the constant companions

On May 15, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

You know those fashion and beauty pieces you always wear hand in hand? Never one without the other? Always this liner with this lipstick, this skirt with those shoes, this jacket with that bag. The category of the fail-safe combo is one I find interesting for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, like the way I love to watch people putting on lipstick. I’ve seen so many clips—hundreds and hundreds— of people putting on lipstick, and still I am interested to see how each individual approaches the task. It’s not like there is a great range of techniques going on…there are only so many ways to get color on your lips (I distinguish rather a lot of ways, actually, but still there are only so many), but something about the act, the ceremony of it, doesn’t get old for me.

Right. What was I saying?

I like to hear what others are combining, especially when they find the combination more interesting than either element. Perhaps it is the allure of a sum that is greater than its parts? Perhaps it has to do, too, with the concept of personalizing your style. In the commercial environment that makes thousands or millions of units of any item available, the item alone can only say so much about you – much as the brand would like to maintain the illusion that this ubiquitous product is your path to your unique you. It is the personal tweaks that customize the item and make it yours, what you wear it with, how you play it. For me this issue (let’s call it the cookie cutter issue) is directly related to the appeal of vintage, handmade, and antique pieces. I think I am getting off track again.

I love that moment when the pair first meet. For me it usually an instant aha moment, where each item knows it will never be alone again. A number of these inseparable pairs have jumped out at me recently, in particular a new one, my had-to-have-it scarab pendant and my custom Tahitian pendant.

The scarab I have on a long, delicate chain and I often pair it with some shorter pendant, the formula of a short pendant with a long one is not new. The Tahitian pendant is as simple as can be, a stunning teardrop with a simple loop finding on a box chain. It seems like this would be easy to come by but I had the hardest time finding a design as simple as I envisioned. In the end I asked the team at Pearls of Joy if they could show me some of their best drops in the size I wanted (10ish mm) and mount one for me. You may remember them from the gorgeous cherry Tahitian floating pearl pendant featured a good while back.

pearls of joy tahitian pendant theseventhsphinx

I was delighted with the result and wore the pendant alone for weeks when I first got it. The look is so clean and plain, structurally, but then the pearl, if you are near enough to speak to me, is dazzling, with beautiful peacock overtones, green in some lights, violet in others.

One day I had the idea to add the scarab…

tahitian pearl pendant and scarab theseventhsphinx

The two have be constant companions ever since.

Just wait ’til they meet the Tahitian studs I splashed out for in the Mother’s Day sale…

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reading: Harad, McPhee, Johnson, Knausgaard

On May 14, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve failed to include reading for a long while,  a bit of a shame as I’ve been reading so many things I would recommend. Let the jury note a general resolution to improve on this front. What I’m reading tends to be a more or less direct reflection of what is occupying me, and what I find important and interesting from one month to the next. I have long believed that reading is the most important activity I do, and I grow increasingly dimwitted when I neglect it.

reading theseventhsphinx

Coming to My Senses, Alyssa Harad — This is a wonderful story about the awakening of Harad’s passion for perfume intertwined with thoughts about beauty and identity that are relevant to us all, and especially to women, whose relationship to beauty (to an abstract, artistic concept of beauty as well as a commercial, mainstream concept of beauty) is so complex and, in many ways, problematic. Harad writes eloquently about her own journey, and any of you secret perfume obsessives out there—of which I am a not so secret one, but even readers here (and even good friends) cannot begin to imagine the true volumes of perfume in my possession—will surely identify with her. A delightful read, and I suggest following her on twitter as well. One great result of reading this is the irresistible urge to dig out perfume samples, buy new perfume samples, and think with still greater (and variously focused) attention about perfume and beauty. This is directly related to the larger questions of what makes art art and what makes the beautiful beautiful that has been humming along in relation to the painting I’ve been doing, which I will have to get into another time.

