Beauty blogger Caroline Davis talks to Zoe Clark, one of Ireland’s leading professional make-up artists whose clients include Mariah Carey, Amy Winehouse, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Cat Deely, Westlife, The Spice Girls and Daniel O’Donnell.
There are SO many things I wanted to ask Zoe, “How did it feel to first see your work in Vogue? How do you keep at the top of your game? Who has been your greatest support? As a make-up artist, did you ever think you would become just so successful?”
I could pick her brain over every aspect of the industry, “How do you think social media has changed the industry? What does it take to become your assistant? Can I be your assistant for a day? What’s your favourite foundation?”… on and on AND ON, I could continue to ask… however, for the purpose of Zoe’s sanity, I’ll narrow it down… for now.
You first started out as a model in London, returned to Dublin and changed your role within the industry to become a make-up artist. Why make-up artistry, what attracted you to it?
Gosh… I really find it strange now to be reminded that I was once a model… 20 million years ago! But it was during that time (in the eighties) that I first started to get interested in make-up. Back in those days make-up artistry was nowhere near as popular a career choice as it is now. My mother for example barely wore make-up, and all we really used was Elizabeth Arden’s ‘Flawless Finish’, Rimmel and Max Factor! But I used to be drawn to the few make-up artists that used to work on any shows that we did. I would stand and watch and think how great it would be to paint faces for a living. But it was a friend who suggested it as a career option when I was lost as to what to do after I had finished university in London. I was always pretty good at art at school and I like people (!). So I took the then very controversial step of attending a short make-up course and I knew then that I had found my niche.
Did you take any training or assist anyone?
The course I did in London was only two weeks long, and half of that focused mainly on the beautician side of things! But after I’d finished, I assisted a few make-up artists. I then went for a job with this new make-up company that had just arrived into Harvey Nichols in London. It turned out to be the first MAC counter outside of Canada and the States. And I learnt so much working there. It really was an amazing experience. I then came to Dublin to work for Make Up For Ever and after a year or so I took the big step of going out on my own. But I really learnt the most about the trade doing the job itself.
How different was it for you starting out as a makeup artist in comparison to now?
Well as I’ve said there was no Photoshop back when I started. We had to rely on small Polaroid pictures to check how things looked. So things had to be picture perfect in real life. I had to truly cover blemishes and clean up lines etc. If it wasn’t right it would go to print and any mistakes would have been directly seen in the magazines on the shelves. Also there was no internet, so for example we didn’t have the access to buy the multitude of international brands, or to watch other make-up artist tutorials online.
Your career has seen many highs: Vogue, John Rocha, Coca Cola, Image Magazine to name a few… for you personally, what has been the proudest moment of your career to date?
That is such a difficult question as I’ve had a few happy moments! I suppose when I was voted by some of my peers in the business as Best Make-Up artist in ‘Ireland’s Most Influential in Fashion’ Awards back in 2011. It’s always the best feeling if your peers appreciate your work as they can be your toughest critics.
How did it feel to first see your work in Vogue?
Of course I was chuffed! But typically I criticised my work and thought I could have done better. That still hasn’t changed let me tell you!
What made you want to teach and train other budding make-up artists?
I had had it in the back of my mind for a while before I started the school. I suppose I felt that I needed to try something new. I’ve always had a bit of a flair for explaining things, and people had started to ask me to teach them, so it seemed like a natural step to show others all the tricks that I had learnt on the road.
Which student are you most proud of and why?
I’m proud of all of my past students to be fair! But naturally the ones that stand out are those who have carved a career for themselves despite the odds being stacked against them. There are loads of course that I don’t know about, but off the top of my head past students who are doing really well would be the likes of Clare Hogan, Amanda Boland, Mary-Ellen Gilchrist, Neil Gogoi to name a couple. I do know that a few have gone on to work in New York, London and in other major cities around the world. So I’m very pleased about that.
What make-up item can you not live without?
Crikey. That so depends on what I’m doing. But personally I’d say my eyebrow pencil because I have a weird habit of picking at my eyebrows when I’m concentrating!
What are your make-up pet peeves?
Wearing too heavy or dark a foundation for your skin type and not blending properly. Actually I am not too fond of heavy or over-done make-up in general particularly in daylight!
How busy is your working schedule? Do you feel you have a balance between work and life?
My work schedule goes through phases. Sometimes I am running about from job to job not having the time to think, panicking that I’m not going to have enough time to fit it all in. Other times I’m not doing as many make-up jobs as it’s a bit off season. But I’ll always have plenty to do in the office. But such is the life of the freelancer! I think everyone who works for themselves have feelings of guilt that they should be working when they take time off to put their feet up to watch something on Netflix! As I’ve got older I have got better in realising that all work and no play really does make Jill a very dull girl! So I try to make time for ‘me’ a bit more as life really is too short.
Zoe, originally from Ballyholme, has to be one of the most talented and down to earth people who was so enthusiastic and up for an interview. Usually I have to badger and negotiate for weeks but with Zoe, there is no annoying PR or management, granted she does have an assistant who also happens to be just lovely. Zoe is a refreshing reminder that within the beauty industry there still are beautiful people working and remaining on top. She downplays her success because it is not in her nature to brag about her self or slag others in the process. It couldn’t have happened to a better person… love, love love!
To find out more about Zoe and her work visit zoeclark.com