This year there were six finalists instead of the usual three. With so many great entries it was hard to choose a winner. (left to right) Maisie Dunbar, John Hauk, Mary Metscaviz, Darlene Feric, Patricia Yankee-Williams, and Amy Becker.

This year there were six finalists instead of the usual three. With so many great entries it was hard to choose a winner. (left to right) Maisie Dunbar, John Hauk, Mary Metscaviz, Darlene Feric, Patricia Yankee-Williams, and Amy Becker.

After taking yearlong hiatus, the Artists and Visionaries Awards (or AVAs, as we lovingly to them) made a comeback this year during the Las Vegas Hair & Nail Conference. During an early-morning awards ceremony, Amy Becker of Masterworks in Mequon, Wis., was named Nail Technician of the Year, and five other nail technicians were also recognized for their outstanding contributions to the nail industry. Nail Technicians, salon owners, and other industry figures made up the crowd well wishers at the ceremony, which was hosted by NAILS publisher Cyndy Drummey and Patti Blanusa, national program manager for Creative Nail Design, the program’s sponsor this year.

The event was followed by a roundtable discussion (you can read all about it in our September 2003 issue). Nail technicians, salon owners, and other industry figures had a chance to speak out on what concerns they have regarding he nail industry and the issues facing them today.

Becker took home the grand prize: a beautiful plaque, $500 and a trip to California to do the nails for an upcoming NAILS cover. Our two runners-up receive and framed certificate. In addition, all six finalists receive gift baskets from Creative Nail Design.

If you’re not already familiar with these six faces, you soon will be. You’ll see also be seeing their names and faces in future issues of NAILS.

We feel the AVA name truly represents all of our finalists. They’re artist in the sense that they carefully home and perfect what they do, and they also envision a better future for our industry and care enough about it to make a difference. NAILS and Creative Nail Design congratulate each one. We’d also like to thank this year’s judges, which included NAILS’ editors, Creative Nail Design’s Jan Arnold, and our 2001-2002 Nail Technician of the Year, Salina Rush.

Be on the lookout for information regarding next year’s award. In addition to our Nail Technician of the Year Award, we’ll also be handing out other accolades, including Salon of the Year.

Amy Becker was excited beyond belief when she was named Nail Technician of the Year. However, she did manage to deliver a moving speech that recognized the caliber of the other finalist.

Amy Becker was excited beyond belief when she was named Nail Technician of the Year. However, she did manage to deliver a moving speech that recognized the caliber of the other finalist.

Winner: Amy Becker

Amy Becker has energy to spare. Perhaps her preference for facing a challenge is the reason she won’t stick to one thing. She’d rather do it all. Maybe that’s what prompted her to enter the Nail Technician of the Year contest for the first time this year, blowing away the judges with her skills and well-roundedness. “I was stunned when I heard my name being called, especially since that was my first time entering. I was honored,” she says. After sitting in her chair for a few moments, Becker regained her composure to accept her award. Then she called her mom and sister, co-owners of her salon, Masterworks.

Besides being a salon owner and now Nail Technician of the Year, she’s also a well-known competitor. You’d be hard pressed not to find Becker in competitor’s seat during any given nail competition. In fact, she’s a mainstay on NAILS’ Top 25 Competitors list. She donates trophies she receives that haven’t been engraved to an inner-city school for their special achievement awards. Competing is so important to her that she even volunteers her time as a competition director for the student nail competition at Wisconsin’s VICA Skills Championship.

Nail art is also another Becker passion. She loves to dabble in flat nail art, airbrush, fantasy, and wedding designs.

Becker isn’t just content with being a salon owner and competitor, however. She’s been educating nail techs in her area through private classes for eight years and his primary nails educator at her salon.

She even finds time to get involved in her community, helping to raise money for several causes, including breast cancer awareness.

Despite all of her achievements, Becker is quick to admit she hasn’t done it all on her own. “I’ve done everything with the support and encouragement of my clients, coworkers, and family,” she says. Spoken like a true winner.

Name: Amy Becker

Salon: Masterworks

Location: Mequon, Wis.

Years Doing Nails: 15

Specialties: Meeting new people, especially during competitions, and putting them at ease.

Favorite Service: Gel Backfills

How Many Shows a Year: At least three to four shows a year

Who Inspires Her: God

Future Goals: Tripling the size of her salon Becker is moving into a new space later this year, which will include a medi-spa   

Whether she’s competing or working in the salon, Amy Becker makes sure her nails always look perfect.

Becker’s nail art is so detailed it looks more like a work of art than anything else

These acrylic nails are just one of Becker’s many skill. She also loves to do nail art.

1st Runner Up: John Hauk

“I once heard Billy Joel say that he’s only as good as his last hit,” says John Hauk, NAILS’ top-ranked competitor of 2002, by way of explaining what keeps him motivated to continue competing when clearly he’s got nothing left to prove. “For people with real passion for the nail industry, one win isn’t good enough. You need to continue challenging yourself.”

