Monday, August 26, 2013

Shades of Phoenix In A World of My Own Collection - Part 1

The lovely Teneil of Autsralian indie polish label Shades of Phoenix was kind enough to give me some advance bottles of her new Alice In Wonderland themed collection, In A World Of My Own, to show you all. Teneil is a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland, and it really shows in this beautiful new collection.

Shades of Phoenix In A World Of My Own Collection

Isn't this a gorgeous lineup? They look so pretty all together I had to make the time to get a group shot of this delightful little rainbow. Each polish is inspired by particular characters or scenes, and I think Teneil has done an amazing job of translating these inspirations into polish form. Since there are seven polishes all up, and I have a great deal to say about the whole pop cultural influence of the original book in general, I'll be dividing this up into two parts.

"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was first published by Lewis Carroll in 1865, making the source material for this whole pop culture mythology almost 150 years old! The first book and it's sequel, "Through The Looking Glass And What Alice Found There" have been adapted into 20 separate film and television versions; you might be surprised to learn that Disney's version was actually the 9th attempt to transcribe this unique book to the screen. The most unusual version I've personally seen is a stop motion Czech version called simply "Alice", which features such notable scenes as The Caterpillar being played by an old sock, but I'm sure there are even more odd versions out there considering just how often this world is used for all sorts of different media. TV, film, comics, and video games are all FULL of Wonderland characters and events, and the enduring popularity of this world is really fascinating given how peculiar the original material really is.

Before I get distracted with sociological analysis and lose half of you, let's look at some pretties! First up for today, we have Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk, inspired by the one and only Mad Hatter. The name of this polish is a riddle the Hatter recites at the fantastic tea party towards the end of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and like so many questions raised by this book, it doesn't actually have an answer.

Like most of the polishes in this collection, it does look best over a matching plain base colour to really allow the sparkles to shine through. The base itself is emerald green, so I used two coats over Chi Chi Show Me The Money.

Shades of Phoenix Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk swatch

This is the sparkliest polish in the collection, and unsurprisingly, one of my favourites. The round green glitters almost glow under the right light, and the bronzed gold hexes add a lovely earthy tone to the whole thing. The palette all comes togther to perfectly invoke a mental image of the Hatter with his green top hat and fob watch. I had no problems at all with application - plenty of glitter per brushful, base evened out very smoothly, and I didn't need to fish around to get a nice mix of colours.

Shades of Phoenix Why Is A Raven Like A Writing Desk swatch

The Mad Hatter himself is quite a fascinating character. Since I haven't read the book for a looong time, I was interested to discover this character is never actually called the Mad Hatter in the original material - the White Rabbit calls him and the Cheshire Cat "both mad", but the character himself is only ever called The Hatter. The phrase "mad as a hatter" predates this character, but is thought to have inspired it pretty directly; professional hatters at the time worked with a great deal of mercury, which has a tendency to effect your brainmeats in a rather negative way after a while. The Hatter has been interpreted a million different ways in books, films, TV, and stage shows, but my favourite alternative version of the original is the Mad Hatter from the Batman universe. He's unsurprisingly a supervillain, with a penchant for mind control devices that he often attaches to cards such as the ones seen in the original Hatter's top hat. I like this version because I think it captures really nicely the fine line between fun crazy and terrifying crazy - the tea party in the original book skates right down the middle of this line, occasionally tipping over into the scary side, but DC's Mad Hatter lives squarely on the bad side of this divide.

Comics, everybody!
Speaking of the fine line between fun crazy and scary crazy, this next polish is inspired by the Cheshire Cat , who has pretty much become the embodiment of slightly scary oddness in popular culture. It's a lovely purple based glitter called We're All Mad Here.

You might not know this, but putting "Cheshire Cat" into Google images brings up some seriously odd fan art.

Shades of Phoenix We're All Mad Here swatch

We're All Mad Here is a purple crelly (that leans a bit more towards the jelly than the cream side), full of lavender and yellow hexes, and a sprinkling of teeeny tiny little purple reflective bar glitter. The slightly creamy nature of the base gives it a slightly dusty tone in person, and it looks best layered over a plain colour as closely matched as possible. These photos are two coats over a dark purple Revlon, but I think it would actually look better over a slightly lighter purple base.

