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Nail Art!

Andrea Borchert, Librarian, Science, Technology & Patents Department,
Funky Skull Nail Art by Kayleigh O'Connor
Funky Skull Nail Art by Kayleigh O'Connor

I tell everyone, all the time, that the Science, Technology & Patents Department is a very serious place.

Farmer Buckley’s Exploding Trousers: and Other Odd Events on the Way to Scientific Discovery
Farmer Buckley’s Exploding Trousers: and Other Odd Events on the Way to Scientific Discovery

Our shelves are full of books of serious math,

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets
The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets 
 

Books of serious medicine,

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers and Other Useless or Gross Information about Your Body
Why You Shouldn’t Eat Your Boogers and Other Useless or Gross Information about Your Body

and books of serious, serious science.

IgNoble Prizes 2: Why Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans
IgNoble Prizes 2: Why Chickens Prefer Beautiful Humans

It’s all very scholarly and erudite, as you can see. The Science Department doesn’t mess around. But you know what else the Science Department has?

Nail Art!

Nail Candy: 50+ Ideas for Totally Cool Nails
Nail Candy: 50+ Ideas for Totally Cool Nails

My nails have never been artistic enough, so I grabbed a group of friends (victims, scientific subjects) and a copy of Nail Candy by Donne and Ginny Geer and decided to see if I could in fact do-it-myself. Maybe this time will be different then the tragic do-it-yourself tiling project or the poorly planned do-it-yourself haircut.

People have been decorating their nails throughout history, how hard could it be? It turns out that nail decoration has a long and storied history. According to Daily Life Through History, the ancient Egyptians dyed their nails orange with henna. In the Ming dynasty, the Chinese had a recipe for nail polish made of egg whites, beeswax, vegetable dyes, and Arabic gum. The Romans, on the other hand, used a mixture of sheep fat and blood to dye their nails pink. …I won’t be doing that. I’ll just use nail polish. 

The pictures in Nail Candy show nails that are glossy, fun, and strange. With just a few dabs of polish, nails begin to look like specific things. Things like miniature tuxedoes and pieces of fruit. But Donne and Ginny are experts and I was curious to see how their instructions worked for those of us with much less experience.

I tried Make Headlines, a project that involved transferring newsprint onto painted nails.

Newspaper Nails Step 1I just had to be very careful when peeling the paper off not to smudge the type.

Newspaper Nails Step 2While I sweated the peeling process, a friend of mine confidently picked up the blue and purple polishes and a cotton swab to achieve an effect the book calls Ombre.

Newspaper Nails Step 3She did this without closing her laptop, in about 4 minutes, while playing words with friends.  She made it look so easy that what had started as an earnest exploration of a new art form in a warm and supportive community became a free for all. Who could do it faster? Who could do it better? Who was bogarting the basecoat?  

A friend (victim) of ours tried to copy the strawberry from the Juicy Fruit Project in the book while I ignored the fact that he was somehow better at nail art then I was.

Strawberry Nails

Another (victim) went with red cheetah spots. Grr.

Cheetah Spots NailsHowever before he let us do this to him, we did have to assure him that the polish would come off again. 

Results: Everyone ended up happy with the results of their experiments (because it’s Science remember). Even people with neither skill nor talent (me) ended up with something at least similar to the photos in Nail Candy and those with pre-existing nail art skills could do it better and faster.

Finished Art

References:

Geer, Donne Nail Candy: 50+ Ideas for Totally Cool Nails. San Francisco: Weldon Owen, 2013. Print.

Forde, Katherine “Nail Art” World History in Context. Gale. 2005 Web. 23 July 2014.

Frey, Holly and Wilson V., Tracy. “Cosmetics From the Ancient Egypt to the Modern World.” Stuff You Missed in History Class. 14 July 2004.

 


 

 

 

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