Middle Passage, Charles Johnson—I’m about a quarter in here and it is already a riveting, deeply ominous narrative. A fictional account of a New Orleans thief stowing away on what turns out to be a slave ship collecting and transporting slaves from Africa. I’ve read enough about this novel to know it’s only going to get more gruesome. Excellent, if we want to call such a grisly story about such a awful subject excellent…thanks to GeekOutsider for prompting me to push this to the top of the list.

Levels of the Game, John McPhee—As I was reading this I couldn’t stop thinking, ‘this is so good!!’ McPhee is, on the surface, describing a semi-final match in the 1968 U.S. Open. The face-off (I wasn’t familiar with either player before reading this), fantastic tennis writing in its own right, is brilliantly interleaved with biographical, social, and historical context. You don’t need to be that into tennis to appreciate what this is: an attentive, informative, wonderfully researched, insightful essay. The format reminded me of L. Jon Wertheim’s Strokes of Genius: Federer, Nadal, and the Greatest Match Ever Played, a play-by-play of the 2008 Wimbledon men’s final. Wertheim’s account of the match (extremely detailed, with certain dramatic points described at length) is similarly interrupted to provide context – I’m convinced he’s standing on McPhee’s shoulders. It’s also an interesting read and one I enjoyed a lot (I read it twice!) but it pales in comparison to Levels style and subtle humor, and has nothing like the cocktail of social tensions surrounding the ’68 match. There is little I enjoy more than putting myself in the hands of a brilliant essayist.

My Struggle: Book Two, Karl Ove Knausgaard—A strange, compelling autobiography on the model of Remembrance of Things Past, that is, an exhaustively detailed, sharp-eyed reflection of his remembered life. Knausgaard is of course not Proust, but we would not want him to be, he is thoroughly himself. The powers of description that help me to trust his narration (I mean, put my trust in him as a reader (I mean, keep reading)) are all the more effective paired with his grim (at times grim, at times provocative), relentless honesty. Already I am enjoying Book Two, focusing on his romantic and family life, more than Book One (also massive), which chronicled his childhood and the death of his father. Interesting too that he is speaking in such detail of cultures – Norwegian, then later Swedish – so foreign to me, beyond the fascination of speaking in such detail of a life so foreign to me. A kind of life. Incidentally, the work, some six volumes in total, is a literary sensation. Not hard to see why.

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the RCMA cream cheek color palette

On May 8, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

There were a few months where I didn’t really buy any makeup, just skincare here and there, but this past month I was drawn to a number of new products and quite a few have come home with me. Chief among them at the moment is the lovely RCMA Cream Cheek Color Palette, the acquisition of which I can trace directly to Sali Hughes’ wonderful interview with movie makeup artist Morag Ross. Highly recommend all three parts, Ross speaks to the theatrical side of makeup (rather than, say, red carpet or everyday makeup, which I would argue dominates YouTube tutorials and fashion magazine articles), a whole different creature.

Ross mentions using some RCMA products when doing Cate Blanchett’s makeup for Carol to create a natural, skin-like look for the 16mm film. RCMA is a highly pigmented theatrical makeup brand, with pigment levels around 50% (compare with other theatrical brands with levels around 30 or 40%, and commercial brands with levels around 20%). Their foundations and skin products are oil and wax based, which means they melt into the skin and have excellent longevity. I have issues with my skin just swallowing blush, so I popped over to Beautylish to pick up the cheek palette and see for myself. At $30 it didn’t seem like much of a risk, and have I mentioned how delightful Beautylish is? Fantastic customer service.

RCMA Cream Cheek Color Palette

What an excellent little palette this is. I was amazed at the lasting power. The first day I tried it out I put it on around 9am and and it was entirely intact at 7pm. The colors are great, too, a selection of muted and lively rosy shades that are just what I want for spring/summer. It’s versatile and compact, with something for any lip look I might want to match. I have been mainly using the center three. The second shade in, the most brown, reminds me in both color and blendability of my beloved Kjaer Weis cream blush.  I take only the tiniest bit of this on the tip of one finger, dab on both cheeks, and blend out with clean fingers.

