First off, I’m so excited to be here! When I’m not slingin’ nail art, I’m probably hiking with my cool little family or tending our garden. Either way, if I’m not in the salon, I’m probably outside.
When I am in the salon, I refer to myself as a “nail nerd” because I am obsessed with all things science. Rocks, bugs, human anatomy, and microorganisms really get me going, so whenever possible, I will add some “nerd” element into my nail art!
I love laughing and having fun, but I’m not afraid to be serious and raw, so I try to bring that to my nail art as well. Basically, you can expect to see geeked-out fun nails with a side of genuineness week after week. Buckle up, this is going to be great!
JESSICA’S FINALE ESSAY (and remember to click through the photos to see all the collection designs!)
Oh my goodness, I cannot believe that this is it! For our final challenge, we were asked to revamp our 4 past fashion sets from this season and create a new set to make a 30 nail complete capsule nail collection for Jan Arnold.
Jan’s style is so much fun! She mixes everything you can think of in ways most would not think of! One theme I noticed is she likes to mix her soft pieces with harder elements. She’ll have a collared, more masculine shirt on with a fluffy skirt. But don’t be fooled; that skirt isn’t anything short of art itself, with layers of fabric or boning for an exaggerated shape. This whole nail collection embodies just that. Masculine and feminine, hard and soft, yin and yang. Without one there should be the other!
I separated my collection in this way. There is a softer, more easy, feminine side and a darker more punk side. Each nail itself also embodies this theme.
The first set is on the soft side, Fashion Fanatic. These nails are so Jan in the sense that they’re VERY long, and she loves to wear exaggerated shapes in her clothing. They were based on a royal flush, and I didn’t think that went with Jan’s vibe so I used a reflective glitter on top of Shellac to cover those parts and to outline some features in the design. This made a texture that brought a hint of that hardness to such a soft pastel design. I also added crystals to the complete underside of each nail to pump up the va-va-boom! Lastly, I created a shield with Plexigel, crystals, Shellac cured and folded into lace, and tulle. This can be on or off depending on the situation. Jan showed us a great coat that had a structured shoulder and one arm. I loved the mis-matched balance of that jacket, so I kept just one nail with a big fancy shield.
The second soft look is Back to The Future. My original design was based off of agate and obsidian stones with a few flat nail features and some real gold leaf. I decided to keep the flat shape again, because Jan loves an optical illusion via shapes. I chose different stones that had special meaning to me including…
Tourmalated quartz clears barriers and magnifies the potential for success. Kyanite is a good luck stone. Dalmatian Jasper promotes positivity, Green adventuring is for good luck, and Druzy Agate because it’s just my absolute favorite!
Each “stone” is made of layers of Shellac and Plexigel, then wrapped in 24K gold covered Shellac top coat strips. For an additional layer of fun and whimsy I made magnetic tips (also gold, duhh) so these nails can be worn long or longer!
Onto the “dark” side, Harajuku Punk is filled with deep rich colors, SO MANY accessories, and was already made specifically for Jan. I made the lips a bit larger with Brisa gel, added a few crystals, a pink accent on the pinky nail to round out features I wished I had time when I originally made them. The judge’s comments were that it was a nice risk to make them a funky shape and fit, but it wasn’t quite right looking. I decided to make them even more avant garde and add a whole nail tip to the bottom portion of the nail. Now these bad boys nearly come up to your second knuckle and I AM HERE FOR IT!
Lastly, in the “hard” group is CND Couture. I like how these nails are a bit on the shorter side in comparison to the rest of the collection. I think it gives it some interest to see such a different proportion in the mix. This set was inspired by a cyborg fashion look where the model was holding her own head so I decided to embroider a skull on a nail. I also had some left over flowers from when I first made this set, so I used those plus plucked the ones off of the others in the previous set to make a BIG OL flower explosion nail. I specifically left a pocket empty of flowers because I like how it gives it a more interesting silhouette. I also painted a cutie pie little baby brain to tie into the cyborg theme. I love how teeny it is next to the flower nail.
Finally, the last set is based off of yin and yang. I wanted to keep one hand light and one dark, with mixed elements that expose vibrant colors. I utilized magnets and chains to show and hide the vibrant colors. There is a little element from each of the other sets that we had this season. This is my little way of saying thank you for this experience and for the opportunity to push myself in ways I’ve never imagined. This set is a medium length in comparison to the others in the collection as my way to keep it balanced.
I was riddled with self doubt while making this collection, and I am SO THANKFUL that I pushed through to see my vision come to fruition. This challenge is my absolute favorite in the books (and the hardest) but man, I am so grateful to be able to do it. With this being so hard and rewarding I cant help but think how perfect the yin and yang theme really was this week.
