Together, with the wonderful artisans behind the scenes, we thrive to make every project we work on one of a kind. This becomes even more meaningful when we plan Limited or Special Editions. We always aim to create pieces using traditions that have been passed down through generations, while incorporating innovation and special components or materials.
It may be more challenging and more intense, but this is an amazing opportunity to create exceptional pieces for those who love craftsmanship and appreciate their value – for those reasons, we are very excited!
For this Limited Edition Holiday 2023 release, I wanted to work on a special set and take the details to the next level. It has been an incredible project and today I can finally show you the outcome: Here is the Sunset Cranes Maki-e brush set.
As you may know, a make-up brush requires several steps and components. When a special or limited edition set is created, it often focuses on the handles or the bristles, showcasing elements or techniques that are expensive or time consuming to manufacture. For this set, we pulled all the stops: handles, ferrules, bristles and shapes. Even the packaging is unique and bespoke. These Holiday brushes stand out at every step of the process and we hope that you will love them!
THE SUNSET CRANES SET IN BRIEF
This Holiday set comes with 4 blue squirrel eye brushes- they are all new designs never released before. Three of the brushes were designed for the action to happen on the mobile lid, along or close to the lash line. They are accompanied by a bigger brush to add the base color all over the lid or too smooth out the application.
I imagine that if you are reading this, you probably love brushes and already have a few in your collection. With this in mind I tried to create brushes that hopefully will complement your existing collection.
I am very happy and so insanely grateful for your love and support, it enables me to create, to work on these special projects with people who are truly passionate about their craft. It’s amazing to be here and be a part of this!
Now, if you are interested in knowing more about this Holiday 2023 Sunset Cranes set, please keep on reading, thank you!!!
THE HANDLES – THE FERRULES – THE BRUSHES
The curvy silhouettes, the deep glossy lacquer and the Maki-e elements on the handles make this Holiday set quite extraordinary. I will share the details and reasons why these are so challenging and special – each feature adds complexity and contributes to the beauty of these handles.
THE SILHOUETTE OF THE HANDLES
These handles have a wavy silhouette, depending on the diameter of the ferrule, the wave is going to be more or less pronounced. They are so elegant, balanced and comfortable to hold, but they require a lot of dedication and patience.
I love to see the artisans at work. Spending time with them allows me to understand how they work, why handles take so much time and most importantly, I can see their love and dedication for crafting each single handle to perfection.
I think that the aesthetics of these shapes are superb, the artisans always remind me how much effort and time each one of these particular handles require but in the end, we believe that they are so worth the extra time and effort.
This handle shape is the same from the previous Holiday Traditions Trio. They are also the same length, but the type of wood and coating are different.
Brushes are not just tools to me, they add to the whole experience, and handles are an important part of them. Whether they are more extra or more minimalist, there is a huge lot of work and thought behind them.
THE RED AND BLACK LACQUERS
After they have prepared the handles, the artisans add the several layers of lacquers. This is actually a very time consuming process and the lacquer materials are not the usual flat type of paints, these are luxurious lacquers and in combination with their techniques, they allow us to obtain this beautiful depth on the surface.
It took time and effort to obtain this effect on the handles, it had to be just the right amount of lacquer and a precise placement. This finish adds complexity but it remains elegant and pairs so beautifully with the Maki-e story.
The finish and colours are a bit similar to the current PRO or Fusion series but they are not actually the same. You will notice that there is also a gradient effect, but a black veil covers the red almost entirely. It’s when the light hits the handle directly that the red layer underneath strongly shines through, accentuating the curvy shape of the handle but not distracting from the Maki-e elements.
THE MAKI-E ILLUSTRATION
Since we wanted something special at every step of the process, it made sense to add some Maki-e details on these Holiday handles.
The Maki-e represents two cranes in the sunset, one golden, one red, with the sun setting in the background. We have limited space on these narrow handles but these little cranes stand out beautifully.
It’s not a random choice, but a quite a personal one. I find cranes fascinating – as you may have noticed since I often feature them, and sunsets are calming, inspiring, magical moments.
Applying Maki-e on handles is a long process, specially since there are 4 brushes in the set, and the 4 brushes showcase the same design. It multiplies the time required by 4, and also the costs.
Both the illustration and the logo have been applied using the same maki-e technique.
There are so many different Maki-e techniques, it’s a fascinating world! Some techniques are extremely complex and expensive, others are more simple and modern, and yet they remain expensive! The maki-e technique used for our handles is similar to the techniques that you see on some fountain pens or small pieces that need to be produced in a larger quantities than a single artisan can handle. However, each handle still needs to go through a manual process and different steps that take time, this has a big impact on the cost of the brush but it allows us to appreciate a maki-e illustration on pieces that we use everyday.
