I am 27 and I have only been doing nails just over one year and I have loved every second. I still have so much to learn, but my excitement and enthusiasm toward the nail industry is limitless. I am known for being pretty eccentric, especially with my love of unusual pets (I own frogs, beetles and giant snails). I am currently in the process of turning the interior of my home salon into a life-sized gingerbread house. I have a big heart and big ambitions and I am looking forward to sharing my weird and wonderful creations with you.
Set 1: The Family Story
For our first set, we were asked to tell the story of the Nordstrom family across 10 nail tips (the nail tips do not have to be presented on a hand). CND was born back in 1979 when Dr. Stuart Nordstrom, a practicing dentist, was inspired by a client to develop an acrylic nail system. Upon patenting his revolutionary formula, he gifted his creation to his son Jim and daughter Jan who, along with other family members, worked tirelessly to grow the brand into the powerhouse we know today. I thought it would be a fun idea to honor CND’s dental and chemistry driven roots in the form of a family crest or “coat of arms” depicting both the transition and the similarities between nail and dental products, chemicals, and techniques. I used dental floss to create Jan’s hair, an empty toothpaste tube for the banner, and used toothpicks in place of the traditional swords often depicted on family sigils. The toothbrush and filigree-style “toothpaste” and teeth on one side mirror the acrylic brush and acrygel on the other. I made a stylish fascinator for Jan using the chemical formula for acrylic as inspiration (although it is upside down…no one tell Doug Schoon!).
Set 2: Solar Power
In the early 80s, CND launched SolarNail, their very first acrylic system. We were asked to create an updated version of the classic French. Trends for 2019 include a return to the 80s, bright neons, leopard print, OTT embellishment, and oversized retro accessories in the style of Iris Apfel. I decided to use bold, geometric 80s acrylic earrings as the basis of my updated French manicure and played around with negative space, shadows, and sharp lines, staying true to the classic pink and white but with clean neon accents.
Set 3: Fashion First
In 1995, CND was the first company to put nails on the runway. Jan Arnold successfully managed to convince fashion designer Cynthia Rowley that nails had a place on the catwalk, and they have been a fashion staple ever since. For this challenge we had the simple brief of creating a watercolor design across 10 nail tips. I decided I wanted to be super creative with how I presented my tips, so I cut and arranged them to create a shoe. I made the straps and buckle out of layers of Shellac and drew inspiration from my best friend Holly, who is a textiles designer, to photograph flowers in my garden and then transform them into a “fabric” print to use as the sole of my shoe. A pearlescent powder helped give my watercolor flower design a satin look.
Set 4: Brisa and Beyond
For our fourth set, we were asked to use CND’s Brisa gel system to create a crystal ball look into the future. Being a lover of all things esoteric and magical, I decided to take this brief literally and create a crystal ball. I created a modern looking spirit board out of a broken acrylic tray (the same one I used for my Wildflowers challenge) and then applied clear Brisa gel to a lotion bottle to create my smashed looking ball. I do not know what the future holds for nail art as a whole, but I hope that MY future holds a lot of creativity, confidence,and happiness, which is what I was trying to show with my “mini Nixxi” bursting free from the confines of the crystal ball. After suffering with crippling agoraphobia for seven years, this piece is very personal to me,and I hope my predictions come true!
Week 10: Wildflowers
Street artists such as David Zinn create 2-D art on flat surfaces in a way that creates three dimensional images when viewed from a particular standpoint. This is a very complicated (but impressive when achieved) technique that I wanted to try recreating in nail art. I asked friends and family to name objects that I could draw which remind them of me, things such as frogs, Halloween, and nail polish bottles were regular occurrences. I created a design from these images and then traced my design onto clear Perspex so that I could then project the image onto my nail tips using a torch. I traced the outline onto my nail tip mural and then added relief areas using Wildflowers Art Paste and Pop Up gel to add to the 3-D effect before adding colour with gel paints.
Week 9: Gel II
Hawaii gives me visions of tropical fruits and plants and tranquil scenery contrasting with ominous smoking volcanoes. With the long elongated shape of my nail tips I thought it would be fun to use them to create a bamboo cane Tiki bar complete with tropical cocktails to help showcase the wonderful smelling lotions and crystals included in the pedicure kit. Just like a school science experiment I wanted my volcano to be fully active so I conjured the idea of emptying the contents of my cocktail glasses into the mouth of the volcano to create a real life bubbling explosion. I used Gel II’s 4D art gel to create fruits and flowers to adorn my cocktails for a fully tropical experience.
