal images. She describes how her artistic journey and search for her personal style was shaped by her upbringing in Rome as well as the birth of her daughter:  "Ever since I was a child I lost myself in the images of illustrated books and I was completely fascinated...Taking a course of classical studies and helped by the fact that I live in a city, Rome, immersed in antiquities and ancient splendor I have always had a passion for the history of art, with a predilection for certain representation and historical periods including one on all the surrealism...I was helped by the birth of my daughter, to keep up with her or put aside my commercial work, and I found myself spending a lot of time alone me and my computer. Prior to that I drew and painted especially with the classical techniques especially acrylic, oil, watercolor, pencils, and I used the digital as a compendium...I began to realize that I could convey in a fast and effective manner the ideas that came to me all the time. And I began to compose images like this for my simple pleasure of them without a purpose or aim at something...Digital manipulation was the element that allowed me to give it life, mixing, overlapping and painting my creations and have become increasingly personal."  In looking at her work, it's hard to believe these images are created digitally.  I could easily mistake them for paintings given how seamlessly the individual elements, strange though they might be, are combined.  When I think of digital art my mind immediately jumps to collages.  Not that there's anything wrong with that - I love me a good collage - but I imagine them to resemble cutouts jumbled together rather than the smoothness of paintings.  In the illustration below, for example, I feel as though I can practically see brushstrokes on the fish, and the transparency of the women's fingers also appear to have been rendered in paint.

Daria Petrilli - fish-hat

Petrilli is particularly enamored by birds because "their eyes fascinate me for that sense of primordial concern emanating", or translated another way, "To me they communicate a sense of primordial restlessness.”   Whatever the meaning of that may be, here are some of my favorite avian-themed works by the artist.

Daria-petrili-nest

Daria Petrilli

Daria Petrilli - a dream-in-china

Daria-petrilli-swan-lady

Stylistically, I'm seeing many different artistic influences in Petrilli's work.  Her appreciation for the Renaissance art she grew up with is exemplified in a variety of ways, such as the clothing her characters wear, use of perspective and generally muted background colors.   This one in particular reminds me of two Renaissance paintings:  da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine (both the woman's hairstyle and the position of her hands holding the bird look similar) and Piero della Francesca's Montefeltro Altarpiece, which has a pendant egg suspended in the background.  (Obviously there are entire books on symbolism in Renaissance and Surrealist art so attempting to go into more detail on my humble little blog would be a fruitless effort, but you can start with these two if you're so inclined.  There's also a veritable goldmine of books on women and surrealism, which are relevant given Petrilli's focus on portraying women.)

Daria-petrilli-ova
(images from pinterest)

Lady_with_an_Ermine
(image from wikipedia.org)

Piero-della-Francesca-Pala-Montefeltro
(image from pinacotecabrera.org)

Other surrealist artists may have influenced Petrilli.  In Hypnosis Double, the way the women are posed call to mind Frida Kahlo's Two Fridas.  And while the deer seem unharmed, perhaps they're a nod to The Wounded Deer.

Daria Petrilli

The-two-fridas
(image from fridakahlo.org)

I'm also seeing a resemblance between Petrilli's work and that of contemporary Surrealist Christian Schloe.  As a matter of fact, doing an image search I thought some of his works were Petrilli's.  

Christian-schloe

Metamorphosis
(images from facebook)

Despite these similarities, I'm not implying Petrilli's work is in any way derivative.  Her content and style are unique and deeply personal; the way in which she weaves together a variety of art history styles and techniques breathes new life into digital illustration and reflects her own individual artistic upbringing and training.  Another reason I think Clé de Peau made an excellent decision to commission her for an Alice in Wonderland inspired collection is that Petrilli has explored it before.  Below is Alice's Dream, along with other works that have the same motifs as the Clé de Peau collection: flamingos, keys, butterflies, flower-women hybrids, and a checker-printed floor.  Again, I'm sure there are hidden meanings in these but that's just way too much ground to cover here.

Daria-petrilli-alices-dream

Daria Petrilli - flamingo

Daria-petrilli-keystone

Daria-petrili-Hunter-butterflies

Daria-petrilli-checkerboard

Daria-petrilli-orchid-dress
(images from pinterest)

In conclusion, I'm massively impressed with both Petrilli's work and the Clé de Peau collection.  This year the company took a chance by exploring a more whimsical theme and succeeded thanks to Petrilli's imagery, which is a far more refined and elegant representation of Alice in Wonderland than any other makeup collection I've seen.  As I mentioned earlier, I absolutely adore the cutesy treatment used by other brands since it reminds me of my childhood, but this was a nice change of pace and obviously suits a luxury brand like Clé de Peau much better. I just wish I could have heard a little more from Petrilli's perspective about working on the collection.

What do you think?  What's your favorite illustration out of these?


Peace and longevity from Sulwhasoo

My heart skipped a beat when I spotted what Sulwhasoo had up their sleeve for this year's ShineClassic compacts. Every year the company collaborates with an artist who represents an aspect of Korean artisan culture to create a design for two compacts, a tradition Sulwhasoo began in 2003.  Master craftswoman Hong Jeong Sil was selected to produce the ShineClassic compacts for the 2018 holiday season.  We'll delve more into the traditional metal inlay technique known as ipsa that Hong used to create these stunning pieces, but first, let's take a look at them in all their glory.  Unlike last year's release (another that I never got around to writing about, sigh), this year I was so smitten with the design I got both compacts, steep price tag be damned.  I really try to only buy one since the designs are the same, just with different color schemes, but I simply couldn't resist these!

Even the boxes are works of art inside and out. 

Sulwhasoo 2018 ShineClassic compact

Sulwhasoo-gold-box

Sulwhasoo-box-detail

So luxurious!

Sulwhasoo-box-open

The inside of the lids are etched in a metallic finish depicting a charming nature scene with trees, waterfalls, birds, deer and even a turtle.  According to the Sulwhasoo website, these "symbolize longevity and great fortune, carry the message 'One can achieve his or her purposes and lead a healthy, peaceful life.'"  As it turns out, the inclusion of these motifs is not accidental.  Like many Korean artists, Hong is inspired by a traditional group of ten symbols of longevity collectively known as Ship-jangsaeng:  Sun, mountains, water, cranes, turtles, pine trees, bamboo, mushrooms, deer and clouds. I thought the whole scene was merely cute and whimsical and that Hong just personally found these images enjoyable - I had no idea how culturally significant these motifs are.

Sulwhasoo-box-insides

Sulwhasoo-box-inscription

The intricacy of the compacts themselves is exquisite.

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Sulwhasoo-gold

Of course, I managed to nick the powder on this one...I must learn to control my excitement when handling Museum objects.

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Sulwhasoo-silver

Sulwhasoo-silver-inside

Here's some of the pamphlet that tells a little bit about the ipsa tradition.

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Shineclassic-brochure

Brochure-symbol

Ipsa-brochure

So what exactly is ipsa?  I'm afraid I can't go into too much detail since I completely didn't see this entire book on it until it was too late, but hopefully what I was able to gather online will suffice for now.  (I plan on ordering the book and updating this post accordingly, if I remember.)  Basically ipsa is the art of inlaying thin, delicate strands of silver, copper or gold onto a metal surface.  It's similar to damascene and other metal inlay techniques found around the globe, but two elements make ipsa uniquely Korean:  the focus on graceful lines and the preference for silver over other metals.  This very helpful article from Koreana magazine explains the history and general style of ipsa.  "During the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) and the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), it was developed into a brilliant art form, representing the epitome of metal craft.  Still, Korean metal inlay is unique for its emphasis on the 'art of lines.' The designs made with lines of a consistent width are simple yet artistic, basic yet whimsical. Designs expressing wishes for good fortune and prosperity, health and longevity, abundance and fertility, or images of the ten symbols of longevity (including birds and flowers, grass and insects, and landscape scenes with ducks in a stream under weeping willows), were crafted onto incense burners, braziers, tobacco cases, clasps, and stationery items, which were always kept close at hand and appreciated for their refined appearance...Though gold was rarer, silver was the preferred choice...Silver is rather plain by itself but radiates brilliance when combined with other materials. It has a subtle elegance that endures over time, rather than something fancy that can quickly fade. These qualities of silver appeal to the inherent nature of the Korean people, which is why silver was most commonly used for metal inlay work."  Hong's work for the Sulwhasoo compacts definitely represents the traditional ipsa style through the "basic yet whimsical" lines and symbols of longevity. 

