September 24th, 2018
Famed for their airbrush system, Kett Cosmetics is the brainchild of Sheila McKenna, whose creative influence runs straight through the heart of this independent US brand. We caught up with her to find out more about what makes Kett tick.
WP: What’s your background and what brought you into makeup?
SMcK: It’s rooted in a creative environment with an artist/photographer father. My dad was an award-winning photographer and, as a small child, I would spend hours with him shooting film. We rolled, developed and printed our photos in the basement darkroom. He taught me lighting and composition for black and white photography at a very young age. I would say that this early exposure to the nuances of shade, contrast and tone was great training. Studying Art History and Jewelry Design while at the Fashion Institute of Technology certainly helped develop my crafty side. While working at the jewelry counter at a department store, I found myself wandering over to the makeup section to paint face charts during the slow hours. Doing hair is also something I enjoyed, which ultimately brought me back to school to obtain a cosmetology license. I began working professionally doing hair first and was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on a cable TV show. While working on this job, the makeup artist quit and I was thrust into the position with absolutely no training in that category. That experience is what changed my direction and ignited my passion for makeup artistry.
WP: Who were your early makeup or artistic influences?
SMcK: My first artistic influence was Peter Max and I would draw in his style on every note book cover I owned. I still love his style but have added Erte and Dali to the list of favourites. Obviously I love loopy, surreal and repetitive patterns, just like what you would find in nature with a macro lens. As for makeup artists, I didn’t follow anyone in particular at a young age. Once I was working in the makeup industry, I found myself just loving the work of Kevin Aucoin, Joanne Gair and Pat McGrath. This covered my love for beauty, body painting and couture makeups. My first makeup book purchased was Veruschka.
WP: How did you become involved with airbrushing?
SMcK: After doing makeup for about 10 years, I hit a creative road block and wanted to learn something completely new and out of the box. Airbrushing seemed to be the perfect fit. Enrolling in a class with the guys who paint motorcycles and cars, I then fell in love with it from the very start and I’m looking forward to eventually painting bikes and cars. I continue to take courses to keep my skills fresh and create artwork as well as incorporating this form of art into my airbrush makeup classes. If you take a class with me, you will walk away knowing how to paint a t-shirt, mural or a face. It’s all the same techniques using liquids.
WP: What are the advantages of airbrushing for artists who may be unfamiliar with it?
SMcK: If you’ve ever tried to cover a tattoo with brushes and sponges, you will experience product lift off with every touch. This does not happen with airbrushing, you never physically touch the skin. Airbrushing can be used as a tool to add layers of makeup without interrupting the products already on the skin. Correcting flaws or imperfections is seamless. Airbrushing has enabled me to achieve exactly what I want with ease and confidence. It has not replaced any of my makeup brushes, it has added to what I can offer and enhanced my work and ability to create. I will never stop incorporating airbrushing with my traditional techniques. Once you learn how to control the airbrush, it will add value to your skill set. It’s an incredibly valuable tool in my kit.
WP: What were the first steps to setting up Kett and what advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
SMcK: I started with a notebook and gold stars. With every task achieved, I gave myself a gold star. I’ve kept logs on every day and year since the beginning and have lost the stars. My first piece of advice is three steps: Create a name/logo, trademark it and incorporate. Now you have an official business and can communicate as one. Continue to keep daily logs of what you need to do and each task will undoubtedly morph into another one.
WP: The Kett range is very broad – how long does it take you to develop new products and bring them to market?
SMcK: Thank you for noticing the “other” products Kett has to offer. While creating a liquid makeup for HD was my original product, it was never intended to be just an airbrush makeup. It can also be applied with traditional brushes, just like any other liquid makeup. I also have shimmers, metals, crèmes, water proof products and most recently powder foundations. While it’s fairly easy to create a new colour in the already existing ranges, it’s more difficult to create a new formula and colours. This typically takes a year of R&D. I personally create all the formulas and colours as well as approve of new batches. I choose ingredients that are vegan and cruelty free. As an artist, I put a lot of pressure on myself to make it the best it can be.
WP: What’s the favourite product that you’ve developed? And one you wish you had?
SMcK: I love all the products I’ve created – each product has a specific function and I have my favorite colours that look best on me, which is one of the perks of making your own makeup. I love Rose Gold Metal on my eyes and Hydro foundation with Fixx Crème on my skin. On my wish list are crème eye shadows and lips. Coming soon!
WP: What are your plans for the future of the brand?
SMcK: My plans are to keep creating new colors and products while growing globally. I love what I’m doing so it’s not work for me.