The Contessas are an annual beauty award program that shows off the best Canada’s salon professionals have to offer. This year, the winners for the two nail categories both work at The Blobar in Toronto. NAILS caught up with Ashley Ann MacKenzie (Nail Art Technician of the Year) and Jessica Marie Ellison (Nail Enhancement Artist of the Year) to find out more about their winning entries.
Photography by David Hou
NAILS: What was the inspiration for your designs?
MacKenzie: This year’s fashion was mostly ’80s inspired, so I wanted my collection to pick up hints of that. For the first set, I wanted to bring in the influence of charm bracelets, and I thought the gold key reflected that. Texture also seemed to be in fashion this year, and I wanted to show a matte nail with an interesting texture, which is why I chose suede. For my last set, I wanted to pick up on the idea of tie dye but have a little edge to it, and I thought splatter paint would be just as fun but have a more subtle appearance.
NAILS: What products and techniques did you use?
[Entry 1] I used Entity Nail Couture’s liquid and powder, including for the sculpted key. Then, I polished the nails using Nefertiti from the Lippmann Collection.
[Entry 2] These have the same base as the first, but with an appliqué of real suede over top.
[Entry 3] These are my favorite and were so much fun to do. I started with Entity One Gel. I polished the nails a dove gray, then literally splatter painted them using CND white and Hot Pop Pink polishes. Warning: if you ever do this, you will be covered in nail polish as I was.
[Entry 1] The product is Entity Nail Couture. These were sculptured to be more like a competition nail.
[Entry 2] These are Entity French tips with a clear acrylic overlay done in a salon-style length that’s typical of the style I do on most of my clients. These feature the matte finish that’s so in.
[Entry 3] These were Entity gel on clear tips, with Lippmann Collection Nefertiti polish on top. I wanted to evoke the ’80s. I usually do a stiletto, but this time I did an oval shape.
NAILS: How has winning the Contessas changed your career?
Ellison: Business leverage is the number one reason why I compete. How do you compete with discount salons if you charge $100? Accolades speak for you. It makes clients have a different respect for you. You’ll never do nails the same way again.
NAILS: What advice would you give a nail tech who wants to enter a nail enhancement photo competition?
Ellison: Get a look in your mind. I draw the photographs I see in my head, then I show it to my photographer. For a competition like this, you need to have a story; don’t submit three different pictures that look nothing like each other. Work with a professional photographer or with a photography student if money is an issue. Have fun with it — it’s one of the only ways we can express ourselves.
View a gallery of Contessa winners from 2006 to the present at www.nailsmag.com/contessas.