Sulwhasoo-gold2

Like the other holiday collabs we've seen so far, ipsa requires precision and painstaking labor.  The patterns must be carefully drawn out on the surface before the inlay is applied.  Each strand of metal, some as thin as .25 millimeters, must be formed by hand and then attached to the surface individually. This means even a very simple line takes hours.  Over 30 types of tools are used - everything from pliers and hammers to tweezers and chisels.  As Hong says, it's essentially "embroidery with metal."  Sulwhasoo provided a few snapshots of the process, but I would have loved to see a video showing Hong creating the original design.

Embroider

Additionally, there are two main types of ipsa.  I'll let Koreana take over again:  "The first, called kkium-ipsa, involves incising a decorative design onto the surface of a metal object using a burin, and inlaying the threads of silver into the incisions. This technique was widely used during the Goryeo Dynasty. Because Goryeo had adopted Buddhism as its official religion and ideology, the metalworks that were produced primarily included bronze Buddhist implements, such as incense burners, incense cases, and kundikas. During the subsequent Joseon Dynasty, Buddhism was suppressed and supplanted by Confucianism. The production of bronze Buddhist implements thus diminished, while large quantities of ironware items were supplied to the royal palace and the homes of the elite class. Since the major material for metalworks was now iron instead of bronze, it was necessary for the metal inlay techniques to be adjusted accordingly.  This led to a second technique, jjoum-ipsa, in which the entire surface of a metal item is uniformly incised and then silver thread hammered into the incisions. This is the technique that Hong learned and applies in her works today. The surface has to be engraved four times, each time in a different direction, which calls for painstaking patience and perseverance."  There was only one design for Sulwhasoo intended for a small surface so it may not have taken that long, but the shapes clearly require a lifetime of skill.  I might be able to inlay a single pre-made strand of silver onto a surface in a straight line, but could I form many strands into deer and trees?  No way!

Production_process(images from sulwhasoo.com)

In addition to the Sulwhasoo compacts, another impressive example of the labor involved to produce an ipsa piece is this vase by Hong.  I can't even imagine how long it took, since it appears to use three different kinds of metal of varying lengths to form a pattern.  There must be hundreds of individual strands.

Vase

I also wanted to share this image from Hong's protege, who is taking ipsa in a very futuristic direction by creating a QR code that can be scanned and connected online.  The code is made with very thin strands of silver inlaid on an iron plate.  Again, each strand is handmade and applied individually.  It must take hours to get them to perfectly line up; otherwise, I suspect the code might not work.

Ipsa-qr
(image from ipsajangproject.tumblr.com)

The final element of the ipsa technique is making a black background (historically from burnt pine soot) or leaving it unfinished.  "Those parts of the surface not inlaid with silver thread are colored black, using traditional techniques, or left unfinished to emphasize the natural color and texture of the metal. The black background surface contrasts with the sheen of the silver thread and highlights its brilliance. In the past, the soot of burnt pine was mixed with vegetable oil to make the black coloring, but these days powdered graphite is used. After applying the black coloring, the surface is rubbed with vegetable oil and then polished to a lustrous finish."  I'm not sure how the background for the original design of the gold ShineClassic compact was created, but it's truly striking.  I am a bit puzzled as to why the silver toned compact is on a white background, however.

As did Yang Huazhen and Zhang Xiaodong, a Qiang embroiderer and kite maker, respectively, who collaborated with Shu Uemura, Hong answered the call of reviving a dying cultural tradition and more or less single-handedly brought it back from the verge of extinction. Born in 1947, she graduated in 1969 from Seoul Women's University with a degree in crafts, followed by a graduate degree at Seoul National University in 1971.  While studying there, she came across an old ipsa piece in an antiques district and it was "love at first sight":  "'The silver thread embroidery of the old metal artifact seemed to reveal the purity of the artist's heart and spirit. I was spellbound by the beauty and started to ask around about learning metal inlay. But I was surprised to find that it was a disappearing art. In a book, Human Cultural Treasures, that I had come across by chance, it said that 'traditional metal inlay is no longer practiced,' which bothered me so much I couldn't sleep that night.'"  Hong was struck by the fact that there were so few artisans left, and took it upon herself to learn ipsa in order to preserve Korea's cultural history. "It was almost like the book was assigning me a mission," she says.  After five years of searching, she found one of the few remaining ipsa artists, Lee Hak-eung, who took her on as an apprentice.  Even though Lee was nearing 80 years old and hadn't actively practiced ipsa in over 10 years, he agreed to be Hong's instructor.  At first he was reluctant to teach her ("Why do you want to learn this? It is a difficult road paved with poverty," he told her) but knowing that ipsa was nearly wiped out, coupled with Hong's dedication and talent, eventually he relented.  There was a steep learning curve, as Hong soon found out.  "The hardest part about learning everything was the lack of ‘curriculum,’ so to speak, because there was so little information available about ipsa at the time. Nobody had really researched it because hardly anyone even knew about it.  It had basically been abandoned," she says.

Hong-jeong-sil
(image from magazine.seoulselection.com)

Under Lee's tutelage, Hong quickly realized that ipsa needed to be officially recognized by the Korean government in order to not disappear completely.  For her, getting ipsa on the government's radar, along with educating a new generation about it, were just as important as learning its technique in terms of preservation.  “If people don’t know about it, then it won’t stay alive.  You can’t keep something alive simply by being very good at it, because then it ends with you. You have to let people know; you have to show them."  Hong submitted a comprehensive report documenting every ipsa piece she could find, and because of this effort, the craft was registered as an "important intangible cultural property" in 1983.  Hong went on to establish her own school, the Gilgeum Handicraft Research Institute, and in 1996 she was awarded the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Korea No. 78, making her the official holder of ipsa (Lee was the previous holder and had passed away in 1988).  Making ipsa modern was also an important lesson.  "I learned that metal inlay could not be done if the hands did not follow the heart. I also realized that although I was learning a traditional art I would have to develop it to fit modern times," Hong says.  While the Sulwhasoo compacts depict fairly traditional Korea motifs, Hong's other work expresses a more modern sensibility.  Take, for example, this sculptural paperweight/brush rest from 1980 that resembles a post-modern mountain range.

Hong Jeong Sil, paperweight, 1980
(image from ganoskin.com)

And the painterly flourishes on this vase from 2013 merge a classic silhouette with 21st century abstraction.  As Hong notes, "Tradition and modernity, past and present, aren’t separated by some boundary like some people think. They are inevitably linked.  The past isn’t over; it illuminates the present and helps reveal the future."

Hong Jeong Sil - Afterglow  2013
(image from constancychange.kr)

While Hong has made a career out of rescuing ipsa, she doesn't think Korea's modernization necessarily caused it to be almost completely erased from history.  In fact, she believes the modern era helped Korea reflect on its cultural heritage. Explains Hong, “Some people despair at the disposal of traditional culture that occurred throughout Korea’s often rushed modernization, but I think it couldn’t have been any other way. Only now can we afford to look back and reflect on what can be learned from our past, on what can be salvaged. Only now do we have the economic status that affords us the ability to value our traditional culture...Korea’s culture and traditional arts are getting more attention these days, not because they’ve gotten better or more beautiful – they’ve always been beautiful – but because people’s perceptions have changed.  Korea’s original sense of beauty, something only we can intuitively know, is finally getting some attention."  I'd add that it's far easier to connect with aspiring artisans and reach the public at large nowadays. While educating new generations via the usual methods (schools, museums, etc.) is critical, a beauty collaboration is a wonderful way of bringing people's attention to an otherwise little-known art form and in this way, helps preserve it. 

