Psychedelically precise: Jen Stark for Smashbox

Jen Stark for Smashbox(image from

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. 


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.







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."


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

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.


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."

(images from

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

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

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."


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

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. 



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

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

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!

Fall/holiday 2018 color trend

We're used to seeing red lips for the fall and holiday seasons - everything from deep crimson to bright, borderline-orange is fair game - but this year it seems the fiery hue has gained significant traction as an eye shadow trend.  Some makeup aficionados consider red eye shadow to be difficult to pull off, especially for pale pasty folks such as myself, as it can go from "cutting-edge runway" to "severe eye infection" very quickly.  However, if anyone can get me to try this seemingly difficult shade, it's Mother (a.k.a. the legendary Pat McGrath.)  I tested out the aptly named Blitz Flame shade from her Mothership V palette and found it was shockingly wearable.  While I suspect it's the prettiest and best quality out of the palettes below, there is no shortage of reds to try this year as seemingly every fall and holiday palette contains a red shade.  Honorable mentions include Charlotte Tilbury Palette of Pops, Viseart Libertine palette and Morphe Your True Selfie palette - I simply couldn't fit them all in one image!

Fall 2018 red

  1. Bobbi Brown Infra-Red palette
  2. Pat McGrath Labs Mothership V Bronze Seduction palette
  3. NARS Provacateur palette
  4. Violet Voss Berry Burst mini palette
  5. Karity Picante palette
  6. Maybelline Soda Pop palette
  7. Huda Beauty Obsessions palette in Ruby
  8. Zoeva Spice of Life palette
  9. Natasha Denona Cranberry palette
  10. Ace Beaute Blossom Passion palette

I can't say I was seeing any red eye shadow on the fall 2018 runways, so I'm not sure what the reason is for the trend. Perhaps it's the influence of the larger cherry/burgundy beauty craze (see Urban Decay's Naked Cherry collection, Maybelline's Burgundy Bar, and my post on burgundy makeup from last fall), or maybe given the success of other reddish-toned colors released previously - again, with Urban Decay leading the way with their Naked Heat palette this summer - it's an expansion on colors that were once viewed as odd choices for eye shadows.  It's similar to how nearly every brand now has non-traditional lip colors.  (Speaking of which, who else wants to see a Black Satin lipstick from Chanel?  I'm wearing the nail polish right now...)

Have you tried or will you be trying red shadow?  It's still not my favorite shade for eyes, but I must say that Pat McGrath, once again, has made a look that I previously thought was off-limits for me totally doable.

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

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

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

Moon; White Hare in Snow by Taisosai Hokushu, 1819
(image from

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

Rabbit in the Moon, unknown artist, 1915
(image from

Rabbits and the Moon by Ohara Koson (Shōson), 1931
(image from

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

Moon rabbit noren
(image from

Moon rabbit noren
(image from

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 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 

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?

Curator's Corner, October 2018

CC logoAs you've probably already guessed, there won't be a fall exhibition this year.  However, I'm working away on the Museum's 10-year anniversary exhibition and as well as the holiday one.  ;)  More on those later but in the meantime, here's what was in store around the interwebz in October.

- I was so pleased to be interviewed for and quoted in not one but two beauty-related articles during the month. *pats self on back*

- Talk about inclusive:  Herbal Essences's new shampoo and conditioner packaging features "tactile indentations" for the blind so they can tell the bottles apart.  I think all companies should start including these - and on shower gels too!

- On the not-so inclusive side, I'm glad someone is finally mentioning that the over-30 crowd is being left out.  For all the talk of inclusivity, I'm kind of taken aback (and annoyed) at how many brands continue ignoring us.  With my 40th birthday quickly approaching, I'm more aware of it than ever.

- I wish I could have gone to Sephora's very first beauty festival, Sephoria - it sounded pretty fun!

- The Cut had an interesting series of essays on lipstick.

