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Here is the challenge we gave the 24 semifinalists:

Swarovski invited our Top 24 to create Halloween nail art inspired by their favorite witch. Nails should be spellbinding, complete with Swarovski items and a mix of hand painted and 3-D elements. The design was to be done on five nail tips of any size. Contestants were asked to include a description (300 words maximum) detailing their process and inspiration. In addition, contestants had to shoot step-by-step photos of the design (up to 10 steps), and upload the tutorial and final image to Nail Art Gallery. 

Judging:

You’ll be judging each entry in five different categories:

1.  Final nail design (This is where you’re judging the actual nail art/design)

2.  Quality of demo (How are the step by step photos?)

3. Technique (Is the contestant using advanced skills and techniques? Is he/she editing himself/herself well? Is he/she challenging himself/herself?)

4.  Challenge guidelines (How well did the contestant meet the requirements of the challenge?)

5.  Professionalism (If applicable, was the contestant’s station tidy and clean? Was he/she using professional nail products/systems as they should be used? Is he/she using correct terminology and using up-to-date knowledge of techniques? Does he/she represent the nail industry at its finest? Does he/she have a polished presentation?)

For each of these above five categories, you’ll give the contestants a 1-10 (10 being highest). There is a place for comments, but at this early stage, you don’t have to leave comments. But you can if you’d like.

We will be eliminating 6 of these contestants this week, so please judge thoughtfully and carefully. You don’t want to see talented artists kicked off yet!

Use the below three links for judging (we had to split the forms). Please submit your scores to me no later than 9 AM on Thursday, November 2.

Form 1

Form 2

Form 3

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Ashley Thornton (Stoughton, Wis.)

Maleficent is my favorite witch for several reasons. I chose her because her background story is powerful and relatable. I really love the Angelina  Jolie version; she is innocent, full-hearted and kind. However, she is betrayed by her one true love which causes her to turn to a very dark side and seek revenge on him. She seeks her revenge through the innocence of his first born, placing a curse on her for the day she turns 16. Later on in his young daughter's life she befriends Maleficent whom she thinks is her godmother. Maleficent then realizes the damage she has done as her bond grows with the young girl. On the girl's 16 birthday the curse falls upon her. Maleficent visits her as she sleeps, confessing her love, sorrows, and sadness for what she has done. She kisses the girl on the cheek apologizing. With that the girl wakes up. My favorite parts are the action scenes so I based my piece around that.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Ashton Harlan (Las Vegas)

I chose my all-time favorite witch, Bellatrix Lastrange, from the Harry Potter series. She is definitely one of the bad guys, but her humor and loyalty are admirable. To push myself outside of my comfort zone I decided to hand-paint her portrait across two of the nail tips and used Swarovskis for her necklace. I felt that Belatrix was a perfect choice for the Swarovski challenge because she comes from a very wealthy family so I designated one nail tip to represent the piles of riches inside her bank vault in Gringgotts Wizarding Bank. I also arranged the crystals into a snakeskin formation giving a slight reference to the Slytherin House. Using acrylic, I sculpted the bank vault plaque. Then I chose to sculpt the Dark Mark tattoo, the skull, and snake symbol which all the Death Eaters bear. I also chose to sculpt acrylic into Voldimort's family gravestone which is an angel of death.  While I prefer painting with gels, I decided to use acrylic paint for all the hand-painting because it gives the overall tone a more coarse appearance. I painted all my 3-D pieces to look like aged stone to be cohesive with her pale complexion. For my pop of color I chose various shades of green for the backgrounds to again reference the Slytherin House. Overall I felt she was the perfect witch for me to capture this Halloween season!

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Brandy Sucher (Tempe, Ariz.)