In conclusion, I thought Hong's work translated beautifully to the compacts.  While perhaps not as intricate as the original ipsa design they're based on, the engraving captures the essence of the technique and ipsa's overall style.  Ipsa is heavily focused on lines, and the beauty and grace of Hong's shapes remained intact on the compacts (i.e. they didn't get out of proportion or distorted).  Elaborate metal compacts such as Sulwshasoo's ShineClassics are obviously the perfect vehicle to showcase a historical metal inlay technique.  And as with all artist collabs, I'm happy to have learned about such a historic part of Korea's culture, and I appreciate people like Hong keeping it alive.  Hong is equally pleased to share her work: "I want to make Korean-style beauty known to the world. I want people to exclaim: 'So this is what Korea is about. This is the beauty of Korean silver inlay.'"  Mission accomplished!

What do you think of these?  Have you ever heard of ipsa? 


The gift of beauty: Shiseido x Ribbonesia

Baku-maeda-2

Yet again I find myself completely entranced by another artist collab this holiday season.  For their 2018 holiday collection, Shiseido teamed up with Japanese artist collective Ribbonesia.  Like last year's partnership with Sisyu, the product lineup is fairly small, consisting of two cushion compacts, puff, lipstick set and Shiseido's famous Ultimune serum.  I skipped the lipstick since the packaging design wasn't as interesting as the cushions and the serum since I try to avoid spending precious Museum dollars on skincare rather than makeup.  The chosen theme for the collaboration was "beauty is a gift", and according to this site, "[uses] satin to express the bud of life in nature and the red string of fate that connects people." Mmmkay. Unfortunately I couldn't really dig up much more information on how the collab came about or the particular designs on the makeup.  I will say that they are beyond festive.  Folding, looping, swirling shiny ribbons that form bows, flowers and even birds evoke a joyous holiday complete with beautifully wrapped presents.  The color scheme is also seasonally appropriate:  red and gold with hints of green, blue and pink are reminiscent of the multicolored strands of lights adorning a Christmas tree.

Ribbonesia-x-shiseido

Shiseido-ribbonesia

Ribbonesia-white-compact

Ribbonesia-black-compact-side

So who is Ribbonesia?  The group consists of artist Baku Maeda and creative director Toru Yoshikawa.  Maeda, who originally started out as an illustrator, began experimenting with ribbon designs in 2008.  Given their success, in 2010 he and Yoshikawa officially established Ribbonesia.  Maeda has a lifelong fascination with origami, so manipulating ribbon to make elaborate shapes came naturally.  (In fact, given Maeda's focus on animals, his designs remind me a bit of origami artist Hoang Tien Quyet, who I featured in this Guerlain post.)  Maybe it's because the Jen Stark/Smashbox collab is still fresh in my head, but elements of Ribbonesia's work sound similar: specifically, taking a fairly simple, flat material and creating very intricate and three-dimensional pieces entirely by hand.   Says Maeda, "Wrapping ribbons are everywhere, but they are purely decorative: familiar but unessential. We wanted to put it to use. It’s like three-dimensional painting: each twist is a brushstroke. The reflectiveness of ribbon and the way it reacts to light gives it a new face and new impressions at different angles, creating this wonderful energy. Of course, it can be tricky to use – you can’t make any shape you want. You have to work with the physics of the fabric, because it has its own tension and character. But that’s what makes it so interesting...growing up in Japan, I was always playing with paper and making origami. I think that has influenced the way I use my hands. I like tactile art: translating a flat illustration into a 3D object and forming flat ribbon into something with body."  I can only imagine how long each piece takes; it doesn't sound like Maeda uses any kind of advanced technology or shortcuts to make the shapes he does.  And like Stark's work, each piece shifts as viewers walk around it, albeit in different ways.

Ribbonesia-FullSizeRender15
(image from spoon-tamago.com)

I have to point out that it takes considerable skill to be able to go from 2D to 3D.  One of the menial tasks I'm required to perform on occasion at my miserable job is assembling bankers' boxes.  It usually takes me about 20 minutes and several tries before I get it right.  Needless to say, I'm always amazed by how artists can bend and fold various materials to create recognizable forms, and beautiful ones at that.

Octopus

Another similarity between Ribbonesia and Jen Stark is the focus on the complexity of natural forms and making it more visible.  While Maeda's work is more literal and doesn't delve as deeply into mathematical concepts, the two artists share a love of bringing overlooked natural phenomena to the surface.  "I look to nature for inspiration – animals, flowers, the seas and ocean. The movement of ribbon feels very organic, and the natural world is full of wonders. A lot of our art highlights the little things that you know are there but didn’t notice before," explains Maeda.   In addition to Ribbonesia, Maeda's other work (see his "leaf beasts" and "bit leaves" series) demonstrates his passion for emphasizing the often-missed parts of nature and transforming the mundane into something new and different.  “I do not consider myself a designer but as someone trying to create something that has never been seen before."

There were so many breathtaking designs in Ribbonesia's oeuvre that I had a significant amount of trouble narrowing down and organizing the images I wanted to feature in this post.  In the end I decided to go in rough chronological order, as I think it shows the evolution of Ribbonesia's work.  These whimsical animal brooches are fairly early on in Ribbonesia's history, around 2011 or so.  Once again, the idea of taking some ribbon and making a sculpture out of it blows my mind.  In addition to any sort of box, I can't fold a nice gift bow to save my life - hell, I can barely tie my shoes, and you can see my sad attempt at styling ribbon in my photos above - so while these are less intricate than Maeda's future creations, I'm still in awe.  Yes, these are the "simple" designs.  This particular image comes from a book of Ribbonesia's early work.  If only I had known about it before writing this post, I would have bought it since books are my favorite background for blog photos.  (The Ribbonesia scarf I obtained is pretty sweet though - the story of how I managed to get that will be in a later post.)

Ribbonesia-early
(image from pinterest)

Early-work
(images from ifitshipitshere.com)

Here they are in action.  I'd love a mermaid with scales made of different colored ribbon.  Or maybe even a little lipstick!

Wearable
(image from edgyjapan.jp)

As you can see, Ribbonesia began producing more complex designs.  I'm particularly fond of these Chinese zodiac critters. 

Chinese-zodiac

By 2013 Ribbonesia had reached new heights, literally and figuratively, with a series of incredibly elaborate headdresses.  I'm struck by the various patterns formed by intertwining different ribbon colors, such as the ears of the goat (?) on the left and the middle section of the piece on the right. 

Ribbonesia-headdress-2013

In 2015 Ribbonesia launched a forest-themed exhibition.  It was an absolutely magical wonderland that depicted a variety of flora and fauna in all sizes and colors. 

Forest-installation

I appreciate the strands of ribbons hanging down as garlands, as they heighten the energy and dynamism of the sculptures.  In their natural, basic state, they also serve as a reminder of how a simple material can be transformed into something magnificent.

Forest-deer

Forest-bear

Forest-bee-mushroom

Forest-small-shelves

A year later, Ribbonesia created a series called Eternal Cosmos.  When combined with titles like "Gift from God", the works' flowers and animals appear slightly less playful and perhaps linked to the spiritual realm.  This connection is an avenue Ribbonesia seeks to explore: "Ribbonesia focuses on natural shapes because we see an essential beauty in every regularity and complexity within the natural world, its necessity, and how it functions as a whole.  Normally beauty appears in nature as the ‘result’ of natural habitats being reborn over and over again. Ribbon forms are also the ‘result’ of elastic and tensile forces ‘working with each other’. This unexpected beauty is almost a ‘property of the gods’. Ribbonesia experiences this encounter between beauty and a universal nature, out into the cosmos, and beyond."