- I'd like to hear your thoughts on this Bustle article.  As an owner of one of the original Revlon Fire and Ice ads, I must say I have a completely different take on the campaign. 

- We know glitter is bad for the environment, but I had no idea child labor was involved too.  It's very disappointing that something so sparkly and fun is actually quite sad, so we need a solution ASAP.

- As a sort of follow-up to my post about beauty packaging waste, here's the latest development in the fight for more environmentally-friendly products.  Maybe blue beauty can save the mermaids?

- Allure simply loves to name hair color trends after beverages, which apparently doesn't sit well with In Style.  Personally I'm siding with the latter on this.

- Happy Halloween!

The random:

- In '90s nostalgia, TV show Charmed and Britney Spears' hit "Baby One More Time" turn 20, along with New Radicals' "You Get What You Give".  However, nostalgia is all well and good until you start messing with classics like 1995's Clueless - seriously, a remake?  As if!

- On the art front, Banksy pulls off what is possibly one of the greatest stunts in art history, only for it to be immediately monetized.  Then again, it's a good alternative if you can't afford a shredded $1.4 million painting.  Also of note:  doctors can now prescribe museum visits - I always knew art was good for your health! - and a statue in Georgia gets a very silly modification.  Normally I shudder upon seeing vandalized art, and I'd be super pissed if someone ever messed with the Museum's collection should it ever be available to the public, but for the life of me I cannot stop laughing at it.  Finally, unlike the Museum of Pizza and Cheat Day Land (will this ridiculous fake "museum" trend never end?!), the Disgusting Food Museum actually seems to have some educational and historical merit, albeit on an unappealing topic.

- Is it bad I'm looking at holiday things the day after Halloween?  Me and the plushies are still in a candy coma, but we're already excited for many more holiday/winter treats.


How was your October?  Are you gearing up for the holiday season?

MM Musings, vol. 27: waste not, want not

Makeup Museum (MM) Musings is a series that examines a broad range of museum topics as they relate to the collecting of cosmetics, along with my vision for a "real", physical Makeup Museum. These posts help me think through how I'd run things if the Museum was an actual organization, as well as examine the ways it's currently functioning. I also hope that these posts make everyone see that the idea of a museum devoted to cosmetics isn't so crazy after all - it can be done! 

image from

You might remember my post on MAC's Jeremy Scott collection, in which I responded to the criticism it had received for the packaging being too large and impractical.  This in turn led to a rude comment on the blog (which I didn't publish since I refuse to entertain that sort of negativity at the Museum) about how "wasteful" the MAC packaging was, as well as the insinuation that I'm a terrible person for having a makeup collection at all.  *eyeroll* While it was a rather nasty attack, I will say it had some value: it got me thinking about packaging waste within the beauty industry and how a makeup museum/collector could cut down on it as much as possible.  So as to keep my ramblings to a minimum I'm examining only packaging and not product ingredients and other forms of beauty-related waste.

Let's look at the current problems.  Outer packaging for beauty products, due to their fragility and contents, gets to be rather excessive.  And consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of beauty packaging waste.  One of the biggest packaging hurdles for companies is plastic.  According to this article, "most beauty products are swathed in plastic, but only 12 percent of plastic is recycled, which means that eight million tons end up in our oceans every year. By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, and, already, nearly 80 million tons of plastic comprise the Great Pacific Garbage Patch."  Also, plastic takes up to 1,000 years (!) to fully decompose.  Cardboard is another culprit:  "Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign in September for reducing landfill, reports that more than 120 billion units of packaging are produced every year by the global cosmetics industry. The cardboard that envelops perfumes, serums and moisturisers contributes to the loss of 18 million acres of forest each year."  This is, of course, to say nothing of the cardboard boxes and packaging used to ship products.  I myself shake my head at not only the use of non-recyclable plastic, but the issue of having items from several orders ship separately and in boxes that are much larger than needed.  Neiman Marcus is easily the worst offender - recently they sent me boxes this size for one order containing a small item...

