Full Name: Nicola Sawyer
Hometown: Lincoln, U.K.
Salon: Nail Couture Lincoln
Preferred Nail Art Medium: Gel
Favorite Nail Trend: 3-D acrylic/ extreme length
I never wanted to be a nail artist, it wasn’t even on my radar of career paths to take.
But then fate had a twist for me . Until around 9 years ago I had a ‘normal ‘ 9-5 Monday to Friday job working at the local college teaching students who hadn’t done that great in mainstream education and people who were long term unemployed. I never had my nails done , I couldn’t even tell you what gel polish was. My husband works at a beauty wholesalers and they were running a gel mani course  One of the students had dropped out and they needed an even number so he asked if I could step in. “Do I look like a Nail Tech ?!“ Was my response, he replied “ Well if you plucked your eyebrows and applied a bit of fake tan , I think you could pull it off.“ So I went along , expecting it to be easy , because everyone knows it’s ‘ Just Nails ‘ But it was hard! The theory, the prep the application the finish. I realised then there was a lot more to this nail malarkey and was determined to get the knack of it. I started with friends & family, working off an ironing board in the kitchen. I soon realised I was rubbish at stamping and applying stickers and found it easier to to paint free hand ( if I’d got that stamper to work I might not be here). From there the business bloomed and I eventually handed my notice in at my regular job, much to my workmates raised eyebrows. A few years later I was starting to be asked about teaching so took the leap into becoming independently accredited. I now have my own academy and teach 3 days a week. Last year with the support of a fellow nail educator I put my big girl pants on and started competing on the international nail art circuit. It’s been a whirlwind ride full of ups and downs, but for the first time I can say “ I love my Job.“ Every day there’s something new to create. Inspiration is everywhere , a garden , a purse , a dress , a sunset. There’s no other profession like it .


Big Impact

So here we are at the end of one journey and the start of another adventure. This week’s challenge asked “Where do we go after we grow?” I’m not the same Nail Artist that started this competition 10 weeks ago, she doubted her skill, she doubted her abilities, she second guessed herself, she was afraid of feedback. For years she had been asked why she’d given up her ‘proper job‘, her income assumed by others to be less than her husband’s, after all “She just did nails”. The fact that she’d built up a business from scratch and had taught hundreds of students was just glanced over.

So as the weeks went on and she listened to the judges talking with such passion she started to ask herself why do some people assume these things about the the nail industry? And the reason in the U.K. is lack of regulation.

My piece this week represents this realisation. At her feet the derogatory comments that we all too often hear, in her skirt the artwork that built her skills, the flowers blooming in confidence, reaching up to self actualisation.

So after NTNA I want to start working with organisations to actively promote the raising of standards here in the U.K. encouraging learners and qualified techs to continue their professional development, to embrace new knowledge and to gain inspiration through education.

Here where I live I’m very lucky to be surrounded by ancient woodland and by far the most famous is Sherwood Forest. Home of Robin Hood & his Merry Men and of course the Major Oak which legend has it was used as his hideaway. Growing up, I spent many a sunny afternoon there, when you were still allowed to touch and climb the trees. It’s from this great oak that I’ve taken my inspiration this week, not only its gnarly branches but it’s crude yet beautiful angular wood etchings that adorn its magnificent trunk and boughs. 1000 year old graffiti, a whisper from the past. My aim was to combine these two facets of the tree. The nail structure and shape is an ode to the wood carvings, shaped by people, straight lines cut with a knife into the soft bark of the oak. Then the tree itself winding around, reclaiming its image. And in it’s branches the stories it holds over it’s 1000 year existence, like a costume. Using coloured acrylic alone was a challenge, but pushed my abilities to the limit. Go back 10 weeks I wouldn’t have even dreamed I could have created this piece. The nails are littered with ‘ wood carvings ‘ … can you find them ? The oak tree represents wisdom, strength and endurance, which incidentally it’s what it takes to compete in NTNA.

WEEK # 9

Miami Swim Week

Halston redefined fashion during the 1970s and 80s in America. His beautifully cut gowns took the fashion world by storm, everyone wanted to be wearing ‘Halston‘. Although known for his shirt dresses cut from Ultrasuede, most women adore this icon for his ability to command the fall of the fabric, a cascade cut on the bias, flatteringly fabulous.
So in this challenge I’ve tried to recreate that fall using CND Shellac. After some experimentation I found CND express 5 topcoat gave me the flexibility needed for a base and allowed me to sandwich both ‘Over The Top‘ effects and CND Shellac. Whilst the gel was still warm from polymerisation I was able to shape it into draping fabric and ribbons.
His love for the silhouette didn’t stop with fabric, only Halston could demand that his Perfume be held in a bottle that refused to be mass-produced. Two of my nails are an ode to his most iconic dresses, the fabulous gown worn by Bianca Jagger and the perfect pastel adorned by Lauren Hutton, whilst others are a glimpse at behind the scenes, the pattern laying and the cutting room floor… the hard work.
And here lies the similarity that runs through all works of art whether it be a painting, a gown or an extreme nail. For every Halston dress there were blood, sweat and tears, the prep, the planning, the years of experience, the risk taking, the determination and the knock backs. But nothing worth having comes easy.
“His clothes danced with you“ – Liza Minnelli

