I am a traveling nail tech. I drive to three separate salons, one of which is in Toledo, Ohio, which is an hour and a half drive one way. I love doing nails and I love working with like-minded people. If there is an opportunity to educate myself I’m there, no matter the distance! I can’t leave out that I’m a cat mommy to a beautiful 19 year old tabby named Jacob whose moved all around the state with me. In the last year I’ve developed some pretty crazy allergies to a lot of nail products, but I’m learning how to work around it. It’s definitely taught me that doing things the right way and going above and beyond to keep things neat and clean is ALWAYS a necessity.
Set 1: The family Story
I did a lot of research on CND and narrowing things down was difficult because I ended up learning so much more about CND than I expected to. I didn’t want to leave out so many wonderful people and nail techs attributed to building this brand. I decided to narrow it down to the “OGs” of CND, Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, Jan Nordstrom Arnold, and her brother Jim Nordstrom. Jan’s dad, Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, started everything. As a dentist, he worked with a lot of different chemicals. A few nail techs had reached out to him with curiosity about similar chemicals used in dental tools and on nails. Knowing that Dr.Stuart was a smart man, they asked him to troubleshoot, tweaking the ingredients of nail products to help make them non-yellowing and longer-lasting. He achieved this, put a patent on his product, and eventually started the empire of “Creative Nail Design,” passing his discoveries and inventions down to two of his children, Jan and Jim Nordstrom. Unfortunately, he passed away very shortly after starting the company. I empathized with this as I recently also lost my father and I wanted to pay homage to Dr. Stuart as a father and trail blazer, and make him the center of my design with his two children, who continued his empire beside him. I made this set abstract, using gel paints and watercolor in bright, vivid, unrealistic colors. I wrote significant words hidden in the background to commemorate everything that this set means. I also included Jan represented as a silver salt shaker and her brother as a pepper shaker. She once said they were like salt and pepper and when they came together, they made a magic spice. So I made the salt and pepper glitter sprinkling out, coming together to the CND “C” logo to make the magical spice that has kept CND an amazing growing empire for the last 40 years!
Set 2: Solar Power
The solar nail was one of Dr. Stuart Nordstrom’s most revelatory inventions. He created an acrylic liquid and powder system that used “cross linked” technology when all other products were “linear.” This ensured that his product was stronger, lasted longer, and was UV proof, making it non-yellowing. This set is all about the huge acrylic wave that took over the 80s and CND’s timeless look, the Forever French, which allowed clients to wear a French tip design that lasted longer and kept a superior look to any polish. Along with the non-yellowing agents in Dr. Nordstrom’s Solar Nail L&P system, it kept a crisp white color. Today this is still trending, but may have changed in a few ways. A trend that comes to mind is the “no polish” trend. This is making colors or designs with colored acrylic instead of using polish. I wanted to use CND’s pink and white acrylic to demonstrate a lot of different styles of rocking your Forever French.
Set 3: Fashion First
CND is by far the biggest nail company I can think of for working hand in hand with fashion designers. Back in the 80s and 90s in fashion, it was more common to have nude nails on the runway so as to not clash or take away from the clothing. CND thought this was unacceptable and that nails were part of completing the look. CND put it in their contract that all runway nails that they did had to have creative nail art on them. The first fashion designer CND worked with was Cynthia Rowley. They collaborated on nails using “Aquantis,” CND’s collection of six silvery shades inspired by the sea. I researched Cynthia Rowley and saw she has new designs out. I chose to make nails based off two different outfits of Cynthia’s. Paying tribute to “Aquantis,” I chose a bathing suit and a teal green floral dress as my inspiration. I made lots of negative spaces on my nails that all connect with the surrounding nail because I noticed a lot of clothing in Cynthia’s collections have sheerness, cutouts, and negative space. For color blocking, I used watercolor paints to paint similar designs as the bathing suit. I also chose this design because I liked the pop art feel the words on it gave off. I came across these lashed googly eyes with fun colored pupils that matched the colors of my Cynthia Rowley set. I felt like they reminded me of Johnson Hartig fashion from the past and since this was a fashion set I adorned some of the tips with these cute googly eyes.
