Talking Makeup with Katie Saarikko

We love beauty and makeup. We also love finding out what makes people tick, so it’s always a pleasure to combine the two when we sit down to chat with a makeup artist. Not only does Katie Saariko run her own thriving business, she works as the creative director of Makeup for FASHFEST and teaches at the Canberra Institute of Technology. We caught up with this incredible artist to pick her brains about it all.


Leiden: What first drew you to makeup?

Katie: I’ve always been interested in art. I won a few drawing and painting competitions as a child and noticed that I viewed the world ‘differently’. As a teenager I was drawn to the theatrical side of makeup and being able to make a statement with my appearance. Many of the bands I loved were wearing makeup on stage, dark eyes and white faces. When I started my own metal band, being able to turn myself into a character on stage appealed to me. At one show we had a makeup artist come and transform us into ghouls. His kit fascinated me, the way he knew which parts of my anatomy to enhance to make me look skeletal and scary and the professional set of brushes. It stuck in my mind but didn’t occur to me that this could be a job until my late 20s.

Sitting at my desk one day I had the idea to flip a coin, heads, I would enroll in a makeup school, tails I would finish my degree. I got heads and was enrolled at Canberra Makeup Academy by the end of the day. I went on to win the Student of the Year award and have spent the last few years honing my skills and developing my own style, which I like to think of as natural and radiant.


L: You have been the Creative Director of Makeup for FASHFEST the past two years. What do you love about that experience?

K: Being the Creative Director of Makeup for FASHFEST has been a huge opportunity for me to grow and develop not only as a makeup artist, but as a collaborator and team leader. Working very closely with the Director of Makeup, Diana Cheetham, we oversee the work of up to 10 teams of makeup artists at each show. We could not manage this feat without our fantastic team leaders and all the brilliant creatives backstage. The atmosphere on the night is the thing I love the most about FASHFEST. You develop a sense of comradery with the other artists when you have 1 minute to change a model’s entire look. Arms intertwined, brushes at the ready as we all rush to change the makeup as quickly as possible, it sets my soul on fire. This year I am stepping back to Team Leader due to health issues but hope to be back as Creative Director in 2018.


L: Tell us about the TranzAustralia makeover program. Are you still involved?

K: The TranzAustralia Makeover program was an idea developed with my friend Jenni Atkinson and hairdresser Bandi Rain. We wanted to offer a free service to people in the gender diverse community that would help build their confidence by teaching them new skills. My role in the program was to provide a makeup lesson and professional makeover. Bandi Rain would provide a full hair service. Kylee Sharples, an accredited portrait photographer who runs Wilomark Imagery volunteered to photograph the makeovers. I’ve become extremely busy over the past year and as I didn’t want my schedule to interfere with the makeovers, I asked Rania Yallop to take over as the makeup artist for TranzAustralia Makeovers.


  • @katiesaarikko
  • @katiesaarikko
  • @katiesaarikko


L: What have been some of the highlights from your career so far?

K: Being signed to Canberra’s new creative agency, The HAUS of Artists has been a highlight in my career. To be one of the first makeup artists selected for representation was a humbling moment.

I was selected in the top 10 finalists for the Makeup Weapons ‘Weapons of Mass Creation’ competition alongside some of the best artists in the country last year. I’m pushing myself to enter more industry competitions this year.

Watching my students grow and develop at the Canberra Institute of Technology where I taught the Cert III in Makeup. Seeing them graduate recently made me so happy.

Watching the models strut down the catwalk feeling fierce and confident at FASHFEST every year.


L: What do you hope to achieve through your business?

K: Freedom! I am giving the freelancing life a go right now. Up until now I have been working in a full-time job, 9-5 throughout my entire makeup career. It is great being able to focus my attention to hair and makeup.

I’ve developed my own group classes under Glow Again including my 100% Fresh – personal use makeup class, Lash Out – learn to apply false lashes and Squad Goals – group lessons that I offer for things like hen’s parties or birthdays. All of my classes have been designed to help everyday people with their makeup.


L How do you think the Canberra makeup scene has changed over the years?