MM musings 27

MM musings 27-chantecaille

...the other huge box was for these tiny samples.  

MM musings 27-samples

Now I recycle the boxes and paper packaging, but it's pretty ridiculous.  I understand no one wants the item to break during transit but there are much more environmentally friendly ways to securely ship items.  

Another issue, which I think was mostly what that mean commenter was alluding to, is that the packaging for makeup itself is getting larger and bulkier.  As the holiday season rolls in with all its shiny gift sets and palettes, I'm seeing bigger makeup.  The size difference isn't noticeably larger when compared only to vintage items - there was a more gradual size increase for every makeup item over the last half of the 20th century - but even in the past 5 years I believe packaging has become larger not necessarily to accommodate more product but to catch the eyes of consumers.  Think about it:  Not only makeup is physically small, the market is so incredibly saturated companies have to continually up the packaging ante to get people's attention.  Some evidence of this super-sizing as an attention-grabber is outlined in quite an eye-opening study published by Fashionista.  While it only polled beauty PR reps and recipients (i.e., beauty bloggers and editors) and not plain old consumers like me, the same principles apply to your average beauty customer.  One of the most salient excerpts: "While waste abounds in all corners of the industry, responses resoundingly pointed to beauty and skincare brands as the worst perpetrators when it comes to superfluous stuff in mailings. One theory is that there's more pressure to make a big splash with packaging when you're dealing with products that are physically small — a fancy new serum may be just as pricey (and exciting to its new owner) as a pair of shoes, but it doesn't inherently require big, memorable packaging."  Not only that, brands are constantly trying to impress bloggers and "influencers" so that they'll be more inclined share their latest collections and products on their social media platforms, so over-the-t0p packaging is slowly becoming the norm.  "It's not just an excess of 'normal' packaging items that fashion and beauty people deal with — it's also all the wacky things that may accompany product. Numerous people mentioned single-use video screens that automatically play an ad once the product box is opened as a wasteful novelty that they could do without. 'There is absolutely nothing I hate more than the auto-playing video screens that come in boxes and play obnoxious sounds or video at you without your consent,' wrote one survey-taker. 'It is such a colossal waste of money... and makes me feel annoyed and guilty every time I receive.' Others called out superhero figurines designed to look like them ('what am I supposed to do with that!?'), faux space helmets, neon light-up signs, giant balloon arrangements, a life-size Jenga game and a 'beauty compact' the size of a desktop computer." One recent example from a beauty blogger on Instagram is this gigantic cherry-shaped container for Urban Decay's Naked Cherry collection. 

(image from @rubiredlipstick)

And I'm wondering if the "compact the size of a desktop computer" the article refers to is Chanel's enormous PR kit, which contained their new line of glosses.  It could be yours for a mere $520

(image from @robinsiegel)

The vast majority of bloggers aren't fellow collectors so I'm assuming they throw out this novelty packaging, which obviously kills me since I'd be ecstatic to keep it for the Museum.  Anyway, unfortunately this tactic seems to work, and I have a hunch it's starting to bleed over into the packaging made for regular, non-blogger/editor folks.  "'It's become an instance that everyone is looking to stand out, and in order to, we're seeing bigger, more elaborate mailings that grab editors' attention. When our clients see this, they want to do the same or bigger/better to make sure they are seen,' one PR professional wrote. Another editor reluctantly admitted that super-cool packaging did in fact make them more likely to post about the brand, even if they aren't proud of the fact."  If this sort of packaging is getting the attention of editors, surely regular consumers would be intrigued too.  The other reason for such over-the-top packaging is online shopping, especially in the case of indie brands who don't have a presence in brick-and-mortar stores.  "Another responder, who runs a direct-to-consumer brand, mentioned that packaging feels like one of the most significant touchpoints they have with their consumer, since there are no physical stores in which to create a customer 'experience.' In that case, the goal of packaging is to create a moment with the consumer, one which can be prolonged by adding more layers to unwrap or sequins to scoop out of the way."

