Other makeup brands

Lunar luxury: Chikuhodo Moon Rabbit brush

This was one of the few acquisitions I actually researched before buying.  Not because I didn't love it at first sight but because I wasn't spending $134 on a single item unless I could get a blog post out of it.  Fortunately Chikuhodo's Moon Rabbit (Tsuki No Usagi) brush gave me something awesome to write about.  The notion of a rabbit on the moon sounds pretty crazy, but as I discovered, the moon rabbit is a fairly big part of culture and history throughout East Asia.  I will be focusing on the Japanese version of the story since Chikuhodo is a Japanese brand. 

Chikuhodo Moon Rabbit brush

Chikuhodo Moon Rabbit brush

Let's admire the stunning gold and silver design on the handle.

Chikuhodo Moon Rabbit brush

Chikuhodo Moon Rabbit brush

I absolutely adore the iridescence of the moon!

Chikuhodo Moon Rabbit brush detail

Here's the brush head.  If you plan on buying it I can assure you it's just as soft as a bunny itself (although it's actually made from squirrel and goat hair.)

Chikuhodo Moon Rabbit brush

The concept of the moon rabbit has its roots in variety of cultures, most notably Chinese, Aztec and other indigenous American ones.  The folklore comes from particular markings that can be seen when the moon is full, which resemble a rabbit using a pestle.  More specifically, "The rabbit's head is formed by the Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity); its ears by the Mare Tranquillitatis, the Mare Fecunditatis and the Mare Nectaris (the seas of Tranquility, Fecundity and Nectar); and the body and legs by the Mare Imbrium (the Sea of Showers) and the Oceanus Procellarum (the Ocean of Storms). A small, puffy bunny tail is formed by the Mare Nubium (the Sea of Clouds)."

Moon rabbit
(image from tvtropes.org)

In East Asia, the tale originated in China and spread to other Asian cultures.  While in China the rabbit represents a moon goddess pounding the "elixir of life", in Japan the rabbit is making mochi (sweet rice cakes).  Here's the Japanese version of the story.  "Many years ago, the Old Man of the Moon decided to visit the Earth. He disguised himself as a beggar and asked Fox (Kitsune), Monkey (Saru), and Rabbit (Usagi) for some food. Monkey climbed a tree and brought him some fruit. Fox went to a stream, caught a fish, and brought it back to him. But Rabbit had nothing to offer him but some grass. So he asked the beggar to build a fire. After the beggar started the fire, Rabbit jumped into it and offered himself as a meal for the beggar to eat.  Quickly the beggar changed back into the Old Man of the Moon and pulled Rabbit from the fire. He said 'You are most kind, Rabbit, but don't do anything to harm yourself. Since you were the kindest of all to me, I'll take you back to the moon to live with me.' The Old Man carried Rabbit in his arms back to the moon and he is still there to this very day exactly where the Old Man left him. Just look at the moon in the night sky and the rabbit is there!"  While no one knows the exact origins of the story, it may be based on a Buddhist fable, or could be a bit of wordplay:  "The rabbit pounding mochi is also a play on words…the word mochitsuki describes the act of pounding mochi, while the word mochizuki refers to the full moon."

In any case, it's a charming tale, and one that's heavily ingrained in Japanese culture.  Images of rabbits frolicking in the light of the full moon are quite common in Japanese art.

Rabbits by Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716)
(image from metmuseum.org)

Hares and Autumn Full Moon, attributed to Suzuki Harunobu (1725-1770(image from mfa.org)

Moon; White Hare in Snow by Taisosai Hokushu, 1819
(image from metmuseum.org)

Rabbits in Moonlight by Utagawa Hiroshige, ca. 1847-1852(image from mfa.org)

Rabbit in the Moon, unknown artist, 1915
(image from mfa.org)

Rabbits and the Moon by Ohara Koson (Shōson), 1931
(image from ukiyo-e.org)

Rabbits and the moon are also a common scene for home goods - it seems to be particularly popular for noren (Japanese doorway curtains.)

Moon rabbit noren
(image from global.rakuten.com)

Moon rabbit noren
(image from nipponcraft.com)

Moon rabbit noren
(image from 1stdibs.com)

You can find nearly any household product depicting the moon rabbit, from washi tape and towels to kitchen items.

Moon rabbit washi tape and towel
(images from yozocraft and amazon)

Moon rabbit chopsticks and dipping dish
(images from global.rakuten.com and amazon)

Additionally, each fall there are entire festivals throughout Japan to view and celebrate the harvest moon. The moon-viewing, or tsukimi ("tsuki" means moon and "mi" is watch) is held on the 15th day in the evening of the eighth lunar month.  These gatherings date all the way to the 9th century and, like the moon rabbit story itself, were introduced by the Chinese. "The O-tsukimi festival began in the Heian era (794 to 1185). During this period, Japanese aristocrats gather themselves and recite poetry under the light of the full moon. In the Japanese lunisolar calendar, this gathering usually falls on the 8th month. They believed that the 8th month is the best month to look at the moon because the positions of the Earth, sun, and moon further illuminate the night sky. Later on, the event is not only centered on poetry reading. Decorations were made. Japanese pampas grass (susuki) was put into place. Tsukimi ryore, sake, and other food were shared by everyone viewing the moon. People who attend the gathering also begin to thank their moon god and pray for another bountiful harvest. Hence, the O-tsukimi festival tradition as we know it today. Even when the moon is not visible or there is rain, O-tsukimi festival is still being held. The Japanese call it Mugetsu (no moon), or Ugetsu (rain moon)." 

Little moon-shaped dumplings called dango are made especially for the season.  And the pampas grass is so pretty...I'm wondering if the curved lines on the Chikuhodo brush are meant to represent it.  I think they could, given the prominence of stylized grass in the art I included above.  The grass also symbolizes a bountiful harvest and is believed to ward off evil.

Pampas grass (susuki) and dango
(image from facebook)

Chikuhodo Moon Rabbit brush detail

I couldn't resist sharing these fairly elaborate bunny-themed treats.  Needless to say, if I ever make it to Japan, I will have a tough choice whether to go during spring or fall - the former has fantastic cherry blossom festivals but, as I'm learning, the autumn moon-viewing festivals are amazing too!

Moon rabbit egg tart

Moon rabbit cake roll

Moon rabbit sweets

Moon rabbit dessert
(images from soranews24.com) 

In addition to festivals, the moon rabbit story figures prominently in Japanese culture in other ways, most notably in the popular anime Sailor Moon (whose human name is Usagi Tsukino - literally "rabbit of the moon" ) and a rover designed to explore the moon named Hakuto ("white rabbit").  Given all of this I feel fairly embarrassed that I was completely unfamiliar with the moon rabbit story and the festivals and other cultural touchstones associated with it.  But at least Chikuhodo provided a beautiful way for me to become aware. 

What do you think of this brush?  Had you heard of the moon rabbit story before?

Hello Dolly: Anna Sui fall 2018

Anna Sui fall 2018 makeup

In honor of the 20th anniversary of her cosmetics line, Anna Sui debuted a new collection featuring the iconic dolly heads that have become synonymous with both the fashion and beauty brands.  As soon as I saw these three little gals - Marion, Bea, and Sally - I knew they belonged in the Museum.  The cases can house either lipstick or eye shadow (they twist off at the bottom.)