I am unable to detail the steps and the technique that has been used on our handles because this technique is particular to each artisan or company. They may use similar processes but refer to them with a different name, or maybe they have created their own tools, materials and processes and they want to protect their knowhow.
I have always been curious about Maki-e, I did some research and I had the opportunity to spend some time with an artisan in Kyoto in 2017, a workshop is a very interesting way to be introduced to Maki-e. I have added a little section below in case you want to know more about the particular workshop that I attended. Please click the + if you would like to read about it.
I wanted to add this section about Maki-e in case you are interested in doing something similar for yourself.
I discovered Maki-e a while ago, I saw it on pens, brushes and decorative pieces and was very interested in knowing more about this Japanese traditional art.
In 2017, I had the opportunity to spend some hours with an amazing artisan in Kyoto, he was so kind and excited to share the technical details and talk about Maki-e.
I wanted to understand how it was applied depending on the techniques that were used, and there are so many of them! To my surprise, he even made me decorate a plate just so that I could give it a try. We used a technique he called Hira maki-e and we spent about 4 hours together in total. I was so grateful to be able to spend some time with him.
This is the Hirano workshop in Kyoto, this man is not the artisan who worked on our handles for this Holiday project, but I just wanted to mention this workshop in case you are interested in doing a similar experience.
Whether it’s Maki-e or a different art or craft you are interested in, these places or workshops may be difficult to find so my advice is to look for a local guide in Japan who can help you search for an artisan, and book some time with him.
My experience was private with him at the time, I imagine that you could book a group or a private workshop, but it’s good to know that these ateliers exist.
The ferrules are made of brass, and made in Japan. This metal and origin contribute to the high price of the brushes. For this set, we have worked with the ferrule provider and we made a little twist on a ferrule to make it arch shaped at the top.
Customizing a ferrule is not an easy process in Japan, it’s innovative and requires new tools and techniques. It’s has a considerable impact in terms of costs, but it’s important for me as this will open the door to more possibilities in the future.
So, if you look closely, the ferrule on the large brush is slightly arched, it’s not only for aesthetic reasons, I love the flow that it gives to the bristles. The bristles open just a little bit towards the sides and there is a more smooth fluidity and continuity in the movement.
If I had to describe my brushes in 3 words, flow, predictability and control, these characteristics are always crucial to me. With the right flow, we can more easily predict how the bristles are going to move, which should not only help us work faster, but mitigate fall out and provide a more satisfying experience because it’s easier to anticipate how the brush is going to behave.
The set comes with 3 small brushes, and one considerably bigger. The big brush is going to take care of the base application and work on the entire eye area, while the little ones are going to work with more precision on the mobile lid or along the lash line. If we love a soft placement along the lash line, or on the mobile lid and be more playful in the inner corner, this is where these little brushes will be so fun and helpful.
Handcrafting small brushes that remain consistent in shape, specially with this material, is quite tricky. The smaller the brush is, the trickier it is to bundle because a couple of bristles may have an impact on the final shape, on the density and movement of the brush – there is less tolerance margin in comparison to bigger brushes.
The bristle selection process, as well as the artisan who is bundling the brush, matter even more when it comes to smaller brushes.
We could think that tiny brushes are cheaper and more simple to craft but it’s interesting to know that actually it can be the other way round.
THE SOFT PENCIL
The smallest brush in the set is this little Soft Pencil, the pencil is tapered, the bristles are 6.5mm long and the ferrule is just slightly curved at the top.
The silhouette is so unique, the handle is just a little thicker towards the base of the ferrule, then it thins down and thickens again, and it tappers at the bottom. This is a shape that I have been trying to create for some time, it took some tries to nail it but we got there and I think it’s breathtaking.
It’s a very small pencil brush, it could even be one of the smallest pencil brushes you have ever seen.
While it has movement at the tip and delivers a soft placement, it’s not floppy, it still has strength to pick up product and to apply it gently.
It’s a very strategic brush for the inner corner, we can safely target this area even when the fold of the crease comes very close to the inner corner, we have full control on where we place the product without having to use an eyeliner type of brush, it will surgically place the highlight without overlapping on the surroundings.
Inner corner highlight is not something I was doing regularly, but using the right brush is what makes this possible for me on a daily basis. My ideal placement is a very close outline along the inner corner, subtle but intentional, and with this pencil I can achieve this easily.
This pic will show you how small this brush is. The closest in my collection is the Pencil S from the Fundamentals.
In comparison, the Pencil S offers more intensity and control since it’s bundled with goat bristles, it’s very soft and still has movement, but it has more firmness and determination in comparison to the Soft Pencil.
