♦I first came across Crow and Pebble a couple months ago on Reddit when searching for small affordable indie beauty brands to support. I was so excited going on the website and seeing their fantasy themed style products inspired by, English Literature, History, Mythology and much more. Being someone who lives in their own dream world most of the time, I was really drawn to this brand. Their unique pigments push you to be creative with limitless colour-schemes for all characters. I was lucky enough to create some amazing looks with her products. This makeup was inspired by strong female characters from history and English Literature such as Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, historical rebels like Joan of Arc and fantasy fairy creatures, in keeping with Crow and Pebbles own muses.♦
Interviewed by Lily Hollingworth
I love the overriding theme of storytelling throughout your makeup collections. What inspired you to create a brand with this idea?
I am always inspired by storytelling – whether it’s through history, mythology or creative writing. I love how when creating makeup looks or other art, the choice of colours is referred to as a colour story. Pairing makeup with the written word just seemed like a logical jump for me. Any time I read something, I pick up on the colours described in the work, or the colours I feel best represents the work. So translating that into a colour story for a palette of pigments is a fun way to pay tribute to the things that inspire me.
I read that when looking for indie pigments you struggled to find ones you felt went together and looked great. Do you feel you’ve solved that problem now with your pigments?
I hope so! With the exception of the “A High, Lonely Place” collection, which is a collection of neutral based shadows with a shimmery pop of colour, all of my collections are conceptualized with colour co-ordination in mind. All the pigments are created in groups of five that are intended to work together. These are available as “Sets” on the website. They are normally a palette of 4 coordinating colours and 1 contrasting colour. This makes for an easy, go-to palette of indie pigment shades. For those who want to create their own palettes, I’ve made it easy to browse the collections by colour rather than just within their own collections so people can mix and match as they please.
Pip is wearing Crow and Pebble’s ‘Badass Princess‘ pigment on the eyes and cheeks, Dune collection’s ‘Gom Gabber‘ pigment on the eyes, ‘Cerridwen‘ highlighter and ‘Mistress Overdone‘ lipstick
You’re continuously coming up with new concepts for each collection, how do you come up with each idea? Do you ever struggle with creator’s block?
Each idea is rooted in a story. Something I’ve read or something I’ve otherwise experienced. ‘The Sins From Thy Lips‘ lipstick collection came about when I went to see a performance of Romeo and Juliet – it got me thinking about the female characters in Shakespeare and their personalities. Because of the connection between Shakespeare and speech, it seemed only natural to create a Shakespeare collection focused on the lips. Most of the eyeshadow collections come from stories I have read and loved, whether as a child or more recently. When reading a new book or, I keep a notebook next to me and note down passages that strike me as evocative in some way and many of the colours come from there. I also studied as a historian and archaeologist, and draw inspiration from stories in history and mythology.
The sources of inspiration are pretty much endless, but I definitely do get bouts of creator’s block! It sometimes feels like there is some pressure to constantly be launching new products – when you’re looking at Instagram and seeing announcements from many small businesses all about their brand new products, it can be hard not to feel the need to constantly be releasing new things. The feeling of creator’s block – ironically – comes on when I feel that pressure to release new things. It can be very hard to remind myself to take a deep breath, not worry about what everyone else is doing, and focus on what makes my brand unique.
All your products are handmade, what challenges have you faced making your cosmetics? Do you feel it adds a personal touch to your products?
The biggest challenge so far has been learning to balance both sides of the business. Making cosmetics is really very rewarding, and creating new products is always very inspiring, but running a website, being a social media manager and promoting myself have been a far greater challenge than making the products. I wear a number of different hats running the business entirely on my own and some are more challenging than others.
I do feel like everything about the brand is a personal statement. I have full creative control on everything from the formula and performance of the pigments to the names, colour choices and finishes. Even the packaging features art I’ve made myself. The brand displays many of my interests and reflects my personal values.
Starting your own brand can be difficult but also very rewarding. How have you seen your brand develop from when you started to now? What were some of the issues you faced in the beginning?