Anna Sui Dolly Head cases

Anna Sui Dolly Head cases

There were also three corresponding coffrets sporting little vignettes of each lady's lair.   I limited myself to one since holiday collections are a comin', but obviously I'd love to have all three for the Museum.  I chose Bea since she seems to be the most badass.  The rock 'n roll details on this tin just spoke to me.

Anna Sui Dolly Head coffret - Bea

I also really liked the colors it came with.

Anna Sui - Bea coffret

Anna Sui - Bea coffret

Here are the other two coffrets.  How cute is the owl on Sally's tin?!

Anna Sui Dolly Head coffret - Sally

Anna Sui Dolly Head coffret - Marion

So who are these ladies and why are the dolly heads so prominent in Anna Sui's branding?  Let's start with the individual dolls in the collection, all of whom were inspired by real or fictional women

Marion was inspired by Marion Davies, a popular 1920s and '30s screen siren.

Marion Davies
(image from huffingtonpost.com)

Bea, as I suspected, is a rock star.  Her hair was inspired by another old-school actress, Louise Brooks, while the eye patch is a nod to the "space pirate" iteration of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust persona.  (A more modern interpretation might also be an homage to Elle Driver from Kill Bill...but probably not since Elle was not exactly any sort of role model.)

Louise Brooks
(image from independent.co.uk)

David Bowie
(image from morrisonhotelgallery.com)

Sally was named after Liza Minelli's character in the 1972 film Cabaret, Sally Bowles.

(image from lecinemadreams.blogspot.com)

Now let's explore the origins of these dolly heads.  Fortunately I didn't have to do a lot of digging to find out the full scoop.  In an interview with The Thick, Sui explains how the dolly heads came to be.  “I first noticed papier-mâché dolly heads like this while watching the ‘60s-era British TV series, The Avengers, as a kid.  I found this one years later at a New York City flea market, right before I opened my first store on Greene Street in 1992. The back of its head was cracked open, so I could see how it was constructed, and I thought, I could make this.’ So, I and friends of mine like [stylists] Paul Cavaco, Bill Mullen, and [illustrator] Tim Sheaffer started to make our own, which I used to decorate my store. And, over time, papier-mâché dolly heads kind of became symbolic of Anna Sui.”  Like Benefit and Stila, who in their early days used mannequin heads and illustrations, respectively, the dolly heads' initial creation was primarily a cost-saving measure.  "I found a space on 115 Greene Street, and while I was waiting to hear whether I'd gotten the lease, Bill, Paul, Tim Scheafer, and I would sit around making dolly heads out of styrofoam and papier-maché because I had absolutely no budget for decor.  We competed against one another to see who could give our heads the most character: big noses, high cheekbones, prominent chins," Sui notes in The World of Anna Sui (p. 14-15). 

Anna Sui dolly heads
(image from twitter)

Anna Sui papier-mache dolly heads
(image from thethick.com)

Original Anna Sui dolly heads
(image from The World of Anna Sui, p. 28)

Sui was also inspired by the work of papier-mache artist Gemma Taccogna.  It's quite the coincidence she mentioned this artist and the lipstick tubes she made since I've spotted a few during various vintage searches and have been meaning to write a post about them.  Sui reflects on the artist's influence:  "[Taccogna] made everything: dolly heads, jewelry, compacts, desk accessories, and more. I love how she drew; you can recognize a lot of her stuff by the eyes...at one point, I would go to the flea market on 6th Avenue in New York City every weekend to look for Taccogna pieces. I have so many now, I can’t even count them. Taccogna works weren’t expensive when I first started collecting them, but recently I’ve seen some for as much as $500 on eBay...Carolyn Murphy gave me my first lipstick tube. She saw it at a flea market and said it reminded her of me."  She's not kidding - even the knockoff imitation Taccogna lipstick tubes go for several hundred dollars.  I'd love to have some of Sui's collection for the Museum! 

Gemma Taccogna lipstick tubes
(image from thethick.com)

By 1994, a mere two years after the opening of the Sui's first store, the dolly heads - along with black lacquer, roses and butterflies, and extensive use of purple (her favorite color) - had become synonymous with the brand.  Together these design elements formed a cohesive aesthetic that represented Sui's whimsical vision.  Store spaces brought these motifs to life, allowing customers to be fully immersed in the designer's unique world:  "Externalizing my aesthetic clarified it.  Everything became more iconic.  Macy's and Galeries LaFayette opened a shop-in shop for me with all the decorative elements that defined 113 Greene: the dolly heads, the art nouveau butterflies and roses, the Tiffany glass.  It wasn't about authenticity - the Tiffany glass was plastic - it was about the Look, so recognizable that it made my brand successful." (The World of Anna Sui, p. 15)

The World of Anna Sui, p.22(image from The World of Anna Sui)

Artist Michael Economy created the first dolly head illustration, which appeared on the clothing in the 1994 fall collection.

Anna Sui dolly head t shirt
(image from annasui.com)

By the late '90s, so easily recognizable as a key aspect of the brand's identity were the dolly heads that they received their own full-body mannequins from renowned designer Ralph Pucci, as well as recreations of the original papier-maché heads.  Says Sui, "We did them in blue, yellow, lavender, and ivory ‘skin,’ and Michele Hicks, my favorite model for a long time, was the body model. I still use them in my stores."

Anna Sui dolly heads by Ralph Pucci(image from craftandtravel.wordpress.com) 

As a natural progression, the mannequins took on the personalities of the dolly heads.  An In Style article detailing the 2015 Ralph Pucci exhibition, a show in which Sui's mannequins were prominently featured, demonstrate the significance of the dolly heads and their full-sized counterparts for Sui's design and branding.  "'I’ve always been fascinated by mannequins,' Sui said. 'They give you a chance to create a character, or a symbolic person for your brand. It’s so important to show clothes with a head on top, so then you get a scale of the person. Even though the head is not you, you can picture it. And then, why not make it stylized? It’s your fantasy person...All of the idiosyncrasies of my dolly heads went into the mannequins,' Sui said. 'Through the years, the black lacquer furniture, and the purple walls and red floors of my stores, all became icons of the brand, but so did the dolly head – to the point we did a perfume bottle based on that.'"  Interestingly, Sui is so taken with mannequins and their power to convey various personalities that she has one in her home.  "[Sui] has a mannequin, a giant doll really, modeled after Diana Vreeland, given to her by the artist Greer Lankton. She dresses Diana up in vintage Courrèges, and poses her with guests who have passed by, from supermodels to Marc Jacobs to Liza Minnelli."

Anna Sui mannequins and dolly heads by Ralph Pucci(image from The World of Anna Sui)

Anna Sui dolly heads by Ralph Pucci

Anna Sui mannequins by Ralph Pucci
(images from ralphpucci.net)

Given their iconic status, it's not surprising that the dolly heads have appeared before on Anna Sui's cosmetics packaging.  Previously Russian doll-inspired versions of lipsticks and mascaras were released in the spring of 2011.  Sasha, Vlada and Natasha adorably complemented Sui's fall 2011 fashion collection.