 

I knew right away that I was going to be doing my set based off of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I grew up watching the show and just recently watched them all again. I searched through photos from the TV show to help me decided on what I wanted to do for my set and after some searching I decided that I also wanted to include a little from the animated series and from the CGI series. Once I knew what I wanted to include from each show I mentally planned out what I wanted the set to look like.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Carly Snyr (Toledo, Ohio)

I chose Sabrina The Teenage Witch (the animated series) to inspire my nails because It was one of my favorite shows growing up and I watched it before school every day. It was a goofy whimsical kids show that made magical encounters an everyday part of life. The intro to each episode ended with Sabrina and her cat Salem flying on a magic broomstick through the night sky. The “Bewitching Hour” is a special time of night when witches and mythical creatures become their most powerful. It was only fitting to use the ombré starry night scene from the intro of the show as my nail tips, complete with blossom purple, crystal pixie edge stars and Lè Chat mood changing polish. I created a hard gel Sabrina zapping her magic across the five nail tips at an acrylic Bitmoji version of myself ensuring me a top 18 spot with Nails Next Top Nail Artist. The Bitmoji represents how the real world is more frequently equal to the cyber world, allowing me to jump into Sabrina’s cartoon world. Since this week's competition was sponsored by Swarovski Crystals I wanted the crystals I used to be the main focal point of my nails. Sabrina’s magic zap was created by making a thin clear layer of gel, shaped like the magic she creates, then outlined in fruity orange colored petite Swarovski Pixies. I then flipped the shape on its back and applied a thick layer of builder gel on the entire shape. I then applied different sizes of AB colored crystals and the 6 mm luminous green crystals upside down into the thick gel. This created a clear, super sparkly, flat image of Crystals on the other side. The sparkles ensure just how spellbinding Sabrina Spellman’s powers truly are.  

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Charnell Mitchie (Bulls, New Zealand)

 

I chose to do an old childhood favourite of mine, Hazel witch from the Looney Toones. I was drawn to her strong witty sense of humour and her hysterical cackling laugh.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Dana Cecil (Dover, Ohio)

I was really excited to get a Halloween challenge in this season. I love witches, and that made it even better. I had a hard time choosing, because I love every witch out there. After a couple days of thinking and looking through some inspiration photos I finally made my decision based on a few factors: 

1. I wanted a true witch with a black heart and soul. 

2. I’m not psychotic, nor is my heart black, but I have a deep love for all things dark and mysterious. I connect with her. 

3. Her name is amazing! 

4. She is played by one of my most favorite actresses: Helena Bonham Carter. 

Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter is a witch with a black heart and torturous soul. She has no remorse and will do what she has to do to get what she wants. She completely embodies everything a witch is. She dresses in black and is thoroughly evil! She also has that fancy side which stems from her family’s wealth. She would probably love the Swarovski look. She’s the perfect witch. She’s passionate about what she wants and she goes after it. I find that I have that in common with Bellatrix. Here I am once again going for what I want in Season 5. I have learned so much between Season 4 and the last year. I can’t wait to spill it all out during these challenges. I’m ready to take it all on, but don’t worry, I promise not to kidnap and torture anyone.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Eva Jenkins (Bellevue, Neb.)

 

Introducing lady Morgana Pendragon. She was the illegitimate daughter of King Uther and grew up in his castle. I was inspired to create Morgana because of her glamorous appearance and natural gift of magic. I created Morgana gazing into her crystal ball as she holds it in her hands. Her dragon sits proudly on her right side and to her left her illuminated cauldron sits as her potions pour themselves into her latest potion.     

For my 3-D element I really wanted to challenge myself and try something new. I decided to try clay. Clay proved to be very versatile and once I completed the design I was able to bake and set the clay. Each creation starts with a skeleton that I molded out of thin wire. Once their skeleton was positioned I was able to apply clay and create arms, torso, and a head. Creating the hands was a very delicate process I really had to practice not having such a heavy hand.   

Each object was handed painted with either gel-polish or a regular lacquer. For contouring, the  lacquer seemed to work the best on various parts of this design. I want to use colors that would help bring out the vibrant colors of the Swarovski element. Orange behind the red crystals gave the dragon just the right mystical appeal. I used the largest crystal given to us by Swarovski for the crystal ball. Using builder gel, I created a small clear orb that sits on top of the crystal. I drilled off the teflon underneath the crystal so that light could pass through. I then used clear acrylic to secure a small light underneath. Creating this witch really ignited a creative flow,  I am proud to present  my spellbinding witch and can’t wait to create more.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Halley Fortenberry (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.)