Week 8: KUPA
This week’s challenge was all about the Manipro Passport from Kupa and quite frankly I am in love! As with the file itself, the drill bits included were also extremely high quality which meant it cut through both gel and acrylic effortlessly. I frequently suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, which is often exacerbated by the vibrations caused by electric filing, but the handset was very lightweight and the vibrations were minimal making the whole process a lot more comfortable for myself as well as my clients.
Carving was a fun challenge as it brought me back to my days as a jewelry designer where we would often carve our designs into wax before casting in silver. I love bright colors and Kupa’s Triptych collection had the perfect range to choose from. I naturally gravitated toward the neons and after embarrassingly mistaking triptychs for triffids (the fictional giant plants from corny horror films!) I decided to use psychedelic or poisonous plants as the basis to my design. Triptychs traditionally depicted religious icons or objects of adoration so tying in with the hallucinogenic or toxic elements of the plants and fungi, I decided to include my beloved frogs. All my pets are named after witches and wizards and incidentally my toad Hecate, who was my main inspiration for this challenge, was named after Hecate the Greek goddess of witchcraft, ghosts, necromancy and amongst other things- poisonous plants!
Week 7: En Vogue
Madonna’s career spans almost 40 years, so we had plenty of inspiration to work with! I researched the definition of ‘Vogue’ and found it to mean ‘The Prevailing style or fashion at a particular time.’ Madonna is the queen of reinvention so I decided to hone in on a particular era. The colour scheme kindly sent to us by En Vogue featured really vibrant pinks, reds, teals, and lots of glitter! So I settled on the ’80s as it seemed to be the perfect choice. Her individual style was so iconic and featured distinctive elements such as black lace, layers of jewelry, bold colours, and clashing prints, all elements I wanted to include in my design. As always, I like to try something new, so made my first attempt at edge nails. They look quite severe and striking which I thought would fit well with Madonna’s punky style of the time, they were also perfect for encapsulating lace and netting which was another big trend at the time. Part of our brief was to include the En Vogue logo which I created using gel in the form of a charm bracelet.
Week 6: NSI
NSI is the core brand that I have used ever since I trained to do nails. It is a system that I love and I am familiar with, so I was looking forward to this challenge. I had a few hiccups along the way, misinterpreting the brief and losing footage which led to several false starts. Time was pressing on so I decided to scale it back and create a set that was more wearable than my previous challenges. I was instantly drawn to the pink colour acrylics, in particular Sweet Candy Apple, Ice Princess, and Purely Pink Masque, which reminded me of sweets, ice cream, carousel ponies and other treats you would find at the fair. As this was an acrylic challenge, I decided to showcase different acrylic techniques such as inlaying, 3-D sculpting, ombre, encapsulation, and marbling.
Week 5: EzFlow
This week’s challenge was so fun, but with so many amazing places to choose as the basis to our design and EzFlow’s very generous and extensive range of acrylic powders, it was really hard to know where to start. I made the decision to narrow the Wonders down to places that I had visited personally which left the Great Pyramids, Chichen Itza, and the Northern Lights. All of these places/phenomenons have an abundance of artistic inspiration but I was really drawn to the green acrylics and I thought some EzFlow ‘Glo-It’ glow in the dark pigment would add a really fun twist. Once I had settled on the idea of using the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis as my theme, I began to research stories and folklore about them so that I could include 3-D elements in my design. Some of the stories of the Lights’ origins are rather strange but the theme of war and battles is a frequent occurrence within most of the tales from the indigenous tribes of the Arctic circle.