This mindset explains a lot about John Hauk: why he entered this year’s AVA competition after being named runner-up last year, why his skills continue to improve (he maintains a minimum of eight continuing education credits a year), and why nail techs around the world seek him out as a mentor.

“I work with techs from as far away as Korea and Japan,” says Hauk. “When someone local approaches me wanting to improve their skills or make more money, I like going to their salon to observe them at work. There’s no one solution for everybody. I assess their skill level and go from there.”

Observing other nail tech helps Hauk hone his own skills and is also why he enjoys stepping behind the other side of the curtain to judge nail competitions. “Seeing one set of nails after another and noting the tiny details that are lacking really crystallize things for me. I carry what I’ve learned with me the next time I do a set of nails,” he says.

Hauk is currently competing exclusively for Creative Nail Design. The reason, says, is that like him, they are committed to elevating the status of nail techs and the art of nails in the public’s perception.

“People act like I became a nail tech because I failed to be a doctor or something,” says Hauk. “The nail industry was my first choice. This is my life.”

Which takes us to Hauk’s stated goal for the future: to appear on “The Tonight Show” or “Oprah.” “I want to raise everyone’s awareness of the nail industry and the world of nail competitions,” he says.

Name: John Hauk

Salon: Belle A Rever

Location: Dayton, Ohio.

Years Doing Nails: 12

Specialties: Hauk debuted on NAILS Top 25 Competitors’ Ranking in 1999 at #7 and last year snagged the #1 spot.

Favorite Service: Pink-and white toes (90% of his clients get them)

How Many Shows A Year: 14

Who Inspires Him: Jamie Schrabeck “She’s the one person who’s been there done that before I have.”

Future Goals: To appear on “The Tonight Show” or “Oprah” as representative of the nail industry.

This French twist design earned Hauk a first place in numerous competitions including ISSE in February of this year.

Patricia Yankee-Williams, who was named second runner-up, was thrilled with her award.

Patricia Yankee-Williams, who was named second runner-up, was thrilled with her award.

2nd Runner Up: Patricia Yankee-Williams

“I consider nails an art form and myself an artist,” says Patricia Yankee-Williams, whose passion for her industry remains undiminished after 20 years. This despite that fact that she believes the public has less respect for her chosen profession now than when she entered the business. “I’ve travelled to Japan and the attitude is so different there. Nail techs are highly respected,” she notes.

Yankee-Williams’ own career has been a diverse one: salon owner, nail artist, educator for Nail Tek, continuing education instructor, and nail specialty practical examiner for the state of New York. “If it weren’t for my employees and my patient and encouraging son I wouldn’t be able to do all I do,” she says.

In 2002, Yankee-Williams was hired as a consultant for Dashing Diva to compile a new training manual for their franchise systems. Her duties for the company also included creating a detailed training program, testing and developing a full product line, and training and managing 20 techs for IBS New York.

At her own salon, she host bimonthly networking days with a group of local technicians including her staff.

It’s the opportunity to reach nail techs who may be feeling discouraged or disc enchanted with the industry that motivates Yankee-Williams to teach and to reach out at tradeshows. “Regardless of the tough times that came my way, it was never an option to stop doing nails. I love what I do.” she says. “If I can support myself and my family, anyone can.”

Yankee-Williams believes that nail industry offers not only financial rewards, but the deep satisfaction you get themselves. Through her association with a local cosmetology school and church outreach programs, she encourages underprivileged woman to consider a career in the beauty industry.

Name: Patricia Yankee-Williams

Salon: Pattie’s Place

Years doing nails: 20

Specialties:  She holds advanced continuing education classes on all aspects of nail and foot care, incorporating motivation into each session.

Favorite service?  Pedicures, because they make you feel so good

How many shows a year? 10

Who inspires her: Roxanne Valinoti, Tom Bachik, Tom Holcomb, and Debra Tuggle, who has a nail school in Queens.

Future Goals: To become a licensed state instructor and develop an education program for women who are not able to afford nail school or have little hope for a future career.

Honorable Mention: Darlene Feric

This past year has been one of the most rewarding of Darlene Feric’s life. “My desire to be more than average nail technician has taken me to a new level: that of salon owner. I wanted to bring service and expertise to my community that no other nail tech or salon offered or still does,” she says. After working at Awesome Nails with salon owner Mary Metscaviz for more than 12 years, Feric made the leap and branched out her own.

Ferric was involved in every aspect of creating her dreams salon, from spending four days painting the walls to getting a new carpet installed, she and a longtime friend opened the salon together, but after her friend developed an allergy to acrylic and started working less and less, ferric took over the business, eventually becoming sole owner of the salon.