Thank you, judges, for believing in me and pushing me. NTNA has been nothing short of phenomenal so thank you so very much for allowing me to be a part of this wild yin yang of a nail competition.
Click here for a 7-10 minute video diary detailing the inspiration for her capsule collection as well as a look at how her new set of nails was created!
For this week’s challenge we were asked to create game changing nail art using Shellac only on five nail tips. We were to show a change that we want to see. I want to see the world change by one act of kindness at a time.
This set shows a set of hands planting the seed of kindness in dry, cracked earth and that seed is rooting and turning into beautiful opportunities with greenery and flowers. I chose to make the nail tips myself because I wanted to have a non traditional shape that also played with the greenery aspects. There are 3d elements like the flowers that all made with Shellac as well. And I played with matte vs. shiny finishes to embolden the art elements.
I know first hand how a small act of kindness can cause a snowball effect that makes a huge impact. In my video, I explain how I wanted to donate some coffee to hospital staff, and that ended up feeding families throughout Northwest Indiana!
There are literally endless options for you to have an impact on those around you too. It all starts with choosing to be kind to your fellow man. Compliment the girl at the grocery store, babysit your single mom friend’s child for a few hours, pay for someone’s groceries, help a stranger fix a flat tire. Those are all small things that we can do for others that I know will brighten their day and even begin that snowball effect of kind acts that will end up in a huge amazing change in your community.
To celebrate this set, I challenge you to complete one random act of kindness today! As always, thank you CND and NAILS for this opportunity.
See Jessica’s video here!
For this week’s challenge we were asked to create a Harajuku Punk set fit for Jan Arnold!
We were to take cues from Jan’s unique style sense and Giselle Caballero’s finale set from season 7. I love how Giselle’s set contained movement from the chains and sparkly embellishments to amp the look up!
The Harajuku elements in this set are fun and girly while the punk elements give it an edge. We were to use some found elements, meaning non nail products- so I chose to use nails and nuts from the hardware store and some fabric.
Punk jackets are all about individuality, showcasing your favorite bands, prints, or embellishments- and I was so inspired by that! I painted some icons with Shellac right onto the fabric to mimic that band t-shirt being hand sewn onto a jacket or vest. I also hand stitched one on to amp up the texture and make it more interesting. The nuts are the perfect housing for some crystal accents, and adding nails on nails (see what I did there?!) gives it edge! Speaking of edge, I chose to make a set of “brass knuckles” to be worn as a FIERCE accessory!
For the 2D I hand painted the five base patterns from the runway hand using Shellac first. I alternated patterns, putting three on each nail. This was to highlight how Jan mixes and matches patterns in her own looks. Then I added some elements inspired by Jan’s outfits alongside some elements that complement the runway look. Finally, I used a mixture of matte and gloss Shellac top coats giving the finish some subtle dimension.
The 2D nails were to be shorter and both the runway and 2D hand were to be cohesive, so I chose to take another note from Jan’s style, and play with shapes by creating an extension over the matrix area. I kept it geometric and crisp in shape rather than rounding it out to keep it edgy. Adding length in this area not only makes this set more interesting, but it makes it seem as if these nails are super long when they’re actually quite the opposite! So no need to make the runway hand longer for that dramatic effect. We can have our cake and eat it too in this manicure!
Thank you CND and NAILS for this challenge, it was so much fun!
For this challenge, we were tasked with creating chandelier inspired nails to celebrate CND’s Plexigel line. Plexigel is clear, strong, and brilliant so its obvious why chandeliers were this weeks inspiration!
I knew right away that I didn’t want to do a traditional chandelier look, so while searching for inspiration photos, I came across a bunch of chandelier art. There were spirals made from hand blown glas, flowers, real rocks and minerals, brilliant AMAZING crystal work, fabric, and even some that look like real clouds.
My daughter, Dolly, asked me to make nails for her rock and roll doll so in honor of her birthday this week I did just that.
Her doll reminded me of Lady Gaga so I dove into her costume looks for inspiration! There are spikes, cubes, diamond shaped scales, and bubbles among the design element in this look. To elevate these nails and have more fun in the process I decided to make them light up! So now that cool rock and roll doll has her own nail chandelier for her rock concerts.
Everything in this look was constructed with Plexigel, and I used the help of matte top coat, original Shellac Top Coat, plus some clear sculpting powder to give it a sugaring texture effect. I love how these nails bounce light around beautifully, just like a real chandelier does.
Thank you NAILS magazine and CND for this challenge, it really lit me up!
For this week’s challenge, we were asked to choose a 3D runway look from CND’s phenomenal history of Fashion Week nails and recreate it on five sculpted, ready wear nails using Vinylux.
Being an artist in the design lab for Fashion Week has been a dream of mine ever since I was a little baby nail professional, so this challenge was right up my alley!
