Nail Camp West took place October 22‐25, 2021, at the rustic Camp Burton on Vashon Island, WA (population: 10,624), a 20-minute ferry ride from Seattle. Described in brochures as depicting the Northwest as it was 30 years ago, the island is located in the heart of Puget Sound.
Nail Camp Overview
For four days, campers enjoy nail training in the form of demonstrations, hands‐on classes, workshops, business seminars, and competitions. The schedule is intense and there is always something to do, whether it's attending a class, engaging in team‐building games, or making new friends and catching up with old ones. The very full schedule does allow time for sleep, but I'm not sure how many campers actually take full advantage of that!
Officially known as Nail Camp USA, the event is owned and operated by Jessica Briarmoon, a nail technician based in Mountlake Terrace, WA. The planning and preparing for Nail Camp is essentially a year‐round affair, with the final 30 days prior to camp going into hyperdrive. With all the work that goes into the planning, I don't know how Jessica manages her nail business, let alone finds time for sleep. Camp Director Jessica is aided by her gracious husband Jared, her charming daughter Laurissa, and a number of veteran educators, including Camp Competition Director Allie Baker and self‐appointed Camp Clown KT Truong.
The idea for Nail Camp originated with Jessica’s experience at beauty trade shows, where she'd observed attendees dining alone after show hours. Considering the expense of meals, travel, and lodging, Jessica thought there had to be a better way for nail professionals to experience the benefits of a trade show—and Nail Camp was born.
Nail Camp occurs once or twice each year, with the location alternating between east and west locations. Each Camp has a special theme. The theme of the October 2021 Nail Camp West was optimistically titled “Post Prohibition,” a reference to the lessening of pandemic restrictions that have challenged all of society, including the nail industry. Consequently, the nail community’s eagerness to connect and celebrate its profession was evident in the high number of Nail Campers (130) that descended on Camp Burton—50 returning campers and educators plus 80 first‐time campers—all eager to hone their skills.
Handouts, Food, Games
At check‐in everyone receives a 70‐page spiral bound book, which is the camper’s guide to the Nail Camp galaxy. The book contains the camp program, cabin assignment, map, class schedule and descriptions, educator information, and more. New this year was a camper directory, complete with pictures. Since the directory is reminiscent of a high school yearbook, I asked everyone I met to sign my camp book. Unlike my actual high school yearbook, people kept their comments polite. I'm a bit puzzled by one note that read: “Have a great Summer.”
All campers also receive a swag bag—a glitzy, shopping-style bag literally overflowing with free nail products donated by more than 50 generous sponsors. Campers are warned in advance to arrive at camp with spare room in their luggage to bring all their goodies home. No doubt the airlines made a fortune on the overweight luggage charges incurred by returning campers!
Meals are served buffet style in a large dining hall, and the food is surprisingly good; special dietary needs are accommodated if requested. Mealtimes are accompanied by announcements and raffles for prizes donated by various sponsors. While seating for breakfast and lunch is open, teams assigned at check‐in sit together at dinner. The assigned seating facilitates meeting different people and then is in place for various team-building games. While the games are fun, a roomful of nail techs can take competition to a whole new level!
Education, Education, Education
The main purpose of Nail Camp is education. With more than 20 educators leading nearly 70 classes and workshops, it is impossible to attend all the educational offerings and, consequently, we each had some hard decisions to make in class selection. Classes are held in meeting rooms scattered throughout the camp; topics include electric files, nail art, pedicures, sculpting, and so many more.
Class length ranges from 1‐hour demonstration classes to 8‐hour workshops. While most of the longer workshops charge a fee, primarily for materials, the cost of many of the shorter classes is included in the camp registration fee.
Classes I Attended
After having a tough time choosing among all the appealing classes, I attended these:
- Incredible Improvements, a 5‐hour workshop. This takes place on the first day of camp. Campers pair off, taking turns sculpting nails on each other. After completing each nail, campers receive an assessment of their work and suggestions for improvement from the various educators. This class is extremely beneficial for someone who is still working on developing sculpting skills.
- Waterless, E‐File Pedicures, a 1‐hour demonstration class led by Gehwol Educator Hope Goldman. This class covers the process of using an electric file to file and smooth the feet during a waterless pedicure. Hope also demonstrated some of the various Gehwol pedicure products.
- E‐File Pedicure with Pododisks, a 1‐hour demonstration class led by Staleks Educator Kateryna Abourched, who introduced the use of disposable disks attached to an electric file to quickly smooth a client’s feet.
- Salon Style Hard Gel Sculpting, a 1‐hour demonstration class also led by Staleks Educator Kateryna Abourched, who showed us how to apply art techniques to embellish hard gel extensions.
- Luminary Structured Manicure Certification, a 3‐hour hands‐on workshop conducted by Luminary Master Educator Tara Robinson. Luminary Nail Systems is billed as a one‐step builder gel that can be used for gel manicures or as a gel overlay.
- Xtens Certification, a 3‐hour hands‐on workshop led by Xtensystem Master Educator Cindy Walston. Participants learn how to apply full-coverage nails using the Xtens nail tip system and how to troubleshoot different nail types.
- E‐File Russian Manicure with Gel Polish, a 5‐hour hands‐on workshop conducted by E.MI and WIL.A Educator Iryna Zabiran. This workshop teaches electric file procedures for preparing the nails to achieve a “Russian Manicure” look, as well as techniques for achieving high-quality gel-polish application.
Shop the Show
Similar to a trade show, one of the highlights of Nail Camp is the multitude of shopping opportunities. Although campers are kept busy dashing from class to class, time is set aside on the schedule for some serious shopping, which nail techs somehow always find time to do! Many of the educators bring nail product merchandise for display and purchase. The benefits to the campers are many, including the opportunity to ask experts questions about the products, and best of all—discounted prices!
Shopping was encouraged during the Costume Party, an addition to the event that began with 2019 Nail Camp West. Since the theme for the 2021 Nail Camp West was “Post Prohibition,” campers were encouraged to create costumes celebrating the repeal of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. During the evening the campers definitely proved that creativity does not stop at the nail salon door. There was an abundance of wonderful costumes ranging from flappers and gangsters to newsies and even a gangster car.
Competitions, Of Course
Another major highlight of Nail Camp is the competitions. Attendees compete in three categories: Gel Manicure, 30 minutes; Salon Nails, 60 minutes; and Mixed Media, completed before the participant arrives at camp. The competitions are designed to give nail techs, especially those who have never competed before, the chance to experience a nail competition without much of the stress.
I believe all the attendees would agree a good time was had by all, and I know that many are already looking forward to the next Nail Camp, tentatively planned to take place in Texas sometime during fall 2022. If you are interested in being notified about Nail Camp events, I urge you to join the Nail Camp USA Facebook group. With 1,600 members, the group is very active and provides all the details and links that campers and potential campers will need.
Until next time—keep calm and camp on!
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.