My favourite theory was the Norse idea that the lights were Valkyries, winged warrior women, who were transporting the souls of soldiers killed in battle to Valhalla, the home of the Viking god Odin. They believed that the lights were reflections off the Valkyries armour which tied in neatly with one of my favourite acrylic powders in our pack, Beaming Bouquet, a gold color with a metallic green sheen. This worked beautifully as the armour on my Valkyrie woman. I sculpted the rest of my design using a combination of Voodoo, Forbidden Forest, Nymphs and Nomads, and Dream Puff. I feel I really pushed my acrylic skills this week and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Week 4: Tammy Taylor Nails
The kit we received from Tammy Taylor was exceptionally beautiful and the pinks and reds of the gel-polish and sculpting gel were perfect for a Valentines/love themed set. My favourite love story of all time is season 3, episode 4 of the popular Netflix series ‘Black Mirror’ entitled ‘San Junipero’ the story centres around two women, Kelly and Yorkie, who fall in love in the mysterious town of San Junipero. To start with there is a heavy 80’s theme with neon signs, big hair, and even bigger costumes which reminded me of a set of fashion plates I owned as a child where you could mix and match the plates and rub over on paper using a crayon and create different outfits. This led me to reminisce about another favourite pastime of mine as a child — paper dolls — and gave me the idea to layer my 10 nail tips to help tell the story of Kelly and Yorkie and their adventure through the eras.
I used gel-polish to paint various outfits onto clear tips in sets of three that I could then layer over my base where I had painted an image of the two women. As the brief requested 10 nail tips I used my spare tip to create an extra veil for Yorkie’s wedding dress. I also included a small LED light at the top of my base so that I could include various interchangeable neon signs made from Tammy Taylor Sculpt to further help narrate the story.
Week 3: LeChat
This week’s challenge was in a word, “Exhilarating!” Unfortunately I did not receive my competition pack. No problem, I thought to myself. I will just match the products with similar ones I already own or could buy. I ordered a set of glass gels but as time went on it was clear that they were not going to arrive in time which meant I had to change my idea entirely in order to make sense of one or more of the three glass gels I already owned. I decided to focus on a beautiful aqua blue and after some thought remembered an image I had seen on facebook of a jellyfish compared to a plastic bag.
The idea of highlighting the topic of plastics in the ocean seemed to work well alongside the colour scheme and the theme of perception vs. reality. On the top side I represented the perception of the sea; vibrant, full of life and abundant with colour using glass gel, 3-D acrylic, and thermochromatic pigments that changed colour when heated, just like real coral when exposed to warmer sea temperatures. I sculpted the nails in builder gel over forms and then filled the underside with more gel to create a flat plate to paint on. I hoped the convex shape of the nails would help to distort the images painted underneath. I used white gel-polish and 3-D acrylic to depict the harsh reality of mountains of plastic disguising itself as jellyfish, bubbles and light refraction floating ominously ready to choke, trap or poison any unfortunate nearby sea creatures. After last week’s Safari Mani challenge I wanted to showcase my acrylic skills a bit more.
Week 2: Mia Secret
3-D artwork is my favourite nail technique to do and probably my strongest skill but because I want to stand out in this competition and keep people guessing I decided to take a risk and do a completely 2-D set. I am still fully undecided as to whether this was the right decision to make! But I am proud of myself for taking a risk and pushing myself to do something new and technically quite challenging. The process I used to complete this set is one that I have dubbed “extreme colour-blocking” and I also used an inlay technique, pushing shapes into soft acrylic and carving out shapes using an e-file on cured acrylic before filling with a different colour acrylic and filing back to reveal the final design. I think using a softer, more natural colour palette helped to highlight the amazing textures and patterns featured on African safari animals. After seeing the incredible entries from other contestants I cannot help feeling that maybe I should have played to my strengths, but I guess time will tell.
Week 1: Orly
After swatching the colours that Orly kindly provided for us I studied the palette for several days before making a decision as to what theme to use as the basis of my design. The reds and khakis alongside the beautiful iridescent blue of Retrograde conjured up visions of dragonflies and water lilies and murky ponds. The greatest asset gel holds over liquid and powder acrylic is its perfect clarity and being a gel challenge, I thought it would be a shame not to really showcase that, which further cemented my decision to opt for a water/pond theme. I tend to prefer bright and neon colours so working with a more natural colour scheme was pleasantly different so I decided to continue with the natural theme and select natural and organic items to encapsulate into my design. I liked the juxtaposition of combining “real” elements such as seed pods and cobwebs alongside imitated elements such as using strands of my hair and gel to create “fake” cobwebs.