K: I haven’t been a part of the makeup scene here for a huge amount of time but in the last few years the major change I have noted is that makeup artists are being respected more as legitimate businesses. Posts up on groups asking for commercial work in exchange for exposure are jumped on quickly. I think that there has been a kind of ‘girlboss’ uprising. We have skills and we deserve to be paid for them. The more people that take on this attitude the better it is for all. The general public have a bigger awareness of makeup techniques and products so in order to have them hire us we need to really stay on top of our game. Plus Canberra now has a beauty precinct in the city [you can read about it here] so we can go and test out products before buying them.


L: What do you love about creative editorial work?

K: Creative editorial work is my chance to explore ideas (I have a notebook full of what I call my ‘wacky ideas’). I get to test out new products, create looks that are out of the ordinary and collaborate with other creatives.

It is truly rewarding when you get together with the perfect team, each person doing their part to bring an idea to life. It could be a shoot for a fashion label or a beauty image that will be the end product. True collaboration is about respect and trust.

My favourite type of editorial at the moment has been shooting outdoors, trying to create looks that are a bit whimsical, playing with the light and creating a supernatural glow on the model. I’m also really into doing close up beauty images at the moment and have been studying photo retouching.



L: How do you approach doing your own makeup?

K: My philosophy is to look after my skin and keep it natural. I am at an age now where heavy makeup can make me look older. It is hard to look at yourself objectively, even as a makeup artist and work out what looks best for you. For my day look I focus more on making sure I wear 50 spf sunscreen more than anything else. I spend a lot of time on my skin so protecting it from the sun is crucial.

From there I apply a thin veil of cushion foundation to even my skin tone, or if I want heavier coverage a medium cover foundation such as Harlotte Afterglow Foundation. I try to create light around my deep-set eyes, enhance my lashes and bring some colour into my face with blush. For my lips, I switch between dark dramatic liquid lipsticks or soft washes of gloss.


L: Tell us about some of your go-to products?


PETIFEE Gold Hydrogel Mask

I am a huge fan of sheet and gel masks, this one makes my face feel plumped up and full of moisture, I treat my clients to a mask when time permits.


Mecca Cosmetica – Lip De-Licious 25 SPF

I use this on all my clients and on myself every day. It soaks into the lips without feeling greasy.


COSRX Low PH Good Morning Cleanser

Great gel cleanser that does not leave the skin feeling dry like others can.


Harlotte Afterglow Foundation

Dewy finish foundation, Australian made, great for spray tanned babes. Doesn’t crease under my eyes which is always a win.


Curtis Collection Brow Perfector

As opposed to filling the brow heavily, I prefer to draw in hairs. These pens are great as the tip is super fine and the colours are cooler toned than most.


L: What are your favourite beauty trends at the moment?

K: I love highlighter! Don’t we all? Applying a soft highlight down the bridge of your nose (not on the tip) and high on the cheekbones gives you a youthful glow. Try to find one that doesn’t have large glittery pigment, the smoother and more finely milled the product, the more natural it will look.

Another trend at the moment that I am digging is the use of colourful mascara. I’ve been creating my own for shoots using deep burgundy, blue or purple. When the light hits it you get that hint of colour.

Dark vampy lips in metallic colours are perfect for this gloomy winter weather. I like to wear it with minimal eye makeup, a soft highlighted lid, strong lashes and dewy skin.


Visit Katie’s website

Follow Katie on Instagram


Buy Tickets to FASHFEST

September 28 – 30, 2017



Image Credits

In Instagram Feature

Photography: Alex Wenzel of True Beauty Photo Design

Model: Jordan De Alvia

Makeup: Katie Saarikko

Editorial Spread ‘Sectrum’

Photography and Creative Direction: Tina Nikolovski

Makeup: Katie Saarikko

Hair: Lexi Bannister

Designer: Bianca Pavlic

Stylist: Tina Nikolovski


Model: Emma Yates at Devojka Models

Published: Coco Magazine

Emma Batchelor

Emma Batchelor

As well as a near obsessive interest in fashion, Emma is a former scientist, occasional contemporary dancer, avid reader and self-confessed cat lady (she has three). Emma lived in Leiden in the Netherlands as a baby and Leiden ought to have been her middle name had her mother thought of it at the time and not chosen Louise instead.

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