Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Diary of an international nail artist - China

Friday 7th March  Bristol - Paris

With slight trepidation I agreed to head over to China for 4 days and work with Orly! Well who could say no to Jeff Pink. It is a place I have never been to, although when he asked I did reply with "I would prefer Barbados"
It is a busy time for me with Jealous cow, and the up and coming scratch awards, I try not to travel much at this time of year, but as I said who can refuse a call from the man who invented the French a manicure.

With numerous anxious moments getting a visa organised and agendas arranged, I am now sat on the plane of the first leg of this very long journey starting my blog.
Stopping off at Paris for a few hours before I hop on board the long haul leg of the trip. I wonder if they have some where in airport which can offer me a pedicure or massage! Just to kill the time of course!

So my journey begins and I shall be updating this post as I go! With pictures and everything, you lucky lot!

Sat 8th - Land in china
Arrived at a reasonable time and had an hour car journey to the hotel! So I can give you the romantic version or get down and gritty with the actual. Coming through the gate I am promised there will be a driver with a sign.....OK great. If not there is wifi so to just contact my hosts. No driver no wifi. It didn't take long to realise that I needed to get onto the internet, so finding the information desk I hand over my phone and they log in for me. Driver will be there shortly I am informed! He was at the wrong terminal....No issues all sorted within an hour.

thank you for Starbucks and Anthony
The hotel has a Starbucks!! smiling right now…slight relief that at least i can enjoy a decent coffee in the morning. Heading up to my room, I didn't find out until I got to Paris that I would in actual fact be sharing. Damit no PJ'S in my case. I open the door I see luggage and clothes in the closet and a Double bed! there is no way I would subject anyone to sharing a room let alone a bed with me. so we can’t do anything about the room….but I can sort out the bed situation. Quick call to reception and my room mate informed…Diva I am not, well maybe a little! but efficient and decisive I certainly am! 

Oh the trials of traveling, all  this is mild in comparison, and to be honest in the scheme of things not worth complaining about. Don't get me wrong I appreciate every opportunity to travel and count my self lucky.  I get a lot of messages asking me what is it like to do my job, and wishing they traveled as much. I thought as a change I would throw in some bare all facts and a behind the scenes look at things. So I am baring all and telling you everything!

Big sigh as I flop into bed, I have literally been traveling for days! 

Sunday 9th - Day 1 of the show.

So I found out yesterday that not only was Alison,Terry and Virginia from IBD and Ez flow going to be here,  but I would be spending the weekend with Anthony Buckley. It has seriously has been years and years since I last worked with him, and I was super stoked to spend time with all of them. In a different land you can share the highs and lows, and sometimes your trip is not so lonely. Another highlight at breakfast when all the girls arrived on mass, was in amongst them Jessica.....The Jessica. Now I have to admit at first I didn't realise it was the Jessica, it was only at dinner later that the penny dropped. For those who know me personally that read this, will know I am totally useless with the whole matching names with faces. You are who you are at that moment, and I am always pleased to meet you. 
Now Asian food is not my favourite, and breakfast was another one of those delightful experiences, without offending anyone, all I wanted was my usual omelette with mushrooms and spinach. But settled for 2 boiled eggs and coffee.

Heading to the show, it is our first taste of the Chinese culture, and arriving at the show. The stand was enormous, with individual booths within it, each with their own brand. I was working for Orly.  That is all I can really say about the place, I had my head down from morning to night, only stopping to sit on stage and demo some more.  I would like to mention the toilets, but fear you may stop reading at that point, so I shall just say, very little was drunk during the day and no pee stops made until i got back to the hotel. 

The girls that came to have their nails done took many many photos with me their enthusiasm should be infectious. Culturally there is a contrast and something to fully embrace and to experience it without judgement. But I found their hearts to be good and in the right place, which I suppose is the main thing.
Dinner with the whole team, we head to a very Chinese banquet and enjoy some weird and some wonderful delights. Pictures say it all.

Hot chocolate and face time home, then it is bed for me. Oh the high life of an international traveler! 

Monday 10th- Day 2 of the show

'hurry up, we don't have much time to shop' Allison Ross
I don't know what it is about 4 am and traveling, but no matter what the country, I am up and awake at 4... I spend the next hour willing my mind to be still and quiet so I can relax and rest. Only to wake again with the alarm at 6.30 feeling like I have a hangover arghhhhhh.

we begin day 2 with some shopping, spending a small part of the morning checking out the other stands!  We are in China, this is where most of the stuff we buy in the UK is made and comes from and yes VERY inexpensive. The thing about traveling to these shows, and those that do this as a job with passion for the creative side would agree I am sure, you buy, and buy, and buy....All the things you will end up putting in the draw. The Chinese love their nails adorned with bling, embellished with massive shapes, rising from the surface of the nail like icebergs in the Atlantic. Perching these various collections of embellishments is contagious, in the back of my mind as I am buying these thing I am thinking Mrs Jones is not going to be wearing this in Dorset when she heads over to Waitress to do her weekly shop, but I am still adding more and more bags of 500 bows, hearts, cats, squares and more to my basket, with the Chinese girls saying "lady you want more, you no like?" With a heavy accent. When I write this I can hear the accent in my head a clear as a bell, I hope you are too, if not check out this link... 

