Posts Categorized: fascinating and fashionable

Fascinating and Fashionable: Amy the Makeup Artist

Amy Presson is one of the sweetest, warmest, friendliest women I’ve ever met. She is also my polar opposite because she knows just about everything there is to know about makeup. Founder and owner of local makeup studio Jett Makeup, Amy does everything from eyelash extensions to airbrush makeup, hires out for special events and weddings, and even gives the occasional makeup lesson! (A smoky eye tutorial from her is on my holiday wishlist.)

Since we work in adjacent worlds but I know so little about hers, I thought it would be fun and fascinating to talk with her about her career trajectory and love for cosmetics and beauty. Let’s hear from Amy!

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amy presson jett

Have you always loved playing with makeup?
My interest with all things beauty, hair and makeup began in my early teens and continued well into my college days. At that time, I felt intimidated by not knowing what products to use. Back then, makeup products were luxury items for me. Since I could not afford much makeup on my own, I often traded makeup with my friends if we were going out. I had fun experimenting with different looks, and I was always the girl that my friends would go to for hair styling and makeup. Even at an early age, I loved playing with makeup and knew that I had a natural talent for it.

Was a career in beauty something you could’ve predicted for yourself?
I knew that I wanted to do something creative for a living. However, with two teachers as parents, I was expected to enter college after high school. My favorite subject in high school was art class, so when I graduated high school, I wanted to incorporate my love of art into my future career. After high school, I entered a multimedia program at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona. I studied 3D modeling, computer animation, and computer programming. I loved the creativity and structure of the program, but I knew that sitting at a desk all day would not be something that I would enjoy long term. After college, I was lucky enough to be recruited by a friend who asked me to consider working part-time at a cosmetics store. At that time, I thought of it as a fun job and a great way to make a little extra money. However, I had no idea that it would help steer me into an industry that I would eventually have such a passion for.

Did you study or train?
I worked for Estee Lauder for more than six years. During that time, I received extensive training on skincare and cosmetics. I became more confident with makeup applications, and I sought out other makeup resources on my own. I self-studied different application styles, and I tried new makeup techniques on anyone who would sit in my chair at work or at home. I also trained in New York City to learn airbrush makeup application and techniques used for photo shoots by celebrity makeup artists. I attend beauty conventions every year to learn about new trends, products and tools used in makeup applications. I have also been fortunate enough to receive training from Emmy award-winning makeup artists who have shared a wealth of knowledge and advice.


What was it like?
Learning new techniques for makeup applications can be intimidating at first. However, I enjoy the challenge, continually practice and push myself towards perfection with each client that I work with. The variety of the work and seeing immediate results with my clients keep me motivated.

What did you find most valuable?
I found the experience working in the retail cosmetics industry very valuable. Working in retail cosmetics allowed me to hone my skills on hundreds of faces varying in age, color, shape, and skin type.

When and why did you decide to strike out on your own?
I began receiving requests from my retail customers to do makeup for weddings and other special events. Early on, I knew that I wanted to offer something very special for my customers. Jett Makeup was originally created to offer celebrity style “red carpet” makeup services on location only. In 2009, I launched an eyelash bar and airbrush makeup studio in Edina, Minnesota. Our menu of services remains limited to airbrush makeup and eyelash extensions so we can focus and deliver on what we do best.

What does a typical day look like for you?
Most of my weekdays consist of working directly with clients and managing my team. During our peak wedding season, I work offsite most Fridays and Saturdays with wedding parties. I also host special “girls night out” parties at our studio. Although I do the majority of my work in our studio, I also do onsite commercial work for local businesses including fashion shows, photo shoots, etc. I really love the diversity that this industry offers!

jett makeup 2

What do you love most about helping women with their makeup?
I love showing women how to have fun with their makeup and wear it with confidence. We offer makeup lessons which are the perfect way to get comfortable with applying makeup at home. During a lesson, our clients bring in their own makeup so I can consult with them on the best way to use their own products and colors to achieve the best results possible.

What is most challenging?
The most challenging aspect about makeup applications is effective communication. Getting a client to clearly articulate their expectations for the service takes skill and patience. I have found that it is beneficial to take extra time during the consultation and thoroughly interview my clients to gain as much information about their makeup preferences as possible. At the beginning of an application, I will often start out light and continue to consult with the client throughout the application so we can achieve their desired result.

What would you say to someone hoping to become a professional makeup artist?
I would encourage those considering makeup artistry as a career to practice makeup applications on as many people as they can. Ask for constructive criticism from your models to determine what you naturally do well and what you can improve on. Work on a wide range of skin types, ages and skin colors. Advance your work with challenging skin problems such as acne, hyper-pigmentation, melasma, and bruising. Above all, have fun with your work and your clients … your passion for applying makeup will carry you through your most challenging jobs ahead.