Vanitas-flore-2016

While the floral inspired piece above is beautiful, it's the sea creatures that captured my heart.  Crabs, squid, jellyfish and an octopus swim alongside sand dollars, shells and even coral.  These perfectly rendered seascapes are a testament to Maeda's incredible talent and creativity. 

Sea-moon-2016

Act-of-love-2016
(images from ribbonesia.com)

I know I'm repeating myself but I could sit there with a pile of ribbon for a hundred years and never figure out how to make anything that would remotely resemble an animal, let alone one with this kind of detail - look at the suckers!

Octopus-closeup

Last year Ribbonesia continued showcasing their work at an exhibition in Tokyo entitled Murmur.  I'm not exactly sure what this one was about, but the works are stunning.

Ribbonesia-murmur-ribbon-art-japan-5

Ribbonesia-murmur-ribbon-art-japan-9(images from japantrends.com)

Naturally, Ribbonesia caught the attention of various companies eager to collaborate.  In 2014 Ribbonesia was charged with designing the windows and interior spaces for Hong Kong department store Lane Crawford. 

Lane-crawford-window

Lane-crawford

Lane-crawford-closeup

This endeavor was followed up in 2017 with a holiday display for the Shibuya location of Japanese department store Seibu.

Seibu-shibuya-201(image from sogo-seibu.jp)

Earlier this year, Ribbonesia lent their talents to fashion label Comme des Garcons with a trio of t-shirts.

Ribbonesia-comme-des-garcons(images from @ribbonesia)

In light of these collaborations, it's no surprise Shiseido wanted to work with Ribbonesia.  While I liked the collection and obviously adore Ribbonesia's work, I'm not entirely sure it's the best fit for makeup or clothing.  Given the emphasis on three-dimensional contours, I feel that the magic of these ribbon sculptures is a bit diminished when applied to a 2d surface.  I'm not sure how a makeup collection could have been designed to maintain the texture and shapes of intricately folded ribbon, but seeing the designs on a flat cushion compact doesn't have quite the same impact as viewing a sculpture.  Maybe they could have gone the MAC Shiny Pretty Things route and embossed a bow or two onto a highlighter or blush to have some semblance of a 3d effect, or even somehow have ribbons affixed to the outer cases.  Having said that, I always appreciate an artist collab, especially when it's an artist I'm not familiar with, as it introduces me to a whole new body of work.  In this case I was delighted to learn that such a thing as ribbon art exists.  And the colors and designs are perfect for the holiday season. I just wish I had more information about how the collection came to be and if the designs were created by Ribbonesia especially for Shiseido.

What do you think of Ribbonesia and the collection?  Are you good at wrapping gifts?


Psychedelically precise: Jen Stark for Smashbox

Jen Stark for Smashbox(image from laguestlist.com)

Welcome to the first of what will be many holiday 2018 artist collabs.  I figured I'd start with Smashbox since last year I didn't get around to writing about their fabulous collection with Ana Strumpf, so I was determined not to miss another artist collab from them this year.  For their holiday 2018 collection, Smashbox teamed up with L.A.-based, Miami-born (and MICA educated!*) artist Jen Stark.  For once, I had actually heard of this artist prior to the Smashbox collection, as her incredibly colorful and almost hypnotizing work had caught my eye at many of the art blogs I follow.  (The more pop-culture attuned among you might also recognize the crazy backdrops she created for Miley Cyrus at the 2015 VMAs.)  Naturally I was pleased to see it in makeup form. 

Jen-stark-smashbox-2018

I picked up the face palette, primer set and a festive red lip gloss.  I'm kind of kicking myself for not getting the lipstick set, which had some of the designs etched onto the lipstick bullets.

Jen-stark-sb-palette

Palette-open

Primer-set-angled

Primer-set-detail

Lipgloss

Lip-gloss-angled

Let's take a look at Stark's background and work.  I'll be doing my usual summary of artist/critics' quotes instead of trying to come up with my own analysis.  I fully admit my laziness, but I maintain the artist's own words serve as the best description.  Finding tons of information online about an artist is a double-edged sword:  one the one hand I love being able to learn about their work and process, but on the other hand it can be overwhelming to try to condense it all into one blog post.  There are dozens of interviews and articles about Stark's work so this fell into the overwhelming category, but I'll try to keep it coherent.

Stark was born and raised in Miami, Florida.  While she was always interested in painting and sculpture, rising early in the morning before the rest of her family to draw, paint and make collages, there was one family member in particular who recognized her talent and encouraged her to continue following her passion for art.  In an interview with Curator, Stark notes, "When I was very young my grandfather (who was a hobby artist) would invite me over to teach me how to paint with watercolors. He would paint things like waterbirds, landscapes and boats on water. One day during our painting session we decided to paint my [favorite] Cabbage Patch Kid doll. We each painted a portrait our own version, and when we were finished he said, 'Yours looks better than mine!' And I thought to myself 'Wow, maybe I can really be an artist'. Haha, I was probably 5 or 6 years old (and looking back now the painting was not very good, it was just such a thrill to get a compliment from my grandfather, who I looked up to)...He was just probably trying to make me feel good but he was really encouraging.  Our styles are completely different but he helped nurture me. He passed away a few years ago. I’ll always remember him. I tell people how he’s the one that made it happen."  I have to say, her childhood drawings are way better than anything I could do at those ages!

Jen Stark age 3.5

Jen Stark age 5

Stark's technique with paper cutouts has its roots in a tale as old as time:  the story of a young, broke art student.  During her junior year at MICA she enrolled in a study abroad program in Aix-en-Provence in France, and it was there she began finding her artistic footing due in part to her lack of funds. She explains, "Since we were only allowed to bring 2 suitcases for 5 months I decided I'll just get my art supplies when I got there. Well, the Euro was way above the dollar and things were expensive so I decided to get one of the cheapest things--a stack of construction paper--and see what I could do with it...When I arrived I had no exact artistic direction. I knew I loved colors and labor intensive work, but hadn’t pin pointed my style yet...Having little money to buy expensive art materials helped me become more creative with the supplies I had, and turn lemons into lemonade! It made me realize I could create artwork out of anything, as long as it was a unique idea and I worked hard at it. That was definitely a big turning point in my evolution as an artist. So, in this case, necessity allowed me to discover a new way of art-making."

CosmicShift-2015

Stark kept at it, and in 2007 she quit her job designing retail store spaces and took the leap to being an artist full-time.  Around 2008 is when the first "drip pattern" surfaced, which surprisingly had its origins in a t-shirt. She notes in this video:  "I just created this t-shirt design of this one rainbow drip going down the front.  I wanted to make it look sort of blooming, very psychedelic...I started honing that in and kind of creating a pattern out of it.  To me it references psychedelia, altered states, different dimensions.  I just love how it's so dynamic, it looks like it's oozing and moving down."  These sorts of patterns became Stark's signature, and over time expanded from two-dimensional to 3D mediums due to an increasing interest in Op Art effects:  "The viewer's interaction with my work is becoming more and more important to me...lately I've been experimenting with Op Art ideas, like trying to get the static lines and colors in the work to sway and make the viewer's eyes vibrate.  I'm also getting interested in colors and angles, having colors change as viewers walk around the piece.  I have a love for all kinds of optical illusions and things that seem to distort reality in a subtle way."