Anna Sui Dolly Girl lipsticks, 2011

Anna Sui spring 2011 makeup
(images from atouchofblusher.com)

And of course, the motif was used for the famous Dolly Girl fragrance bottle, which debuted in 2003.

Anna Sui Dolly Girl

Anna Sui Dolly Girl (images from fragrantica.com)

You could even buy your own dolly head as decor thanks to Sui's 2017 collaboration with Pottery Barn Teen.  Personally I think they're kind of creepy - I much prefer them in cosmetic form.

Anna Sui dolly head - PB Teen
(image from pbteen.com)

Anyway, getting back to the fall collection, I'd say it was well done and quite appropriate to use such a meaningful design element for a 20-year anniversary.  These dolly heads represent a significant part of the brand's DNA; they were there from the very beginning and still help define the Anna Sui identity today.  I also liked that the dolly heads were recreated in miniature form and used to house lipstick and eye shadow rather than just appearing on the tins, as it's a way for Sui to put her own spin on the tradition of doll-shaped cases (in addition to Gemma Taccogna, there were also the lovely Revlon Couturine cases.)

What do you think?  Which of the three dollies is your favorite?

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.


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?





Magical mermaid makeup brushes!

I've been waiting for literally over a year to blog about these amazing mermaid brushes by, funnily enough, a UK-based brand named Unicorn Cosmetics.  I finally got them in hand back in December, but wanted to wait until the warm weather was imminent to blog about them.  The brushes themselves are incredible, but the packaging was also breathtaking. 

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

Each brush came individually wrapped with a little charm in the shape of that particular mermaid tail.  What a great little detail!

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush

All of artwork was done by American artist Kurtis Rykovich, who created four mermaids to correspond to the brushes.  Save for this interview, information about the inspiration behind his work and his partnership with Unicorn Cosmetics was non-existent, so I gathered all my courage and reached out to this artist for an exclusive Makeup Museum interview.  Initially he seemed very enthusiastic and agreed to provide answers within a week, but after not hearing anything, followed by several gentle reminders via both email and IG over the course of a month, I gave up.  This is why my blogging schedule got completely off track recently, as I was patiently trying to give plenty of time to accommodate him.  In the end I just couldn't wait any longer.  I'm incredibly disappointed, to say the least, because I'm so interested in hearing his perspective and there wasn't any other in-depth info about this collection.  Guess it's just another item to add to the long list of Museum failures. And it will most likely be the last time I contact an artist.  :(

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set postcard - artwork by Kurtis Rykovich

In an effort to not be too salty about the lack of communication on his part - us Scorpios are known to hold a grudge - I'm sharing some of Rykovich's other work, which consists of (mostly female) otherworldly beings.  Everything from Disney princesses and fairy tale heroines to creatures of ancient myths are represented.  I also find it interesting that they all have such long lashes - you might be aware that Unicorn Cosmetics was formerly known as Unicorn Lashes and specialized in uniquely shaped, fairly elaborate false eyelash sets that resemble the ones in Rykovich's paintings.  I can only wonder if the company saw Rykovich's long-lashed beauties and reached out to him.

Kurtis Rykovich, Sleeping Beauty

Kurtis Rykovich, Medusa

Kurtis Rykovich, Goldilocks

Kurtis Rykovich, Mushroom Fae

Kurtis Rykovich, Our Madness

Kurtis Rykovich, Hammerhead Abyss

Kurtis Rykovich, Moondust

Kurtis Rykovich, Flurry

This magical unicorn princess was used for another Unicorn Cosmetics brush set.

Unicorn brushes box

This one was especially created for a new Unicorn Cosmetics palette.

Kurtis Rykovich, Glimmer

Unicorn Brushes palette
(images from rykovich.com and instagram)

As for the mermaid brushes, the purpose of each one is described on the back of the postcard with Rykovich's image. 

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

We'll start with the highlighting brush that corresponds to Bubbles.

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush - Bubbles

Next up is Korali (all-over powder brush).

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush - Korali

Delphie is for blush.

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush - Delphie

Finally, there's LiLu, used for foundation and contouring.

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush - Lilu

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

The brush set also came with a clamshell stand for display - how cool is that?!

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

I also really loved seeing the evolution of the design.  These images are from January 2017 through their release at the end of the year.

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set prototype

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set prototype

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set prototype

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brushes

Overall, I'm positively in love with these brushes.  We've seen mermaid tail brushes before and they're very cute, but they lack the level of detail of the Unicorn Cosmetics set.  I also think Rykovich is a perfect match for Unicorn Cosmetics, given the mutual love of magical, feminine creatures that only exist in our imagination. 

What do you think?  Do you have a favorite?


This kitten's got claws: Brandi Milne for Sugarpill

I blinked a few times when I first laid eyes on this set by indie brand Sugarpill, thinking it was odd that Mark Ryden had collaborated with them.  But then I saw that the company had teamed up with Brandi Milne, another Pop Surrealist whose work, upon closer inspection, is markedly different than Ryden's. 

I won't make any excuses as to why I didn't get to posting about this before now even though it was originally released for Valentine's Day; the reason is that I'm simply disorganized.  The set got buried under a bunch of other makeup items in the office, and it wasn't until I recently started seeing mentions on various art blogs of Milne's new solo exhibition, which opened last week, that I remembered I had it. 

Sugarpill Feline Fancy set

Sugarpill Feline Fancy palette

Sugarpill Feline Fancy palette

Sugarpill Feline Fancy palette

Sugarpill Feline Fancy palette

Sugarpill Feline Fancy liquid lipstick

I love that one of the little teeth from the outside of the palette made its way to the interior of the box.

Sugarpill Feline Fancy box interior

There was a truly overwhelming amount of information and interviews with Milne, so I hope by whittling it down somewhat I can still do her art justice.  Get ready for a lot of quotes since I believe the artist's own words are the most useful in understanding their work.

Milne, a self-taught artist, drew and colored throughout her childhood in Anaheim, California (and in a strict Christian household) and began showing her work in various galleries in the early aughts.  By January 2008 she was able to make painting her full-time career.  Let's explore the various themes in her work and how her style has evolved over the years, shall we?

Early on, Milne's style was more illustrative, most likely due to the fact that she hadn't been exposed to much contemporary art.  She explains, "I grew up completely unaware of contemporary artists. In the 90s when I was drawing in my room ('developing my style' at that time), I didn’t know of Mark Ryden and Camille Rose Garcia, or anyone painting wild things the way they were. So I had only my own world of things that influenced me – the children’s books I had as a kid, Bugs Bunny cartoons, coloring books, Woody Woodpecker and Heckle and Jeckle, Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Pinocchio, vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations, music that had inspired me – and the way my imagination interpreted all of it." 

