In order for us to get to know our Top 18 better, we asked them to sculpt on a single nail tip (any size) one thing we probably didn’t know about them (a hobby, hidden talent, personality trait etc.). This had to be a 3-D design. Contestants were allowed to use a variety of products (liquid + powder, gel, gel-polish, paints, glitter) save for pre-made nail art accessories.
The judges were looking to see originality, 3-D skills, and learn more about the contestants. Unfortunately, six contestants had to be eliminated from this round. The remaining competitors will go on to compete for the title of NAILS Next Top Nail Artist, beginning September 12.
Amber Dunson (Bossier City, La.)
Crocheting is a hobby that I have loved for many years. I loved being able to incorporate it and share in my entry. For my piece I used an extra long size 0 stilleto tip covered in white acrylic. Once the white was dry I began making the yarn “stitches” one by one with rainbow colored acrylic. Before the stitch was dried solid I took a craft knife and added the indentions to give it the look of yarn. The balls of yarn were small balls of aluminum foil covered with clear acrylic and then covered it with a layer of the color acrylic. Once dry I began making the yarn strands around the ball and giving indentions with the knife. The “I love crochet” was written in gel paint and then sprinkled with white acrylic and cured in an LED light so it would harden. Once cured I added lines to give it the look of yarn and then added a wipe-free shiny top coat. The balls of yarn and wording are adhered with small clear acrylic beads.
Ashley Thornton (Stoughton, Wis.)
My piece is inspired by a clothing line I created three years ago! It was a Camo Clothing / Wedding line. I started this clothing line with $200, as a self-taught quilter/sewer. I turned my clothing line into a high profit small business. One of the biggest things I loved about my line was that there was nothing out there like it. I found there was a void in the rural clothing industry. On one hand there was “camo apparel” available, but the selection was small and the prices were outrageous because of it. On the other hand, the apparel that was available was cheaply made and largely produced so they weren’t unique. My clothing line was incredibly unique and personal, that’s why it was special and very successful. Had I not decided to shut it down to pursue nails, I’d still be working on it today. I greatly enjoy creating and I am incredibly artsy and I think this is another great example of how I express my artistry through different industries and with different mediums.
This piece is actually 100% hard gel. There is absolutely no acrylic on any portion of it. I did this on purpose to challenge myself. I’ve never seen someone do a 3-D competition strictly out of hard gel, so I decided that’s what I wanted to do. I am incredibly proud of this piece and I think the fact it is completely made of liquid gel is an awesome twist! I hope you enjoy this piece as much as I did making it! My video illustrates my favorite or most challenging parts of the piece.
Cate Widemire (Wickliffe, Ohio)
Random acts of kindness are contagious! Being able to work with a private service group who goes into the streets of downtown Cleveland to feed the homeless is a rewarding experience for myself and my family. Throughout my early life I was the quiet, shy girl with so much to say, but always unable to express my ideas in public. Working with the homeless and under served people in Cleveland help me come out of my shell. As a mother of four young children, it is a great lesson for my children to learn. Feeding the homeless inspired the nail art for this challenge. The outstretched hand, coming out of a puddle to accept a humble meal will continue to shape my personality and hopefully inspire others to take this challenge and perform a random act of kindness today.
Dana Cecil (Dover, Ohio)
I chose to design a piece around my current “squirrel mom” life, because it’s just one part of my big heart for animals. I could have done cats, but everyone knows I love them. I haven’t told many people about our squirrels. They are interesting and quite cute, so they were perfect. We call them The Girl Squirrel Squad, and they even have their own instagram (@girl_squirrel_squad). The squirrels have brought a lot of knowledge and fun into our lives since the beginning of April. It’s a huge responsibility that I take very seriously. I want them to have an amazing life in the wild someday soon. From what I read, they’ll stay close to home, and that’s just fine with me! I really enjoyed creating a competition style acrylic piece.
Deanna White (Fairview, Alberta, Canada)
Fashion has always been a big part of my life. When I was little I used to hand sew clothing for my Barbies. I can remember in elementary school drawing out clothing designs. My grandma encouraged me to pursue this interest and she taught me how to sew, which I later attended school for. After school I started my own business at age 19. I ran this business for seven years. I ended up doing mostly alteration work and longed for a creative release. Being in such a rural town, I didn’t receive many design opportunities. I took my nail course to shake things up as life was getting stagnant. I originally thought nails would be a part-time gig, but I quickly built my clientele. I now work full-time in the salon, but design is still a big part of my life.
Jessica Warzyniak (Crown Point, Ind.)