Jen Stark  Dimension  2013

Jen Stark  Dimesion (side)  2013(images from jenstark.com)

While it seems a bit haphazard at first glance due to the undulating lines and vibrant colors, Stark's work is actually quite precise and is based on forms found in nature as well as mathematical concepts such as fractals.  She named her 2012 exhibition "To the Power Of", referencing the exponential multiplication of numbers and how her process is informed by growing patterns in a particular ratio.  "I've always loved the idea of math in nature. There are so many natural forms that have complex mathematical equations that we don't even know how to calculate, yet is seems like this equation flows through so many living things from fractals to snowflakes, and from the shape of a hurricane to the similar-looking milky way galaxy," she says.  In fact, every once in a while she'll get a email from a mathematician who recognizes a specific equation in the patterns she's created. (While Stark says she wasn't good at math in school, she excels at representing high-level mathematical concepts visually.)  Growing up in Miami, with its abundance of lush year-round plant life, also influenced her work.  She elaborates, "I’ve always had a deep fascination for nature and how it relates to science and spirituality. I feel there is a parallel between different shapes within our universe: like how the Fibonacci spiral equation relates to so many things in nature – from the shape of shell to how a fern unfurls. Sacred geometry is a big inspiration in my work. I love thinking about how enormous shapes out in the universe can have the same patterns as tiny microorganisms under a microscope. How geometric shapes and certain spiraling patterns apply to designs in nature big and small. Also, it is interesting to me how much we still don’t know about science and the way things work. I hope to maybe reveal, on a visual level, some truth or insight about these ideas." A healthy dose of psychedelia gives Stark's work a more mystical, spiritual feel that beautifully complements the exactness of the patterns.  "Lately I’ve been delving into the world of meditation and consciousness and what is considered reality. I’ve been reading a book by Terence McKenna called Food of the Gods, which talks about how early humans may have evolved thanks to the help of psychedelic mushrooms and altered states from medicine plants. I’m so fascinated by all these ideas and the link between the psychedelic world, the afterlife, and how this all relates. For thousands of years our ancestors cultivated this amazing culture.  My work relates to the psychedelic movement because of ideas of perception, and a sense of altered consciousness. I’m also drawn to the radiant colors associated with psychedelics and the fascination with optical patterns and mind alterations. I think in certain ways, psychedelia is a quest to discover unknowns about ourselves and the universe, and I’m striving to answer these type of questions through my artwork," Stark explains.  In layman's terms, her work is pretty trippy but also oddly meditative.  I feel like I could stare at it all day and feel energized due to the vibrant color palette (like I did with Smashbox's 2015 artist collaborator Yago Hortal), but also contemplative, as I felt with the work of Hilma af Klint (who also was fascinated by merging natural, organic-looking forms with the spiritual realm.)  The repetition of shapes and the gentle, almost melting movement of the lines is calming and hypnotic, but the bright colors keep the viewer's eyes stimulated.  The controlled orderliness mixed with vivid hues led one interviewer to coin the phrase "psychedelically precise", which I think perfectly describes Stark's style.

Drippy-2-2016

This meditative quality is not accidental; Stark perceives the painstaking process to create her paper sculptures as a form of meditation.  "I wouldn’t say [making my art is] emotional because once I make it I’m not really attached to it like a lot of other artists. I just get it out in the world and I want other people to see it. I would say it’s more spiritual and meditative. It’s more about the process of brainstorming and coming up with the ideas...For me, the act and process of creating art is just as important as the final product. My art practice is very meditative and brings me to a trance-like state when I’m creating – especially with very repetitive tasks. I’m not a really OCD person in my life but with my art work it’s the satisfaction of doing intricate kind of work all day. There’s a joy I get from it which is weird but it happens. I don’t know, I’ve always liked repetitive motion; things like that make me happy...Repetition and movement play a huge role in my creative process. The repetition is similar to how the layers of a plant unfurl and reveal the future layers inside, waiting to grow out. I also love having a tedious process attached to my work, and feeling like I’m piecing it all together to create something amazing."

Painting-Random-2016
(images from jenstark.com)

In looking at her work, I can absolutely see how someone would be as mesmerized actually creating the piece as a viewer would be just looking at it.  Of course, if there's a deadline I imagine it might be less fun, given how labor-intensive the process is.  Speaking of which, I wanted to highlight how much work goes into each of these paper sculptures.  Depending on the size and complexity of the piece, it can take anywhere from a week to a month to complete, and consist of 50 to 150 layers of carefully cut and glued paper.  The paper is cut entirely by hand using an X-acto knife, then adhered with archival glue to wooden backing for sturdiness. Stark explains: "Typically, I sit down at my studio desk and begin sketching ideas in my sketchbook. I write down lots of words in addition to images. Then, once I pin down a favorite idea, I’ll begin to create it. If it is a paper sculpture, I’ll cut each layer out by hand with an exacto knife and sequentially put it together."  While assistants help with the gluing of the layers, Stark eschews their assistance as well as technological advances when it comes to the actual cutting of the paper because the technique is so integral to her style - and it's individual to her.  "The whole handmade thing is a part of my work.  Using a laser cutter would cause the work to lose a lot...I’ll do the cutting myself because it’s kind of impossible for someone else to do that part—it would look like their hand."  I think the photo below gives a good idea of the work involved to create these sculptures. 

Jen-stark-at-work(image from contemporist.com)

So why go through all this?  Stark points out that paper is a universally recognized material, and again, she finds joy in doing repetitive work that also transforms a flat, 2d surface like paper into something three-dimensional.  Plus, Stark's training in fibers helped her explore the possibilities of paper and fostered her passion for handmade pieces. In a 2012 interview, she notes: "In college, I majored in Fibers. This usually throws people off because I mainly work in paper and wood, but Fibers at my college was more of a technique and concept-based major. They taught us the basics of things like sewing, screen-printing and weaving, but there was also a big emphasis on ideas, process and accumulation...I’ve always been drawn to intricate work and labor-intensive, handmade things, so discovering the paper sculptures was a gradual journey from age two to 28! I love how common and versatile paper is. It is in everyone’s daily lives and people tend to overlook the amazing things it can do and be transformed into. I also love the idea of taking something that’s two-dimensional and flat and making it three-dimensional and intricate."

Pedestal-OutsideIn--2016(image from jenstark.com)

The drawings and paintings are less labor-intensive, and for Stark these provide relief from the repetitive nature of the sculptures. It makes sense; I think we need a break from even things we enjoy.  "I make drawings too, and see these as more of a spontaneous, organic process. They allow both my mind and hands to take a break from the monotony of the sculptures. [Drawings are] a way for my mind to just breathe. The sculptures are structured and I have to go through this strict process to create them. The drawings are spontaneous, I literally put paper down in front of me and start making a little mark here and a little there and it just grows."  This organic process also reflects Stark's fascination with nature and how natural shapes evolve as they grow.  "I kind of want [my works on paper] to seem like some sort of cosmic, chaotic eruption but at the same time still beautiful.  I try to make them an organized type of chaos, like what happens in nature...[they're] kind of an escape from doing sculptures.  They're a breath of fresh air because they're very spontaneous.  I usually don't have an idea of what they'll look like in the end.  I don't do any sketches, I just start making marks on the paper and it grows from there.  I really like the idea of an object, through slow, gradual, layered changes, completely changing over time...I feel like a lot of my work comes from that, taking one shape and tracing it, changing it a little bit through the layers of evolution."

