Jennie Shaw, a Canadian nail art enthusiast, is putting a fresh spin on book reviews. Her Instagram feed is filled with incredibly elaborate manicures featuring the covers of current reads, and you can't believe the detail that goes into them. Seriously – it takes up to 12 hours to paint a set on one hand.
So, how does a person fall into this magical intersection of novels and nails? “Back in the day I used to be part of an online blogging community who had book review linkups and nail polish linkups. I saw what could happen with nail art, and then Instagram and Pinterest became popular,” Shaw says. “I ordered my first dotting tools and a clean-up brush, and my world exploded. It really just came from a place of enthusiasm.”
Her first-ever book mani was created to celebrate a friend’s novel. “I wanted to honor her achievement by doing something special. The book had a beautiful yellow cover and a blue swallow, and I thought, ‘Hey, I could paint that bird!’ It served as a catalyst for painting these book-inspired designs.”
Shaw’s nails live in a universe outside traditional pinks and reds. The art is a way for her to get closer to the story – but what makes a novel worthy of appearing on her fingertips? “I have to really like the book,” she states, obviously. “The manis take a long time, so I have to want to scream about the book from the rooftops and inspire other people to pick it up.”
The artist creates a new literary design every two weeks. As she finishes a good story, it goes into the “To Be Painted” pile, and when she’s ready to execute it the process requires sittings spread out over three to four days.
I break the cover into four segments, one per nail, and align my nails to resemble a rectangle shape as much as possible. The background goes first, which involves a gradient, skyline, or whatever the furthest layer is. During the next sitting I add details like character portraits, linework patterns, animals or flowers. The title, author and lettering are the last step. Depending on the finish of the cover, I’ll use either a matte or glossy top coat to match.
Shaw has a few go-to tools and supplies for these intricate manis:
- Magnifying mirror
- So Nailicious Brushes
- Picture Polish
- OPI Polish and Nail Lacquer Thinner
- China Glaze Polish
The most important tool, by far, is Glisten and Glow’s top coat. “It is the absolute best, quick drying, super glossy top coat. There is zero shrinkage,” Shaw gushes. “Because it’s my intermediary builder top coat, it seals everything and gives me a lot of relief.”
At the moment, Shaw paints these manis for her own pleasure and love of books. But down the line? She’s toying with the idea of selling simpler versions of her novel nail art as press-ons. She’d also love to create a literary polish line (which we support, enthusiastically). “Bookish people are fevered in our passion. The community has never been larger, the stories have never been more diverse and clever, and I’d love to celebrate how far we’ve come with books.”
Explore more of Shaw’s nail art on Instagram.
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