MUTZINE speaks to three talented nail artists: Su Jeong, Coco, and Sunny. They share with us their passion for nail design, emerging gel nail trends, and insight on what it takes to thrive in their profession.
Text Ann Ravinther, Art Shay M
In the last 5 years, the popularity for nail art has grown drastically in South Korea. So much so that Seoul had hosted the Global Nail Cup twice – in 2012 and 2016. Before this, nail decoration was basic in design and reduced to solid colors. Then, it was elaborated a little bit by adding a simple crystal or stone adornment to a classic, French manicure. Following that, gel nails became more normal for people to wear. Gel nails are set apart from the usual lacquer by being made hard under a UV or LED lamp. Their biggest perk is that they last way longer than traditional lacquer – from 2 to 3 weeks, without chipping.
Celebrity influence and easily obtainable gel manicure kits on home shopping networks, contributed to the growth of popularity of gel nails. Another factor is that people want unique designs and styles that express their personality and interest. Su Jeong, Sunny, and Coco are all established nail artist and they can agree that this is true. These three individuals are part of the nail artist community in South Korea that develop intricate designs on their own and feed a growing demand with beautiful works of art.
Su Jeong has been running Nail Blossom in Daegu for the past 9 years. Her specialties are in marble nail art and gemstone creations. “I’m not exactly sure why I do it – but I love it. I’m creating and designing a unique kind of art,” she explains and describes her passion as a calling. With the popularity of gel nails rising, she mentions that it gives her more variety to create within the art. “And, for the women – it becomes an endless desire!” She works with a service mind and her personal motto for success is to not be in a hurry and work faithfully.
“As the gel nail market becomes bigger, more nail artists focus on safety measures in order for no damage to come to the nail.” By safety measures, Su Jeong is talking about the application and removal of the gel because if done wrong it can be damaging. Cuticles should be pushed with a smooth and gentle pressure so that it does not damage the natural nail. Trimming of cuticles should be kept to a minimum as it could lead to additional tissue growth when the body repairs itself – leading to thicker cuticle tissue.
When asked about current nail trends, Su Jeong cites three: hand-painted illustrated nails, the gong-gan nail, and metallic nails. Hand-painting is achieved with nail art brushes that have fine line bristles, so that little details can be painted. The gong-gan nail experiments with negative space. Designs can be as simple as a line going down the nail or more random with shapes like a triangle or square that seem to float on the nail. “As for the metallic nail, it’s really popular during summer,” she adds.
“It’s a form of fashion and expression,” Coco says about nail art. She has been a practicing nail artist for the last 5 years and her particular focus is hand-painting. “My customers like that I draw with my own hands onto the nails. Just four years ago, patches and stickers were in trend, but these days hand painting has become really popular. A lot of people wear nail art these days, so it seems that many customers want something unique that others don’t have,” Coco infers.
“Nail art has become more versatile because more materials are made available,” she says. There’s glitters, stripping tapes, metallic stickers – and a whole lot more that can add to a nail creation. When asked about her favorite thing to do, Coco mentions character design, particularly of Disney icon and beloved star, Mickey Mouse. “I also like sparkly nail art. I enjoy drawing and making art. The thing about nail art is that it’s always exciting. It’s always something new!” she shares. “I don’t have to draw the same thing every time. I also like the fact that I can cheer someone up through this work. And, it’s fun!”
Though, she is more than happy with her art, Coco adds that nail art is not something to be taken lightly. “Many people may think that it’s an easy job but it requires talent and skill.”
Valentine’s day is a special day for everyone but in the year 2001, Sunny began a love affair with nail art. Having done it for almost 16 years now, she’s gained an A-list clientele, one of which is K-Pop star, Lee Hi (@leehi_hi). She has also done the nails of international celebrities like Fergie, Miranda Kerr, and Leighton Meester. Her global client base keeps things lively and flexible for her, especially since their taste and preferences are based on the countries and regions they are from.
However, there is a uniting factor. “They all enjoy customized designs –the overall look and feel of colors, designs, patterns, and adornments should be tailored and designed just for them. Something that’s one of a kind and reflects their individual personality and character.” Each client is a new, exciting, artistic challenge for Sunny. “I analyze each client and then I come up with ideas and design concepts for them. My biggest gratification is when they are happy with what I’ve created for them.” Her forte is in mixing colors – that can’t be found anywhere else as these are her own recipes. She’s also into rhinestone art that involves putting together gems, pearls, stones and various adornments to form a cohesive concept.
When asked what it takes to be a successful nail artist, she said: “You’ve got to be detail-oriented and thorough in mindset. Nothing is achieved without hard work, dedication and effort. It won’t happen in a day. But with perseverance, it is wonderfully satisfying, both for the professional and artistic soul.”