I came across a shot of these whimsical playing card nails with the lettering from each card popping out and off of the nail. I imagined the gorgeous models wearing these down the runway and thought why not make the models into the playing cards themselves?! I reimagined the jack card into a gorgeous maiden, the king card into a powerful sword wielding beauty, and I kept the queen card a queen, but she’s not a regular queen… she’s a cool queen. To complete the royal flush manicure, I painted the 10 and ace of heart cards to match.
I chose a muted pastel color palette to bring another fun twist to the traditional playing cards, and even made a ring and adornments completely from Vinylux. Since Vinylux is a quick drying polish, before I painted the intricate details, I conceptualized and completely drew out my design on paper. This was a HUGE help to keep the workflow moving quickly, so there wasn’t wasted dry polish on my palette.
I also really tried to push myself with this set. I paid extra careful attention to detail and made sure that the line work was clean and consistent. I also chose to make these like true playing cards and paint similar versions of each, both nail right side up and upside down, keeping symmetry in mind. Further pushing myself, I made these nails the longest ones I’ve ever sculpted! I made lots of mistakes along the way, but I’ve learned a lot and I’m so happy with the results! I know these aren’t your typical ready wear length, but I imagine the wearer of these nails to be fashion forward and daring, so I made this set to fit the bill.
This set took about 13 hours to make–they’re definitely a labor of love–and I couldn’t be happier with how they turned out! As always, thank you to the NAILS and CND teams for giving me this opportunity!
See her technique video here.
And see her inspiration here!
For this challenge, we were asked to make our interpretation of the word “Nailandia” with 10 nail tips using whatever CND products we deemed fit, and, WOW, I had fun making this!
What is Nailandia? To me, it is a place that only nail professionals can go. We truly have such an amazing career. We get to talk to people from all different walks of life, we often get the privilege of making real connections with those people, be it clients, colleagues, distributors– really everyone that the nail world reaches!
Aside from the invaluable human interactions we’re blessed with, we get to have so much fun! Nails and nail art have brought so much joy and peace into my life, I wholeheartedly feel honored to call myself a nail professional. I wanted to honor this beautiful feeling I have for our industry, and so Nailandia was born.
The first thought I had was Peter Pan’s Neverland and his Lost Boys. I imagined an island that only nail professionals can get to. As a nail artist, my head is usually up in the clouds so that’s where I imagine Nailandia would be. Instead of a bunch of ‘lost boys’ visiting, we, nail professionals get to exclusively travel to this amazing island!
Since only nail professionals have the privilege to use CND’s professional product line, I thought it was fitting to make the island represent just that. Nail professionals who go to the mystical cloud island of Nailandia are welcomed by the lush Brisa Botanicals, the Plexigel Palace that sits upon the outskirts of the Vinylux Valley, and the Shellac Cataracts that give way into the serene Liquid and Powder Lagoon. One must obviously get there in their crystallized dream boat- what other way would we travel to such an amazing place?
Each area in Nailandia is made up of the products that they are named after to showcase how diverse the products are and how cohesive they can be when used together.
The Shellac Cataracts are actual functioning waterfalls and the Liquid and Powder Lagoon is a literal lagoon as well, just add water to the upper falls and Nailandia comes to LIFE! When that lucky little nail pro gets on the crystal dream boat, she can literally float around the island!
I love our industry and I love this set! Thank you NAILS and CND teams for this challenge!
For this challenge, we were asked to create a futuristic interpretation of a nail art look from one of CND’s past ad campaigns. I chose the Night Spell collection as my inspiration. The color pallet is cool and sultry with metal colors and purples. The model from my inspiration photo has two huge, AMAZING crystals made from Brisa gel as adornments on the manicure, and that’s where my imagination took over.
The nails were to be wearable, and I noticed while watching CND’s YouTube videos that most of the collections include techniques that are achievable by professionals at all skill levels. For this reason, I decided to use techniques that I feel anyone can do after a few practices.
I layered colors to give dimension to the base of the obsidian inspired nails and then gave it a futuristic shape by adding a completely flat and glass like portion. I also used a sort of marbling technique to give the agate inspired nails their natural look. To keep the manicure futuristic and lavish, real gold flakes were added for dimension.
In the not-so-distant future, I see nail professionals regularly making beautiful custom accessories to match their clients’ manicures. I’ve seen a few rings and even earrings made from nail products, so I thought why not go even further and make a handbag.
Since the crystal adornments in the original photo were my fuel for this look, I decided to make the handbag look like a smoky quartz crystal. I chose this because it disperses fear and lifts negativity, so its wearer will be able to be confident while looking chic.
For the editorial style photo, we have the model holding her custom quartz bag and we can see her crystal collection inside. Her crystal-inspired manicure pair perfectly with her handbag and she’s ready to have a great night!
