Thursday, 27 November 2008

North east Roadshow

I am going to Ez Flows annual North east roadshow this weekend, organized by Jo Shirley and Red 10. The event is held at Hellaby hall, Maltby, Rotherham on the 30th November and activities are expected to start at 9.00 with the competitions!

There will be some exciting special offers and guest speakers after lunch. Georgie Smedley will be demonstrating lash be long, Antony Buckley will be letting you into the secrets of competing, and wowing you with his winning competition nils.

I have the honour of demonstrating some Christmas design nails with a little 'fantastical twist'. Vicki Smith my right hand women will be on hand to chat with you about my DVD, books and up and coming dates for the 'inspire and photographic classes'.

There is so many more exciting things happening I can't wait!

For a little taster of what you have to look forward here is a picture of a Fantasy Christmas design, something I am working on at the moment, you can see it in more detail on the day!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Made in Malta

I have just returned from Malta, where I have been working with Sue Caruana, one of the leading technicians there, she is a distributor, educator and owns a salon in view of the beach. Based in Sliema, it was a joy to walk along the shores of the Mediterranean over lunch, the warm sun was a welcome change from the frosty weather threatening the UK shores. Working with the team at Beauty Inc was fantastic, they were very friendly with the typically warm and flamboyant attitude only found in that corner of the world. Having worked mostly with gel the girls got their mitts on some coloured acrylics, creating colour fades and design work, and then on Friday we had a Fantasy and Design inspire day were Technicians from all over Malta and the neighbouring island Gozo were invited. Expanding your knowledge goes a long way to improving your skills and building your business, in the UK we are used to this concept and it was nice to see that in Malta Nail techs think the same. The theme was roses, and working on a fantasy rose these gel techs tackled acrylic with gusto, producing some amazing flowers and leaves, working with product control and application technicians they learnt quickly. They needed to because after lunch we started on the more complex design application. Used to doing gel flowers I was very impressed with their abilities, each students got a pink rose for inspiration and had to decorate a nail file case. Finally the last demonstration pulled it all together, combining the design rose encapsulating it with a stiletto nail, with some 3D work.

At home I reflect on the different places I get to visit and meet the wonderful people behind the industry around the world. I enjoy learning from each visit and being inspired by drive and ambition to better and improve their businesses. I have made a new friend on this one and look forward to visiting her again soon.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Don't be Camera Shy part 1

Flicking through Scratch magazine my eyes feast on the assorted images plastered over the pages, delicate digits tipped with glittery gems, fruity colours shown off in glorious Technicolor all designed to inspire me.
Out of everything I do, from creating nails on my clients, demonstrating at shows, holding seminars and workshops worldwide the most satisfying is capturing my work on film, immortalizing my creations for thousands to view. But I am no photographer and like most I certainly didn’t know the difference between pixels and Dpi’s. But with a few basic rules and some easy steps to follow, compact in hand you too can take pictures to be proud of.
This two part tutorial will give you a glimpse of what you can achieve with your compact camera and some desk lamps. Covering styling and using props, getting the best from your camera with some lighting tricks and macro functions, using colour to create emotions and tension, plus the power of reflecting and diffusing light.

Styling your photos is a valuable tool which helps sell it to the viewers, makes them want more of what you’re offering. This will determine if your photo will be accepted by editors, to illustrate articles, newsletters and blogs, your images can become attention grabbing promotional shots, or win competitions, and become front covers.
Your image has to present a unique and cohesive presence to attract the interest of the viewer. In professional circles the stylist is the person who works closely with the photographer and art director helping to create an enhanced and thoughtful photo. But at the moment with compact in hand you are all of the above, and it makes styling your shot one of the most important roles. If you employ a photographer he or she will still require you as the client to style the photo shoot.

Step 1 - What does your image tell you?
Consider the subject and the story behind the image, what is the message you’re trying to convey? Why are you taking the shot? Is it to sell services to your clients, photograph competition material, following the criteria laid out in the rules, are you hoping it will be a consideration in the magazines? It is important to know what the reasons for taking the photo so here is a check list of things to remember;
What are you trying to say?
What are you selling?
What are the obvious qualities – colour, texture, shape, design, functions?
What are the hidden attributes – uses, interesting alternatives?
What is the social setting where these nails will be worn?
Were they created using a special process
Is it a natural process?

What inspired you to create the nails?
What is interesting about the subject?