WEEK # 8

The Glo Up

My inspiration this week came from an experience I had whilst living in London in my early 20s. It was an amazing time. Brit Pop, Grunge and not forgetting the Spice Girls. London is a place full of contrasts. I lived down Shaftesbury Ave, next to the theatre, in the staff accommodation that came with the job of Commis Chef at the Cafe Royal. I would finish work after a 15 hour shift and rub shoulders with patrons of the theatre that had spent £100s on a single ticket.
One such night after work we went ‘clubbing’ and decided to pay a little extra to go into the V.I.P  terrace. It was amazing! Bare brick covered in graffiti art, people from all backgrounds, industrial architecture, an up and coming live band, neon lights, and a smoke machine. In the morning I realised I’d left my jacket there, so popped back later that afternoon. Without the lights, smoke machines, seating and music it became very apparent that this V.I.P lounge was nothing more that the alleyway behind the club! The graffiti no longer looked like a Banksy and the industrial design was just plain industrial. What a difference lighting and atmosphere made. So in my design this week I wanted to create a piece that ‘Glowed Up’, literally. Something that could be seen as drab or just utilitarian, transformed into a work of art, like Kupa have done with their MANIPro Glo Lamp.

Growing up in England we have two sorts of days in Summer.
1 . Will I need to take a coat ?
2.  Oh heck, I’m the shade of a lobster
Summer holidays were spent on the rainy East Coast hoping not to catch hypothermia. So when I reached 18 I took myself off to Greece. My breath was taken away . I’d never seen sea as blue, the warmth both in temperature and the welcoming locals, the laidback lifestyle, the delicious food and the stunning scenery. Even the air smelt sweet . I spent many days sat in the taverna which was under my apartment reading, soaking in the atmosphere. I can still smell the food and the little cigars the local old men used to smoke, watching them play checkers in the shade. Before I came home I filled my bag with postcards and this scene is a bit of a mix of all of them. I’d forgotten how much I loved it and painting this challenge really took me back there. I hope I have managed to capture some of these fond memories using The Mediterranean Dream collection, it was like somebody scooped up the islands and put them in a bottle.

Monogramming is a fabulous art that has come to be a classic for anyone wanting to display their initials on clothing, art or belongings.

The earliest monograms first appeared on coins around 350BC and soon became a symbol of power and royalty. No surprise that the fashion houses started to use them on their clothing, bags and accessories. It’s not unusual for people to recognize the monogram with no idea of what the letters stand for. A brand’s whole ethos conveyed on something as small as a postage stamp

For something so small this week’s challenge was a huge task . Unlike traditional monograms I chose not to use a 3 letter format but to create the S out of the N giving the effect of it having 3 letters.

I also wanted the monogram from a distance to look like a pattern itself rather like Gucci, Fendi or the PB initials used in Balmain’s.

The geometric abstract shapes were inspired by early avant-garde artists Kazimir Malevich  & Lazar Markovich Lissitzky ( who incidentally often used just red white and black in his work ). These artist were trailblazers during the early part of the last century and went on to inspire hundreds of other artists; we have all seen the classic abstract designs that were popular in the 80s and are again making a resurgence.

My aim was the that every nails could stand alone in its design or be lifted on to another canvas such as a scarf, bag, or blouse .

Watch her video diary.

Watch her TikTok video.



When we were set this challenge and asked to choose a theme I was drawn to Art of Prediction. My journey in the beauty sector and fate are intrinsically linked, there are plenty of sliding doors moments. I truly believe that I didn’t choose beauty… beauty chose me.

Fortune tellers had told me I would work for myself, as an artist holding brushes. One even said that they saw me on a TV screen being interviewed. But to someone who worked in an office and classroom  9-5 that all seemed a little far fetched. I fell into the beauty industry by pure accident. There was a short course at the local wholesalers which my husband runs and they needed an even number. By pure chance I’d booked that day off as holiday, so rather reluctantly I agreed to go. Ashamedly I had some rather negative preconceptions of professionals that worked in the nail sector … it must be easy right ? It’s only nails ? WRONG! It was hard ! Not only was there a ton of theory, holding a brush correctly turned out to be a lot more challenging than it looks.

Things changed at the 9-5 and I had to make a choice between working for the Man or working  for Me . I chose Me. Beauty has completely changed my life. I’d like to say I have more time for myself but that would be a lie. I’ve never worked so hard. I’ve never been so driven, I’ve never been so passionate, because for the first time I’m not impacted by the ‘ Bosses’ decisions , I’m making my own fate and fortune.

Watch her video diary

So when this weeks challenge dropped in my inbox I was automatically filled with ideas of what I could make using Kupa’s Enrich RX  .. gems .. rings ..bling . But then I took a good look at the brief of ‘ Work to Play ‘ and started to think of what that means to me and my experience of day to day life and going out to ‘ Play ‘ in the evenings or weekends. At work we often only show one side of our personality or a muted version of it. One that conforms to what’s needed for the role, almost a diluted version of us. It’s not until we spend time with people outside of their day to day roles that we see them ‘Bloom.’ We discover they love to dance, can kill it on the karaoke, have amazing hobbies, are artists, have a quirky dress sense, volunteer, engage in passions and interests we never knew about, so that’s where my inspiration came from.

