July 29th, 2014
If you were to define Phyllis Cohen, fine artist would seem to be the best description. Having studied at some of the world’s top schools, Ms Cohen thankfully chose make-up as her medium. As the creator of the fabulously intricate Face Lace, Warpaint had to find out more about the woman who puts pure art of the faces of her models.
WP: You never had any formal make-up training- how did you transfer your artistry skills onto applying make-up?
PC: My favourite subject to draw was always faces. I used to copy them out of Vogue all the time. To start I would pencil in the outlines of the facial features, once they were correctly drawn, I would shade in the lights and darks of the make-up around the eyes. That actually taught me quite a bit about where it. I also used to have the book ‘Designing your Face’ by the great MUA Way Bandy and learned a lot from that. I use to spend hours every morning getting ready to go to art classes. One day, someone asked me if I was doing some sort of performance at the school – I may have overdone it that morning.
WP: How necessary do you think formal training is for young people wanting to become MUA?
PC: I was very good with all the utensils of make-up – brushes, sponges and getting perfect lines and blends from drawing and painting BUT there were a lot of gaps in my knowledge of make-up when I started. I didn’t know anything about products, as I never assisted nor had any mentors. I especially didn’t know too much about skincare or what were the best products to use.
When I did a job in Italy once and the model had very bad skin, I had no idea what to do about it. The Italian beauty editor at the time told me that her skin was terrific and I was a bit confused and said, “Ok, thanks”. Then she corrected herself and said “No I mean the skin is TERRIBLE,” and expected me to do something about it. That was when I realised that I must try to learn more about products. I think the best type of training would be to learn about the face from an artistic perspective: how light, shade, and colour work on a face, and about products and skincare.
WP: What drove you to set up Face Lace?
PC: I always explored ways to achieve dramatic make ups in the least time possible. In the ‘80s I made stick-on embellishments out of latex, beads and fabric for Zandra Rhodes’ shows. I have also spent decades plundering haberdashers, miniatures shops, DIY shops, craft shops looking for interesting things that could be stuck onto faces for photo shoots. Over the last few years I saw that other MUAs were starting to play more and more with using foreign objects as add-ons for catwalk looks. A few years back, I knew that if I was going to do a business of make-up embellishments I had to get going, I could see that there would be a market opening up for it.
I think some of the beauty consumer market does want dramatic and quick make-up fixes for certain occasions. Perhaps our social media culture has created expectations to be able to transform into superstar versions of ourselves.
WP: How would you describe Face Lace in 3 words?
PC: Fast, fun, filigree.
WP: What sets Face Lace apart from other decorative lashes?
PC: There are a lot of great decorative products on the market. I think what makes mine different is that I really strive to create unique designs. When I am developing a new design I blend many references together and work quite tirelessly to create something unique, delicate, and that works to flatter the eyes and face. Some of the other companies lift designs straight out of books – I know, I have the same books!
WP: What are the staples in your kit which you would make you panic if they were missing?
PC: I really love my Make Up For Ever cream palettes, I use my Ultra No-Bulb individual lashes for 95% of my shoots, I have a Dinair Airbrush black which I use for eyeliner and any very fine black lines, Decleor Aromessence Oils, MAC foundation brushes.
WP: Are there any new products you are currently loving?
PC: I really love the long-lasting waterproof cream liners, by Make Up For Ever and recently Kryolan, I work on quite a few underwater shoots, and these really do work. I also use them even when I’m doing a normal days shoot if I’m doing a make-up that will have to last the whole day.
WP: What has been your career highlight so far?
PC: Just before I had my first child, I was given a good sum of money to design a catwalk show for Sebastian International- creator of hair and make-up products. I got to design the clothes, make-up, music and whatever I wanted. I never got to see the shows as the first was in LA 4 weeks before the due date and the second was in NY 3 weeks after the baby was born. BUT it was great fun to design the shows.
I feel pretty blessed for my working experience with all the great people I collaborate with, I am thrilled when I get a call from my friends whose creative energy I love! I think in a way its better not to wish too hard. Just be ready for each new creative endeavour, see where it takes you, keep your eyes open to learn, and enjoy the ride.
WP: You’ve worked with some incredible people and with some amazing magazine- do you still have anything on your wish list to complete?
PC: I would have loved to work on Italian or French Vogue, but I chose that my family would come before hopping on planes all the time at the drop of a hat. I do some plane hopping, but I restricted it to no more than five days a month away. Now my kids are teenagers and I am so happy to be able to combine being near my family and having the creative satisfaction of working on Face Lace.
WP: Do you have advice for aspiring MUAs?
If there is a particular area that interests you, delve into it! If it’s colour, research colour theory and experiment with colours all the time; it doesn’t need to be with make up. If it’s contouring, study master painters like Rembrandt and try things on yourself. If it is eyebrows, study Hollywood photos to see how different shapes changed the faces of the stars like Marlene Deitrich and Joan Crawford. If it’s skin, research everything you can about skin.
Go beyond what is expected of you, even if it isn’t called for; do it for yourself and your own creative journey. This is where your passion will come from, it will come alive when you challenge yourself. And in that challenge, you will find your own special niche, that you can share with others.
You may think ‘I don’t know where to start’, believe me I didn’t know where to start either with Face Lace and it was a long journey. I spent weeks not even knowing what the correct terms were for the technical processes and materials I needed to research on Google, and spent so many hours just trying different combinations of words. But slowly, slowly I got there. In hindsight, I’m glad it took me a long time. I would have made a lot of dumb mistakes and choices if I had rushed through everything.