Using this list will help you come up with a clear and concise idea of the message you’re trying to get across. Keeping an open mind while working through your list and consider some of the points to style your photo. Remember at all times your job is to open the viewers mind to the possibilities.
Step 2 - Setting up the shot
Gather props which enhance the subject, use your list to decide the story your trying to tell and gather ‘stuff’ to help you. I have a box full of bits and bobs collected over the years which I can dip in to. Start your treasure chest now, and fill it with leather bound books from second hand shops, multi colored ribbons and cloth no longer needed, interesting stones, shells and pieces of wood collected on walks. One of the best places to find unusual shaped vases and trinket boxes are the pound shops. There is a wealth of discarded tat which can become your savior in charity and jumble sales every where. Keep your eyes open and collect, because they become ideas and inspiration for your next photo.
Examples of props to convey a message;
Natural – muted colours, pine cones, soil, water, leaves, wood
Tools of the trade – powders, glitters, cuticle pushers, nail files, creams
Needle and threads, buttons and cloth
Paints and sketches, pencils and paper, ink and quills and books.
Food like sweets, fruit and chocolate
Step 3 - Taking the pictures
Set up your shot using only one or two props, position the hands on a plain background to show them off at their best; don’t clutter the image with unnecessary additional colours. When taking your photo’s force yourself to study the area around the hands and nails checking for shadows, make sure the position of the hands are flattering and not ridged, and more importantly nothing is obscuring or distracting your eye away from the nails. Your looking to see if the props and back drop bring out the best so be self critical and direct yourself looking at different angles and positions. Move the props around, take some away or add some more. You can change the focus of the image by moving the angle of the camera and lighting. This process may take some time, and a lot of clicks of the camera, but be patience you will know when you have that perfect shot. sometimes I come away with an image that took only 10 minutes, but then there are others that have taken 2 or 3 hours before I am happy with the final shot. The most important thing to remember when styling your own shot is to be free, don’t fixate on one idea, playing is the key to learning and developing.

Points to remember

1 After making the decision to create an image you need to decide what you’re going to photograph, develop your idea and create a story for your image; it will make it easier when you’re styling the shot.
2 Manipulate lighting, add texture and vary location or completely new looks to your imagery.
3 The simplest styling can really give flair and drama to your shot, even humor can go a long way to expressing the image.
4 If you’re using the photos to advertise your salon it is import to create a consistent and inviting look, keep the styling similar and use it to express your passion for your craft.
5 Finding the model and time, this is not a quick process and can be demanding on the model. I normally set aside one day to take two shots. Spend time in the morning to apply the nails the afternoon is free to take the photos and style the shot.
6 Touch ups, unfortunately this is also important and can make or break an image. There are many programs available alternatively there are photographers and graphic designers who will do this for you, touching out the back ground, air brushing the blemishes and making the image saleable.

Show off your passion, share with others your skills and develop your portfolio through photo’s. Next month we will be looking at your camera and how you can get the best from it and why colour is so important.
Follow this simple exercise and send your images to for feedback.
Using the following three items as props, style a photo of nails, remember your going to tell a story with your image, do not detract from the nails and sell your designs…..without words.
Props to use –
1. Book or books,
2. Candle or candles,
3. Reading glasses.
You don’t need to use all the props in your photo.

Based on Sam Biddle’s photographic workshop this tutorial will help technicians who want to illustrate their designs and share them with others. The workshop offers an in-depth and practical solution to learning some simple techniques and skills, utilizing the expertise of Stuart Dibben from SJD Photography, List of workshops are available on or contact Sam on

Saturday, 8 November 2008


I have now recovered from my vodka induced trip to Latvia, having sifted through the piles of do lists on my desk and filed them in their usual place, I can now spend a little time sharing with you my experience in the Baltic's.

Having been invited for the second time now, I love working with Oniks Beta, which one of the largest distributors in Latvia, stocking a range of products from OPI, Super nail, Odessay, as well as natural nail care, they also have an extensive training programme which provides government led training and private tuition. Elena Tarlavskaya, one of the most influential women within the industry in her country and has not only been responsible for building this amazing business but has also been instrumental for the structured and organized the competition in Latvia.

I was asked to judge, demo and hold a seminars out there, and of course the best part was seeing all those talented technicians spin their creative idea's onto nails using paints and acrylic. Mastering the medium in Fantasy 3D and nail art and coming up with some spectacular results. The judging is of course a glamours affair, with a parade of models on a catwalk,music, lights and interviews.

I have to say my favorite didn't come first place but all the nails were spectacular. I will never make a Simon Cowle, I think perhaps I am too soft, knowing the amount of thought and effort which goes into each set of nails, I appriciate the skills regardless of how complex or limited. What I enjoy seeing is the passion these girls have and the 'peace they acheive when they are lost in their 'creative moment'. With each nail supporting the subject Autumn pearls, the competitior had the task of making them stand out, what strikes me is differnt to the UK & US competitions is that the models where given simmilar costumes to wear, and it was the nails which had to represent the catagory. I think I would prefer to see an overall look created by the technicians to complete their design, from hair, makeup to a funky costume, incluing a mood board and steps, for us to see a creative process.

This year there was a new category in the competition; pedicure, and I was honoured to be asked to judge.
It was an amazing experience and something which I will write
about in more depth for Scratch magazine in January.
Demoing on the stand is always a good experience and made better with the company of Danny Phung from O.P.I, global guest artist from Canada, Danny was also asked to judge the Pink and white category. Working with other guest artists from around the world is certainly a perk of the job, and learning from each other can only go to strengthen skills.

My only regret is that I couldn't stay longer, the people are very hospitably and I enjoy their company, with a visit booked in the diary for 2009, I have some exciting things to offer them in the new year.