Angela Demaree makes and sells tiny jars of makeup with a creative punch, and launched her ilicosmestics online shop in 2014. Photos provided by Ili Cosmetics

Angela Demaree said she has always wanted to run her own businesses. Returning home after living overseas for several years with her kids, she sought work allowing her the freedom to spend time with her family.

One of Demaree’s children suggested she launch a custom lotion and perfume line. It was a skill she originally mastered for herself, but it was a good idea. She followed the advice.

“I made lotions for my face because I had dry skin, and then decided to sell them,” the Overland Park, Kansas, resident said. “Those sales were OK, but I really wanted to work for myself.”

In 2014, one of her daughters suggested a handmade makeup line, and Demaree launched ilicosmetics on Etsy, an online buying and selling community. She is also active on Instagram (@ilicosmetics), where she shows off her creative process, makeup tips, videos and pictures her customers share.

Her Etsy store is popular. It has clocked more than 3,000 five-star reviews since she transitioned into creating and selling pigments.

“I’ve always been extremely creative,” Demaree said. “I’ve always loved art and creativity.” She’s painted a little, too, but “my kids got that — they’re the painters, not me,” she said.

She’s also studying interior design at Johnson County Community College with the support of a Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal scholarship and plans to graduate later this year.

While one of her children might have encouraged the mother of three to launch her eye shadow business, she admitted they don’t use it, then laughed.

“Of course, they make their own — they blend their own colors. I think it’s great,” she said. “You know, I have all of this stuff, and my daughter ended up getting her own supplies and making her own — that’s fun.”

She said customers also buy multiple shadows and customize their palettes, too.

She uses “eye shadows” and “pigments” almost interchangeably when she talks about her makeup line. Indeed, she often hand-blends vivid mixtures of oxides, copper powders, glitters, micas, pigments and other ingredients popular with makeup and body artists that are safe for use just about anywhere — cheeks, eyes, eyebrows, body or hair.

The CPN tribal member with Vieux ancestry said Indigenous culture and her Native heritage sometimes inspire her, both in interior design and when
creating makeup.

She’s also considering creating a Native American-inspired palette with six or seven shades, “just study and pull colors from different tribes and see what I come up with,” she said. “People really like collections, especially if it’s something they connect with on some level.”

Name game

Demaree sells more than 150 shades of eye shadows, pigments and glitters on her Etsy page. Samples cost about $1.50, and full-sized, 5-gram sifter jars cost around $5.

With names like Resistance, Horsehead Nebula, Butterfly Kiss, Night Hawk and Curtain Call, choosing a favorite color can be as difficult as deciding which pigment name best suits a client, Demaree said.

Even her shop’s name — ili — is left open to interpretation, she said. “I liked the way it looked, so that’s it,” she said. “A friend suggested it should mean ‘inspiring love inside.’ I was like, ‘Oooooohhh!’ So that’s what it means.”

Kidnapped is by far her best-selling shade. It’s a matte ruby red pigment with a hint of silver, tinsel-like shimmer.

Angela Demaree hand-blends vivid mixtures of oxides, copper powders, glitters, micas, pigments and other ingredients for her ilicosmetics makeup line.

“I used to have a Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired collection, and the Kidnapped color was inspired by the kidnapping of Sandy Claws, who wears that red, bright red coat,” she said. Sales-wise, “Kidnapped, by far, takes the cake.”

Greed is her No. 2 customer favorite — an intensely pigmented green-black with green shimmer and sparkle. In contrast to the first two, No. 3 is Hereafter, a semisheer, beigey nude with slight rosy and blue undertones set off with silver shimmer. It’s more delicate and feminine, she said, and a popular neutral shade.

Her favorite shade is Candy, Candy Canes, Candy Corn and Syrup. “That’s a long name, but that’s a go-to,” she said. “It’s a neutral beige with a slight blue undertone, and it has sparkles — I love sparkles,” she said, the last phrase in an excited whisper.

“You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to name colors sometimes, especially when you start without inspiration and are just blending colors together, seeing what you can come up with,” she said. “I’d say a good 70 percent of my colors come from just having fun and mixing, and seeing what comes out of that.”

Songs, movies, her son’s video games — all have inspired her pigment monikers. “And sometimes I just give up. I have a color called Barking Pony — I could not, for the life of me, choose a name for that color.”

The burgundy-based powder is brightened with intense multicolor sparkles, giving it a coppery-pink and purple shine. While asking her son’s opinion, the name came to her. It fit.

“He actually named one I made last year,” she said. It was a sparkly white pigment that went unnamed — and thereby unsold — for months.

Demaree giggled as she recalled her son’s candor when she asked him what it reminded him of. “He said, ‘Call it Bird Turd!’ I was like, ‘No, son, you can’t sell cosmetics with words like that in it.’ So the color sat in my room for a few months, and my son’s like, ‘I’m telling you — just put it on Etsy and see what happens.’

“So I did, and it sold out in two months.”