 

When I discovered that the first pre-competition challenge required my favorite witch, Swarovski crystals, 3-D nail art, and hand painted nail art, I decided in a matter of three minutes that I would be executing the Evil Witch from Disney's 1938 film, Snow White. Being the first and earliest Disney animated feature film, what could be more classic? I decided to go with this particular witch above all of the others because she's the one I most vividly remember from childhood. I wanted my five nail tips to stay separate so I could challenge myself with having to create five different nails that exude cohesiveness and balance. From left to right, I wanted them to tell the story of how the Evil Queen questions the magic mirror, uses spellbinding enchantment, and the transformation to the Evil Witch. Since this is a Swarovski Challenge, I wanted to make the crystals a very essential part of the design by using a cheeky amount to balance out the 3D and hand painted elements. I take pride in my clean line work and acrylic sculpting, and I aspired to showcase my talent in these areas by rendering beautiful, precise work consistently from nail to nail. 

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Hemi Park (Cupertino, Calif.)

My chosen theme was inspired by Tim Burton's movie "Dark Shadows" and the main character, Angelique Bouchard (played by Eva Green). I chose Angelique because her passion for her love was so toxic that she died trying to show her love to Barnabas Collins, who she cursed to become a vampire for not loving her back. The climax of the movie is when Angelique is fighting against  Collins, and she dies from taking her own heart from her body while leaning against the beautiful chandelier in Collinwood mansion. The last few moments of the movie and Angelique's death inspired me to create this piece, and I thought the overall story would make great Halloween nails.

In this mixed-media piece, I used acrylic, gel-polish, acrylic paints, and chrome pigment to create the tips and 3-D elements. I embellished the chandelier with metal studs, glass bubbles, chunky glitter pieces, and of course Swarovski crystals (AB s3, s5, s7, s9, Fire opal 7.5mm, Crystal Astral Pink 12mm) and Swarovski crystal pixies (Fruity Oranges, Cute Mood).

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Jenna Jupin (Odense, Denmark)

My favorite witch is The Evil Queen Ravenna from Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman - Winter’s War. The reason why I’m drawn to her is because she’s so beautiful and elegant, yet evil, and I just love all her outfits and makeup. In the movies her main power is to sqeeze youth out of young girls with her heart pincher nails and stabbing people with her long raven claws. I have never tried to make nails that long on tips, so I thought now would be the perfect time. Using Swarovski got me thinking of crafting nail art like it was jewelry for the nails and the dark theme inspired me to use tools such as fire and a razor blade to craft the nails. 

The thumb is illustrating the broken gong mirror, the gold spirit being released of it and a Rune-spell underneath, inspired by the Rune-border around the mirror. I chose to detail with the Triangle Swarovski’s to look like a broken mirror. I had to make two matching nails inspired by three of her amazing dresses including black feathers, gold feathers, and gold leaves. I again got inspired by one of her dresses and of course her name to make a Raven skull. I chose to fully decorate the beak with Swarovskis in the color Aurum in many sizes to show dimension. The evil inside is made with Crystalpixie and Swarovski in the Solaris shape as I thought they looked very mesmerizing. Because it’s the ring finger, I had to make one of her earrings. I took inspiration  from her chain headpiece and her heart drop earring. I picked Swarovski crystals in Fire Opal and Astral Pink, because they look like the fire coming from the many candles in her castle. I chose to detail with the Swarovski mystic black pearl beads. 

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Jennifer Wirth (Waunakee, Wis.)