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Fascinating and Fashionable: Samantha the Eclectic Clothing Designer

I met Samantha Rei several years ago when I attended a fantastically fun show she put on at Hell’s Kitchen with an amazing live band and endless stellar looks. Her steampunk-influenced line was called Blashphemina’s Closet back then, but she’s moving forward with an eponymous line and the descriptor, “Beauty. Strength. Rebellion.” Her bio closes with the line, “Samantha strives to help women feel confident, strong and comfortable in their own skin. She believes they can all be beautiful warriors.” Can you see why I adore her?

Samantha is smart, witty, warm, and fantastically talented. I am so excited to see where her new line and direction will take her. Let’s hear from Samantha!

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Did you study fashion or design in school, or have any formal training in sewing or tailoring?
I was self taught through most of the beginning of my career. I learned to sew from my mother when I was very young (she’s been sewing since she was about 4 or something). I went to Minneapolis Community and Technical College at 25 for Apparel Technologies.

At what point did you decide you wanted to launch your own clothing line? What made you take the plunge?
At about 13 I decided I wanted to be a designer. I didn’t exactly know what my design aesthetic was, though, until I was about 18. I was the goth kid in my high school, but I was also really outgoing and bubbly. I like anime and Japanese stuff, cute things, story books. When I stumbled onto Lolita fashion I became obsessed with it. It was all the things I liked, spookiness, cuteness, sometimes bright colors. By the time I was 19 I realized I couldn’t get that stuff here, especially in my size, and that other people in the U.S. might be having the same problem as me. So I started “Blasphemina’s Closet.” Making clothing accessible is really important, so I decided there was not better time than then. As of September 2013, though, I’m closing BC and launching my new label, “Samantha Rei.”

How would you describe your aesthetic?
Feminine, whimsical, soft yet powerful, original.


What do you love about designing? What is challenging and frustrating?
I love that I can tell a story with my designs. Each season I can create my own narrative and bring the viewer and the client into the world I created. I love getting to go through my entire creative process. People are generally surprised that I have 2-4 collections planned out in advance. Well, that’s how you do it in this industry. Preparation and research. Those are the keys to success.

The most frustrating is trying to create that vision in a way that will both get good reviews and sell. One of the things I can’t stand is when something is looked at on the runway and called unwearable. I feel that invalidates my clients. If it was unwearable, people wouldn’t be wearing it! I understand not understanding runway styling, but if it wasn’t over-the-top styled for the show, people would complain it was boring. Look at my F/W 2013 collection “Party Monster” for example. OTT runway styling (eyeballs and yarn pony-falls), but underneath it all it was party dresses, leggings, and t-shirts.

Do you envision your work on a New York runway? In a department store? As an underground favorite? How would you define success for your line?
Absolutely, all of the above. With my new label “Samantha Rei” I feel so free. My new collection “Cyclone Wasteland” is probably the most ME collection I’ve designed in ages. I loved my last two collections with all of my heart, but I feel with the restraints of Lolita and alternative fashion lifted from me, the designs have become more honest. I would love to sell in CUSP or Kirna Zabete. I like those stores because they are run by bigger entities but are for people in the know about fashion so the client will still feel like they are the only one with that dress. They won’t have to worry about running into someone at a party wearing their look.

Success would make me a household name amongst fans of fashion and women with confidence. Success would have “Samantha Rei” become synonymous with both strength and femininity.


Can you tell us a bit about your new collection, Cyclone Wasteland?
Cyclone Wasteland is based on the Wizard of Oz and influenced by Mad Max. Dorothy goes to Oz, awakens Ozma, and assembles a group of fellow citizens of Oz to reclaim their country. If you’re in a pretty dress and you have to fight, are you going to take it off or put armor on over it? I’d like to think a pretty dress doesn’t ruin your ability to fight. I think the ability to incorporate it into your daily armor makes you even stronger. The women of Cyclone Wasteland are beautiful warriors based on Art Nouveau paintings. Ozma is an Art Nouveau princess and she was one of my style icons growing up. I wanted to add an ambiguous tribal edge to the already floral/feather headpieces so Apatico teamed up with Artist Built to create beautiful Art Nouveau headpieces for our group of beautiful warriors in their quest to take back what was ripped from them. The collection is a study of beauty, femininity, and strength and how these things can go well together without sacrificing any one thing.

What would you suggest to anyone hoping to create and launch a clothing line? Which of your own experiences were the most valuable/useless?
Be patient (most designers don’t “make it” until they are 35), learn EVERYTHING, don’t be defensive, don’t take reviews to heart. Look through reviews for the constructive parts. If there aren’t any, ignore them. Save money, do research, take on internships. Be ready to be exhausted, take time for yourself, make LOTS of contacts (a lot of this industry is who you know). Study different types of fashion (mainstream, alternative), be open minded and above all else, be brave. Forge headlong into battle with no regrets. If you’re not ready to fight for it, you’re not ready. Listen to the fire in your heart.