My piece is called “Brainstorm.” I chose to show how my mind works. I always have my head in the clouds, dreaming up all sorts of wacky ideas. The cloud is ” “raining” my mind. The fruit tart represents my husband, Jake. My rock, my best friend, and my biggest advocate. He makes everything in my life better, he’s the best father our daughter could ever have and I love him! That boy has a major sweet tooth, so I made him his favorite treat. Next I chose to do a shark to represent my daughter, Dolly. She’s 10 months old and the best part of my life. She loves loud noises, wild people, and scary animals- her current favorite being sharks. I have also included a spider web with nail polish/ paintbrushes. The web is simply because I love spiders. The polish and brushes represent my love/obsession for nail art and all art in general. The geode represents my love for nature. Growing up, I always knew where to dig to find the good rocks and I scavenged quite the geode collection over the years. Speaking of geology, I love science. The molecular structure represents this. I’ve always been a science geek, and I forever will be (Fun fact- the molecular structure is for wine, because I like that too). I chose to represent music as well. I’ve been told I have an old soul, and based on my music preferences, I’d have to agree. I have a soft spot for psychedelic music especially, but I love most music from the 60s and 70s. Lastly, the balloon represents me, always reaching high, floating around life pretty much carefree and fun, and always reaching for the sky. The anvil represents my friends and family. They keep me grounded and make my life awesome. Without the support, wisdom, and babysitting my family and friends give me, I’d be floating too high and all of my helium would leak out.
I tried to really edit myself this go around. My mind (as you can tell) is a storm, but I wanted this to be a happy, bright storm. The nail polish is bright to signify how much I love my career. I chose to make the fruit tart, shark, geode, and anchor darker and heavier feeling because I wanted them to stand out most. They represent those who I truly love more than life itself. I would be nowhere without my friends and family, so this is my tribute to them.
Jonny Pham (Sydney)
I wanted to share some significant moments in my life, and how these brought me to where I am today. I started my challenge by sculpting an open book and blank pages to represent the beginning of my journey. My journey brought me ‘across water’ so I have emphasised this travel by showing waves protruding from the centre of the book with the boat. This portrays myself and my family leaving our home and migration from Vietnam to China in the early 80s in search of a better life and future. Unfortunately, our journey was fraught with danger, and certainly wasn’t as smooth as expected. We were captured and detained in a refugee camp for more than 10 years, therefore I painted an eye with tears in the dark to portray our feelings and the metal bars over it to highlight our time in the refugee camp. Following this, I painted the sky going from dark into light and sculpted a plane and a map of the UK to show a sense of relief when we managed to reclaim our freedom and were accepted as legal immigrants by the British government. The final part of my travel shows my arrival and my new life in Australia, where I have found peace, freedom, and independence. I’ve emphasised this by creating maps showing the many travels I’ve undertaken, together with the white dove, who flies free. As a final comment, I would like to dedicate this piece of work to my parents for risking and sacrificing their life for our future. Without them, my own and my family’s life would not be as it is today.
Katey Laurenson (Auckland, New Zealand)
I have so many things I could share about myself and I go blank as soon as I’m in the spotlight. So I crammed it all into one thing that symbolises me. I could have gone with movies or hobbies, but I’m going to get deep and go with life challenges. Whilst my life is extremely ordinary, some days life is a battle. Since early teens I have battled with anxiety and depressions and the ups and downs of balancing my life to simply just function. Something I think we all do know a little about right? At one point my anxiety got so bad I barely left the house and couldn’t go certain places. The biggest thing about myself that I can say is I am a survivor and I’ve picked myself up and kept going even on those deepest darkest black days. I do it for myself but most importantly, as a sole parent I do it for my children.
Legends of the phoenix vary according to historical era and cultural origin, but there are common themes woven throughout all the stories. The phoenix is a mythological bird that recycles its own life. When it perceives its impending death, the phoenix ignites itself into a magnificent fire. In time, it reemerges from its own ashes — reborn, renewed, and very much alive. To personalise it to my journey I’ve chosen to transform a woman figure and morph her into a fiery phoenix. This is my first attempt at a 3-D piece such as this. I’ve used acrylic and paints and have learned so much as I’ve gone along. A lot of this piece I‘ve created just by experimenting and giving it a go. I really hope you like my design, it made me laugh, cry, get mad, loose sleep and even panic!
Kimberly Harr (Everett, Pa.)
I chose to do do Pocahontas because I’m a very open person, and most people pretty much know all about me. I realized she was one of the major things I never talk about. My grandmother didn’t speak much of her background and it wasn’t until the 1995 Disney version came out, that my grandma told me I was related to her. I was ecstatic. Now I knew why I had so much affection towards Native Americans. I knew my grandmother always had the gift of intuition and now I knew why. What makes this piece so much more special to me is that I finished it on what would have been my grandmother’s birthday. I decided to give her the look of the Disney version as she is the most recognized and everyone would instantly know what my piece was showing. My children and I cherish the knowledge of knowing such a good spirit is our descendant. I try to instill in my children every day that peace and harmony amongst others is the only way we will truly be happy as people.