Now that we have an understanding as to why companies go all out with packaging, the solution seems pretty obvious:  switch to sustainable materials.  You would think beauty companies could modify their packaging pretty easily, right?  Not exactly.  Retail space, product preservation and cost are the three main factors that prevent companies from adopting green packaging.  Allure magazine explains:  "Retailers often put restrictions on package sizing to help maximize shelf space in a store (which makes sense: if they can fit more products on the shelves, they can easily sell more). If a brand wants to sell their product at one of these locations, they have to follow the store’s guidelines when designing their products are a bit like food. That is, they can go bad (yes, you need to throw away that year-old mascara). That deterioration process goes much faster if a product is not stored correctly. The color, odor, and shelf life of a product are all affected by packaging, and many products need air-tight packaging to stay intact. Many skincare ingredients are finicky (a notorious example is vitamin C). When not properly packaged, the nutritive ingredients that promise to keep you ageless can be destabilized and rendered useless.  Of course, as with any business consideration, cost plays a huge factor as well. 'Cheap plastics are exactly that: inexpensive, mass produced and wasteful,' says Lori Leib, the creative director at Bodyography Professional Cosmetics, a company that recently overhauled its products to use half as much plastic and incorporate more recyclable cardboard. 'They do not use good quality materials therefore they are able to make the cost of goods next to nothing,' she says."  Alternative green packaging is quite pricey due to the processes involved in making it green, not to mention that some materials (like glass, which is heavier than plastic) would be more expensive to transport.  In sum, there are significant obstacles to companies making the switch to eco-friendly packaging.

Fortunately, my complaints and those of other beauty consumers aren't falling on entirely deaf ears.  A recent study showed that more consumers are checking products for eco-friendly packaging before making a purchase, and the industry is taking miniscule steps to cut down on excessive, non-sustainable packaging.  These solutions include: refillable packaging (see and  Kjaer Weis - even their refill packaging itself is recyclable), recycled glass packaging, biodegradable/compostable packaging, with vegetable or soy-based inks used for printing directly onto the package instead of adhesive labels.  Another article at Fashionista highlights brands like Alima Pure, which uses food-grade plastic for its jars and recyclable paper to securely pack items instead of bubble wrap, and Ethique, which packages its shower products in compressed bamboo and compostable boxes. Some companies, like LUSH, are forgoing traditional packaging altogether.  Their "Naked" line of shower gels and lotions completely do away with bottle packaging. (Personally I find the Naked shower gels to be glorified soap, but at least they're trying.)  While there is an increased cost associated with these solutions, many companies are now working it into their regular budgets.

Lush Naked shower gel
(image from

So where does all this fit within the context of the Makeup Museum? I think it would be very difficult to have a zero-packaging-waste makeup museum right now.  From a consumer standpoint, it's fairly simple to recycle outer boxes and bottles.  But if you're trying to preserve makeup items and keep track of them, it's basically impossible to get rid of any extra packaging.  The outer boxes are required to offer some measure of protection from fingerprints and minor scratches while the items are in storage, not to mention how they're relied upon for organization purposes - given how vast the collection is now I'd never find anything I was looking for without its clearly marked box.  The only thing that would allow a makeup museum be remotely close to zero waste would be if all companies used only biodegradable packaging (or, you know, not having a museum at all, which obviously is out of the question).  Efforts are being made to achieve this goal, but we're nowhere near 100% implementation.  However, I do think there are small steps I could take to allow for a more environmentally-friendly museum.  I've already mentioned the recycling of cardboard boxes and paper packaging for new items so there's that.  But if I had a physical space I could probably use the excess packaging, as well as any trash the Museum produced, for visitor-created artwork. Take, for example, the Rubbish Exhibition at London's Science Museum.  Artists and staff members collected a month's work of the museum's trash - everything from discarded cutlery and food scraps to old metal signage and brochures - and turned it into an exhibition.  After it closed everything got recycled/composted/disposed of through environmentally-conscious means.