Back to work, and today Amber our host, instructed us....More embellishments, more gems, more glitter no painting! That's good, cause I have a stack here under the table, this is the only place who would appreciate it. Now this is the thing, I know this trend is arriving to the west, and in the USA And the UK we are seeing more people want it and wear it beautifully. But with 8 very talented and Creative nail techs from, Ukraine, America, Spain, Holland, Argentina where most of the skills Set is hand painting, 3d acrylic art and gel painting you would want to show this off and I suppose attract new trends and techniques to your home market. It is easy to place a gel on a nail, and choose a big enough one that flatters the base colour, quick and efficient in the salon. My question I suppose is why not utilise us since you have such variety and show case what the rest of the world are up. The Chinese don't have face book! Shock horror…and with nail techs every where use this type of social media to get the inspiration they need to expand their range of designs and learn new techniques.
Asking a creative person to dial it back is like blind folding them and asking them to drive. It is incredibly hard to find your mojo. I was glad today I didn't need to go on stage.
That said I was happy to learn this new art, by default, and try out some new ideas I shall be bringing home and adapting to the UK market. Watch this space for some step by steps.

So day is over, and we get to do some more shopping! Yay.....Seriously...Yay! China is the land of nock offs and imitation, I thought yes let's go find some bargains and sort out Christmas shopping! Josh is our guide, the Malaysian distributor of Kevin and Amber, and very happy to escort 9 very excitable ladies, he might just change his mind by the end of the evening.

Getting loaded off the bus, we walk a mere 100 yards when a rather tall scruffy man comes up and shows us laminated area with an array of designer gear, great just what we are looking for...Show us where your shop is?......Leading us into a lobby of a building he wants to usher us into a lift....Alarm bells! We all stop dead and looks to each other, Josh is already mad cause we just went ahead and followed a stranger! Oooooops. He tells us to wait down stairs and he will go up and check it out. This is what we do........ We waiting, and speculated and then ping the elevator opens with he scruffy chap ushering us in saying your friend he says come up! Hmmmmmmm ok, it must be fine. 21 floors and the 8 of us giggling nervously, giving each other the look, we meet Josh coming back the other way.......Saying you didn't wait! WHAT....The dude tricked us, and ran back To get us whilst Josh was checking it out. We'll whilst we where here we might as well look, going through another door, under a curtain (I know, I know, as I write this now on he plane, I am thinking, really Sam.....What would you say to Devon! If she asked you if it was wise) but you know sometimes you have to take risks.....And sometimes your led astray by Alison Ross.

Josh our guide
The room was filled with designer bags, belts, watches you name it, and it had quite a few Chinese men smoking and making deals. Hard sell is an understatement. I could have walked away with a Micheal Korrs watch for 15.00. But after 5 mins Josh said we are leaving, and this we did....Ushered out like sheep he was muttering I don't like this. I am giggling at it all now, as he must of been having kittens...He is entrusted with these western women by our host, to show us a good time, can you imagine the head lines! The scruffy guy follows us too....Lady you forgot your watch, just 100 yuan for you, you no like?

Out side in the fresh air we walk for another few yards and blow me down with a feather there's another dude with cards telling us follow him! This is going to get tiresome, like a gambler in Las vagus, we shall be tempted at every turn. I suppose we do look like tourist, I am snapping away and taking pictures......!

just to be clear, we didi not buy anything illegal, we shopped in the small shops up and down the high street and shopped well. 

Dinner in a very traditional and local cafe......You had to rise above any health and safety, OCD issues and ignore the lack of UK standards,   just roll with it, and try everything. if it looks alive then pass!  I  had a great time and did enjoy the experience very much.
dinner after shopping. 

Tuesday 11th - Last day

It's day 3 and home time......It's going to be a long one, and spending half the night last night trying I check in online to no avail I end up crashing out around 3am. Meeting Terry and Jessica at breakfast I enjoy my boiled eggs and a coconut cake of some sort.....mmmmmmmm! Thank goodness Starbucks is downstairs for my Dailey fix of a soya cappuccino with a shot of sugar free caramel! Just in case your offering!

At the show, I provide a quick lesson to the orly educators here and start demoing. Today we are allowed to hand paint, happy me! Another on stage moment knocking out 6 designs and race around for an hour to go shopping for more goodies, my draw is going to be so grateful!

The show finishes at 3pm, so I do have a choice more shopping or chill out with Anthony in Starbuck, shower and change before our 11 hour flight at midnight. My feet are killing me and I don't have any more money left. So coffee and a sausage roll it is. Ahhhhhh the shower was bliss and the gossip and catch up even better. We live in he same country and only ever manage a catch up overseas once very three years. New resolution......Must text him more!

Airport, flight home! That is basically it, although I did snag myself a upgrade, extra leg room and a window seat, sleeping for 8 hours, I thought I would finish off this journal, and maybe I might just end up posting this the same week it happened.

Bibi my room mate, both waiting for our flight home. 

Paris to Bristol - uh oh…..divert to Cardiff. 

The last thing I need, captain telling us we have been diverted to Cardiff, as he can’t land in Bristol due to FOG. that means a wait, a coach journey back to bristol and not able to get home until this afternoon. bummer! 


So the end, I have to say, I was not looking onward to this trip, but it ended up being one of the best, mainly due to my fellow travellers, Yulia from Entity and new friend, Wendy from La chat, Bibi my room mate, and amazing artist from Holland and educator for Artistic. Alison, Terry and Virginia from Aii, working with Ezflow and ibd. Anthony of course with Harmony and Jessica from Jessica.
I would revisit China again, there was highs and lows, like we very trip, no Facebook limited wifi, toilets, health, hygiene and safety being the lows but the highs far out weight those little inconsistencies. Without the laughs and company maybe harder to tolerate, but the experiences and new learning is the ultimate reason why I do this job, and meeting new like minded people!