Konstantina Tsihlas (Athens)
I started doing gymnastics at a very young age. When I got older I tried out track. While training in track I competed with a relay team nationally and won national relay races. I trained and competed in track for nine years, but stopped at the age of 18 due to time constraints and school. To this day I still train on my own when I can because it is something that relaxes me and I love it. After all these years I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience for the sport. When I was a student I decided to become a gymnastics trainer. I have been a gymnastics trainer for three years now. Gymnastics and track are my two favorite sports and they have been a big part of my life. This is why I have decided to use these two sports as a theme for my nail.
Liina Leino (Helsinki)
There are two constants in my life besides my family and friends: nail art and Harry Potter. I’ve been obsessed with Harry Potter books since I was 7 and I wanted to create nail art that was as magical as those books. When I get a 3-D challenge I go all in and defy gravity, so I made a large broomstick and a golden snitch on the nail tip, which are essential in this wizard game called quidditch. I used only gel and acrylics on my project and this was the first time for me to make this large 3-D decorations.
Lisa Bennett (Bakersfield, Calif.)
In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. From the time I picked up the first book, I was hooked. I still remember the first time, reading the very last page of The Lord of The Rings through watery eyes. Tolkien has been a part of my life since I was a freshman in high school. I wear a silver version of the One ring around my neck on a chain, and never take it off. My husband wears the ring on his wedding finger and it was because of the love of these works that we met. I’ve read the books too many times to count and when my son was small, I read them to him repeatedly. I have a Tolkien tattoo, and my home doesn’t hide the fact that we love this literature. When the movies came out we absorbed them like nourishment. So very thankful for the thousands of people who made that happen. I love these books so much that if you catch me in a sharing mood I just may speak some elvish for you.There are so many important images that make up this story, that I could have incorporated many iconic moments into my design. I chose to show you the first moment from the Hobbit I present to you Bag End, the home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins. On the other side is a painting done primarily with acrylic and a small amount of acrylic paint. The Nine companions representing the free people’s of Middle Earth. Four Hobbits, a wizard, a dwarf, an elf, and two men set out on a quest to destroy the evil ring of Sauron who wishes to dominate all the land. There are two sides of my design, because if I’d just done the hill at Bag End it would have just been all grassy.
Liza Waitzman (San Diego)
Once upon a time, another life time ago, I was a really competitive swimmer. I thought to myself, “How cool would it be to have a swimmer, waves splashing, as if swimming in a race?” And of course, it had to be the butterfly stroke, it’s the most dramatic! I love this piece so much because swimming was something I was so good at the instant I tried it. I started on the Coronado Swim Association (CSA) barely above a doggy paddle level and, within months, was competing at meets. I progressed pretty quickly and within a few short years, I was competing in state-wide competitions. Unfortunately for me, I ended up burning out in my late teens and chose another path. However, I do hold the sport close to my heart still because it’s always something I’ve been really good at. Even at my lowest physical shape, I can always jump in the water and get back in it the quickest out of any other sport or exercise.
Even though I have a pool, I haven’t done laps in nearly 2 years now and this challenge has definitely inspired me to get back in it! I feel like nail art is now something comparable to my past swimming experience. Like swimming, it brings out the intense competitor in me!
Toody Tolley (Johnson City, Tenn.)
“One in a Millie-ion” is the name I gave to this piece because Millie truly is one in a million! I try to keep things nail-related on my social media pages, so many people don’t know that I have two Border Collies! I rescued Millie and her brother, Zip, about 3 years ago and the rest is history! We love to go outdoors here in beautiful Appalachia and go hiking, swimming, and all other sorts of fun things. People always tell me I should train Millie to do agility competitions, but, sadly, she is getting older and becoming more susceptible to injury. She is approximately 8 years old and Zip is 10. I love my dogs so much! I’ve always had at least one dog in the family, but Millie and Zip are the first pets I’ve ever had completely on my own as an adult, so I have a very special connection with them. They are both extremely loyal, loving, mild-mannered, and full of personality. A house is simply not a home without a Border Collie! They are deemed the most intelligent dogs in the world and rightfully so. Not a dull moment goes by with these two goofballs and I’m so thankful to have them in my life!