Model images by Fairshadow Photography

Zoë Lewis
Cristina Peterson

Sandy Xiong

Apatico/Artist Built

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Fascinating and Fashionable: Karin the Jewelry Designer

karin jacobson jewelry designer

Award-winning jewelry designer Karin Jacobson has been creating covetable cocktail rings and gorgeous gem-encrusted necklaces, bracelets, and earrings for over almost 15 years, and I’ve been an admirer of her work from the moment I clapped eyes upon it. Karin’s sleek, bold aesthetic hits me right where I live, and I’ve even had her redesign and re-set my engagement ring, as well as custom design my crown ring, both of which get daily wear.

Karin is as smart and kind as she is talented, and has worked her hiney off to create a successful business entirely on her own. Let’s hear from Karin!

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How did you decide to become a jewelry designer?
My decision to become a jewelry designer was part choice and part luck. When I was in high school at the Perpich Center for Arts Education (Minnesota’s public, state-funded arts high school), I took a couple of jewelry classes and very much enjoyed them, but by no means knew “instantly” that I wanted to be a jewelry designer – I just knew that I loved art and design. The jewelry teacher my senior year was a visiting artist who had a studio in Minneapolis, and since we got along well, I wrote her a letter asking her if I could be her apprentice. I actually had no idea if this was how it was supposed to work or if she even wanted an apprentice, but she decided to take a chance with me and hired me to be her apprentice for the summer. It worked out so well that she said I could continue the next school year and in the end, I worked for her for about 6 years, attending college at the University of Minnesota in the meantime. (I graduated with a BA in History.)

Despite these 6 years, I still wasn’t convinced I wanted to be a jewelry designer – it was only after taking a break from working in the shop that I realized how much I missed it and that I wanted to keep doing it. My former boss had moved away to New York state, but a mutual friend of ours took over her old studio here and mentioned to me that if I wanted to pop by and use the studio now and then, I was welcome to do so. I was happy to have the opportunity and thought I’d work on a portfolio of pieces that I could use to apply for jobs with other designers.

In the meantime, I was still in touch with a former coworker at the jewelry design studio who had moved on to the Walker Art Center Shop. I wanted to get her opinion on the new work I was making. We met for lunch at the Walker and she liked the work so much that she said, “I think we should show the buyer – is that okay?” And of course it was okay! Much to my surprise, they picked up my collection and that was the start of it all. I had known that I eventually wanted to have my own design business, but hadn’t thought it would actually start then. I thought I’d be working for someone else for awhile longer first.

As I am collapsing those years into these paragraphs, it all sounds like it went smoothly and flawlessly, but of course, that was not the case. I still had to work as a waitress at first, and then after quitting waitressing, worked as a clerical temp here and there to make ends meet when months were slow. I also learned a lot of things the hard way, by trial and error, because I hadn’t spent more time in the industry working for other designers. But ultimately, it did finally turn into a bona fide full time job – and now it feels like a job and a half!!

What were some of the obstacles you faced when you struck out on your own? How long did it take for you to feel like launching your own line was the right choice?
I’d say the biggest obstacle was just plain not knowing what I was doing and feeling too intimidated to admit that to the people who might have been able to help me. I didn’t know all that many people in my industry and I was nervous to admit to most of them that I felt so clueless about industry-specific issues. (For example – what trade shows to do, how many, what to expect in terms of sales, how to work with galleries, etc.,) I did have one mentor who was very helpful and who I could ask these questions, but he was so successful and so far ahead of where I was that I kept trying to follow his lead without realizing that there were about 100 intermediate steps between where I was and where he was.

The thing is, I guess no one ever knows what they don’t know, and the only way to find out is to stick your neck out and fail a whole bunch of times. One thing that I have learned in the years since I started is that almost anyone who looks like they were a success overnight were probably doing what they were doing for about 10 years before anyone noticed, and that anyone at all who is successful most likely had a string of failures in their past that they were able to learn from. I think that it is a shame that in our culture where entrepreneurship and individual risk taking are so lauded, that we very rarely say out loud not only that it isn’t bad to fail, but that it is important to fail. Especially when starting a business, we should be looking at the things we do and the choices that we make and expecting 9 out of 10 of them not to work. We should expect it and therefore be able to plan for it. I think that the worst thing we can do to ourselves and others who are starting businesses are to create the expectation that every risky thing we try should work out, or that if we fail at any one thing, that we are “failures.” The people who ultimately succeed in business are not the ones who never fail, but the ones who learn from their failures and keep trying new things – they’re the ones who don’t feel like failures but are able to say, “Well, that didn’t work. Moving on. Next idea!”