Rubbish Exhibition, Science Museum
(image from

Seems pretty genius!  In the case of the Makeup Museum, I'd probably have a "waste installation" where people could make their own artwork out of empty makeup containers, or perhaps scribble/paint using expired makeup on a wall of cardboard made from the boxes used to ship the Museum's items.  Another idea is to have special exhibitions devoted to eco-friendly beauty lines, or artists who repurpose cosmetics for their work - could you imagine a whole exhibition full Makeup as Muse artists?

Secondly, for vintage items I reuse whatever packaging I have and label it with a post-it note (reusing ones from my office that we no longer can use because the organization's logo is way out of date), or if it the item arrives from the seller in a gift box, I'll write on the box directly to label it.  Also, isn't preserving vintage items sort of recycling, in a way?  I like to think of it as rescuing items that would otherwise be destined for a landfill. 

Third, I think we all need to demand a radical change from beauty companies regarding their current approach to packaging.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  consumers have to do their part by being thoughtful about what they purchase and recycle as much as possible, but most of the responsibility for being environmentally conscious lies with cosmetics manufacturers.  Consumers can only do so much; I could recycle cardboard boxes till the cows come home and buy less overall, but wouldn't it be so much more helpful for the environment if companies didn't produce excessive, plastic-filled packaging in the first place?  As someone who lacks the clout of major beauty bloggers and editors, I doubt my individual voice will be heard, but hopefully the collective masses will start being more vocal about their expectations for companies to use sustainable materials as well as the implementation of recycling programs until they become the norm rather than the exception.  As we saw earlier, there are major challenges in switching to green packaging, most notably cost, but I bet consumers would be willing to pay a tiny bit more for product packaging that won't harm the planet.  Plus if small indie brands are adopting zero-waste practices, surely the big manufacturers can do it too.  I also don't believe that using biodegradable, recyclable materials would drastically limit the type of designs that appear on packaging or their overall style.  While I genuinely care about the sad state of our planet (especially the oceans - all that plastic is killing mermaids and their sea creature friends!), I do shudder at the thought of having boring packaging that all looks the same.  And I don't like the idea of never having oversize, incredibly fun items like the MAC Jeremy Scott collection.  But I really think you can have beautiful packaging (complete with my beloved artist collaborations) using alternative materials.  This way I can have my cake and eat it too - even if the packaging is big and splashy, it shouldn't do any long-term damage if it's made out of earth-friendly materials.

What do you think about the current state of beauty packaging?  Do you try to reduce the amount of wasteful/environmentally harmful packaging you buy?

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

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

David Bowie
(image from

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

(image from

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

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 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

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

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 

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

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

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

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

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?

Curator's Corner, September 2018

CC logoAaaaaaaaand we're back!  Hopefully.  I'm not sure if the domain registration issue I had during almost the whole month of September is completely resolved, but for now the website seems to be functioning.  Of course, it threw off my schedule entirely so I'll do my best to catch up on some fall posts.  First, here's a look back on September.

 - Glamour offers another thoughtful view of the Fenty effect, which no doubt influenced MAC's upping the foundation shade ante to a whopping 60 shades

- "Is it in any way preferable for the term 'anti-ageing' to become taboo while all its apparatus remains intact?" An article at The Guardian points out the beauty industry's hypocrisy in marketing skincare for, ahem, mature women.

- Along those lines, wouldn't it be nice to for brands to regularly show un-Photshopped pictures of products on their models? 

- I'm in total agreement with this author on the sexualization of mascara names.  Unfortunately one of my favorite makeup artists hopped on the bandwagon...but I'll let Mother slide this time.

