Running out of body parts for expressing yourself creatively? Don't need your hands for anything practical? Got time and money to spare? Well, Japanese-style nail art may be just the thing for you. This is where specialized nail technicians mount meticulously handcrafted 3-D acrylic sculptures on super-long gel extensions.
Not surprisingly, this claw craze started in Tokyo about 10 years ago. That's when Asian celebs started donning elaborately themed fake nails that, in addition to raised acrylic designs, were decorated with increasingly ornate trinkets, including jewels, lace, pearls, and anime characters.
Now, the trend is invading the Lower Mainland, with specialty salons popping up everywhere from Vancouver's Kaen Beauty Design Studio (846 Thurlow Street) to Burnaby's Graceful Beauty studio (by appointment only) to Richmond's Glam Nail Studio (1020–8766 McKim Way), which has been making a name for itself beyond B.C.'s borders. Glam director Keiko Matsui has nail queens coming in from Edmonton, Seattle, and Toronto to get their hands decked out by her and her technicians. Not only that, her unassuming salon is starting to get worldwide recognition.
This year, one of her up-and-coming nail technicians, Chinatsu Oyama, won first place for the best hand-painted nail art in the novice category at Nailpro magazine's annual competition in Las Vegas. The theme was USA—Oyama painted a Barack Obama portrait that spanned 10 long-ass claws.
Meanwhile, Matsui took home a third-place prize for best sculptured nail. The theme was the prehistoric period. Yup, there were dinosaurs aplenty.
Back at the shop, however, the three biggest requests from customers are a little more girlie-girl in nature: Hello Kitty, flowers, and ribbons.
I wanted to give this spa sensation a try myself, but since I need my fingers for typing (and opening wine bottles), I thought I should probably just get one nail done. And even though I haven't done blow since the '80s, it's always been a secret fantasy of mine to sport the ultimate coke nail. But what pattern to choose? Hmmm, decisions, decisions. Perhaps a '70s sunset with a few tastefully placed rhinestones? Or maybe something a little more dangerous, like a skull and crossbones?
At one point, I contemplated getting an Obama coke nail, but decided against it, as that would be disrespectful. Stevie Nicks, though—now that would have been perfect. But Matsui's specialty is 3-D art, so I opted for an awesomely tacky leopard-print nail with a nice red rose sculpture planted on top. (A whole hand of this pattern would set you back about $90 and take two hours.)
I sat down in the nail parlour, where apparently nothing is safe from Matsui and her Swarovski-happy crew. The mouse, the calculator, and the tape dispenser were all jewel-encrusted, another service they offer at Glam. So if you want your iPhone case bejewelled in a blinged-out Hello Kitty pattern, they'll do it for $30 to $230.
Before Glam, there was K's Nails, Matsui's own mobile manicure/pedicure service. It was through this business that the Blanche MacDonald Centre grad realized that French manicures weren't cutting it anymore. Increasingly, customers were requesting more and more elaborate fingertip flair.
“I couldn't take any more clients,” says Matsui, as she finishes off my itsy-bitsy leopard spots. “It was an overflowing situation. People were like, ”˜Whenever I call you, you don't have any more space.' ”˜Okay, but I only have two hands.' ”
And with that, she opened Glam. The challenge now is to find technicians who possess the same God-given talent as Matsui. After all, not every manicurist has the artistic skills to create something as beautiful and timeless as my pimpin' Peruvian pinky.