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Nails, the art of self expression

Daniela Hernandez smiles after having them done Monday at Smokin' Gun Spa and Salon in downtown Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — First the artist has to make the canvas.

It needs to be trimmed, filed and buffed. It needs to be smooth for the paint. The length of the acrylic is determined and glued to the natural nails. A primer is applied. The surface is then dehydrated.

Then another filing for perfection. The canvas is ready.

Nhi Thi Le, who goes by the nickname Toni Le, has a simple design in mind. She applies a pink nail polish with quick but deliberate strokes, afterwards she puts a gel coating over it to bring some shimmer. She draws several curved white lines forming a flower, punctuated with a rhinestone in the middle. The design is basic, but Le uploads the photo to her Instagram and Facebook account with the excitement as if this were her latest masterpiece.

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Nails, the art of self expression

From right, Leann Nulph does Daniela Hernandez' nails Monday at Smokin' Gun Spa and Salon in downtown Twin Falls.

Social media has become an essential new tool for nail technicians. YouTube and Pinterest are full of instructions for how to obtain the newest and most popular styles from ombre nails to color-changing polish to 3D designs. Facebook and Instagram have become the previews for what each technician can give to her customers.

Kessa Wonenberg, owner and nail specialist of Envy Salon Image Artistry, said she wouldn’t have half the clients she has now if it weren’t for social media. Her Instagram, @kessairene, has more than 450 followers.

Wonenberg didn’t get into more intricate nail designs until she went to beauty school. Now she is painting intricate scenes from the movie “Beetlejuice” or signs of the zodiac within the space of a fingernail. The most detailed paintings take up 20 to 30 minutes per nail.

“People don’t realize how long it takes,” Wonenberg said.

A manicure serves as self expression Suzanne Shapiro, a former researcher at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, told the Times-News.

Nail art can be a simple design or as over-the-top as nails covered in dazzling Swarovski crystals.

It is a craft that reacts and morphs to the world around it, Shapiro said.

While some may not consider nail art true art, she said, the practice of manicures has always been important.

“Through times of war, financial crises, or personal crisis, it’s a way to reinvent yourself,” said Shapiro, who wrote the book “Nails: The Story of the Modern Manicure.”

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Nails, the art of self expression

From left, Daniela Hernandez has her nails done by Leann Nulph Monday at Smokin' Gun Spa and Salon in downtown Twin Falls.

There are more bold personalities in nail art today with much more sophisticated designs, she said. What started as basic hygiene has transformed into acts of exploration and identification without the permanence of a tattoo.

“The hands are an independent expression,” she said. “They are great site of experimentation.”

Shapiro agreed that social media is a huge help to nail artists. Social media has given a calling card to the independent nail artist, she said. It encourages people to try new styles and to broadcast what they have.

Quality nails take time. The craft is not as easy as people expect, said Julia Snare, a nail technician with Smokin’ Gun Spa and Salon. It takes time and patience to become skilled. There is a precise science to holding your hand still while drawing, she said. The care and precision could be compared to a surgeon.

“I try my hardest so no one leaves unhappy,” Snare said.

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Nails, the art of self expression

From right, Leann Nulph does Daniela Hernandez' nails Monday at Smokin' Gun Spa and Salon in downtown Twin Falls.

Back at the Smokin’ Gun Spa and Salon, nail tech Leann Nulph paints Daniela Hernandez’s nails with a deep purple color. The polish says it will change color depending on the wearer’s mood. Nulph takes time with each finger, putting a gel top over the acrylic to protect her work.

Nulph puts crystals on four of Hernandez’s nails, adding sparkle to this particular piece.

“It makes me feel more comfortable,” Hernandez said. “It makes me feel like a woman.”

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