Brandi Milne, Lucky You, 2009
(image from thinkspacegallery.com)

Her passion for art grew, and now Milne cites Mucha, Erte, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, along with the aforementioned Garcia, as her chief influences.  She gradually switched to painting, which allowed her to be a little less precise than drawing neat, contained lines.  "I used to work on paper/illustration board with watercolors, pencil and ink in order to keep things REAL tight and clean. I used to hold my breath whenever I worked, and my poor hand would cramp up because I was so pressed for perfection. Over time, I couldn’t stand feeling like a mistake would set me back the entire piece – I wanted to be free. Painting on wood was my ticket out of that stress filled bind I was putting myself in, and I took the leap a few years back, scared as hell! But since then, that freedom is the rabbit I’ve been chasing!"  Interestingly, Milne's husband custom makes all of the wood panels she uses as her canvas.  I always love a supportive spouse. :) 

Other stylistic shifts include Milne's choice of colors.  Earlier work presents a fairly neutral palette, but more recently Milne has favored a brighter, arguably more feminine palette that's heavy on red, pink and white.  In reference to her latest exhibition, she says, "In this new body of work, my palette went from really bright brights—fluorescents paired with really dark contrasts. I wanted to illustrate life blossoming from darkness. That so much beauty and life can spark from or grow from a place that seems frightening or lifeless...I love red and hyper pinks and whites. There was a year within the process of making this body of work where all I wanted to paint was reds and pinks and whites."  This is most likely the influence of a new florescent shade of red she stumbled across at an art supplies store a few years ago.  In any case, red, pink and white is the dominant color scheme for Milne these days, and this is reflected in the Sugarpill palette as well.

Brandi Milne, Little One, 2017(image from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

One aspect of Milne's style that's more or less remained consistent is the oddly extended limbs of the girls in her paintings.

Brandi Milne, And the Choir Sings Quiet, 2008(image from thinkspacegallery.com)

She notes that this feature came naturally: "I enjoy bending scale in my work...it wasn’t as important to bend the scale as it was to make the characters feel as if they were at home in their environment. These things are not intentional – they come [instinctively]...Maybe the exaggerated limbs represent a feeling of being larger than life. A feeling of being able to reach and grow beyond what one might feel their capabilities limit. "  So not only do these long arms and legs make for a more cohesive composition, they also represent the emotional "stretching" required to handle life's challenges.

Brandi Milne, Before I Hide Away, 2012

Brandi Milne, Here Inside My Broken Heart, 2014

Brandi Milne, Weep Now or Nevermore, 2017(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

Thematically speaking, Milne's portrayals of female characters are highly autobiographical.  The title work from her 2009 show "Run Rabbit, Run", for example, represents the emotional strife faced by Milne after the passing of her mother.  "The idea and feeling behind this body of work is strongly related to my mother’s passing in March ’08. My work is emotionally narrative (not by choice), and because I’m struggling through this huge loss, it’s reflected in my new works. I’ve tied in the show’s theme ‘Run Rabbit, Run’ – a lyric from Pink Floyd that hit hard for me one day while I was listening to Dark Side of the Moon, and really feeling my mom’s absence. It struck a note with me, and opened up this idea in my mind. This was the inspiration for my new show, and in turn, extremely helpful in my heart...My girls are an endless narrative for me. She’s my way of voicing an emotion in a piece, sad, innocent, scared."

Brandi Milne, Run Rabbit, Run, 2009(image from thinkspacegallery.com)

This painting depicts Milne trying to stay close to a dear friend who moved away

Brandi Milne, She Wears the Trees In Her Hair, and the Clouds In Her Eyes, 2012

And for I Never Dreamed of Such a Place, she explains, "She's kind of broken. Her body is broken, she’s giving up and hitting bottom. And then myself – I feel like the way that I grew up was in kind of a religious bubble. So in that aspect, I feel like I’m really innocent, you know? As a lamb, being slaughtered. That’s me...It looks cheery, but it’s bloody. She’s broken and I’ve been going through a lot – trying to help myself. So it’s all coming out in the work.”  

Brandi Milne, I Never Dreamed of Such a Place, 2014(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

These works show Milne's vulnerability but also her resilience.  Take, for example, Hold Fast, in which a girl receives stitches administered by a fairy godmother-like being, who's an embodiment of the artist herself "mending" her own psychological wounds.  It may seem a tad gruesome at first, but it's actually a message of healing and renewal.

Brandi Milne, Hold Fast, 2014

As for other themes, Milne's work weaves together the many influences from her childhood mentioned previously:  Fisher Price toys, holiday decorations, and, of course, proximity to Disneyland.  "Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Dumbo, etc. Having loved all those cartoons, going to Disneyland was surreal. The Tea Cup ride with all the lanterns in the shady trees and twinkly lights above. Flying over that lit-up city in the Peter Pan ride, Frog and Toad, the Matterhorn? Being at Disneyland as a kid, is really unparalleled to anything else. It was hugely influential," she says.   Additionally, her mother's religious outlook, coupled with the darker side of fairy tales and Disney movies, inspired the concept of duality that permeates so many of her paintings.  While they seem to be cheerful and innocent upon first glance, something sinister lurks beneath the candy-coated surface.  One example is Be Good for Goodness Sake, in which two happy snowmen naively enjoy some frosty cold milk...that's actually laced with opium, given the labels on the bottle.  (Yes, "milk of the poppy" is indeed a Game of Thrones reference.)

Brandi Milne, Be Good for Goodness Sake, 2015

Or Soothe Yourself, which shows an innocent little bunny surrounded by brightly colored sweets munching on a gingerbread man.  It's an adorable scene until you notice the gingerbread man is (understandably) frowning, while equally sad-looking teeth look on.  A piece of taffy (?) on the left cradles what appears to be a dead tooth, and the cherry cordial on the lower right has broken and spilled onto the snow.

Brandi Milne, Soothe Yourself, 2014(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

Milne says, "I love duality. It was so confusing to me growing up, I really couldn’t wrap my head around it and I fought it for so long. I believed that things should be black or white; that you were either a good person or a bad person. You were either happy or you were sad. In Disney movies, particularly, I was absolutely astonished to see that Disney chose to include such horrifically sad moments in his storytelling. We were watching a CARTOON and suddenly there was death and heartbreak and I was FEELING it!! I wanted to reject it, fast forward to the fun cute happy parts. I was disturbed by it. But as I was exploring my own work as an adult, I realized that it was that duality I was feeling and that I wanted to talk about. I love beauty and I love happiness, but I wouldn’t have either if I didn’t have the opposites and everything in between...This new body of work was inspired by the notion of good vs. evil, and the fairytale-like memories of being a kid.  I painted what it felt like to be happy and innocent and naive and then to discover certain truths about the world and reality."  This idea of yin/yang forces is expressed in several paintings from her latest exhibition.  Lynrose depicts a bright pink gingerbread house set among a forest filled with candy canes and ice cream.  While it looks positively charming at first, several ominous-looking skeletons are creeping up onto the house, and a closer look reveals that even the tree and shrub next to it have skull-like faces.

Brandi Milne, Lynrose, 2017

The title piece also seems utterly harmless initially:  it shows a group of jolly, red-cheeked snowmen enjoying some frozen treats.  But then you notice the trees in the background are dead, and the ice cream container has a faded skull and crossbones.

Brandi Milne, Once Upon A Quiet Kingdom, 2017(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

Despite the darker imagery in these paintings and others, by and large snowmen represent feelings of happy nostalgia for Milne.  She explains, "The snowman is the jolliest fellow! My mom LOVED Christmas –  she would transform the house with tinsel and knick knacks and vintage decor, Christmas music would be playing on the big family stereo and it was such happiness for me as a kid.  It was a wonderland!!  All these years later, I find myself trying to illustrate that feeling – trying to recreate it in my work.  The snowman tchotchke was a rare find in the house (there were plenty or reindeer and angels and Santa’s to be found), but I remember specifically adoring what snowmen figures we had, and probably hoarding them from my siblings.  The snowman best represents that spirit for me...I wanted that Christmas wonderland to last all year round!"  (Interesting side note:  Milne also enjoys drawing snowmen since she her favorite shape is a circle - "it has no harsh corners".  I suspect this is also the reason for so many paintings featuring Humpty Dumpty, her love/hate relationship with his character notwithstanding.)