- I Need This Unicorn shared some vintage Too-Faced items and the history behind them (plus a shout-out to the Museum!)  I so wish I had any items from the '90s and early aughts.  They are surprisingly hard to come by.

- Does this sound, like, super creepy to anyone else? 

- Sad that this is still happening in 2018.  But at least animal testing seems to be on its way out in the U.S.  Let's hope other states follow suit.

The random:

- In '90s nostalgia, Google and two fairly huge '90s albums turned 20 in September, while one of the most legendary celebrated a quarter-century.  Ditto for the premiere of The X-Files and Dazed and Confused.  I must say while I'm not a fan of the latter - too much bullying for me - I will say that "Wipe that face off your head, bitch!" is one of the most hilarious lines ever.

- Problematic thought it is, as Pulp Fiction remains my favorite movie, this is easily the best thing I've seen online since Decorative Gourd Season (you know it's not fall unless I link to it!) 

- Speaking of liking problematic pop culture, I must confess that me and my sister used to watch Sixteen Candles on repeat - we can still recite it verbatim.  In recent years I've been navigating the guilt I feel over having enjoyed one of the '80s most racist, ableist, rape culture-supporting movies, so I'm grateful to Vox for the timely reminder of just how wrong it is.  #whatwerewethinking

- On the art front, I need to get up to NYC to see these new exhibitions

How are you?  Are you feeling fall yet?  It's still fairly warm here and I'm not happy about the ever-growing lack of daylight, but I have been enjoying some PSLs.  :)

Quick post: Kicking off fall with Paul & Joe

Paul & Joe is a brand whose collections I look forward to each season.  This fall's theme, Moonlight on the Seine, is probably not as inspired as it could have been, but the resulting collection is solid nevertheless.  Here's the brief description provided by the company:  "The 2018 PAUL & JOE Autumn Creation encompasses the romanticism and mystery of the rippling reflection of the full moon on the Seine, the Pont Neuf’s streetlamps being silently lit, and the transient nightscape of Paris as evening deepens into night."   I like that they chose to focus on a peaceful evening rather than the hustle and bustle of city nightlife.  The prints are, of course, chock full of adorable kitties.  I picked up everything except the three compact cases, since they had the same prints as the lipstick cases.

Paul & Joe fall 2018 lipstick cases

I appreciated the star and crescent details on these Face and Eye Colors - definitely reminiscent of a starry Parisian night.

Paul & Joe fall 2018 face and eye colors

How cute is this case?  I always think Paul & Joe couldn't possibly come up with any more cat designs, but here we are.  I don't know how anyone could use it though, I imagine it would get dirty in one's purse very quickly.

Paul & Joe fall 2018 lipstick case

I couldn't identify the rose print on one of the face and eye colors, but was able to suss out the others pretty easily since they were all in the fall 2018 collection.

Paul & Joe fall 2018(images from vogue)

Paul & Joe fall 2018

This cat print is from the Sister fall 2018 collection and features one of Paul & Joe founder Sophie Mechaly's cats, Nounette. 

Paul & Joe Sister fall 2018

Paul & Joe Sister fall 2018

If I were 20 years younger I'd buy the purple version of this dress in a heartbeat.

Paul & Joe Sister fall 2018

The fluffy white kitty is Mechaly's other cat, unfortunately named G*psy, who appeared on several items in the regular fall collection (and many other prints over the years, as I found out via Paul & Joe's Instagram.) 

Paul & Joe fall 2018

Paul & Joe fall 2018
(images from 

Bad name aside, these two fluffballs are truly adorable!  Paul & Joe did a great job capturing their likeness in their prints.

Paul & Joe cat

Sophie Mechaly

Paul & Joe - Nounette

Paul & Joe cats
(images from and

Getting back to the makeup, while the decor was not as elaborate as that of their circus-themed Isetan exclusive collection, Paul & Joe still created an impressive "makeup street" in Osaka to welcome the collection.

