A while back we did a post about crazy Internet nail art, an example of our endless fascination with our fingertips. The photo that sparked the original article was of a masterfully detailed set of Twin Peaks-themed nails by artist Ally Picard of Portland Oregon. The down-to-Earth artist recently took a trip east and brought the tools of her trade to meet me at Bryant Park for a manicure and a little discussion on self-nail art, including how to get started and the best affordable products for the recession-friendly activity.
How did you get into nail art?
I guess the first time was about two years ago, when I was living in Brooklyn and some friends were doing nail art, but stuff I’d never seen before, really more like tiny paintings on nails. So I started going to salons and getting my nails done–basic, flirty designs–and then one day my friend did this crazy plaid on me and it kinda blew my mind. When I realized I could go to the beauty supply store and pick up a few brushes and do it myself, I did. And it was horrible at first! But I kept practicing, doing it on myself and friends, following nail art blogs and challenging myself to do crazy designs and sets. And then when I moved to Portland and needed to pick up some extra money I started doing nail art at events, charging just $10 or $15 a person. I started buying the fake ones too, to practice, and then to put them into this sample booklet–I’m working on a paper lookbook now. The more I did, the better I got. It’s still just a supplemental income, but I love it.
Do you have a space set up in Portland?
No, I work from home or out and about. I’m not a licensed cosmetologist so I don’t actually do full manicures – just the art. People make private appointments with me and I’ll either go to their house or they come to mine. Most of my business is outside though, at different events: bar nights, benefits, wherever I can set up a table. I did a great birthday brunch last week, we sat around and ate bagels and I did peoples nails. It was super fun. And I’ll sometimes do it tupperware-party style: I’ll give the host’s free if they guarantee me five customers, or something like that.
Do you use any attachments?
I really prefer to stay with painting, no stamps or decals or anything like that. I have some rhinestones at home I’ve been meaning to use but haven’t yet. Those long 3-D nails are so cool but then again, how do you live? Do you have to have someone to take care of you? They’re more for decoration, I feel. I follow it all online, but I don’t ever do it. I want to stick with creating tiny, almost elaborate paintings. That’s where I have the most fun.
Nowadays, you can go to a salon and get these intense spray on or gel manicures, but yours are more liveable and such fun designs.
And they can be totally personalized! One woman loved dogs, so we did a series of dogs based on her Jack Russell terrier. I went through years where I didn’t like nail polish or the way it felt, but as soon as I made it interesting, I was hooked because every time I’d look at my nails I’d be happy! Just this constant, cute way to pamper yourself and have fun. Or you’re texting and think, “Oh, look at my thumbs!”
What are your favorite brands to use?
Of the higher end, I really like Essie. And China Glaze, which I feel is more mid-range but their colors are just out of this world, and there are a few websites where you can get it at beauty-industry discount prices. For the lower end, I don’t know if there is exactly one brand I love. Sinful Colors has a really great array of colors, and they’re only $2. Maybe not the best quality, but it’ll serve it’s purpose and will last you a week or so. I do believe in investing in a good base coat and a good top coat though. That makes all the difference. For top coat, I use Seche Vite because it’s absolutely the best.