Brandi Milne, No Reason to Stay, 2017

Brandi Milne, Candy, 2017(images from coreyhelfordgallery.com)

Brandi Milne, Holiday Takes A Holiday, 2014

While many of Milne's paintings represent the concept of duality, sometimes they're simply whimsical and joyful, with nary a menacing skeleton or dead tree to be found - just unbridled sweetness.  "Wide-eyed and maniacal, I try to capture the feeling of pure happiness and bliss as a kid."   I couldn't find anything dark or upsetting in the Sugarpill palette or in these paintings. 

Brandi Milne, Eat Cakes, You Kitty, 2014

Brandi Milne, Sweet Thing, 2014

I'm particularly struck by the maraschino cherries scattered about in this one.  They just look so succulent and juicy.  Milne greatly enjoys painting these too:  "I can't stop painting cherries and all I want is for everything to be translucent!"

Brandi Milne, The Last of the Snowmen(images from brandimilne.blogspot.com)

I love these since they remind me of characters from children's books, which makes sense given that Milne has illustrated one, not to mention all the delicious treats.  You know I'm all about sweets as well as childhood nostalgia since my own was so happy.  Milne's reminiscing about her mother's holiday decorations, coupled with the imagery in the paintings, instantly transport me back to celebrating various holidays with my family.  (In particular I'm remembering this adorable ceramic ghost with a red face my mom put out for Halloween, and a beautiful ceramic Christmas tree with multi-colored lights...if it wasn't out of my price range I'd commission Milne to paint a couple pieces featuring these items).

Anyway, while there was an enormous amount of information online, I still have a couple unsolved mysteries surrounding Milne's work.  First, I'm curious to know about the German references.

This little lamb seems to be wearing a traditional Alpine hat. 

Brandi Milne, Once Upon a Time, Life was Sweeter than We Knew, 2015

There are German words on the script in Strutter.

Brandi Milne, Strutter, 2012

And this poor little snowman is saying "ouch" in German, while in Long After This a sad pumpkin begs "love me".

Brandi Milne, Autsch, 2014

Brandi Milne, Long After This, 2014

Milne herself was also recently photographed wearing what appears to be a dirndl.

Brandi+Milne+by+Jessica+Louise(images from brandimilne.com)

I suppose it could be related to fairy tales, since the most famous ones in the Western world come from the Brothers Grimm.  Or perhaps Milne has a German background or just appreciates German culture.  Whatever it is, I'm surprised I didn't come across any explanations for it. 

The second item that left me scratching my head was how the collaboration with Sugarpill came about.  I'm assuming Sugarpill reached out to Milne first and they went from there, but it would have been nice to hear more about the process, the inspiration for the palette (who thought of a cat theme?) and how the artwork was created to reflect it.  I watched this video of a studio visit and read about Milne's artistic process, so I know a bit about how she operates, but I imagine things might be a little different when a commission for a makeup company is involved.  At least we know the artwork was an original piece made just for Sugarpill.

That was pretty long despite my best effort to condense everything I found while also trying not to leave out any major points regarding Milne's work.  So if you're still reading, thank you!  Overall, the Sugarpill palette is a wonderful addition to the Museum's artist collaboration collection and also helps make up for the fact that I failed to nab the Trinket lip gloss from 2016. I enjoy Milne's work so much I may have to ask Santa for a book of her work.  ;)  I feel as though I gravitate towards it since we're about the same age - we grew up with the same toys, Disney movies, cartoons (and even had similar holiday decorations!) and also because we had happy childhoods.  And obviously I love any artwork featuring delectable-looking sweets

What do you think? 

Unicorns vs. Mermaids

Sigh.  After nearly 9 years of blogging I don't know why I still haven't learned to look before I leap when purchasing items for the Museum's collection.  After seeing the write-up at Allure of indie brand Tooth and Nail's Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette and previous mentions of this company in other reputable publications like Nylon, I nevertheless pondered whether I really needed yet another mermaid-themed palette to add to the Museum.  Initially I wasn't going to go for it, but I figured Allure would never steer me wrong, plus Tooth and Nail mentioned the name of the palette's illustrator/designer, Australia-based artist Megan Allison.  Once I read an independent artist was behind the design I had to buy it.

Tooth & Nail Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette

Tooth & Nail Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette

I actually got up the courage to email Megan with a request for an interview about her art and her work for Tooth and Nail.  She kindly obliged so here's some more in-depth information.  Megan has been drawing since high school and studied Visual Communication (graphic design) at the University of Technology Sydney.  When not working at her day job at an Australian packaging company, Megan creates stickers and enamel pins featuring a variety of whimsical (and sometimes creepy!) characters. 

Megan Allison - Blue Moon Dragon

Megan Allison - Kirby sticker

Megan Allison - Xenomorph pin

And since I had to know, she's Team Unicorn.  For shame!  Just kidding, of course.  ;) 

Megan Allison - Sweet Unicorn Carousel
(images from meganallisondesign.com)

Tooth and Nail found Megan via Instagram and contacted her to create some of the labels for their Sailor Moon-themed highlighters.  After the success of that collection, the company contacted her again for the Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette.  Hannah Foote, owner of Tooth and Nail, sent Megan a preliminary sketch of the general concept.

Tooth and Nail Unicorn vs. Mermaids sketch

From there Megan did her own sketch.

Tooth and Nail Unicorn vs. Mermaids sketch

Once approved, she did the full rendering, with the colors taking an entire day to get just right.  While Megan isn't loyal to one distinct style - she frequently goes back and forth between more traditional colored pencils to digital illustration and dark vs. cute themes - she enjoys tattoo design, an interest she shares with her sister (they have matching forearm tattoos, awww!)  I feel as though the mermaid looks a bit old school tattoo-inspired. 

  Tooth & Nail Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette

Seems all well and good, right?  Alas, a very sweet Instagram buddy of mine alerted me to the fact that Tooth and Nail has had a lot of customer complaints.  And it's true:  when I googled the company the fourth result that appeared was a complaint on Reddit.  Apparently not only was the customer service poor, the quality of the products themselves was shoddy.  While this one appeared nearly a year ago, other customers have shared their own tales of never receiving the products they ordered with a lengthy wait for a refund or zero resolution, some as recently as late May.  Sadly, the lack of service isn't limited to customers.  Via our email interview a few weeks ago, Megan stated that she never received the final versions of the products she designed (neither the Sailor Moon items nor the Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette), which was the agreed-upon payment for her services.  So not only have customers been ripped off, Tooth and Nail has allegedly also not paid their own designer.  I haven't been in touch with Megan since then so I'm hoping she has received her items in the past 2 weeks, but given everything I've seen it's doubtful.  It's especially disheartening since Megan agreed to accept products instead of money - it shouldn't be difficult for a company, even a small indie one, to fulfill their end of this simple barter. (Plus, as the wife of an extremely hard-working freelance designer who has had his share of clients screwing him over, I personally HATE people who don't think independent designers/artists deserve payment...which is more common than you'd think.  Freelance ain't free!)  