Paul & Joe makeup street 2018

Paul & Joe makeup street 2018

Paul & Joe makeup street 2018

Paul & Joe makeup street 2018

Paul & Joe makeup street 2018
(images from instagram)

The selected prints don't seem particularly fall-like to me, but obviously the cute factor outweighs the seasonal inappropriateness.  And while I do think using some of the fashion collection's quirkier prints might have been interesting, the safer ones are probably best for a collection whose theme is a romantic, moonlit evening in Paris.


Curator's Corner, August 2018

CC logoAnd so we say goodbye to summer.  Here's the August rewind. 

- I'm delighted that Madam CJ Walker will be getting a Netflix series devoted to her, but recent news shows just how much more work needs to be done in terms of recognizing non-white beauty pioneers as well as ensuring the industry understands the beauty needs of people of color.  Between badly photoshopped swatches and racist YouTubers, non-white people are still being left out and verbally attacked.  As Meli of Wild Beauty thoughtfully points out, there's racism in every industry, but beauty is one where it's especially harmful.

- Speaking of beauty "influencers," I'm sadly not surprised by the dishonest tactics that some of them use, along with the fact that there are companies paying them to do so.

- I'm happy to see that this new all-genders line is eschewing retouching their photos, but like MAC's Nico Panda collection and Crayola, there doesn't appear to be any models over the age of 25.  Hopefully these new (old?) beauty gurus will force makeup companies to acknowledge that women over 40 exist and maybe, you know, regularly use them in their advertising. To my knowledge, only a handful of companies have featured "mature" women, and the campaigns were very short-lived. 

- On a lighter note, I also wouldn't be surprised if Olive Garden did end up releasing a real makeup palette given the rabid enthusiasm for it.

- Chanel is introducing a makeup line for men.  On the one hand I don't believe makeup should be gendered.  On the other hand, I'd love to see more guys wearing it so if this is what it takes, it might not be such a bad thing.  There are even oh-so-manly makeup brushes that may be put into production.  Right now men in China are getting more on board with wearing makeup, so I'm really hoping eventually it'll catch on in the Western hemisphere.

- Good reads:  Amber's excellent history of cult makeup classic Maybelline Great Lash and this interview with makeup artist Linda Cantello.  It was honestly a little strange how close her general outlook to makeup these days is to mine - there was not a single thing she said that I disagreed with. 

- For trends, so-called "cold brew" and "flannel" hair colors, cloud eye makeup and any product with a jelly texture are pretty big right now.

- Remember this guy?  Now he's doing beauty tutorials.  *heart-eye emoji*

The random:

- I was in my '90s glory due to the A.V. Club's epic 1998 series.  Also, Y necklaces have made their triumphant return.  I really thought no one else but me remembered them and was curious to see if they'd make a reappearance along with all other manner of '90s fashion, and here they are!  I must dig through the stuff at my parents' house and see if I have any left.

- In other pop culture news, The Wrap's Emmys edition had some great interviews with Amy Sedaris and Derek Waters, who host a couple of my current favorite shows (and I will always love Amy as Jerri Blank).

- Between Domo Kun, Gudetama and Peko, I'm endlessly fascinated with Japanese mascots.  This Vice article digs deep into their world.

- More on the rise of the Instagram museumMakeup companies are also starting to get in on the action, further proving my point that these are not actually museums but rather a mash-up of eye candy and commercialization.  At least Winky Lux is honest about their new space being a "retail concept" and doesn't try to market it as a museum.

- This new study provides evidence of a theory I've had for years.  After all, I completed a marathon mostly as a way of getting revenge for the horrors I suffered during gym class.

- Still way too hot here for me to get a PSL, but me (and MM staff) are intrigued by these PSL cookie straws

- On a personal note, the husband and I celebrated our 8th wedding anniversary and a total of 18 years (!) together last week.  Did he pick out the most perfect card or what?

anniversary card

How was the end of your summer?  Are you looking forward to fall?