easy on the eyes

clare exinger’s hobby is a little kookier than most.


Hey Clare! Tell us what you do. Make-up is something I’ve been mucking around with in my free time, and it just so happens it’s taken on a life of its own through social media. In my normal life, I’m finishing up my Master of Public Health while working part-time, so this project is a creative outlet for me.

What are your earliest make-up memories? The first product I remember buying was shimmery eye shadow in bold colours like silver, purple and aqua when I was about 13. The teen magazines I read talked about make-up like a fun accessory – something you could use to experiment with your self-presentati­on. For a while after that, I struggled with insecurity and make-up became increasing­ly about covering up and looking presentabl­e. I guess I’ve come full circle, using it as something closer to that original purpose of self-expression.

When and why did you start cockatooma­keup? A few years before starting my Instagram, I’d begun adding little non-traditiona­l elements to my make-up. This sort of cascaded until I was getting really experiment­al and creating looks that were closer to ‘eye art’. The longer this went on, the more I thought I should create a place to put all these looks. That was nearly three years ago. I think I was driven to explore how make-up could sit outside the ideas society normally assigns to it – associatio­ns with vanity or restrictiv­e beauty standards. I like the idea of pushing the boundaries a bit, using make-up as something between a form of wearable art and play.

Where do you find inspiratio­n for your designs? A little corner of my brain is constantly working away at turning things I encounter into ideas for make-up looks. The result is a wide field of inspiratio­n: album art, video games, nature, clothes, even what I had for breakfast. I’m also interested in distinctiv­e, era-defining make-up styles and techniques from past decades – particular­ly the ’60s through to the ’80s.

Tell us about some of the more unusual looks you’ve created.

The looks I create with food are usually pretty divisive. People get into arguments about whether they’re artistic or stupid, or whether they’re ‘really’ make-up. Truthfully, there isn’t much more of a

thought process behind them than “what if I stuck this muesli to my eye?” It creates something familiar but unexpected, and I like that strange, faintly ridiculous quality.

What kind of tools do you work with? I use all kinds of products, from regular powder eye shadows and pencil or liquid eyeliners to more unusual formulas like water-activated eyeliners and multi-chrome pigments. Mixing medium is my best pal – it allows me to turn powder products into liquid liner, mix products together to create new shades and formulas, and rehydrate products that are drying out. I also use a lash adhesive to stick things to my face!

Do you ever wear these looks out of the house? I’ve worn some of my more creative looks to parties, but I probably wouldn’t wear every look to a desk job. I’ve definitely become more comfortabl­e wearing slightly more experiment­al make-up to university. Also, this year I’ve learnt you can get away with surprising­ly bold make-up over a Zoom call.

There’s an element of glam rock here. Are you a fan of the style?

I was exposed to mainly ’80s music growing up, and perhaps as a result, my stylistic impulses draw more on the New Romantic era and certain post-punk bands – like the B-52s, who created a distinctiv­e, exaggerate­d and almost theatrical aesthetic. I suppose they have that in common with glam rock, and it’s something that really appeals to me.

Any tips for eye make-up newbies? My main tip is to reassure you that while the techniques take some practice, it doesn’t really matter if your eyeliner is a bit uneven or your eyeshadow’s a bit unblended. Other people likely won’t notice, and at the end of the day you get to wash it off and start afresh. Speaking of, I recommend using microfibre washcloths to remove your make-up – they really do work, and it’s more sustainabl­e than disposable wipes. For detailed liner work, you can find tiny brushes in art shops or for nail art, which are much cheaper than the ones marketed for make-up. You also don’t need to buy an expensive brush cleaner – I use baby shampoo.

Where can we see more of your stuff? On Instagram at @cockatooma­keup.

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