Tracey Lee (Eindhoven, Netherlands)
I must admit, I had great fun with this assignment as it took me on a whistlestop tour back to my teens. It was at 13 that I got introduced to ten pin bowling and quickly realised that I had feeling for it. I participated in several junior competitions and spent most weekends training and competing. One Sunday I had a TV final. The night before we had a bowling gala and to match my outfit I glued on some red stick-on tips. It was late and I didnt have time to remove them so they joined me in the tv final. That was until I rolled the first ball and then three of the tips formed part of the decoration on the lane! It was at this stage that my coach said to me “Do you wanna bowl or do you wanna have nails?” My decision was made and I stopped bowling professionally. Who would ever have thought that this decision would be such a huge part of my life later on. I have created a nail with elements of this amazing time in my life. The lane, handpainted and finished off with a matte top coat to depict the lanes towards the end of the tournament when all the oil has been bowled off. The acrylic flags, handpainted with the American and South African flag to depict the friendly competion we participated in in the USA. This is the new SA flag to be politically correct, however in 1986 it was still the old one. The fashionable bowling shoes (not!), created from acrylic, detailed in acrylic paint and laced up with gel. The trophy, depicting our wins during the competition, created from gel, dipped over buddies for the ball, dipped over toothpicks for the pin, dipped over wire for the curls, and mounted on an acrylic base. We won, so its been painted in liquid gold polish. The pins, battered and bruised after I smashed them with my strike, created from dipping toothpicks in gel and creating expressions with acrylic paint. The bowling ball, created with an acrylic base, dipped in gel and decorated with my war paint gel colors. The holes were drilled using an electric file. The strike sign was created on a gel base, colored in with gel polish and aprinkled with red glitter. I sealed it with Top Gel and handpainted the words and then resealed it. This was a great time in my life and this trip down memory lane was magical. Please take a look at the design and we’ll see if I made the right decision all thise years ago!
Tracy Vinson (Forest, Va.)
My inspiration for this week’s piece really comes from a long line of crafters in my family. My grandparents were avid gardeners, a craft in itself. My grand-dad used to be known as the “medicine man.” They grew their own herbs and made medicinal cocktails that would cure almost anything that ailed you. I get my love of vintage from my parents, who are avid antique collectors. I grew up not knowing there was really anything modern. We used what we had, and made it beautiful. My entry for this week’s theme is my handmade greeting cards. I have a plethora of vintage trims, laces, and antique book pages. It’s a huge thrill to take something that would otherwise be thrown away and turn it into something beautiful. I’ve used everything from candy wrappers to scraps of old carpet in my greeting cards and made them look stunning. No one ever knew that’s what they were. In an age of technology where it’s so easy to send a text message or an email, next time, think about writing a note or picking up a card for someone. It’ll make their day and yours too!
Trisha Johnson (Shelby Township, Mich.)
I’ve learned over the years how my family is my biggest fan, to say the least! We share a bond that is forever. It is one love that no one else can share the same as me. The most important feeling I have, which you may not know about me, and runs very deep, is my need, love, and thankfulness for my family, and I’d like to share it with you all as my “nail family”. After losing a very close family member, and a 3 year old family pet, within a week apart, butterflies were constantly present at the most random of times. Their presence makes our family feel a sense of happiness, as if our passed loved one and family pet, are still with us. Shortly after, I endured several more life events in which my family became my ultimate support system, where the butterfly became a part of my life once again, but this time as an illness. I was diagnosed with Grave’s disease, which is autoimmune and involves the thyroid gland. The thyroid is known as the butterfly shaped gland at the base of our necks. I have since had my thyroid gland dissolved through radioactive iodine therapy, helping the disease, but there are no cures, and Grave’s flare ups are still something I battle from time to time, amongst other autoimmune issues. I searched for the perfect butterfly and chose the Glass Winged butterfly to show my transparency for this challenge, to allow you all in on a little, but extremely important, part of me, and I put my exact “Family” tattoo on the body of a butterfly, as I center my life around them all. Hold your family close, at the beginning and end of every day, they are always a part of you and if you’re lucky, a mysterious part of nature!
Valerie Ducharme (Laval, Quebec, Canada)
What I mostly hear from my friends and familly is: “Valerie, are you in your bubble again?” Or: “Mommy, what are you doing?” Or: “Valerie is daydreaming again…” So, I have to say that what best defines me is, and you won’t be able to see this in a picture or in this video, is that I am often in my own little world, my bubble… this prevents me from hearing what goes on around me, even if sometimes I find this very pratical. So, for this challenge, I am sharing my bubble with you, I am letting you into my world, my own private place. I am a mother who remains a child at heart, represented on this nail, I let mysef be transported by a colourful bouquet of balloons that travel over a sparkling river where litlle beings live in a magical universe. I am an artist who creates by painting the sky with her emotions. I want to give the moon and the stars to the people I love.