Signing-print

Since my love of makeup stems mostly from my love of color, I wanted to briefly discuss Stark's use of color.  As with the patterns she creates, her sense of what shades to use are also inspired by nature. "My process with color comes from the interest of color in nature and how color is such an attention-grabber…to caution poison in mushrooms, or to reveal a delicious fruit that will spread it’s seed. I love how certain colors look next to each other and attract the viewer’s attention. The exact color schemes are not typically planned out. I usually spontaneously pick colors that I think will look great next to each other and build from there." Stark also relies on her own artistic instincts.  "I took color theory in college, so I absorbed all of that, but in my own way of choosing colors, it’s very instinctual. I’ll just know what colors to put next to each other. Usually it deals with contrasting, light and dark hues, stuff like that, but it’s pretty much just my brain deciding. I normally don’t have to think about it too hard."  While there's not a creative bone in my body, I feel like this approach is similar to mine when it comes to makeup.  I never really have to think about which colors go together, I just sort of know.  (I also wake up "feeling" certain colors or textures - not synesthesia, per se, but similar.)

Prisma+Chrome-2017(image from jenstark.com)

Since her move from Miami to L.A. in 2012, Stark has continued expanding the materials and techniques she uses (though the dry weather there is a great boon to working with paper, since it doesn't "wrinkle or do weird things" as is the case with Florida humidity.)  "Living in LA has helped to expand my ideas on fabrication and thinking about what artwork can be. There are so many possibilities to be able to create work using particular materials, with so many fabrication houses. The possibilities seem endless. Also living in LA has made me more open to the definition of what an artist can be. I’m diving into all different avenues of artwork like creating clothing, digital animations, public art, working with great brands, etc. It has made me realize I don’t have to have one set path, I can create my own world. I use many different materials in my work, like wood, plastic, paint, metals, etc." 

Finally, while I admire Stark's smaller works, it's the large-scale ones that capture my imagination the most.  Seeing these mind-bending designs on a building feels even more tremendous than viewing a painting or even a sculpture in a gallery.  Once again, Stark's interest in natural forms drives her desire to create public installations that have "visual and environmental benefits":  My dream commission would definitely be a public sculpture in nature. I’d love to create a large scale sculpture that incorporates renewable energy and gives back energy to us, yet at the same time is an intriguing and beautiful object. It would be amazing to do this in a park or at a school (and that same energy would go directly into the school). It would be great to make big installation type work where the viewer can be immersed and actually walk through the piece out in nature...I would absolutely love to someday make a monumental artwork that transcends a gallery. Maybe something dealing with outer space or in the ocean would be great." Stark also recognizes the importance of making art accessible.  "I would love to keep doing more public art because I think that’s the most powerful, and people don’t have to go into a gallery or a museum to view it," she says. 

Technicolor+Ooze-2015-mural

ChromaticCascade-2015

I particularly enjoy this mural she did for the Fashion Outlets of Chicago in 2013.  Can you imagine going underneath the escalator and being greeted with that?!  Makes one's shopping experience far more interesting, that's for sure.

Drippy-2013(images from jenstark.com)

Getting back to the Smashbox collab, despite the numerous articles and interviews, I was unable to find anything specific about their partnership (and obviously was too intimidated to reach out to the artist directly, especially since I had been burned before.)  Stark is no stranger to collaborations, having previously teamed up with Vans and Google, but there was nothing about her experience working with Smashbox or how it came to be.  I'm assuming Smashbox contacted Stark since they prefer championing L.A.-based artists, and her work looks as good on a palette as it does on a building.  I'm wondering if the company got the idea to team up with Stark based on a December 2015 Vogue article in which she mentions her admiration for the brand, among others (MAC and Urban Decay also had shout-outs).  "Lately, I've been wearing a lot of Smashbox, and love their lipsticks and glosses for nighttime."  The article also provided some insight into Stark's approach to makeup, which, as you probably guessed, is as boldly colored as her sculptures. "I try to dress as colorfully as my work, and wear amazing vibrant makeup to connect everything," she says. "Your face becomes its own blank canvas—it's fun!  I usually keep my face au naturel—no powder, or even foundation—and focus on the eyes and lips, using vibrant colors to add brightness to my face."  I have to say, in nearly every photo I've seen of her, it seems she wears minimal makeup with muted colors (or at least they're not visible in the photos.)  Anyway, Stark also got the attention of nail art company Vanity Projects, who recreated the artist's patterns in gel nail form for Art Basel Miami.

Jen-stark-nails(image from observer.com)

As for the collection packaging, I honestly couldn't tell which exact paintings of hers made it on to the palette and other items.  Did she create something entirely new for Smashbox or did they recycle one of her earlier pieces?  This print from 2015, originally created with nothing but paper and markers, seems very similar but it's not identical. 

Jen Stark, Drip Cascade, 2015

I couldn't even begin to try to guess the designs on the other products.  In any case, I thought it was a great collection despite my preference for seeing Stark's work on a larger scale.  As for the artist herself, she doesn't seem like she's interested in cashing in; as one article notes, "[Stark] is especially mindful about how much commercial work to accept and for which companies.  It's more than just a desire to avoid overextending: she wants what she does to fit." In everything I've seen, Stark remains humble and simply wants people to enjoy her art.  As I always say, artist collabs are a wonderful way for people to access art if they can't purchase it or even see it in person, which can be difficult if you're not part of the art world.  Stark's take: "Good art should be inclusive rather than exclusive. I enjoy that my artwork attracts all different types of people from students, to teachers, artists, designers, middle-aged housewives and even mathematicians. My audience isn’t just limited to people in the art scene. Many different types of people are able to enjoy it and take something away from it."  Coupled with her passion for public art, it follows that she would be enthusiastic about a makeup collaboration with a brand as well-known as Smashbox.

What do you think of this collection and Jen Stark's work?

 

 

*As someone trying to move out of Baltimore City, I can't help but be amused at Stark's comments regarding her brief time living here while attending MICA. "I guess the cold weather and fear of crime rate sort of forced me to become creative in the studio," she states (silver lining?) and also: "I don't recommend Baltimore." That makes two of us, Jen!


Oodles of doodles: Burberry spring/summer 2018

While I'm not Burberry's biggest fan at the moment, I did want to share their spring/summer 2018 blush (leftover inventory of which I'm hoping doesn't go up in flames).  As with previous releases the design is a makeup version of one of Burberry's seasonal pieces.  In this case, the blush borrows one of the patterns from the Doodle collection, an illustration-based lineup created by British artist/director Danny Sangra.  I like that they chose the artist collaboration from their spring collection rather than blindly using an in-house design.  Lovely though they can be, using the work of an outside artist is a nice change of pace. 

Burberry Doodle blush

Burberry Doodle blush

Burberry Doodle blush

Burberry Doodle blush detail

Burberry Doodle blush detail

The particular "doodle" on the palette appeared on this trench coat and sweatshirt.  It may have been on other pieces but I didn't spot any.

Burberry Doodle trench coat
(image from bergdorfgoodman)

Burberry Doodle sweatshirt
(image from farfetch.com)

As usual, I felt the need to show the exact part of the pattern used.  I believe the eye on the right was moved down from where it was in the original pattern so as to fill some blank space.  It's an incredibly strange design that looks almost surreal or psychedelic to my eye.  Between the hand that appears to have a pinky finger with teeth, the square made up of tiny x's, the arrow shapes and the words "oh" and "England", there's some weird stuff going on here.  However, that's par for the course with this artist.

Burberry Doodle palette detail

So as not to leave you in the dark about the style of the artist who created this very odd pattern, let's take a peek at Danny Sangra's illustrations and his collaboration with Burberry.  I have to give them credit for seeking out a young, fresh artist who was able to infuse this venerable brand with a little cheekiness.  Sangra, who studied graphic design at London's prestigious Central St. Martin's, has been drawing approximately since he was 8 years old, when he took a tumble off a chair at his mother's hair salon.  "I was a little shaken so to calm me down, my mum’s assistant got me to draw some cartoons. That is literally the day I started to draw with enthusiasm," he says.  Most of his images consist of vintage magazine pages covered in offbeat phrases and words - sometimes surreal, sometimes hilarious (or both), but always visually compelling.  They remind me a little of drawing in your junior high textbook or passing funny notes during class; there's something a bit juvenile about marking up these images that makes me giggle.

