How often do you attempt nail art? Once every holiday or on a rainy weekend? Kelly Shannon is a nail technician who posts amazing nail art designs practically every day on Instagram under @wellofink. The designs aren’t your usual stripes and polka dots variety. Kelly uses her nails as little blank canvases that she decorates with detailed designs. She recently completed the 31 Day Nail Challenge which saw her coming up with designs based off of everything from galaxies to a song.
Read on to find out what inspires Kelly’s designs and to disover her best nail art tips and tricks:
Q. Tell us about your nail background. What made you want to become a nail technician?
A. I’ve always been a painter and interested in art. The hobby started with a nail stamping kit my husband bought me four years ago. A foot injury changed my mobility around that same time and the hobby turned into an obsession and an outlet. I was inspired to turn pro by a lot of people, strangers mostly, noticing my nails and offering me money to paint theirs. Many people asked me, “why are you not doing this?” And I started to ask myself the same question. I saw other nail artists online coming up with artistic nails, and I wanted in.
Q. How do you come up with your designs?
A. I take my inspiration from anywhere and everywhere, truly. In the last month, I’ve based nails on trout markings, the Rorschach test, and Hunter S. Thompson, to name a few. I will think of an idea and store it in my brain for weeks, months, years. A color, an outfit, or a new nail technique will come along and I will finally execute this long-stored idea, and it is so satisfying! I am often inspired by a specific color of polish. I will see it in the store or in my collection and know the entire design I want to do with it.
Q. How long does a manicure take on average?
A. Ha! Well, it really depends on so many things, in a salon: 30-90 minutes. In a home, with extreme detail? 3 hours. On myself? Shoot. I will get to a stopping point, go to bed, resume the next day, repeat. No shame. The average time is 1-3 hours though.
Q. What was your favorite design? And the hardest one?
A. Hmm, “hardest” is very relative, I love detail, and I love a challenge–my “hardest” designs are also my favorite. For my beauty school graduation, we had a fortune teller-themed fashion show. At first I didn’t have any inspiration, but decided to just go crazy on myself to see how far I could go with the theme. The result was very witchy meets rocker, I ended up really liking the challenge. The post still gets likes on my Instagram.
I have a lot of favorites: Jake The Dog Adventure Time nails, the clear to green glitter fade I was wearing when I got my nail license and nails my sister-in-law called “Khaleesi nails”–I combined stone, metal, plastic, and hard gel (It was the hardest removal of my life.). A lot of my favorites are less about the final result, and more about the process/feeling making them or the feelings I give others.
Lately, I’ve been getting into actual scenes on nails, like action, drama, movies, video games, whatever. I’ve been doing portraits and pet portraits. It’s challenging, but so fun.
Q. What tools would you suggest a nail art newbie invest in?
A. A good clean up brush (for the cuticle area) is essential, one with rounded corners but is very sharp, to a point, one tiny detail brush, and one tiny striper, 100% acetone and brush conditioner for cleaning. Stickers, decals, jewels, and stamping are all great ways to get started in nail art.
Q. What tools do you use?
A. Very fine brushes, cut to a few hairs sometimes, tin foil for a palette and a little dish for acetone. I have a whole kit of jewels and pigments.
Q. What is the strangest thing that you’ve used to create a manicure?
A. I use an old cell phone stylus for most of my dotting and it throws people off. I have my husband help me plier some heavy duty nail piercings shut. I had a small knife dangling from my pinky finger once.
Honestly, becoming a nail technician has ended my MacGyver ways. I focus more on putting the weird into the nails than using weird to do it. I have to disinfect everything now, which means my tools need to be professional grade and metal.
Q. Do you have any tips for stopping your hand from shaking or when painting with your wrong hand?
A. Well, practice and a clean-up brush. Concentration, don’t just go through the motions. I can’t stress this enough, thoughts are a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you think, “this is going to suck”, it will suck. If you concentrate and slow down, yeah it may still be messy, but it will be better than if you gave up before you started AND, more importantly, you’re learning that way. You will get better if you genuinely try over time.
Even though I knew I couldn’t do some detailed designs on my right hand, I always tried. “Nail fail” or not, after three years, I could do detail with my left hand that matched my right. I know it’s a lot of time, but you’ll be painting your nails that long anyway, right?
(Photos: Kelly Shannon/Well Of Ink)