After sculpting my 5 nails using Enrich RX  I hand painted them using one stroke technique. I layered this design up to give it depth and perspective and chose shades that complimented each other. I wanted to show a design that literally ‘Blooms ‘ off the nail, an exaggerated more complex version of the original nail art, a bit like us outside of a work environment.
The floral design was inspired by the hand painted wallpaper which hangs in Nostell Priory ( A stately home not far from me ). This wallpaper was painted around 1770 in ink and watercolour, it’s truly breathtaking and like our ‘work ‘ nails you can now own a more commercial version of this artwork as Zoffany have a range of wallpapers influenced by the muriel. The removable 3D elements are interchangeable and can be placed further up the nail to create extra length. Thankfully the work environment is now adapting, becoming more diverse, tolerant and understanding. Companies are beginning to embrace the other facets of peoples lives and personalities, realising that letting people ‘Bloom ‘ can enrich any work place.


Over the Top

When I think of Futuristic, my mind just explodes. Growing up in the ’80s my vision of the future was a mixture of Mad Max, Blade Runner  and Star Trek, and to be honest it looks like it’s playing out that way!

Creating these nails was both a technical and artistic challenge. I wanted to demonstrate  the adaptability of the CND future form so not only sculpted 5 traditional C-Curve nails but also 5 more futuristic shapes.

On each nail I chose a ‘ Futuristic ‘ theme using CND Core powders as the base , Brisa Gel , Shellac and Over The Top  pigments and glitters. The CND Core powder was a dream to work with, a medium setting acrylic which allowed me to build my shape up easily. In the future nails will become even more of an extension of our personalities, our views and our day to day lives. Maybe we will have QR codes printed on them, mini solar panels or our bit coin account? Nails that aren’t only beautiful but have a use. Will our lithium batteries and computer chips be encapsulated into our latest sculpted set?Nail trends and fashions could be influenced by new discoveries, new worlds and new life forms.

The future is full of exciting possibilities but also new challenges. With all of these developments will we finally get a grip on sustainability, stop dumping our rubbish, or will we just dump it in space instead?

We are at a crossroads in humanities story, there are more people on the planet now than have ever existed. Undoubtedly if we take the wrong path it’s definitely going to be more Mad Max than Star Trek. People are becoming more aware and concerned of our impact on the planet and we are seeing the artistic community express this in fashion, artwork, design and nail trends. I feel this will continue to the extreme, demanding a change to the status quo.

Watch her video diary

Watch her Over the Top TikTok


Color Me KUPA

I choose Cheetah & 24c Rose Gold for my inspiration this week, although not the brightest colours in the collection they are two of my favourites. The Cheetah is found in Sub Sahara Africa , and although when you think of the African plains you don’t think of bright colours ,the native dress of the people in this area is bright and vivid. Turquoise and orange feature heavily, using this colour palette  I used gel polish to paint my representation of a pair of Cheetahs and the surrounding flora and fauna. I purposefully kept this design matte to offer a contrast to corresponding set on the other hand.

For my second set I drew inspiration from the Arts & Crafts movement. Two of my most loved artists/ designers are Rennie Mackintosh & William Morris. Rose gold and coppery tones were a staple in this artwork and were often twinned with enamel and stained glass window pieces. I wanted to recreate some of the naturalist enamel designs of this time using rose gold chroming powders and gel polish. Being careful not to give my design any 3-D texture I had to work thin and ensure the finished article was flat when completed. By using a similar colour pallet I was able to mix and match these two sets so they complement each other. The enamel pieces almost develop a tribal feel when put against the cheetah. Working this way is something I would never normally do, it really stretched my creativity and gave me a completely different perspective on how to approach a design.

What a rollercoaster of a challenge! Being asked to talk about your strengths is a difficult thing to do. We don’t naturally want to big ourselves up do we? After some soul searching I realised that my inner strength was optimism. It’s been a difficult few years for many of us, at times we haven’t known whether we would have businesses to return to, if relationships would make it, if our hearts could take it. But through all of this I’ve had faith in humanity; optimistic that we can turn all this around. This is why I chose the Phoenix to represent my strength. This mythical bird rises from the ashes to become more vibrant, strong, and beautiful than ever before. Using CND Plexigel I created a strong and stable base for my creativity to flow. Using a different shade on each nail to demonstrate the wide range of colour tones available in the range.The Phoenix is synonymous with fire, so colour choice was very important. I’ve tried to capture the ‘ fire ‘ using multi  faceted chameleon flakes and extended them even further using acrylic powder and pins. The Phoenix itself was a labour of love, using all of my artist and technical ability. And just when I finished I broke him by mistake! So he literally did have to rise from the ashes. I can now see that my optimism was well placed. People have come together and overcome the challenges of the past few years and hopefully will continue to work together in whatever the future holds.