Click on the nail art image above in order to see additional images from each contestant.
This week’s challenge was out of this world! This celestial themed set is made completely from Brisa gel, Shellac, and Vinylux! Well, I did add in some real space dust in the form of hand crushed meteorites!
Since we are celebrating Solar Oil, I dedicated these nails to the most important Sol I could think of, our sun! She gets her name from the Latin word for Sun, “Solis” and she is literally our means of existence.
The art was to be at the lunula of the nails, and according to a NAILS article by Holly Schippers, “the lunula is a reflection of the matrix so its size is determined by the size of the matrix. As everyone has different sizes and shapes of matrix their lunlas will also vary.” So putting the different sized planets here just made sense!
All eight planets in our solar system orbit our sun (plus sweet little Pluto, who used to be considered a planet!) so that’s where this set got its inspiration. Each planet is made with a base of Brisa sculpting gel and hand painted to look like a mini replica of the actual one. They are made mostly to scale, however the sun would have been as big as my model’s hand if I made that true to size.
While researching all things space, I came across an interesting theory. It’s proven that there are multiple voids in the universe- large areas of space that are mostly empty. The theory says that our galaxy may be in the middle of an absolutely massive void. That means that there could be so, SO much vastness in the cosmos, and we are lucky enough to carve out a nice place in our little galaxy and live as we choose.
I was absolutely humbled to think about how lucky I am to be in existence at this exact place in time and space. I get to have a beautiful family and career and I get to make art for a living. Out of all the time-space opportunities out there, I truly am happy to experience my slice of reality.
This set is based off a bizarre and beautiful look from Gucci’s 2018 fall/winter collection at Paris fashion week. The whole show was set in an operating room style set. The music set the tone with an ethereal/cathedral soundtrack with pops of heart monitor sounds and dial tones.
In the look I chose, the model is holding a 3D printed copy of her own head. That is what initially made me watch the show. It was such a beautiful and strange look, I had to dive in deeper and really look at the whole outfit. The model is wearing a khaki plaid skirt with blue palazzo style pants underneath, chic pastel sneakers, an absolutely gorgeous floral blouse and oversized bangles. Gucci’s designer Alessandro Michele look was influenced by Medieval and Renaissance art with a modern cyborg-esque twist for this collection. I love to mix together patterns and textures in my own style so this eclectically styled piece was the perfect inspiration for me!
I chose to keep the nails a wearable length, as I see the model in the photo (or myself!) wearing these as she’s out for dinner with friends, extra head in tow. They’re constructed with Plexigel to keep the enhancements strong but flexible enough to handle having multiple holes drilled into it and still keep its integrity. This set has plenty of graphic line work to mimic the structured lines in the outfit. There are also soft hand painted flowers mixed with textured embroidered and bold 3D flowers. Pops of tassels add to this eclectically styled set.
Since we were asked to include stitching, beading, or embroidery elements I decided to add all three! The beads are hand made with Brisa Gel and Plexigel, and give the look the same pop that the bangles on the model do. The khaki stitched nails seemingly don’t match but are tied in with their softer colored 3D elements. The embroidered nails are my absolute favorite! It took careful planning on where to place the holes in the nail for the thread to pass through and layers of threading, but the Plexigel nails could handle that beautifully.
Just as Gucci’s look was both futuristic and Renaissance, these nails are the perfect mix of hard and soft with pops of the unexpected.
What is my personal journey?
Well, to get here I have been very, VERY persistent. I emailed NAILS Magazine asking how I could get featured back in 2013 and I was SO EXCITED to have my submission featured! That was the issue that announced Ryoko Garcia as the first winner of NTNA.
I was still a fresh little nail baby, so I had no idea the amazing things that could be done with nail art! I grabbed all the old NAILS issues we had, watched all the YouTube videos, and stalked all of the contestants’ social medias. I was HOOKED! I began practicing nail art every chance I had.
I applied for NTNA that year and didn’t make it. Next year, I made the top 18! The following year, top 18 again! Last year, I made it to the top 9 and I’m here again in the top 15!
Aside from a nail artist, I am so many other things. I actively work with a local charity, I regularly hike and camp. I make jewelry and I have an amazing family. The circus of my life is sometimes tricky to juggle, but, man, is it worth it.
The thrill of competition is definitely a driving factor for me this year. I love to push my boundaries to see where my skill set can take me, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve always dreamed of being at fashion week, working on extreme couture photo shoots and music videos, or trying my hand at creative director. To work alongside crazy talented people and make amazing collaborative art. That is my nail dream!!
Nonstop: My work ethic and ambition
Circus: Juggling life/work/NTNA
Dreamer: I know there are great things out there if I work hard for them.