Set 4: Brisa and Beyond
I was most excited about this set. Brisa Gel came out in the early 2000s and that is my era, so I had lots of thoughts for these nails. We were asked to take a crystal ball to look into the future. I know there is no way to tell the future, but there is a pattern in the fashion world that everything comes back around in a new invented way. So I really wanted to sit back and take a look at the early 2000s and think about what was most iconic about this time. My experience is Nsync, TLC, Missy Elliot, fur hooded jackets, cool sunglasses, Bratz dolls, low-rise jeans, random Mandarin character tattoos, and who could forget the nail trends. The nail trends that stuck out to me — and yes, my friends were getting this in middle school — were square nails, French tips, and airbrushed dolphins and Playboy bunnies, because for some reason every nail salon had those same stencils. It was also a time when cellphones were starting to become easily accessible, so of course everyone had corded phones and landlines. I wanted to take all these inspirations and put my own modern twist on them to predict the future with this set.
Click here to watch Carly’s video diary.
Week 10: Wildflowers
Since Lauren wanted to give us lots and lots of rules for this challenge, I wanted to make my nails have lots of meaning. When I attached all of my nails together, the first thing that stood out to me was the shape of the nails looked like an animated beehive. I contemplated the idea of making them a beehive because I didn’t have any more related ideas, so I pushed the idea to the side. Then while scrolling my newsfeed, I came across this tattoo of a girl with nails and a hexagon (honeycomb) design cut out of her face. Then the design started clicking together in my mind. But whose face would I use? Since we are on the topic of bees, how about using the queen bee herself, Jan Arnold. Since we are so close to the end of the competition, I am getting closer and closer to meeting Jan in Orlando, so I wanted to speak this moment into existence. To make the piece have dimension I did the cut-out honeycomb pieces over Jan’s face and shaded them. I made the bumble bees using white lace paste and setting them on top of the deign to give one more layer of dimension. I made three bees to represent me and two other girls being Jan’s little Top 3 worker bees. I topped off my design with honey and made the honey dripping all over and seeping out of the cracks of the honeycomb. I wanted to make sure I included a lot of shading as shading is used in Lauren’s dimension class and that’s what the artist David Zinn uses to make his art look like it’s jumping off the street.
Click here to watch a video diary for these nails.
Click here to watch a time lapse video for these nails.
Click here to watch a Facebook Live for these videos.
Week 9: Gel II
Just when you think you are starting to master a medium, NAILS and the NTNA sponsors throw you through another loop! For my Hawaiian-inspired look I wanted to show how extraordinary volcanoes really are and how they both create and take life away. Volcanoes usually form where two tectonic plates intersect, but in the case of Hawaii, the island sits right in the middle of a plate. How is this? Hawaii sits on a hot spot, which is kind of a random area where the magma just bursts through one area of rock until it’s all melted and can come through the earth’s surface. Hawaii was created from these volcanic hot spots 4.6 million years ago. Volcanic ash is some of the most fertile stuff you can come across so along with all of the ash and destruction lies some of the most beautiful plant life on earth. Since this challenge is titled Creative Eruption, I had to create not only a still life eruption but an actual eruption. With LA Palm’s volcano spa system, I made my 4D volcano have a center sealed pocket, allowing me to insert this super cool fizzing reaction. I wanted to create water in the foreground of my nails to represent that Hawaii is an island and is nothing without the ocean it sits in. The sea turtle and flowers and plants represent the flourishing life and beauty of the island. Where the left hand side of my nails the destruction and loss the volcanoes can create. LA Palm has me really excited to try out this pedicure kit on some real feet, and also see what other spa products they have to offer!
Week 8: KUPA
I was finding myself really struggling to find inspiration and concentrate on my concept. Something that kept me busy with distraction was my Nintendo Switch and my new Mario game. I’ve been playing it non-stop! Koopa Troopa is a character in my game and the challenge is sponsored by KUPA. Koopa Troopa is the yellow, turtle-like character.
When researching the word “triptych,” I learned it comes from the Greek word “triptukhon,” which means three fold. This told me my triptych needed to fold. I found a lot of religious or royal looking paintings, often with some type of extravagant gold leafing frame work. This inspired me to make my golden frame with moving hinges. My center panel has a golden, shell-flying Koopa to represent a royal/heavenly vibe, and the two outer panels being the rest of a Mario level. Notice one of my golden blocks has a “K” on it to tie in KUPA. Since Kupa’s logo looks like a K, for my Troopa nail I Fabricated my own matching “T” logo.