Being a salon owner has given Feric the opportunity to have a local nail students complete their internship programs with her. Despite being a fulltime salon owner and nail technician, Feric still finds the time to continue her own education. She’s taken more than 70 hours of continuing education in the past two years, and has taught 15 classes so far this year.

“Education provides me with the means and know how to improve all my skills in the salon and while teaching,” she says.

This year marks the third time that Feric has been a finalist for Nail Technician of the Year, which only goes to show how dedicated she is to her career and clients. “The passion, desire, and commitment I have for our industry only becomes stronger with every class I teach and take, every student I mentor, and with every client I have,” she says. “I never thought I could gain so much more respect for industry like I have this past year.”

Name: Darlene Feric

Salon: Escape Nail Spa

Location: Antioch, Ill.   

Years Doing Nails: 15 ½

Specialties: Enjoys mentoring nail students in her salon.

Favorite Service: Pink-and White sculpture nails and colored acrylic art.

How Many Show a Year: Tries to attend at least five shows a year.

Who Inspire Her: Her children, as well as other nail techs she has met through the years and kept in touch with

Future Goals: Plans to get her salon and obtain a teaching license so she can open or work at a school.

Honorable Mention: Maisie Dunbar

Maisie Dunbar has made it her passion to fulfill the needs of her community and her industry. “I have been committed to filling the needs of my clients and my peers as a salon owner and technician,” says Dunbar.

From the beginning, she’s done things differently. Unlike other local nail care salons, Dunbar chose to specialize in maintaining the integrity of natural nails while providing wellness treatments. By offering these services to her clients an extensive education and mentoring to her booth renters, Dunbar seek to elevate the professionalism of the industry.

As a salon owner, “I am in a position to make a difference individually, through esthetics, and supply a profound impact on the perception of our industry,” she says. Dunbar is always on the lookout for new treatment and wellness innovations to incorporate into her salon, which she’s owned for nine years.

Extending her circle of influence beyond the chair, Dunbar is active in educating techs at tradeshow, working on editorial photo shoots for consumer magazines, consulting consumer editors on nail care issues, and participating in The Salon Association (TSA) events.

Dunbar was a key participating in the TSA Welcome to Our world Event, which seeks to educate elected officials and clients about government issues that are important to the small business community.

NAILS even named Dunbar one of the 10 most influential nail care artistry leaders in North America. Not content to focus exclusively on nails, Dunbar keeps abreast of aromatherapy treatments, hydrotherapy, body therapy, skin care, and homeophathic remedies.

Name: Maisie Dunbar

Salon: M&M Nails and Wellness Center

Location: Silver Spring, Md.

Years doing nails: 10

Specialties: Career growth, continuing education, improving her skills on a consistent basis

Favorite Service: Pedicures

How many shows a year: Six

Who inspires her: Jan Arnold. The history of Creative Nail Design, how they built their company, and their values are an inspiration.

Future Goals:  “Next year I’m trying to launch my own product. I’m looking into franchising my business as well as opening individual spaces at local airports.”

Honorable Mention:  Mary Metscaviz

Few techs have seen the industry evolve and grow the way salon owner Mary Metscaviz has – and still fewer have been able to roll with the punches as well. Metscaviz steadily remains a leader in the industry and in her professional life.

A past Salon of the year semi-finalist, finalist, and ultimately winner in 2001-2002, Metscaviz is no stranger to NAILS’ awards.  A former Top 25 competitor, EZ Flow educator, strong proponent of salon sanitation, and mentor, Metscaviz is an incredible asset to the industry.

“My goal is to personally make a difference in the ability of technicians across the country to upgrade their skills technically and professionally,” says Metscaviz.

“I currently mentor two technicians who are working on my team, walking them through the whole experience from greeting guests to creating that perfect nail.”

Her dedication has helped her team members develop as professionals, and some have been inspired to branch out their own.

An active member of her community, Metscaviz looks to participate in the growth and life of her town. Taking a special interest in kids, she allows high school students to work her reception desk so that they may become familiar with the inner workings of a business. A member of the Downtown Steering Committee, coach of a cheerleading squad, and a frequent participant in town celebrations, Metscaviz looks to make a difference in her community. Ultimately, Metscaviz hopes to make an even greater impact in the industry by becoming a consultant. “I have no idea no I’m going to make it happen, but I’ll figure it out,” she says.

Name: Mary Metscaviz

Salon: Awesome Nails

Location: Grayslake, Ill.

Years doing nails: 27

Specialties: Education

Favorite Service: Sculptured pink-and-white acrylics

How many shows a year: 3

Who inspires her: The top competitors. I know everybody and when I see them do beautiful work, I say to myself, “I can do that!” and I go home and practice.

Future Goals: “I have it all planned out: I want to sell my salon, move to Arizona, become more involved in education, and ultimately become an industry consultant.


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