As for how long it took for me to feel like launching my own line was a good idea … I don’t know! Was it a good idea? I have no idea what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t launched my own line, so maybe it would have been better or maybe worse. There are lots of right decisions and I do think that I made one because I’ve been happy doing it, even as it has been hard and sometimes very stressful. So maybe the answer is that it always felt like the right choice … and also sometimes, like other “right” choices might have been easier!

What are the forces that inspire or influence your work the most often?
As much as I enjoy looking at fashion and other jewelry, I kind of try to avoid it when designing a new collection. It is so easy to spin off on whatever trends are fashionable at the moment, even if you are trying hard not to, and I am trying to make work that isn’t stuck in a time period or a trend. When I am designing new work, I like to be inspired by things other than jewelry, so I often visit an art museum or the public library or even go to a movie. It depends on the basic idea that I have. But, for example, I saw a beautiful Chinese painting of a lotus flower and wanted to create a collection which had that feel. I ultimately ended up finding a book filled with vintage Chinese textile designs and lots of them featured variations of lotus flowers. After sketching and drawing the shapes over and over in my notebook, I came up with some pieces that are recognizable as lotus flowers (lots of people make this observation, so I feel I can safely say that they read as lotus flowers), but which don’t look like either the painting or any of the specific textiles. I just played with them and kept some of the basic shapes and they still have that Chinese style lotus flower feeling, while looking modern and also looking like Karin Jacobson designed jewelry.


You use traditional metals and gems when you design, but also utilize lab-grown gems and materials like recycled gold and palladium. Do you have a favorite medium, gem, or metal?
Favorite gems and metals. Ah! It is so hard to say – they are all so pretty! My favorites are always ones that are ethically sourced, so recycled metals and fair trade or synthetic gems. I currently am very into yellow gold – it is so warm! (And although I’ve been saying for awhile that it is making a comeback, I’m still not seeing lots of it around, which maybe makes it even more appealing to me.) And for stones…sapphires! The jeweler in me loves them because they are so durable that they can be used for anything and the artist in me loves them because they come in so many colors. People generally think of blue when they think of sapphires, but they come in pink, yellow, orange, green, white, purple, red … almost every color and tons of shades of blue. I made my own engagement ring and chose a “fancy color” (meaning pretty much anything but basic blue) sapphire, which is from a fair-trade mine in Malawi and set it in recycled 18 karat yellow gold. The color of the stone, depending on the light, ranges from blue-green to blue-grey and for that reason reminds me of the ocean every time I look at it. I just love it!

What is jewelry’s role in personal style?
The thing that I love about jewelry’s role in personal style is that I think people feel pretty free to try anything when it comes to accessories. I occasionally have clients who love or hate earrings that big or dangly or whatever, or people who think they look better in yellow or white metal, but it does seem like an area where people are comfortable experimenting. I can’t tell you how often people say, “I never thought I’d buy a ring in (whatever color) because I can’t wear that color, but now that I try it on, I just love it!” Personally, I look pretty terrible in bright kelly green and generally don’t wear it next to my face, but a ring, necklace or earrings that color work just fine. I also think that pretty much any body type works well with most styles of jewelry, so people really feel free to experiment. I love that anyone who comes into my studio can try on pretty much any style of jewelry and they look and feel great in it. And no one ever says, “Does this ring make me look fat?”

What advice would you offer to anyone interested in becoming a professional jewelry designer?
In addition to what I mentioned above about embracing failures and trying to learn from them, I would also recommend embracing other people’s failures and successes by talking to other people in the industry and trying to find out what has worked and hasn’t worked for them. And this is not so that you can follow in the footsteps of other businesses and copy their models, because this rarely works. It is to just get more ideas of the multitude of ways that things can be done. There is no one business model that works for everyone so you have to see what things work for you, integrate those things into your business, and discard the things that don’t work for you. (And sometimes, you can let yourself discard things that don’t work for you just because you don’t like doing them. This is okay!)

The other single best piece of advice that I was once given regarding the actual designing of jewelry is to make sure that your work looks like your work. Meaning that it is great to experiment and try different styles, but you still want someone looking at any single piece of jewelry to say, “Hey, that looks like Karin Jacobson Design jewelry.” (Or, obviously, whatever designer.) If you try to follow all of the trends and make whatever people are into at the moment, not only will you not cultivate your own “designer look,” you will also not be making anything interesting or memorable. I have tried (and hopefully to some degree am succeeding) to make a collection consisting of lines that are different from each other, but still look like my work. And I sometimes have clients tell me that a stranger saw their one-of-a-kind custom ring and asked if it is a “Karin Jacobson piece,” and I just love to hear that! Its the best compliment!!

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