Shades of Phoenix We're All Mad Here swatch

I really love the colour combination in this polish - putting clashing colours together in a way that makes them work is a tricky task, and Teneil has chosen absolutely perfectly here. I was also really surprised to find myself quite enjoying the micro bar glitter, which is quite similar to the kind used in "fuzzy" look polishes that I HATE. But in this instance, given that the polish inspired by a cat, a slightly "fuzzy" look actually works really well.
Extreme close up to show the itty bitty bar glitter.
The next polish, Do You Suppose She's A Wildflower? isn't inspired by a particular character specifically, but by Alice's experience of stumbling into a field of talking, sentient flowers. While this occurred in the sequel to Wonderland, Through The Looking Glass, it's included in the Disney film version of Alice in Wonderland. In the Disney film, the flowers sing her a song called "All In The Golden Afternoon", which is probably a reference to a poem of the same title Lewis Carroll originally wrote as a preface for Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. 

Shades of Phoenix have managed to translate the sweet, sunny day feeling of this part of the movie into a polish! Do You Suppose She's A Wildflower is a pale orange crelly base that looks EXACTLY like it should taste like sherbert, and is full of orange and yellow matte glitters as well as both dark orange and paler matte flower glitters. 

Shades of Phoenix Do You Suppose She's A Wildflower swatch

I did try this initially without any undies, but found it difficult to get the base as even as I would like around the large glitters. However, these photos are two coats over Picture Polish Tango, and as you can see, this works beautifully. I also didn't have nearly as much trouble getting the flowers out as I thought I might - you will want to give the bottle a good roll before you start, but once you do that it's smooth sailing. 

Shades of Phoenix Do You Suppose She's A Wildflower swatch

This shade doesn't suit my skin tone particularly well, considering I'm all pasty and pale, but I think it would look AMAZING against a darker skin tone.

And last for today, but absolutely not least, we have Curioser and Curioser, inspired by the heroine of Wonderland herself, Alice. 

This beautifully delicate light blue base with scattered pale yellow and blue matte glitters evokes the soft, sweetness of Alice so perfectly. It's so summery and fresh looking, it somehow makes me imagine it would taste slightly minty.

Shades of Phoenix Curioser and Curioser swatch

I'm not normally a big fan of very pale polishes - it's very easy for them to look like the white out mani's I know we all gave ourselves when bored at school. But this is just so beautifully put together - there is just enough colour to lift it without crowding the pale palette, and it's not so colourful it's overwhelming. The formula is great too! No fishing for glitter, and no problems getting it to sit perfectly smoothly. I also didn't need any undies for this one, and all pictures are three coats alone.
Shades of Phoenix Curioser and Curioser swatch

Considering how long ago the book was released, it's fascinating to see how clever, brave and self sufficient Alice was written to be. Other female characters of contemporary literature tended to spend the vast majority of their time swooning, being rescued, searching for a husband, being "wicked" and getting punished for it (as in Madam Bovary) or were simply entirely absent (as in Moby Dick). Alice finds herself in a world that makes little to no sense to her, surrounded by characters who find her just as confusing as she finds them. I think part of the reason this book has remained so popular is because almost everyone has found themselves in this situation in real life - while we might not meet talking flowers, starting a new job or moving to a new city can be just as confounding and intimidating. But Alice conducts herself with almost unwavering determination. No matter how strange things get, she continues on, doing her best to work withing the inscrutable rules of the world she has found herself in. Things get on top of her once in a while - but every time she picks herself back up again, and makes the best of it. As someone with the kind of brain that means the world around me is sometimes totally inscrutable and a little bit scary, I always find myself cheering for Alice to make it to the end - to get back up one more time, and see this thing through.

Which is what I will be doing tomorrow! I think that's quite enough swatches for one post, so lets talk about how you can get your hands on these lovely creations.

There will be a limited number of full sets of this collection available for pre-order from the Shades of Phoenix Etsy store at 7PM on Aug 27th (ie tomorrow), and each set will come with a free pair of matching polish earrings of your choice, and free shipping. If you're looking for individual bottles, they will be available from the Etsy store from 7PM on September 3rd.

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the collection swatches, and details of a delightful Shades of Phoenix giveaway!


  1. Funnily enough, though Carrol didn't have an answer to the riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" in mind when he wrote it, enough fans hassled him for a solution that he came up with one for the foreword of a later edition: "Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!"

    The use of 'nevar' (raven spelt backwards, ie with the wrong end in front) was actually 'corrected' by the editors of the original publication. Sigh.

  2. I might be able to provide you with a weirder appropriation of Alice - a HSC performance poetry anthology by yours truly based on Through the Looking Glass, with audio samples from the Beatles' White Album and Radiohead's OK Computer, and influences from Ulysses and a Pale Fire-esque appendix at the back. I was a complete wanker in high school. Now I like nail polish! :D

    1. That is AMAZING. I have such a soft spot for overly pretentious teenage art projects :D


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