I’ve been using these on their own, mostly, but they are great as a base for powder blush as well. I add powder blush when I want to tweak the shade a bit or add some shimmer. These are all without shimmer and have a satin finish.  They blend so beautifully (hydrate first), it’s easy to get a completely natural look, undetectable, and just as easy to warm up to a bold 80’s style cheek. Easy, too, to layer a cream highlighter over or under. Could not be more pleased with this product.

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the verdigris mani

On April 24, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

verdigris, n. a bright bluish-green encrustation or patina formed on copper or brass by atmospheric oxidation, consisting of basic copper carbonate.

I’ve been wanting to collaborate with indie Cambridge nail salon Wet Paint Nail Spa for a while. Michelle, the owner, is a seriously talented nail technician, with the curiosity and creativity displayed by the best artists in every medium. I’ll definitely be featuring more of her work in the future. If you are in the Boston area I cannot recommend this salon highly enough, the other technicians are wonderful as well.

verdigris manicure theseventhsphinx

I asked her to create a look inspired by my snakeskin clutch and makeup bag and she designed this incredible verdigris manicure, mimicking oxidized copper and at the same time reminding me of gorgeous reptilian eyes. I love every shade of copper…really all warm metallics (as evidenced by my recent eyeshadow post), and could not be more pleased with how it turned out.

verdigris manicure theseventhsphinx

verdigris manicure theseventhsphinx

This is two coats of acrylic paint (paint! Not nail polish, painted on with a paint brush! Which I will not be trying at home.) dusted with a glittery green pigment from CND. Topcoat and basecoat from DazzleDry, both of which I am so impressed with (really quick drying) and plan to pick up immediately.

verdigris manicure theseventhsphinx

Longtime readers will remember my beloved python clutch. The teal one above is from the same Etsy shop, linmade.

verdigris manicure theseventhsphinx

Like the tarnished silver of the amber ring with this tarnished copper manicure. I’d been wanting my nails painted for weeks (they are often bare but I crave the decoration once in a while) and now it’s a constant, beautiful distraction.

Freshwater pearl ring from Pearl Paradise, which is having their Mother’s Day sale at the moment…

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moodboard: warm neutrals

On April 17, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Last week I was shopping for a few shades to customize a large Z-palette (top right palette below), occasioned by MAC’s $6 pro pan sale. How do you build a palette? That is, how do you build your ideal palette? I pulled out some of my favorite palettes to study, determine what I like about them. See how they tick.

They display a distinct trend…

warm neutrals - theseventhsphinx

L-R, as if reading: Kat Von D Monarch palette, Z palette (ft. Mac and Makeup Geek shadows), MAC shadows in custom Japonesque palette, Viseart 01 Neutral Matte, Louise Young Essential Eye Palette, Makuep Geek shadows in custom Japonesque palette, Viseart 05 Sultry Muse, Colourpop shadows, Tom Ford cream shadow, MAC singles, NARS single, Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess, Marc Jacobs 212 The Dreamer, Clinique 03 Morning Java

It’s not so easy, in a sea of shades, to create a compelling combination. Easy to make something nice, hard to make something I like even more than my favorites. I’m not finished, actually, though the Z-palette (the blush there is MAC Peaches, if you’re wondering) is full for now. Need to pull in a few more matte shades, something very dark and something to be a great transition shade for my skin tone (read: a tiny bit darker without being too dark). It’s an engrossing color exercise, feels much like a puzzle. I keep shuffling the shades around, deciding not only what shades to include but in what arrangement. Feeling satisfyingly territorial about it.

It seems revealing, to see what colors a person would choose, like it would reinforce something you already knew, or show you something you hadn’t realized about them (about yourself).

[I’m working on the 2 little 4-pan Japonesque (Japonesque makes the shell) palettes as well, simultaneously, as related but independent puzzles.]

I want something that is effectively a Viseart Neutral Matte palette that incorporates shimmers and metallics. Once I’ve added a few things and rearranged to my heart’s content I’ll let you know which shadows made the cut. Have you ever built a custom palette? How did it go? Favorite shades?

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