The Flat Smudger is a smudger type of brush but quite chubby, the bristles are 6mm long and it has substantial thickness sideways.
The density at the base of the bristles is carried up to the surface so that the tip remains dense and strong to pick up product and to apply it evenly and quickly along the lash line.
This thickness is actually quite difficult to achieve when it comes to working with this type of fine bristles, but this is a shape that I am quite obsessed with it. If you were here when I first released the Fundamentals in 2017, I had several smudgers in these series.
Definition along the lash line is what truly makes a difference for me, I love it, I don’t mind it being quite intense as long as it looks diffused and even, that’s why this type of brushes are workhorses for me, and not only for the holiday season.
The closest in my collection is the discontinued Smudger One that was also bundled with blue squirrel bristles, but the Flat Smudger is chubbier, thicker at the tip. The Smudger One was firmer and the edges of the application would be more defined, while the edges with this Flat Smudger are softer and more diffused.
The Mini Builder is a little shader brush, the bristles are 10mm long but it’s quite narrow. This shape and proportions allow the bristles to have some firmness when picking up product. We actually feel where the strength of the brush is located, it allows control because of this added resistance of the bristles.
The brush has thickness, since it doesn’t flex as much as other similar small brushes, it facilitates the placement. This also means that the tip is stable, should we want to use it along the lash line.
The closest from my collection is going to be the Builder S from the Fundamentals, but the Builder S is thinner and a little smaller. In comparison, the Mini Builder has more body, a little more density. The Builder S is bundled with goat bristles, it will offer more intensity and more precision with the placement. The Mini Builder is still going to be precise but softer with the results.
The Mini Builder looks very small but here is a comparison with the Flat Definer and the Traditions S1, for a small brush it’s still considerably bigger and thicker than these two. Since it has a narrow, but thick ferrule, the long bristles can easily reach over the lashes and work in the inner or outer corner of the mobile lid.
The Arched Worker is a big eyeshadow brush, the bristles are 18mm long, the ferrule is pinched and arched at the top. This brush has density and firmness but the arched ferrule helps to open the bristles to the sides and allows them to move with a little more ease.
In terms of functionality, this is a wide brush, it will apply a base shadow on the entire eye lid, or above the crease area depending on the surface available. We can also use the sides or the tip to smooth out the edges of an application. I use the tip in the crease area but with a sheer shadow just to lightly deepen the crease. This brush won’t be able to work with the precision and strength of a crease brush because it’s not its purpose, but it can softly deepen the crease and add some contour if the shadows are not too pigmented.
It can also be used to set smaller areas on the face, around the nose or the lips.
I pair it with some highlighters but this brush is dense, not fluffy/airy, if the products are very pigmented or metallic, the brush is going to stamp the product too heavily. If the product is sheer or sparkly and we want to load the shine with precision, this brush allows for a placement just where it’s wanted.
I don’t have anything else like this in my current collection to show you, so I placed it against the Jumbo Blender, the Worker M and the Crease L, but this brush is totally different. This a dense paddle type of brush, not a blending brush. We can use it for smoothing out the results, but for effective blending, goat bristles are more ideal.
I think that the idea of a Limited Edition release makes even more sense when we create brushes that complement what we already have, when they somehow fill a gap either in terms of functionality or aesthetics. The cherry on the cake is when they entice us to softly step out of our comfort zone.
Another fun feature about this set is that it comes with a bespoke vertical wooden box that can be used as a brush holder to store or display the brushes.
The 4 brushes come inside this paulownia wooden box, wrapped with washi paper. The box opens vertically and the elastic red ribbon maintains the box securely closed during transport.
I always try to minimize the amount of packaging or plastic and whenever possible, provide a packaging that you can reuse for other purposes. It’s amazing to be able to create this kind of solutions that are more convenient and also functional.
This vertical paulownia box doubles as a brush holder, but please keep in mind that this is a small and lightweight box, it doesn’t have the same stability and durability in comparison to a thick heavy brush holder.
|Total Length in mm
|Bristles length in mm
|Blue squirrel bristles
|Blue squirrel bristles
|Blue squirrel bristles
|Blue squirrel bristles
AVAILABILITY AND PRICE
Thank you for reading and for being here with me, this has been an incredible project. It’s not only about the outcome, but about the journey, the people we meet, the memories, the challenges we face and the new skills and techniques that are acquired along the way, they open new doors and make us, the artisans and myself, very excited about the future!
This set is Limited Edition, it includes the 4 brushes and the paulownia packaging. It will be available on Beautylish starting on the 19th of December 2023, at 10am PT, and will retail for USD 220.