Week 7: En Vogue
Strike a Pose
I thought this challenge was so fun! So of corse everyone knows Madonna and knows her music, but I hadn’t realized just how much I didn’t know about her until this challenge. She is the highest selling female recording artist of all time and the most successful solo recording artist on Billboard’s Hot 100 Hits. Not only that, but I didn’t realize I had never seen one of her music videos before. I defiantly have a new respect for Madonna, she was so outrageous, fearless, and unapologetically provocative, especially for the time. To go along with the very androgynous feel to go with the “Vogue” video I decided to make these nails on a male model, I really felt it gave my outlook on how I wanted to create my nails with a different look. As not ALL men are super into wearing long nails I wanted to make these nails slightly more functional by leaving the pointer and thumb finger shorter. I wanted my Set to have a lot of hands everywhere because in the video hands were everything, especially in different poses. Overall, this has become one of my favorite challenges.
Week 6: NSI
For NSI’s festive carnival theme I heavily debated whether to go with traditional circus-type carnival, the famous Rio carnivals, and in the end, based off the color selection given I went outside of my box and learned about the winter carnivals of Quebec. While the Carnivals in Rio might be all about parades, dancing, costumes, and extravagant bikinis, Quebec’s carnivals are the opposite. They do have “night”parades and headdresses along with masks, but also celebrate the winter season with ice sculpting competitions, snow slides, elaborate snowmen/snow-creatures, and igloos. Since we are throwing this festive Winter Carnival to celebrate NSI’s original patent on the nail form, I wanted to make sure I made extra full use of my forms provided. I sculpted out my nails as well as used the forms to cover up parts of my fingers to create designs that hang outside of the box. I created a penguin ice sculpture along with several blocks of ice and ice cubes waiting to be carved. Because I was initially inspired by Rio’s carnival, many of my pieces have inspiration building from that. My cat’s mane resembles a headdress and instead of it being embellished with feathers it is made to look like a snowflake. I made a scrolling design out of painting with the glitter base and embossing it with the white acrylic powder in a design I saw on the side of NSI’s acrylic jars. Once again I’ve ended up learning so much from this challenge.
Week 5: EzFlow
World of Wonders
For this week’s challenge I chose the Taj Mahal. I previously didn’t know much about it, but this challenge has given me the opportunity to really learn. So living in the U.S. I am so accustomed to our history, it never occurred to me how young our country is. The Taj Mahal was built between 1631 and 1648 as a resting place of the Emperor Shah Jahan’s favorite wife. Shah and Mumtaz were arranged to be married at the ages of 14 and 15 but it ended up being a real love match. For political reasons Shah Jahan had to be married to two other women, but did not express love for them. He was by law to have one child with each wife and did, but with Mumtaz he had 14 children including his favorite child. Unfortunately Mumtaz died during her last child’s birth. This is what drove Shah Jahan to go to the extreme measures of creating the Taj Mahal as a resting place for his beloved. Almost every picture I found had the structure’s color looking completely different. Even though it’s made completely of white marble, supposedly it changes color according to the sun and the weather. This inspired me to make my structure a pink and golden sunset ombre. I used all of the colors that I did and even altering the colors in Mumtaz’s outfit to create a very dreamy heavenly vibe as it is her resting place. I learned so much from this challenge and feel really inspired to learn more about the world.