Danny Sangra

Danny Sangra

I cracked up at this one, since it reminded me of the time I left a magazine out on the kitchen counter only to come home and find that my husband had blacked out the cover girl's teeth and gave her a mustache.  I can't for the life of me remember who it was (maybe Katy Perry), but it was just one of those moments that made me hysterical laughing.  Nothing like coming home from work and being unexpectedly confronted with a graffitied magazine.  (I asked him why he did it and he said he was just bored and thought it would be funny.  Fair enough.)

Danny Sangra

Scribbling random words and images in fashion magazines may have gotten Sangra in trouble with his parents when he was a kid, but proved to be worthwhile long-term:  in the summer of 2017, his "doodles" caught the attention of Burberry, who gave Sangra free reign to re-imagine some of their campaign images from their archives with his signature humorous style in a project called "Now Then".  Phrases are scattered across the photos in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner, infused with British silliness that doesn't fall into stereotypical traps.  He explains, "I tend to play with colloquialisms, surreal thoughts and kitchen sink-esque observations...it feels like a very British commentary.  [T]ypically, I write things that need to be deciphered. However, for the Burberry project, from the beginning it was meant to be very British – but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just 'Big Ben’ and ’London Bus' British! I was born in Yorkshire, but have lived in London almost half my life; I wanted a lot of colloquialisms which I knew would bring a humour to the project." 

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This one was my favorite.  "I'll put the kettle on." 

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The advertising project led to more work with Burberry - an augmented reality app*, a Snapchat takeover, and of course, Sangra's work appearing on Burberry's clothing and accessories. The color schemes for both the app and fashion items were coordinated due to, ironically, Sangra's colorblindness.  "I've always been very specific about colour – because I have to be!...For the bag collection, it was actually dictated by the Augmented Reality project I did previously with Burberry. Because I was painting in Virtual Reality, and the colour had to pop against whatever real-life situation people chose to use the app, I went for primary colours. Then, when it came to designing the bags, we felt it would be good to keep the world cohesive, which is why I made the bags bright unlike the archive illustration pieces."  Sangra kept the primary colors as well as Burberry's traditional brown check pattern, but also added a healthy dose of vibrant shades.

Burberry Doodle tote bags

Burberry Doodle tote bag
(image from juice.com.sg)

Burberry Doodle wallet
(image from tradesy)

Some of the clothing even bordered on neon.  (And I swear the pink on this dress is the same shade as the blush palette.)

Burberry Doodle dress

Burberry Doodle sweatshirt
(image from nordstrom)

Sangra also did live illustration at several Burberry flagships across the globe, decorating customers' bags as well as the store windows.  “It's always an entertaining way to connect with the people passing by...Kinda like if the store was talking to you. That seems an over the top way of describing what I'm doing -- essentially it's Burberry letting a tall bloke paint random things on their windows,” he says.  This sort of hands-on artist involvement with a brand isn't new - see OB for Shu Uemura and Donald Robertson - but Sangra brought his unique brand of irreverence and wit to the concept.  Unsurprisingly, he didn't want the run-of-the-mill "pretty" window displays:  "I knew I would write “How do you say roast beef Yorkshire pudding” in the Tokyo store window, but I didn't know I was going to lay down and pretend I was asleep! I've kept every window on the tour 'internationally local' – but once I'm in the window, who knows! I've been getting away with more and more as this tour progresses. I want people on the street to stop and take it in. I don't just want some pretty windows."  

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As to be expected, Sangra also had a field day with customizing the bags at these events. 

Danny Sangra for Burberry

Danny Sangra for Burberry

It was a fruitful collaboration to be sure, but the key to its success was Burberry giving more or less carte blanche for Sangra to do as he pleased, which is quite refreshing in the land of artist collaborations.  He explains, "[W]hat surprised me was how much freedom they have given me. Usually, with companies of that size, there's tons of restrictions – but Christopher [Bailey] and the team have just let me get on with what I do. Obviously, I reacted to the fact it's an illustrious British brand that is so ingrained in the culture. Whatever I did, it had to feel honest."  Sangra clearly enjoyed this freedom, even poking gentle fun at the Burberry brand.

Danny Sangra for Burberry

Danny Sangra for Burberry

Danny Sangra for Burberry

What I like most about Sangra is obviously his sense of humor; the fact that he doesn't take himself or art in general all that seriously makes his work easily accessible.  His approach:  "I think you need humour across the board in general. Humour allows for more interaction. It seeks to unify rather than segregate (most of the time). I have a difficult time when I see people taking art too seriously. Art shouldn't be elitist, it should inspire. Humour is just another tool to create a response. I tend to use humour as a cloaking device...I think the humour [in my work] comes from me not trying to sell the work; I'm just writing whatever is on my mind, from either my own points of view or my characters’ points of view. I don't really try make stuff funny, it's just the way it comes out. There's an awkwardness to the way I present it that adds to it – you either relate to my work or you don’t, I’m not trying to hook you in!"  

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Additionally, Sangra's clever use of text, whether alone or scrawled over magazine images, is the key ingredient in making his work come alive.  While Sangra is also a film director, reading and writing serve as the foundation for his creative process.  "I'm not a heavy reader as I lack the patience, but I'm trying! I find reading gives me the most inspiration...I write more than anything else these days. I constantly write notes. Words, conversations etc. Those tend to ignite a project. I'll hear a phrase and then I'll either think of a film I can make with it or how it could become a series of images."  Jotting down a few phrases on a slip of paper seems overly simple - I can see how some wouldn't consider it "real" art - but keep in mind that the written word is essential to the work of tons of "real" artists (i.e., Basquiat, Barbara Kruger).  The process is slightly more complex than you'd think.  Having said that, I don't believe Sangra's scribbles are incredibly high-brow or overly conceptual pieces (although his in-store antics could certainly serve as performance art), but sometimes it's nice not to be confronted with anything that could be remotely construed as pretentious.  With Sangra, what you see is what you get; there's no affectation here.

Danny Sangra
(images from instagram unless otherwise noted)

Getting back to the Burberry palette, I'm so curious to know whether Sangra is aware that one of his illustrations appeared on a makeup item.  While I think it would have been incredibly fun to present him with an empty palette and have him come up with something just for the makeup line, I still appreciate that Burberry used one of his existing designs rather than relying on their usual seasonal collection.  As for the design itself, the fact that it's such an odd jumble of images makes it memorable and takes away the haute couture formality and seriousness that can sometimes plague makeup releases from high-fashion houses.  By choosing possibly the strangest illustration Sangra had created for Burberry, the blush perfectly represents not only his work but also a more playful, casual side of the brand that we don't often see.  I must add, however, that I think it would have been hilarious to have one of the Now Then images on the outer packaging.  ;)

What do you think? 

 

*I had no idea what an AR app was.  Fortunately this article explains it in a nutshell:  "The augmented-reality feature interacts with users’ camera feeds to digitally redecorate their surroundings with Burberry-inspired drawings by the artist Danny Sangra...The new augmented-reality feature allows users to export the images they create, enhanced with graffiti-like doodles, to social media in a Burberry frame."


Mermaid magnificence with Rodin and Robertson

Apologies for the back-to-back artist collaboration posts, but I'm just too excited to wait any longer to share this beautiful mermaid collection from Rodin Olio Lusso (plus it's a nice way to celebrate the arrival of Mer-Babo!)  I have to admit I never paid Rodin much attention, since I rarely see it reviewed on beauty blogs and there are no counters near me to check out the line in person, but the amazing (mer-mazing?) packaging for their latest collection, created by artist/illustrator Donald Robertson, definitely got my mermaid tail wagging.  You might remember Robertson, a.k.a. the "Warhol of Instagram", from his collaboration with Smashbox in 2015.  If not, head on over to this post to check out a brief bio of Robertson and a summary of his style and process, which I don't want to re-hash here.  Instead, I'll discuss the inspiration for the Rodin collection and provide a short update of his work since 2015.