The Wicked Witch of the West is so iconic that my mind immediately went to her for this piece when we received the challenge. That green face! The flying monkey minions! The graphic opportunities.The two poppy fields and emerald city are hand-painted and the 3-D is to provide perspective and a journey for the seekers of truth. I wanted them to be fun and neon for our Halloween challenge. I made these wearable and in unique shapes. I made custom foil sculpting forms and did them over full cover nail tips. The two monkey suit nails with the zigzag design is hand painted gel paints with pixies applied over the lines. I decided to mimic the pointed and spear shapes from her guards for the sculpted nails. I hand painted the black scroll work and flying monkeys on the sides of the nails with a mix of stiff gel and uv gel paint to give an ominous feel of the flying monkey's army. The smoky sky writing was done purposefully in a sketchy way, with the tiny silhouette of the witch at the end on her broom.The center piece nail is the evil with inside the globe in her castle with torches and gargoyle. It has a shape and feel of a building and the turret with chains and torches leading to the witch. Making the globe glow and her face look like it does in the vintage movie was a real challenge for me. As a child, she was the scariest!

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Katey Laurenson (Auckland, New Zealand)

Witches and witchcraft is one of my favourite topics/genres. Since a young age I have always had a fascination with all things Wiccan and occult so this challenge spoke to my heart! Add in halloween and the fact I’m an all-time horror movie lover and it's a challenge to be excited over. I’ve pulled my inspiration from American Horror Story Coven. We have a mix of witch and voodoo magic and my version of the minotaur, the lover of Marie Laveau in the series. I’ve used a mix of pigments, painting gels, acrylic, and different techniques of 3-D to pull it all into a visual story and used my crystals to enhance my design working them into my work . My favorite piece is the voodoo doll using the amazing skulls we got in our packs.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Katie Barnes (Warwickshire, England)

The first witches that came to my head were from one of my favorite films: Hocus Pocus. Immediately I thought of a witch's hat and how I could make the nail tips into the shape of this. The cauldron, spell book, and black flame candle were a big part of the film so I wanted to incorporate these into the design as well as using the gorgeous orange Swarovski elements to create the infamous sunrise scene from the film at the graveyard with Thackery and Emily Binx. The orange and purple Swarovski elements went perfectly with the colors of the Sanderson witches from the film. I added potion bottles with Swarovski crystals tumbling out and spells winding around the design. I then used two long square tips to create two floor boards, which were parted and mounted on a piece of acrylic – all painted with gel paint to look like floor boards which would be the base of the design. I encapsulated purple netting in clear acrylic and adhered this to the back of the design for spider webs beneath the floorboards. I think the use of Swarovski elements really gave the design a magical feel to fit the film.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Konstadina Tsihlas (Roslyn Heights, N.Y.)

My favorite witch is Queen Grimhilde the Evil Queen from Snow White. The queen is cold, cruel, and extremely vain. My inspiration was to turn the story into a Halloween spirit, turn the cauldron to a pumpkin,the basket with the apples into a trick or treat basket, and create masks for Snow White and the evil queen. To finish my challenge with full Halloween spirit I added spiders, skulls, bats, ghosts, and decorated with Swarovski crystals. Happy Halloween!

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Kristen Hartley (Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada)

I chose Bellatrix Lestrange as my witch for this challenge. I chose her because she is very passionate in when she believes in and focuses all of her energy into her cause. She is very family oriented like myself. She is a beautiful witch from a wealthy family and would probably always have her nails done in a fashion-forward way. She ended up going down a dark path, and that let me portray her style with Swarovski crystals while adding a dark twist to the design. She will always be one of my favorite witches! 

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Liza Waitzman (San Diego)

Jadis, the evil witch of Narnia. Being that this challenge was sponsored by Swarovski, I wanted my piece to really pop and showcase these beautiful crystals. That being said, I wanted to seek out which witch I would favor in doing so when I came across the ice castle. Like Jadis used her beauty to capture people's trust before revealing her evil, she definitely captured my attention and I knew she would be my muse. I knew I wanted to make her castle as my main focal point so I created my castle using only one clear straw cut into five pieces and sculpted the castle using only hard gel and liquid powder and acrylic. My intention with the straws was to add micro LED lights at the end to give it a magical appearance and really light up those Swarovski Crystals!  I then chose my stiletto tips to match the shape of the castle's icicles and hand painted what I thought to be main characters and focal points from the classic series. I then carefully placed my tips around the castle for dramatic effect and lastly...added more crystals, of course.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Montserrat Mendoza (San Diego)