My brand has developed in so many ways I hadn’t expected. For one, its growth over its first year has been overwhelming in a lot of ways – I never expected the kind of support I have seen from the makeup community. Being able to contribute to subscription makeup boxes and collaborate in magazines like this was beyond the scope of my imagination for my first year! Beyond that, behind the scenes I have watched the business grow from loose pigments to including an even bigger range of products. I have learned how to streamline my creative process to move efficiently from idea to finished product. It’s been incredibly rewarding. I now feel like I have a handle on the basics of running this business and am so grateful to everyone who has seen me to this point.
There are several issues that cropped up in the beginning that I didn’t expect. One was how steep the learning curve was for enforcing some kind of balance in my life. It’s hard not to be at work at all hours of the day. I still do work late into the evenings in order to complete my to-do lists, but I make sure I take some time for myself every day to unwind and switch off, and make sure to keep work on weekends to the minimum – normally just checking up on Instagram or customer e-mails.
Another thing I’ve had to learn – and am still learning! – is trying to predict what people want and will buy. Sometimes I create a pigment shade that I absolutely love and it sits without garnering any attention, and sometimes shades that barely made the cut into the collection seem to resonate with people. Luckily those kinds of surprises really inspire me to keep exploring different colour ideas and push particular colours even further.
Lily is wearing Crow and Pebble’s ‘Shaddam IV‘ pigment from the Dune‘s collection, ‘My Heart has Joined the Thousand‘ highlighter and ‘Lucetta‘ mixed with ‘Juliet‘ lipstick
One of my dreams in the future is produce my own makeup line, what advice would you give to people wanting to do the same?
Definitely do your research before getting into it. There are all sorts of different ways to start a makeup brand, from partnering with a large parent company, working with a cosmetics lab and factory to produce a line that is unique to you, or by making everything yourself by hand. Each way to go has its pros and cons, so it’s about deciding what is most valuable to you as a creator. Researching the science behind cosmetics has been invaluable as well, even if I weren’t making everything by hand. It helps me relate to customers and ensure that my brand’s values are upheld, beyond just knowing what does and doesn’t go into a coloured pigment. If I ever have downtime in my work hours, I am normally researching.
Beyond that, and something I wish I had known before beginning, is to make sure your social media game is on point! I am still learning how to use social media to connect with customers and I feel like if I had a solid base to work from, getting to the point I am at now would have been a much smoother road.
Speaking of the future, finally are there any new collections we can look forward to seeing soon? Are you going to venture out into different products?
My current priorities for new products are blushers, liquid eyeliners and some products for skin care – facial oils and possibly a gentle makeup remover. The blushers will be released before the end of summer. In September, I am releasing another lot of pigments in collaboration with the blogger who takes the eye makeup shots I use as my product photos. She has provided the inspiration and colour direction for that collection, and I’m very excited about it. Working within the bounds of someone else’s imagination has been very fun so far! There will be new lipsticks in the autumn as well. I have no definite timeline for eyeliners and facial oils because those are in the development phase where I am trying to learn the best way to create quality products. But they are certainly in the pipeline. Until then, I will be releasing a new suite of lipsticks and pigments every season.
In the (hopefully not too) distant future, I have dreams of expanding beyond makeup and offering a full range of products for an inspired lifestyle. My dream is to get to a point where Crow & Pebble is a one stop shop for beauty and relaxation.
Imogen is wearing Crow and Pebble’s ‘Idiot Hero‘ pigment on the eyes and cheeks, ‘Trees in November‘ pigment on the inner corner, ‘Cassandra’ highlighter and ‘Luce‘ lipstick.
♥Seeing all the amazing things that Karen has achieved in her first year with Crow and Pebble is extremely motivating. Putting out something different into the beauty industry must be daunting, but Karen’s personality shines through in her products contributing towards Crow and Pebble’s continued success. This is a shining example of how far simply being your self can get you in life.♥
Words By Lily Hollingworth- Beauty Contributor at Ragged CULT Magazine
Credit- Karen McCusker- Founder & Owner of Crow & Pebble