You know that I rarely buy entire limited-edition collections, especially ones with as steep a price point as these beauties, but they were far too special for me not to purchase.  Mermaids AND an artist collab?!  It was a no-brainer for me.

Rodin mermaid collection

First up is the lip oil.

Rodin mermaid lip oil

I can't resist showing the sides of the boxes, as the details go all the way around. 

Rodin mermaid lip oil

Next we have the body oil.  It looks so luxurious, I'm tempted to slather myself in it.

Rodin mermaid body oil

Rodin mermaid body oil

The liquid illuminator is another one I want to actually use instead of admire.

Rodin mermaid liquid highlighter

Rodin mermaid liquid highlighter

The powder brush feels nice and fluffy, but it's the box that won my heart.  Look at the jellyfish!

Rodin mermaid brush

Rodin mermaid brush

Finally, we have a simply stunning highlighting powder.  I don't think I've ever seen a powder with a mermaid embossed design; to my knowledge they've only appeared on the outer cases. 

Rodin mermaid highlighter

Rodin mermaid highlighter

I love all the details, especially her little belly button!  The way her head and tail are tilted and long pretty locks remind me a bit of the ethereal nymph designed by Marcel Wanders for the Cosme Decorte holiday 2015 compact.

Rodin mermaid highlighter

Rodin mermaid highlighter

I appreciate that Robertson explained a little bit about the process for manufacturing the powder:  "It starts with a gaffer tape circle outline in sharpie ... the powder people needed layers for sculpting so I used acetate and played in marker and cut tape overlays. I wanted it to match my mermaid box paintings."  Eun Sun Lee, President/Creative Director of design firm CMYK+WHITE, Inc., oversaw the final product packaging.

Rodin-mermaid-highlighter-powder-prototype

So how did the collection come about?  Here's a succinct background from the Rodin website: "[Rodin founder] Linda, a Pisces with an affinity for the sea, believed she’d been a mermaid in a previous life. Her fantasy sparked artist-friend Donald Robertson’s interest so much that he put his paintbrushes to work and brought the RODIN Mermaid Collection to life."   From what I was able to find online, Robertson and Rodin have been friends since at least 2015, when they attended the Fragrance Foundation awards.

Linda Rodin and Donald Robertson, 2015
(image from zimbio)

Working with Rodin appears to be a joy for him, as she's one of his muses in addition to a friend.  Robertson was immediately struck by the former model and Harpers Bazaar stylist:  “The first time I saw a picture of Linda, I became obsessed...She’s so visual. When I see somebody I like, I steal their image and put them on paper.” 

Donald Robertson - Linda Rodin(image from 1530main)

Donald Robertson - Linda Rodin(image from pinterest)

He was there for Rodin's debut at L.A. based beauty store Violet Grey in 2016, so his familiarity with the brand as well as Rodin's own style makes Robertson the best candidate to create limited-edition packaging.

Linda Rodin and Donald Robertson(image from hao-creative.com)

I scrolled through Robertson's Instagram to try to get a better sense of the timeline for the mermaid collection.  While he officially announced he was working on a new mermaid-themed project in late 2017, as early as January 2017 it appears he already had mermaids on the brain.  Check out this custom caviar packaging.  The mermaid looks quite a bit like the one on the Rodin highlighting powder, yes?

Donald Robertson

In June 2017 Robertson created a mermaid pool float collection for FUNBOY, proprietors of "the world's finest luxury pool floats".  I didn't know "luxury" pool floats existed, but I guess it's not surprising.

Funboy x Donald Robertson mermaid pool float
(image from funboy.com)

Funboy x Donald Robertson mermaid pool float

Fast-forward to October 2017, when Robertson first shared he was working on a mermaid-themed project.  This image ended up being used for the body oil.

Donald Robertson - mermaid

By February 2018, nearly all of the designs had been finalized.  Here are a few that didn't make it onto the Rodin packaging but are gorgeous nevertheless.

Donald Robertson - mermaid

Donald Robertson - mermaid

Donald Robertson - mermaid

Donald Robertson - mermaid

In the months leading up to the collection's release, it seems Robertson was inspired by Rodin's assertion that she's really a mermaid.  Using the playful hashtag #peopleisuspectaremermaids, he painted a series of fashion figures as mer-people. 

Donald Robertson - Cynthia Frank

Donald Robertson - Carlos Souza

Donald Robertson - Naomi Campbell

Donald Robertson - Streicher Sisters

Donald Robertson - Ryan Morgan

Donald Robertson - Jeremy Scott

After the collection debuted, Robertson kept the mermaid magic going with some bonus illustrations and animations on Instagram.

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

He even did specially painted bags for the collection's launch in the UK, along with a rendering of the queen as a mermaid.  So. Cute.

Donald Robertson - Liberty of London mermaid bags

Donald Robertson - queen mermaid

As for his other projects, Robertson's been keeping rather busy since we first looked at his work in 2015.  In addition to the Rodin collab, he's done collections for Alice & Olivia, Canada Goose, S'well water bottles and Flirt Cosmetics.  He also released a book of his work, which has now made its way onto my Amazon wishlist.

Donald Robertson - Alice & Olivia

Donald Robertson - Alice & Olivia
(images from aliceandolivia and tradesy)

Donald Robertson - Canada Goose(images from canadagoose)

Donald Robertson - S'Well

Donald Robertson - Flirt Cosmetics

Donald Robertson - Flirt Cosmetics(images from stylecaster)

Donald Robertson book

This is in between doing all the timely Instagram drawings he's known for, such as the recent royal wedding and Met Gala.

Donald Robertson - royal wedding

Donald Robertson - Met Gala

I admire the more political angle in this "Team Immigrant" print.

Donald Robertson - Team Immigrant
(images from instagram unless otherwise noted)

Plus, Robertson manages to make time for a number of in-store illustrations.  This brings me to a fabulous bit of news to share with you all: I was lucky enough to get my hands on a custom-painted bag by Robertson himself!  My heart dropped when I saw that Robertson would be painting tote bags at Bergdorf Goodman and that they were available in-store only...or so I thought.  A fellow makeup collector and long-time Museum supporter (who was even more determined than I was to get the custom bag!) called the store and somehow found a very nice salesperson who agreed to send her one.  This incredibly sweet collector kindly thought of me and gave me the salesperson's info so that I could get a bag too!  Not only that, the salesperson even asked me if I had any requests to give to the artist, and I asked for a mermaid and/or jellyfish.  Both she and Robertson delivered by giving me a beautiful red-headed mermaid swimming alongside two pink jellyfish.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I opened the package.  I know I gave a sneak peek in the Mer-Babo post since the little guy declared it to be his, but here's the bag in all its glory.

Donald Robertson mermaid tote bag

It's one of those super special items that if, in a fire, I only had time to save only a couple Museum pieces, this would be one of them.  While I wish I could have made it up to NYC in person so I could meet Robertson and the lovely Bergdorf sales associate, I'm deliriously happy to get my hands on a bag he actually painted and so grateful that another collector was looking out for me.

Overall, obviously I'm in love with this collection.  Robertson did an excellent job coming up with mermaid designs that are both elegant and whimsical, as well as being perfectly suited to the Rodin line.  From their beautiful flowing tresses to their tails that show just a hint of colorful scales, these stylish mer-ladies coquettishly frolicking with their underwater friends whisk us away to a summery ocean fantasy.  Robertson also completely nailed the color scheme - I love the soft greens and blues with pops of pink, orange and purple contrasted with the black outlines of the shells and sea kelp.

What do you think about this collection?  Are you as smitten as I am?

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