My childhood was always filled with ghoulish stories of real witches and ghosts from a radio show my family would listen to called "La Mano Peluda" or in English, "the Hairy Hand." It was because I was used to the ghoulish stories all the time, not just around Halloween, that I also grew up watching movies such as "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "The Wizard of Oz," and "Hocus Pocus." When I found out our theme was witches, I was so excited with all the endless possibilities available to me! But the one picture that popped up first was the cover of the VHS Hocus Pocus movie I owned and had watched at least 100 times as a child. I started looking up pictures for the Sanderson sisters and decided that they would be the piece of my work that would be hand drawn. Hand drawing is not my forte but I pushed myself to try more advanced challenges than what I'm used to. I watched the movie once again and went to sleep with all these ideas in my mind and woke up with a new vision for my design. Using all of my creativity and inspiration I was able to bring the picture I had in my head to life. I couldn't possibly put into words how happy and proud these last two weeks have made me as a nail artist and I can't wait for a chance at another challenge! 

 

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Sammi Newell (Dawson Creek, British Colmubia, Canada)

I chose Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West from the Broadway/West End show, WICKED! The stories of the Wizard of Oz have always captivated me and I have watched the movies countless times. In 2014, I was very lucky to see the show in the West End of London with my mum and it just blew me away. There was not a single doubt which witch I would choose for my challenge. The story of Elphaba begins as her and Galinda, the Good Witch of the North as sisters. Elphaba was different because her skin was green and so she was treated differently from the get go. I feel like I can relate to her because i am the youngest of my siblings and I am the only one to have fled the nest and really “defied gravity” by moving from the UK to Canada.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Shannon Pomeroy (Chico, Calif.)

My favorite witch is Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter book/movie series, who reminds me of dark and creepy things, such as voodoo. That inspired me to venture into the imagery of witch doctors. After an image search, I came up with two images I liked, and combined them to come up with the witch doctor that I would hand paint with 3-D sculpted elements for my final project. The spellbinding symbols painted onto the background relate to what I’m going through in my life at this time. Although I began with a sketch that pulled in my initial inspiration, as I worked through the process, I sometimes had to take steps backwards to improve the project, and while the completed art bears resemblance to the original sketch, it varies in some key areas.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Tammie Alvarado (Tulare, Calif.)

As far as the body the tree the platform and even the tips I used were all and sculpted with Young Nails. I first made my tips then attached them to the battery pack of the LED lights I used to put into my tree for the eyes as well as the flicker of fire under my cauldron. I also used the Swarovski Crystals in Fire Opal to replicate the fire. I used a molding medium to to create a form for my bodice. Once that was done I then filled the bodice and created the back and filled the rest of the bodice to give it the structure that everything else would hinge off of. I then sculpted the legs, shoulders, shoes, and arms. I used Gelish PolyGel to sculpt the face it made doing so very easy to to form the cheek bone and shape and contour of the face. I then used a glove filled with rice to give me the form I would need to start my tree. Once that was done I drilled the eye sockets so that I could add my LED lights to create the eyes. I then sculpted my cauldron out of gel using a mold I made to give it its shape. I used moss to give me the true wilderness feel. I also sculpted my flowers using colored acrylic. Next was to paint my tree using different colors adding shadows to give it the depth and detention life like appearance. Now for the witch I wanted her to be fierce and still hold her feminine value. She was painted on a black bodysuit and boots. I then used BSG black gel polish to make the shoulder accents and her waist wrap. I also sculpted large rock to complete that deep woods feel. I the hand painted that with various colors to give me the depth and shadows I needed to give it a real rock look. Everything was added to the platform I made out of the tips I sculpted and the battery pack for the LED lights. I embellished her waist with the Swarovski skull and crystal Swarovski. I added the swarovski star to her hat and broom.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Toody Tolley (Johnson City, Tenn.)

