Ever since I was little, I’ve always been more of a creative type. I enjoyed drawing, painting and anything Arts and Crafts. School was always a bit challenging for me unless it was an Art or Technology lesson. Everything else just didn’t hold my attention long enough. When it came to the decision of staying at school to choose A levels, back then the options for me were to do to do Art or…well Art, nothing like Photography or Textiles etc. I had no idea what I wanted to do within the “Art” world so chose to leave at 16.
"I started to look into Special Effects courses"
I always found it fascinating watching programmes like Holby City or Casualty because I was amazed at how special effects makeup created such realistic looking wounds, and I guess having a GP for a Dad and an ex A&E nurse for a Mum meant I wasn’t really that squeamish with things like that, plus I was used to seeing my Dads medical magazines lying around. This is when I started to look into Special Effects makeup as a potential career path.
18 years ago (now that makes me feel old even though I’m only 34!) there really still wasn’t the choice in courses etc. that we have today, so I really struggled to find anything suitable. Anything to do with Special Effects was more to do with film work and heavy prosthetics. Although I still found that amazing, it was the more medical side that intrigued me. Close to home I guess!
So, my 16 year old self decided I would do the responsible thing and enrol in my local college, for an office based apprenticeship. I thought this was a clever move as admin would provide many job opportunities. 2 years later armed with a Business Administration Qualification I was bored. I was bored of sitting in front of a computer, bored of being told what to do and frustrated with my lack of opportunity to be creative. The most excitement I got was designing the office Christmas party poster.
I started to look into Special Effects courses again and came across a 2 year Media Hair and Makeup course fairly close to home! I couldn’t believe it and was so unbelievably excited. I enrolled straight away, and handed in my notice at work. The only negative aspect to the course was that the first year was fashion hair and makeup and the second was special effects, so I was gutted that I couldn’t get straight into the second year but I was still excited.
"I was the more a glasses wearing, frizzy haired teenager who didn’t really have a clue!"
I remember the first day and how we went through the kit we had received. I was in awe! So much stuff! I had no idea how most of it was used, and that was “normal” makeup too. We went through all the different makeup brushes and how they’re used and I just thought “I’m never going to remember all of this!” To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement! I liked wearing makeup and occasionally straightening my hair but not like your average girly girl I wouldn’t think. I was the more a glasses wearing, frizzy haired teenager who didn’t really have a clue! The first part of the course really opened my eyes to how fashion makeup can enhance the face in so many amazing ways, and as the course progressed and we went through all the techniques for fashion hair and makeup I found it more and more enjoyable as the weeks went on. The colour theory etc. came naturally to me as I had a very arty background so that was more of a plus than just knowing how to use makeup.
Fast forward to the second year and I was super excited to get going with the special effects. I really loved this part of the course but I had also enjoyed the fashion side more than I expected. This muddled my brain a bit as it made me even less clear of how I would use my qualification moving forward.
"I tried photoshoots, films, TV adverts, assisting in fashion magazines but these were always quite an intimidating atmosphere for me"
Once fully qualified, we were advised to get out there and “test”. This is an industry term for work experience. Basically working with other industry professionals, some very experienced, some not so much, like I was. It was the best way to see different aspects of the hair and makeup world. I tried photoshoots, films, TV adverts, assisting in fashion magazines but these were always quite an intimidating atmosphere for me as I’m quite a shy person deep down. I knew it wasn’t the right path to pursue so eventually settled on working in a make-over studio a few days a week. I only really achieved basic hairstyling skills on the course so I stuck to makeup. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back it was probably the most valuable experience I could have received. It was fast paced, time limited and you were completely on your own with no one really to ask for advice. The different skin types/tones/textures I got to work on was so helpful and I learnt a lot. Working at a makeover studio also meant I was working with the general public. This opened up my eyes to how I could make someone feel with the correct techniques and application of makeup.
"At first I hated doing hair"
At first I hated doing hair, but I started to get curious as to how well I would be able to handle hairstyling. I wasn’t interested in cutting and colouring but didn’t know any other way to gain proper hair experience. Enter the second apprenticeship! At 24 I took on a 2 year hairdressing apprenticeship. I was one of the oldest in the class which was actually quite daunting, but also meant I was happy to just get my head down and get the work done. Once the apprenticeship was over though, and if I’m honest fairly soon into it, I decided I was right and I didn’t like cutting or colouring. I was absolutely terrible at it as well - although I did learn a lot about hair. I leant how it behaves, what products to use, and most importantly, how to do a set and blow dry! The 3 very important base skills for hair styling. I started to do the odd wedding here and there for friends of friends and my confidence with hair started to match my makeup skills.
"My confidence with hair and makeup grew tenfold as did my love for weddings"
The next thing that happened was a real turning point for me. One of my tutors, Denise Lilley from my Media Hair and Makeup course, called me and asked me if I was still doing it. I explained that yes I was and I had extra training in hair. Denise asked me to come and see her and we had a great catch up. I showed her my portfolio since finishing the course. She said she knew from first meeting me that I was one to watch. I was beaming! Denise asked if I was interested in working with her on a couple of weddings she had booked and needed an extra pair of hands with. I still continued to do photoshoots with local photographers but started to book more and more weddings.
"I loved creating beautiful but natural bridal hair and makeup and so my niche was born."
My confidence with hair and makeup grew tenfold as did my love for weddings. I also started to develop a real style unique to me. I loved creating beautiful but natural bridal hair and makeup and so my niche was born.
Whilst on maternity leave 2 years ago, I realised that with all the other jobs I had tried, I never managed to get that true job satisfaction, but with Weddings, there really is no feeling like it. When a bride looks back at herself in the mirror and you see the pure joy that you have helped create it’s addictive. I’m lucky enough to have a husband who can support me when the wedding season is quiet, but I have learnt to use that time to my advantage and to keep training and practicing fresh, new styles and techniques to keep up with what is current.
So there it is. How I started with the intension of being a special effects makeup artist, to becoming a wedding hair and makeup artist specialising in natural looks. Quite different I think you’d agree!