The Thursday before IBSLV, I headed to Atlas Studio in Costa Mesa, Calif. to see four nail professionals prepare to compete against the best nail professionals in the business in Las Vegas. Atlas Studio offers many nail courses at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels for those wanting to learn how to sculpt nails, apply Calgel and Presto LED gel, improve nail care, and create 3-D art. Atlas is a haven for students seeking to learn the trade and aspiring to compete. Nail techs Yoko Ono and Maiko Hayashida work at Atlas regularly but also participate in the competitions. Aki Nada has been doing nails for six years and practices on her model for the soak-off gel competition. Also preparing is Yuuske Terasaki, perfecting his pink-and-whites technique in his sixth year of doing nails.
Kyoko Amemiya (left) and Mayumi Hase
Atlas Studio is owned by Kyoko Amemiya, a champion nail artist as well as a Calgel international educator and an LED gel educator. Amemiya has done nails for 13 years and competes regularly in Las Vegas, Sacramento, Long Beach, and Orlando. She is excited to open up her studio (which is also a full-service salon) to her fellow nail artists, but especially to Japanese nail champion Mayumi Hase.
Aki Nada practicing gel-polish application
Hase has been doing nails for 15 years. When I asked what the difference was between nail competitions in the U.S. and Japan, Hase explained that a Japanese competition could mean as many as 1,000 more competitors and tougher techniques. The sculpture work is very intricate and more difficult to master. Gel-polish is also the dominating trend in Japan. Amemiya explained that using gel-polish is an easy way to make money while creating all the nail art clients would want.
One of Nada's finished sets
Practice lasts for five hours, allowing Nada to apply, remove, and re-apply her gels three times. It takes the remaining competitors almost four hours to get the perfect set of acrylic pink-and-whites. The models are patient, and if one of them suddenly has to leave the nail tech begins working on a nail trainer hand without even blinking. What started out with laughs quickly becomes a study in hard work and concentration. Every once in a while one of the competitors gets up to stretch or compare their work and offer advice to another. But the majority of the time is spent with everyone honing their craft to perfection. Some of the other nail techs even check in from time to time, one of them whispering “They’re so quiet” as she watches their brushes glide along the nail tips.
When I walked by the competition tables on the show floor, I was impressed that these contenders remained as focused as they did in the studio. The show floor was loud with music blaring, people cheering, passersby looking on, and announcements being made over the microphone. Still, nothing seemed to shake the rows of competitors who kept their eyes on the prized nail tips.
The intense practice and focus paid off when the awards were announced at the end of the show. Hase placed first in Veteran Sculptured Nail and Veteran Salon Success. The team of Amemiya, Terasaki, and Hase placed first in the Tip and Overlay Relay with Team Spirit. Hase and Terasaki placed first in New Perfect Match and Amemiya and Ono placed third. In the whirlwind that is a trade show and in the craziness that is Las Vegas, it was refreshing to see team spirit triumph and nails come out on top. Atlas Studio truly is a salon success story.