Stevie Nicks is an American musician known for her work as a solo artist and as the lead singer for the classic pop rock band Fleetwood Mac. While Stevie is not a witch in the typical sense, she is known for her haunting live performances as well as her spellbinding style. Chart-topping hits such as “Rhiannon” combined with Stevie’s ensembles of fringed shawls, top hats, and platform boots have made her a fashion icon. Stevie is my favorite “witch” because her mystical aesthetic has played a major influence in women’s fashion trends and has provided countless people with fashion inspiration over the course of several decades. This design was inspired by Stevie’s witchy style.

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Trish Johnson (Utica, Mich.)

I immediately went to the internet and Pinterest to begin my search. I knew I was looking for glamorous, yet with a creepy twist. With my passion for tattoos, I found a photo of Snow White’s Evil Queen/Old Hag showing her split personality, or rather bewitching transformation, and I was instantly inspired. My focus for this season is to create bold and clean pieces, and with that in mind, I just knew how this creation would come together. It would begin by arranging the 5 stiletto tips in a crown shape, to allow the Evil Queen to be the star of this show. From there, the Old Hag had to be the overall focal point, leaving her to get center stage. I took the 3-D magic mirror to a creepier, yet beautiful level, using a Swarovski skull as the mask and fire. My hand painting gel-polish techniques would definitely become a focus for the Evil Queen’s face, while my passion for 3-D acrylic were used for the Old Hag, dark forest, poisoned apple, and creepy Snow White! I even incorporated some builder gel techniques for the lips of creepy Snow White and the base of the crown that is embellished beautifully with all Swarovski crystals. Being able to use a variety of techniques for the start of this season was definitely a great way to showcase all of our artistic abilities!

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Trizia Vargas (Houston, Texas)

For my inspiration I chose to bring to life my original character Nymphadora the Nail Witch. Nymphadora is a sassy little nail witch who practices the art of nail craft. The concept behind my nails was to design it like a set of Japanese miniature toys, each nail representing a set of accessories for your doll. In this nail set you can peruse her spell book, take a peek in her bedroom, and stroll through her pumpkin patch. To bring this illustration to life I sculpted all the pieces from colored acrylics except for the crystal ball, which was made from builder gel. Each piece was pre-made on wax paper so that I wouldn’t have limitations on the size of my pieces. Next, they were all hand detailed with gel paints and polishes. The larger 3-D pieces are held together with clear acrylic as the base. Smaller 3-D pieces and embellishments such as Swarovski and lace were affixed using builder gel. One of the nail trends I’ve been loving is water globes and aquarium nails, so I decided to make her crystal ball using the snow globe technique with builder gel. For the book to open and close, I used builder gel to attach ribbons to the back cover, spine, front cover, and then covered the ends with a metal embellishment. To complete and accent my looks I used my Crystal Katana and builder gel to add my favorite finishing touches, Swarovski crystals. 

Click here to see her tutorial.

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Valerie Ducharme (Montreal, Canada)

My favorite witch? Maleficient. A pure-hearted witch who was betrayed and hurt by her first love. In order to protect herself, she hardened her heart.There is a saying, ''Love and hate are not far apart.'' Her story is exactly that. Every individual has the choice to be good or bad. However, we can also be a little bit of both. Nothing is ever just black or just white. Why? Because behind every face there is a story and those stories make us who and what we are. So, with that in mind, I depicted the two poles. She has her wings pulled out and in order to see further, she manipulated a raven so that it became her own wings, perched on her magic sticks in the service of Maleficent. The green smoke is the fate she gives to Sleeping Beauty, the tiles behind her are the windows of the castle, and we can see a piece of the throne that represents power. On the other side, I depicted happier days. Maleficent is the image of polarities. She alone represents good and evil. She is the complexity in both ugliness and beauty. It is the tug between the being and the ego. This is why I chose her as my favourite witch, because she alone evokes our inner struggle.

Click here to see her tutorial.