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The Making Of (or, Make-up-ing Of)

We took LOTS of pictures!  Luckily, the staff was used to having flash bulbs going off all the time.  Rather than force you to click through many pages, we've instead put all the photos on this one page, along with captions (the total page size is about 1.1 MB).  Read on!

The first thing you see when you walk into the dressing room is a shelf FULL of hats.  Each is hand made by master craftsmen.
Next to the hats are several racks of robes and undergarments.  In the old days, these would be made of silk.  Today they are a polyester blend, adorned with hand-sewn sequins in gorgeous patterns.
A nearby table is lined with beautiful costume jewelry, most of which will end up as part of the headdress.  In order to keep the hat on, the actor's hair is tightly wrapped with a black cloth.  The jewels are then pinned to the black cloth. 
The makeup looks very simple, but everything is of the highest quality.  Two of us have extremely sensitive skin, and no one had an adverse reaction.  Many of the creams and colors had distinct, and lovely, smells.
The older of the two make-up artists was clearly a master.  It was hard to have a conversation when you're being made up, and we didn't want to distract them.  That said, I wish we had learned more about who they are and how they came into this job. 
The younger artist was no less accomplished.  She had a great smile, and got a big kick out of working on the girls.  Like her colleague, she graduated from the top Opera school in Beijing before coming to this studio.
They started with Sharon and me, so the girls could see what they would have to do (I suspect they also knew from experience that it wasn't a good idea to ask kids to wait around much for the photo shoot to start after they were made up!).

Step one: apply a nice, creamy base.  The color was custom-mixed by the artist.

As you can see from the artist's hand, the base was applied with the entire palm -- very relaxing! 

Next step was to highlight the eyes with color.  In the West, we use rouge on the cheeks.  In Peking Opera, rouge is for the eyes...

Next, the eyebrows are darkened and shaped with a pencil, before the eyes are lined.  This is where the artistry was so evident -- one tiny slip and they would have to start all over!
The eyes are done.  Wow!
On to the lips.  With a paintbrush, the lips are carefully painted on, using a very bright red lipstick.
Sharon hates this photo, but the close up really shows how beautifully the eye makeup was blended, and how carefully the lips were painted.
Finally, make-up is applied to the hands and forearms, and fingernails are painted -- bright red of course!
In parallel, they tackled my transformation.  After donning a make-up cap and removing my glasses, I submitted to the application of the base.  Lucky for me it smelled great.
With the base in place, my artist moved to my eyes.  Once again, a brilliant red was used.
After my eyes were done, they applied a headband.  The cloth is coated with some kind of adhesive to keep it in place, and they pulled it TIGHT!!
TA DA!  Yes, I know I look like a cross between Howdy-Doody and Bozo the Clown, but all's fair in the pursuit of art...
After I was all set, my artist moved to Miranda.  To be fair, Miranda wasn't too enthusiastic about the whole thing, since she doesn't like to be made up -- in 3rd grade, she had a bad make-up experience in the school play. 

But after much cajoling, she gamely sat down and took a deep breath as the base layer was applied...

Here eyes were done next.  She has always had expressive eyes, and now they were becoming turbo-charged!
But the lipstick did her in.  As you can see here, she's decided that being made up STILL isn't high on her list of fun things to do.  Thanks for trying Miranda!
Meanwhile, Sami was in the other stool.  She likes being made up, and was fascinated by the whole process.
Under the eyes can be tricky!
Next comes the red eye makeup, which is applied first with a brush, and then blended with fingertips.
Like everyone else, Sami was first covered with base, and then had her eyes painted with red.
Then it was on to the eyes.  Even though she's only eight years old, Sami knows how to sit still!
The finished make-up job, complete with bright red lipstick.
We couldn't resist taking a shot of Sami and her artist, who told us that Sami was the first Western girl she had ever made up!
We didn't want to leave out the other artist.  Luckily Sami jumped into the picture to add a nice smile...
It seemed like a good time to grab some shots of the family -- before the costumes and head pieces were placed.
At first, we were trying to be serious.  But it had already been several hours, and we were all getting a bit tired.

So to liven things up a bit, we decided that it was time to be...

and even SILLIER!

Thanks to the magic of digital cameras, we took lots of silly shots.  We'll spare you the others...  :)

Before we could get completely carried away, it was time for costumes!  I went first by donning a yellow robe (yellow is the Emperor's color).  They then had me put on a strange black "belt", which was more like a ring designed for an oak barrel.  For once I felt slender!
My crown came next, fastened to the black head band that had been glued on before.
Finally, the photographer entered the room.  He rapidly added another yellow tassel that fell right in front of my face.  Guess he was trying to improve the quality of the shot... 
Then it was Miranda's turn.  Her hat looked like something out of Beach Blanket Babylon -- two sizes too big!
Getting the hat in place and the robe just so took a bit of fiddling.  The end result was stunning, but Miranda was ready for a break!
She got some pretty little shoes that added an inch or two, and made her want to dance.  Things were looking up!
So we grabbed another shot with her artist, who had just given her a beautiful green handkerchief to hold.
Best of all, Miranda was DONE!  She scampered off into a corner to keep reading her book.  What a shot!
Sami was next.  Here she's getting a headpiece, which was artfully applied in curving semi-circles.
Next came a row of costume jewelry across her forehead, and some beautiful cloth earrings.

In this shot, she's being fitted with a cloth slip.

Sharon was kept for last.  By this point an older woman had joined us (she's wearing black).  It turns out she is THE master make-up artist, and had trained the other women.  She happened to be in town that day, and had come by to see the foreigners being made up!
I was amazed to see how calmly Sharon looked at the inch-long pins on the jewelry.  Not sure I would have been so blase if those things were destined for my forehead!
The finished version.  Kind of reminds me of Queen Elizabeth the First, Chinese style...
But after she cracks a smile and grabs her artist for a picture, you know you're looking at the same Sharon we know and love!
Then it was time for the photo shoot.  We walked out into a large warehouse that had been set up with lights and backgrounds.  Before each shot the artists would rush in and do last-minute touch-ups.
This was the last shot I could take, since after that the lights were set so that they would flash every time I took a shot.  I tried doing that once or twice, but the cameraman wasn't too happy.  I got the hint...  :)
So in case you can't remember where it all started, here are the "before" and "after" shots once again!

On to the Final Shots (or back to our home page)

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