I certainly don't wish to vilify Tooth and Nail, but I felt the need to mention these incidents.  I'm also inclined to believe they're true - why would so many people complain without cause, and why is there no response from Tooth and Nail to any of them or going so far as to report/remove customers' comments on Instagram?  I understand that things happen beyond our control and that Tooth and Nail is a fairly new company with literally just two people rather than a huge, established business with lots of experienced staff to handle customer issues, but it seems other tiny indie companies are able to better handle any problems that come up.  With such a small company it's easy to get overwhelmed with orders, but whatever customer service system Tooth and Nails has in place clearly hasn't been working and needs to be addressed.  Maybe it has been, as I haven't witnessed any other complaints regarding the Unicorns vs. Mermaids palette...then again, perhaps any negative feedback has been wiped clean from social media.

Anyway, as you can imagine, I was conflicted for weeks about what to write or even to write anything at all, plus I was annoyed with myself for not doing proper background research on an unknown-to-me brand before purchasing the palette. Ultimately I decided to post because while Tooth and Nail may not be reliable or, at least, wasn't reliable in the past, I felt it was important to highlight Megan's work.  After all, focusing on the makeup design rather than the makeup itself is kind of what I do, right?  Oh, and in the snowball's chance in hell that any makeup companies are reading this post, I'd like to let you know that Megan is available for design/illustrative services, but you must pay her up front!


UPDATE, 8/2:  Megan emailed me to let me know she followed up with Hannah a few more times and eventually received the agreed-upon items!  So hopefully this begins a new, more responsible phase for Tooth and Nail. 







Off to Umbria with Fresh

As with Fresh's collaborations with Jo Ratcliffe and R. Nichols, this was quite a nice little surprise.  The company teamed up with renowned Italian ceramic house Rometti to create limited-edition packaging for their Umbrian Clay Mask.  I can't think of a more appropriate company to produce the design, as Rometti is not only based in Umbria near where the clay for Fresh is sourced, but obviously pottery-inspired limited edition packaging for a clay-based mask is perfect.

Fresh Clay Mask Rometti

Why the clay mask to get the artistic treatment?  Fresh co-founder Alina Roytberg explains, “The Umbrian Clay Purifying Mask is one of our most iconic products. The mask is truly amazing, because it can be used on all skin types without drying out the complexion. When the product first came out, we didn’t launch it in a big way, and we’re very excited to do that now and be able to share the rich history behind the ingredient.”  The Umbrian Clay line was first launched in 2000 after Roytberg witnessed the amazingly clear complexion of a Rome-based friend who previously struggled with acne - the clay she found in a local store had done the trick.  Roytberg tracked down the source of the clay, which is a small town in Perugia called Nocera Umbra, and from there the Umbrian Clay line was born.  The clay has been used literally for centuries to treat various skin concerns and is a renewable resource that's mined ethically by Fresh. (You can read more about the production process here.)

Fresh Clay Mask Rometti

Fresh clay mask Rometti

Fresh clay mask Rometti

Fresh clay mask Rometti

Fresh clay mask Rometti

As for the design, Rometti Artistic Director Jean Christophe Clair says that he was inspired by all of Umbria, from its natural elements ("rivers", "hills" and "sunsets" were his key words) and architecture to its status, as he puts it, "the center of the history of Italy." The soft colors Clair used reflect the region's blue skies and earthy terracotta hues of the clay.

Rometti is a 90-year old company that's known for being the first Italian ceramic house to put a more avant-garde style on their wares as opposed to traditional Italian Renaissance and Art Nouveau designs.  Most of the early pieces were produced in conjunction with artists Corrado Cagli and Dante Baldelli.  I wasn't familiar with either of those two names, but apparently Baldelli was a nephew of Settimio Rometti, one of the company's founders.  He attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome where he met Cagli.  Along with a host of other artists, including Futurist Giacomo Balla (love the Futurists!), they "were given complete freedom to experiment their artistry."  The Fresh collab maintains this tradition of artistic freedom today, as the company gave Rometti "free reign".  The design process came about easily, which is not surprising given that the mask is a product that comes directly from Rometti's everyday environment.  Says Roytberg, “It was one of those incredible things where you communicate without over-communicating because the response, for [the Rometti owners], it’s natural—they live in this world, they work with clay under the sky—so it’s one of those transcendental things that just happens."




While Clair created a unique new design for Fresh, it's clear he was continuing in the footsteps of Cagli and Baldelli, which you can see below in some examples of their work.  What's notable about these is the modern style given to traditional decorative themes, e.g. mythological scenes, farming, fishing, etc. - they're a far cry from, say, ancient Greek vases or majolica.  I'm including just a few pieces here but if you're finding yourself head over heels in love with Rometti's work, here's a whole book to drool over.

Corrado Cagli for Rometti, Marcia su Roma (March on Rome), 1930

Corrado Cagli for Rometti, Il lavoro dei campi, 1930

Dante Baldelli for Rometti, Pescatore, 1932-34

I spy mermaids!

Dante Baldelli for Rometti, Le Sirene, 1934

 I love this jellyfish-topped vase.

Dante Baldelli for Rometti ceramics, Medusa, 1936

I think Clair may have been looking at this 1936 piece when coming up with one of the designs that appeared on the Fresh packaging.

Dante Baldelli and Corrado Cagli for Rometti, Allegoria, 1930-32

And perhaps borrowed from one of his own more recent works for the face that appears on the lid.

Jean Christophe Clair for Rometti, Bacchanti, 2017

Some more recent Rometti collaborations that caught my eye were with surrealist artist Jean Cocteau (been eyeing this vintage compact with his work on it for over a year now but can't pull the trigger - so expensive!) and lingerie designer Chantal Thomass, both of which were overseen by Clair.

Cocteau for Rometti

Chantal Thomass for Rometti


Chantal Thomass for Rometti
(images from rometti.it , veniceclayartists.com and chantalthomass.com)

Final thoughts: I can appreciate Rometti's craftsmanship but the artwork in the Baldelli/Cagli vein just isn't my speed, so the Fresh packaging isn't my favorite.   However, the design was definitely the most representative of Rometti's aesthetic and it is a historic company.  And as I said earlier, if Fresh was going to choose any company to partner with to create a limited edition Umbrian Clay Mask, Rometti is absolutely perfect.  It shows that some thought went into the collaboration rather than blindly choosing a random artist who probably couldn't capture the essence of Umbria, not to mention clay, as well as Rometti can.

What do you think? 



Friday fun (or flop?) with Felicia

As soon as I saw this adorable lip balm at various blogs I ordered it immediately from Sephora.  It doesn't really get any cuter than this - a sparkly pink strawberry-scented lip balm in the shape of a flamingo pool float, plus a reference to one of the greatest films of the '90s?!  Yes please. 

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Another precious detail is the flamingo-shaped "F" in Felicia. 

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Our mini Babo loved it and asked if I could fill the bathtub so he could take it for a proper spin.