Week 4: Tammy Taylor Nails
From stalking Tammy Taylor on social media, I saw that she recently celebrated her birthday with her grand baby. HAPPY BIRHTDAY TAMMY! And for my favorite couple’s love story I chose my grandparents! This challenge came just at the right time as January 30th was my grandparents’ 65th wedding anniversary! I was practically raised by my grandparents. They lived next door to me my whole life and they babysat me everyday of my childhood. My grandma taught me everything I know about being creative and crafty, not to mention when I was just 2 she taught me all about painting my nails and wearing lipstick. My grandpa taught me that anything is achievable if you work hard enough at it. He was extremely good at crafting and building, anything he ever needed, he’d just make it. Since my experience and most of my favorite memories with my grandparents took place in the 90s, I wanted my nails to have a little gaudy 90s valentines flare. This includes, heart shaped doily’s, big red valentines and lace. I included little chickadees (love birds) on my two outside nails because my grandparents love birds as they have a house deep in the woods of the upper peninsula in Michagan. To show their story I wanted to show portraits of them at all different ages, their wedding day, them when I was a child. I wrote their names (Beverly and Henry) along the sides of their wedding photo. My two piece heart locket symbolizes that they were once two separate entities who came together as one. I am so fortunate to still have both of my grandparents and also that this challenge gave me an opportunity to celebrate and honor them.
Week 3: LeChat
Perception Vs. Reality
After heavily contemplating my choice of design that would convey perception vs. reality, I decided to stick with my first thought. Social media (perception) vs. real life (reality). With social media having such high importance and influence these days, I cant help but notice the desperation to appear as good as, or better than our peers, no matter the illusion it takes to get there. Social media can show us things that may or not be genuine. I chose to make the underneath of my nails portraying me trapped in a negative social media world, with negative emojis and pressure to be perceived as something I’m not. Although I’ve used glitter and color on the underneath of nails, I did find it quite challenging to make artwork on the underneath of the nails. “Deception” is my new word I’m throwing into this challenge. As a nail tech you learn to paint on a curved surface but the underside of a nail is quite the opposite. I found that whatever you paint on the underneath of the nail will probably look distorted when you flip it back over, so constantly flipping these nails back and forth became necessary. I realize others may have interpreted painting both sides of the nails differently but I wanted both my images to be seen from above so everything I painted on the underneath of my nails had to be done in reverse. This meant any last minute detailing or line work needed to be the first thing drawn and shape and background colors last. My character on my nails has had enough and is punching through the glass of the device she is trapped in to find peace and authenticity. Waiting for her on the top side of my design is positive emoji’s, love, and reality.
Week 2: Mia Secret
Mia Secret and the company’s name inspired me to take time out of the first bit of my video to reveal something that I don’t often talk about, my issues with anxiety and panic disorder. I think that there are a lot of people with these same issues who also try and hide it or pretend that it’s not there. But it just makes you feel a little less crazy to hear that what you’re going through is real and you’re not the only one, so I felt inspired to share this. Tying in my use of my pet cats and my love of nails to cope with anxiety, I wanted to make nails of the different cats of Africa. Using the Pastel Macaroon acrylics I made abstract and colorful cats, one for each nail. We were instructed to use different size tips for each nail and I wanted to push the limits a little further by using different sizes, lengths, and shapes. Using the more rounded tips vs. the longer stilettos made my set have a very “Wakanda Necklace” vibe. We were also told later that we would be able to use paint for outlining, glitter, and chrome. I wanted to challenge myself by using purely the Mia Secret acrylics alone. I used the Grey Jungle collection to place in the backdrop of my furry friends to create a contrast. After completing this challenge I now feel like a specialist in making cats out of acrylic and feel much more comfortable sculpting with acrylic in general.
Week 1: Orly
I went to YouTube in the name of Orly research. Orly has a really cool video with Insider about how they make their polish. I also learned that the founder of Orly invented the French manicure, for actresses who needed to have a look that went with many different roles. This inspired me to make the focus of my nails be all about the tips, a play on the classic French. After looking on Orly’s YouTube channel I learned about their neon earth collection, which inspired my color choices. In the advertisement for the Neon Earth collection there are a lot of neon lines crossing over each other and sunset feels. Finding a common interest in the line work in the commercial and the gripper lines on the Orly polish bottle lids I decided to make my French tips out of clear lines. To give an encapsulated look as well as creating lines with no added colors I sculpted tips out of the builder in a bottle onto a stretched out bendy straw. On the base of the nails I painted some line work using a rose gold glitter and the colors Mystic Maven, Marvelous, and Snuggle Up. I made these lines on the thinnest layer of my nail base so I could build the nail up on top of the artwork and encapsulate it. Being inspired by Neon Earth’s sunset vibes, I made little embellishments with gold sequins and a spot of builder gel that resembles little suns or planets.