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Meet the Sussex student turning old makeup into art

What a bright idea

Ameenah Begum, a 23 year old Sussex student, has devised a way of transforming eye-shadows into mesmerising paints which could prevent millions of tons of beauty products from going to landfill. She has developed a method that enables her to transform old, unwanted eyeshadow palettes into distinctive water coloured paints, that artists could use to add a "cosmic shimmer" to their paintings.

We caught up with Ameenah to get the scoop on where her ideas came from, what she plans to do in the future and her life as a Sussex student.

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You aim to prevent disposed makeup from entering landfills but where do you actually get all your makeup from?

I tried to get the broken cosmetics that they throw away from high street shops but because of strict rules and protocols they have to follow, I'd need to get permission from head offices, which was an endless circle! So I ended up asking friends, family and strangers if they had any old make-up they wouldn't mind giving up. Turns out, we're all a bunch of hoarders and I had an influx of donations.

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Do you have a method that you use to enable your designed products to be used by artists for actual artwork?

Although I do paint, I wanted to design my product around other artists. Cos Watercolours are only one type of paint medium, so I found that the best way to look at this product is as an addition to your existing set of paints, not as a replacement.

Photo Credits: Ian Lee

You're in your third year of University at Sussex studying Product Design, so where did the idea stem from and what made you begin exploring this field?

When I was travelling the UK last year, I realised that I was buying a lot of cosmetics in smaller packaging because these were "disposable". But it made me wonder, why on earth do we think it's okay to throw so many little bits away just because it's smaller? It was after a seminar on the role of design for the circular economy that prompted me to find the part of the product seen to be of value that I began to focus on make-up and the huge growing problem with the fast growing industry.

We understand that some of your fellow Product Design coursemates have produced some artwork for you, what do you do with completed art work?

I haven't sold any of the artwork, I've just been collecting it together to show to people what the paints can do. I would however like to sell a few of the actual paint palettes themselves.

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Photo credits: Izabela Duzsenko

How did you get into it?

I've always been a creative individual, but this was an interest I was able to bring into my final year project for my degree in Product Design. I started speaking to artists and friends who would experiment with making natural paints from home ingredients like spices and egg. Then I just started researching all the different mediums available on the market and different paint making techniques online. It was a messy time.

Where do you see the products going?

Well I'll be presenting the product at New Designers 2018 at the Business Design Centre in July, so hopefully someone will see its potential and want to fund it for future production. If that miracle happens, then I'd like for it to be widely available in mainstream art shops all over the UK. Not just to make money, but to raise awareness of the sustainability issues that we can tackle, no matter how minor we may think the problem is to begin with.

Photo credits: Liz Goddard

Why did you choose to study at Sussex & what’s your favourite thing about this uni?

Sussex was my first choice. I loved the campus vibes, the enthusiasm for my artwork during my interview and all the different skills and machines I'd be learning to master were really intriguing. My favourite thing about this uni is that we can make positive change happen and you can see it everywhere. It helps that there's a really open and friendly atmosphere, especially when it's sunny! Plus there's a beach with quirky town cafes on every corner which is a great escape from uni realities…