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Totally harmless, right?  Alas, this seemingly innocuous lip balm has stirred up controversy: looks like it's another case of cultural appropriation.  If you've spent any time online over the past few years you know that "Bye Felicia" has become a popular meme used to dismiss other interwebz users.  And you may remember how pleased I was to see this phrase take off in numerous other ways, given my love of '90s pop culture and the 1995 film Friday that gave us these two simple words.  The meme was the inspiration for the lip balm, according to Taste Beauty's managing partner Alex Fogelson, who told Women's Wear Daily that Sephora approached them to "collaborate in a really fun, pop-culture-inspired fun and young item."  (Taste Beauty is a relatively new company, having been founded in 2016 by three executives who used to work at Lotta Luv, the brand behind some bizarrely flavored lip balms.)

That seems okay, until you realize that the "Bye Felicia" meme Taste Beauty is referencing with their lip balm may actually be a form of cultural appropriation in and of itself. Let's take a look at the original clip, which, if I'm being honest, still makes me laugh.  (I also love Smokey's "remember it, write it down, take a picture, I don't give a fuck!"  Classic.)

Impeccably delivered, it's a funny line that wasn't even in the script (apparently Ice Cube's son came up with it)...but as it turns out, Felisha is a crackhead.  To a clueless white person such as myself, I thought she was simply an annoying, mooching neighbor.  For "bye Felisha" to take off as a meme, I guess there were other people who accidentally (or perhaps intentionally) overlooked that aspect of Felisha's character.  Or worse, many people using the meme were totally oblivious to the original source.  As this article on white people's inappropriate use of black slang notes, "What’s amazing though is that over the last year [2015] or so, so many white people and non-black people have used [Bye Felicia] (as a sassy dismissal) without actually knowing where it’s from."  Also, the spelling of Felisha's name morphed into "Felicia", I'm assuming to make it more palatable to white people.  As Fayola Perry writes in XPress Magazine, "Cultural appropriation sanitizes and spreads lies about people's culture. It takes away the story of Felisha, the addict who represents and symbolizes so many black and brown women's struggle with drug addiction in that era and makes her a passing internet trend.  This lack of attention to detail can perpetuate racist stereotypes. Someone may think they are paying homage to someone's culture and the person whose culture they're paying homage to is completely offended at the misrepresentation.  Fear not, you can enjoy a great burrito if you are not Latino and do yoga if you're not Indian, but be thoughtful, check your privilege and be considerate of context and history. Everyone has some type of privilege, people of colour appropriate each other's cultures as well. We must all be mindful of our lens, other people's perspectives, the legacy of oppression and try our best to make sure that we are not continuing it. At the very least, know where the appropriated element came from and at the very, very least, spell her name right. It's Felisha, not Felicia."

So while I was overjoyed to see the phrase take off as a meme given how much I love Friday, turns out I should have been aware that it was a form of whitewashing, since it seems that the vast majority of people using it don't know where it originated.  Or in my case, had no clue about the more serious implications of Felisha's character and her dismissal.  In reading more about the history of the film and that scene in particular, I don't think anyone involved with Friday intended the phrase to be perceived as anything other than comic relief, but now I can see how it can be viewed as a microcosm of the bigger issue of black women's needs continually being ignored. 

In turn, if we're arguing that the meme itself is a form of cultural appropriation, then the lip balm is as well, since it's directly referencing the meme and obviously not the original source.  I mean, Felisha didn't wear makeup1, and flamingo-shaped pool floats didn't make an appearance in the film as far as I know - this lip balm really has nothing to do with FridayA succinct reaction comes from this Twitter user:  "It's time for black brands to start monetizing our shit. But we're not corny enough to slap bye Felicia on some lip balm all outta context."  Blogger Aprill Coleman explains further: "Felisha was an accurate representation of black culture in the early 90s on the heels of the crack epidemic. Taste Beauty’s use is completely out of context. Felisha is an African American, crack-addicted character that did not wear makeup, whereas Felicia is a brightly colored flamingo shaped like a pool float. A tiny part of my black American culture was appropriated, reinvented, and packaged into a strawberry scented balm for profit."  Coleman also astutely points out that two of the three Taste Beauty founders are white men, so it's possible that the company, like so many others, wasn't fully aware of the phrase's origins; they just saw the meme and thought an alliterative novelty lip balm with the same name would be marketable.   And if Taste Beauty did know where it came from and still wanted to go ahead with the product despite the potential for offensiveness, perhaps they could have donated a portion of the sales to Angie's Kids. This is a nonprofit founded by Angela Means, the actress who played Felisha, that focuses on health and early childhood development. (Side note:  I would seriously love to get her thoughts on this.  She seems okay with the phrase's popularity but I'm not sure about the lip balm.)

So where does that leave us?  Well, on a personal level I feel like a jerk for buying it and also for not understanding, quite literally for the past 3 years, that the "Bye Felicia" meme was actually white people appropriating yet another piece of black culture - I honestly thought it was a widespread, '90s-nostalgia-fueled, long-overdue tribute to Ice Cube's legendary diss.  As someone who sees herself as a feminist, which means being aware of the struggles of WOC, my ignorance is rather troubling.2  As for the item's inclusion in the Museum's collection, I will likely not display it unless I'm doing a more educational exhibition on cultural appropriation in cosmetics.  In addition to the ads explored in my 2013 post on the topic, sadly there are tons more examples since then that could be provided.

What do you think about all this?  Have you seen Friday and if so, do you find the "bye Felisha" scene funny?

1 Interestingly, the actress who played Felisha cites the makeup artist on set as the one responsible for helping her fully inhabit Felisha's character.  The somewhat haggard look was entirely intentional.  She notes in an interview:  "What was funny was when I got on set the makeup artist looked at me and she was like, ‘O.K.,’ and she kind of went with my look and when we got to the set (“Friday” director) F. Gary Gray looked at me and was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, wait, wait. She’s not a beauty queen.’ I give the makeup artist so much credit for helping me create Felisha...So when I got in the makeup artist’s chair, once Gary said, 'No, she’s a hoodrat,' we went back to the drawing board and I fell asleep. But when I woke up and saw myself, it clicked. It helped me go there."

2 Equally problematic is that I've been rewatching the clip and still think it's hilarious - proof that white privilege is real. I'm able to ignore the broader issue of dismissing black women and perceive "bye Felisha" as comedy.


Quick post: Are you ready for this jelly?

Hello!  It's been a while since I last posted as work nearly killed me recently, but I wanted to get something up today to 1. show that I haven't died from stress, even though I  thought I might; and 2. put up some summer fun in honor of what is easily one of the Curator's favorite days of the year, the solstice.  With that in mind, I present Anna Sui's summer makeup collection.  It's been a long time since I purchased anything from this line, but as soon as I saw this collection I knew I had to have nearly all of it.

The two nail polishes will not belong to the Museum's collection - I will be using them. As a matter of fact, this week I'm wearing S 105 (the lighter aqua blue) and it's beautiful.  It's almost as legendary as the ultimate mermaid nail polish.

Anna Sui summer 2017 makeup

I adore all the sea critters since they are friends of mermaids.  Side note:  when I was little I was infinitely fascinated with jellyfish in addition to mermaids.  There's just something about their movement, shape and their very biology that I find incredibly interesting.  They're such simple creatures on the surface - they don't have eyes, noses, or even a central nervous system - yet some of them actually glow in the dark, while the sting of others can be deadly.  I find the way they move to be strangely beautiful, and I hope to make a trip to the National Aquarium soon so that I can be totally mesmerized. (I really have no excuse for not getting there - it's literally less than a 20-minute walk from my home).

Anna Sui summer 2017 palette

You would think the white plastic border and iridescent effect on in the middle of the case would look tacky and/or juvenile, but I honestly think it works here.  It reminds me of all the different tones you see in the ocean as the sun hits it.

Anna Sui summer 2017 palette

Anna Sui summer 2017 palette

And I just remembered I didn't take a picture of the inside of the palette, which has the same motifs (coral, starfish, seahorse, jellyfish and bubbles) but rendered in a vintage illustration style.  To my eye it almost looks like wallpaper.  You'll see it in a couple days in the summer exhibition.  ;)

The gold powder case has blue-green jewels that belong in a mermaid princess's crown.  As fun and blingy as it is, I couldn't bear to put the powder inside because then you couldn't see the lovely seashells embossed on it so I'll be displaying these separately. 

Anna Sui summer 2017 powder case

Anna Sui summer 2017 powder case

Anna Sui summer 2017 powder

Even the eyeshadow has a jellyfish!

Anna Sui summer 2017 eyeshadow

Bet you thought this was the first time a jellyfish appeared on a makeup compact.  I did too, until I remembered the number one rule that beauty historians need to keep in mind:  no matter how new and exciting something in the makeup world seems, it's probably been done before.  And I was right!  Here are two vintage compacts that feature my favorite invertebrates. 

Unfortunately I don't know the brand or even the approximate date of this one, but I'm guessing it's from the '40s or '50s. 

vintage under the sea compact

This one is a Stratton, probably from around the '50s given the rectangular shape,  purse clasp and the horizontal lines on the unmarked back (you can see a similar compact around the 3 minute mark in this very helpful video on dating Strattons.)

Vintage Stratton under the sea compact
(images from pinterest and antiques.com)

Naturally I'd give my eye teeth for both, in addition to all the vintage mermaid compacts I'm hunting down.  As for the Anna Sui collection, I thought it completely nailed the "magical aquarium" theme described on the website.

So what do you think of Magical Aquarium and the vintage compacts?  Do you have a favorite? 







You're invited to Gucci's ladybug picnic

This song from my childhood immediately popped into my head when I spotted Gucci's new palette.

I was pleased to see Gucci doing something a little different packaging wise.  It's a relatively new line, launched in fall 2014, and I honestly haven't been interested in it either for collectible purposes or actual use.  But this new blush got me hoping this is the start of many more limited-edition items with fresh designs.  And I usually hate bugs with a passion, but ladybugs (along with fireflies) are acceptable to me.  :)

I didn't take a picture of the front of the case, as it was simply Gucci's usual interlocking gold G's.  They could have put a ladybug print on the outer case, but as this is their first try at a limited-edition item I shouldn't be too critical.  Inside, the powder is embossed with a single ladybug sporting 6 spots. 

Gucci ladybug blush

Gucci ladybug blush

Before I purchased the blush I did a quick search to see whether it had anything to do with Gucci's clothing - ladybugs seemed so random.  However, Gucci offers a healthy selection of items sporting the little critter.

I think the print on these tote bags would have been perfect for the outer case of the blush, no?

Gucci ladybug bags

Gucci ladybug leather coin purse

Gucci ladybug shoes

Gucci ladybug brooch and keychain

Especially adorable is their children's line.  I have no interest in having kids and would most likely never drop serious cash on their clothing (I mean, they grow out of it so quickly!), but damn, children's clothing is just precious to look at.

Gucci kids clothing

Gucci kids shoes
(images from gucci, saks, bloomingdales and net-a-porter)

Still, I was puzzled about the ladybug motif.  I did find them lurking in the spring and pre-fall 2016 collections, among many other creatures and insects. 

Gucci spring 2016

Gucci pre fall 2016

Gucci pre fall 2016

Gucci pre fall 2016(images from vogue.com)

These collections gave me a bit more context for the ladybug design.  Upon seeing them mixed in floral and animal prints, a blush palette with a ladybug didn't seem too far out of left field.  The Garden collection, an online-exclusive capsule collection released in the summer of 2016, was another addition to the flora and fauna frenzy that the brand seemed to be partaking in that year.

Gucci Garden collection

Gucci Garden collection

Gucci Garden collection

Gucci Garden collection(images from gucci.com)

Yet I just couldn't figure out why there was so much emphasis on, well, nature at Gucci.  It wasn't until I read a brief description of Gucci's history and how its relatively new Creative Director, Alessandro Michele, has been modernizing the house's traditions. "Reflecting its clientele’s dynamic, well-traveled and sportif lifestyles, the brand very early on began incorporating animal motifs into its designs. Gucci’s famous horse-bit icon drew from the passion for horseback riding among its Italian aristocrat customers...since taking over as Creative Director in January 2015, Alessandro Michele has been drawing upon Gucci’s archives and this history of fauna fervor by incorporating a large variety of animals into his designs. With each collection the designer adds several more creatures to his Gucci stable, drawing on their cultural symbolism to provide layers of meaning to his heavily referential and often occult-tinged themes.  Michele’s ever-increasing insectarium collects together dragonflies, beetles, ants, bees, ladybugs, moths, and butterflies. A lepidopterist and entomologist's dream, Alessandro Michele's collections for Gucci are a fantasia of insect life. Bugs are joined by a parade of mammals on clothing and jewels: tigers, rabbits, lions, horses, cats, foxes, and many more. Gucci’s sparkling, brash menagerie is woven into velvet; formed into metal studs, large sculptural rings, and cascading earrings; beaded and sequined; patchworked out of fur; and even needlepointed. Each creature has its own symbolic meaning."  Finally, we have an answer!  I guess because I didn't investigate their makeup earlier and also because Gucci just isn't on my fashion radar, I had no idea they had a history of using animal and flower motifs.  Now that I know, I admire Michele's examination of Gucci's archives and his take on motifs that he presumably selected from them, along with his own new additions.  The flora and fauna read modern and sophisticated rather than stale and stuffy, or worse, cutesy.  And as the article points out, high-end materials also help elevate ladybugs and their pals.  It's whimsical luxury (or luxurious whimsy) that still is in keeping with Gucci's history and aesthetic.

As for the significance of the ladybugs themselves, Farfetch says they're a "symbol of luck and protection that has come to be a signature from Alessandro Michele."  I don't know about that, but when considering his designs from the past few seasons and knowing that he's updating Gucci's traditions, a ladybug on the blush palette seems to fit.  Despite the lackluster outer case and the fact that I would have liked to see a more intricate and colorful design, it was still Museum-worthy.  Instead of a single ladybug, the part of the Garden collection print with it would have been awesome, rotated like this (yes I know it's small but you get the idea.)

Gucci-Garden- snippet

But overall it was a good first effort from Gucci and I hope they do more in this vein.  I also hope I can remember to work it into next spring's exhibition.  It would look particularly nice next to Dior's Flower Blossom palette, which is the only other palette I can think of that has a ladybug.