I am really excited to launch a new weekend series today. Each week, I'll be chatting to someone from the nail world - a blogger, a polish maker, an e-tailer - and hopefully finding out what makes them special, how they got started, and how they view what they do.
My first guest is my favourite blogger, and yours, Sarah from Chalkboard Nails. Sarah started her blog in July 2011 and since then it's gone from strength to strength. These are her current links and stats -
So why do I love Sarah? It's the effortless inventiveness of her nail art, and how she always makes it look like it's something I COULD do, if only I put the effort in :) Her nails are also flawless, and I'm a little bit in love with her nail shape too. Her photography skills are awesome, she does cool tutorials AND she invented one of my favourite manis - the ruffle. So, shall we see what she has to say? And there may be a few photos along the way - especially some of her earlier ones, to give us all hope :)
What’s your earliest polish memory
My earliest polish memory was when I did some Phoenix Suns nails at the start of the basketball season a few years ago. The official team Twitter retweeted my nails and it was just the coolest thing ever.
What was the polish that started it all for you
The first polish that ever sent me into a frenzy was Wet N Wild Tangled In My Web, from the 2011 On the Prowl Collection. It's a black hex glitter topper, and I still love it so much!
When did it go from enjoyment to full on polishaholic-ness / obsession
Ummm, immediately? No really though, it was pretty fast. I started doing nail art in July 2011 and I think I was obsessively building my collection by September.
How many polishes do you own
Hmmm…it's somewhere around 1200.
If there was a fire and you could save only one polish, what would it be
I would save my Clarins 230, because it was a gift from my boyfriend. Well, it's also gorgeous and rare, which doesn't hurt either!
Which is your favourite brand and why
I gotta give it up to OPI. I am a big fan of their formula and their ProWide brush.
Which brand do you own the most of
China Glaze. They make some great creme shades so I use those a lot in my nail art.
As a polish wearer, what’s the best tip you’ve picked up along the way
I have a cool nail art tip that a lot of people might not know about. If you dip your nail art brush into a small amount of pure acetone, you can use it to carefully erase small nail art mistakes or smudges. It’s not a fix-all, but it can help you touch up your art once you get the hang of it! Just be careful you don’t go overboard and remove the polish underneath.
Do you also have a day job
I do indeed, and I won't lie, it can be hard to find time for my full time job and my blog!
When and why did you decide to start a blog
I started my blog in July 2011. I was doing my nails so often that I thought the people on my Facebook were probably tired of me sharing them so much… so that’s when I decided to start a blog.
the first mani Sarah blogged
What was the goal for the blog – what did you want to achieve
Quite honestly, all I really wanted to do was keep a record of my nail art and maybe interact with some other nail artists.
Did you have an idea in your head of how successful you hoped it would be
Definitely not, I was pretty content to just post nail pictures! I mean, I never wanted to be talking into a vacuum, but I didn’t really have specific goals like that.
Does the blog as it is now match your vision for it, or are there changes you want to make / has it ended up going in a totally different direction
It’s pretty close. I do wish that I had a higher ratio of nail art to indie polish posts. That’s actually something I know you’ve touched on with regards to me before, and many of my readers spoke to that in a survey I did recently. It’s tough to get the right balance though, I love supporting indie polish manufacturers and think the things they are creating are so exciting.
How did you come up with the blog name
When I started my blog I immediately went to the nail puns, as I think many people do… I really wanted something that would stand out though. I ended up picking Chalkboard Nails as a reference to the phrase “nails on a chalkboard” because I thought it would be memorable. I came up with the tagline “the only time you’ll enjoy nails on a chalkboard” to make the concept a little more pleasant -- nails on a chalkboard isn’t usually a nice thought!
Why do YOU think people read your blog
In the world of nail blogs, there aren’t a ton of freehand artists, so I think people read my blog mostly for those types of posts. I also review a lot of indie polish, so people that like checking out those types of polishes probably get a lot of enjoyment from CN too!
Which social media platform is your fastest growing and why do you think that is / do you notice different trends across the different platforms
My fastest growing social platform is, without a doubt, Instagram. I think people are more liberal with their “follows” there because it’s a little more relaxed than something like Facebook, where it displays stuff you like all over your friends’ news feeds. It’s interesting that you mention trends though. Oftentimes the same manicure will be received completely differently on one social platform versus another.
Tell me what you remember about your first post
Well I know my actual first post is just a text post where I awkwardly introduce myself. Without peeking, I think my first nail art post involves some Sally Hansen polish and a simple design I did with some nail art pens.
Do you remember the first post where you thought “yes, that’s a great post”
I guess I would have to say the second time I tried a leopard print (http://www.chalkboardnails.com/2011/08/new-leopard-freehanding.html). I loved the manicure and definitely patted myself on the back for that one.
Has your blog gone through phases / cycles that you can identify?
I’ve always tried to just do my thing. Of course I’ve grown with my blog, so my posts have changed since the beginning, but I think that applies to everyone. You figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt
The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that you can’t please everyone. I’ve been very fortunate with the positivity that I’ve received from the nail community, but I haven’t been exempt from criticism, either. I think criticism is important, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. Sometimes it’s better to follow your gut than to try to fit someone else’s mold.
If you were starting your blog again, what tips would you give yourself
I don’t think I’d give myself any tips, really. I get emails from people sometimes asking me for the secret to blogging but there’s just really nothing I can tell them besides “just go for it.” You have to make mistakes and figure out what works for you – otherwise you won’t develop your own blogging style.
Which post are you proudest of
This is a tough question. I’m gonna choose my Eye of Sauron/Lord of the Rings manicure (http://www.chalkboardnails.com/2012/09/31dc2012-day-23-inspired-by-movie.html). I spent a ton of time getting that design JUUUUST right and I got so many positive comments on the post.
Which post is your most popular
My most popular post is my 31 Day Challenge 2012 Roundup (http://www.chalkboardnails.com/2012/10/the-31-day-challenge-2012-roundup-post.html), by quite a lot actually.
Where do you see the blog in a year
World domination? Nah, I just want to keep developing my freehand technique and working with excellent brands.
Do you feel you have a responsibility as a blogger?
Definitely. There are probably some people in the world that belittle the role of bloggers but I know as a consumer I often turn to blogs for honest assessments of products I want to buy. Plus, nail art brings so much joy to my life and I feel a responsibility to share that too!
How many hours a week go into your blog
Basically all my free time. When I get home from work every evening, I take some time to wind down and eat some dinner, but then it’s usually on to blog stuff. Actually doing the manicures takes time, not to mention photographing them, editing the photos, watermarking the photos, & writing the posts. Answering emails, keeping up with social media, planning posts, recording tutorials, and other miscellaneous tasks take up time, too.
How “hard” do you work at improving your skills
I always try to be better. Whether I’m picking up a nail art brush or turning on a camera or booting up my image editor, I try to improve. I’m a pretty big perfectionist most of the time, especially when I’m actually doing the nail art. I’ll re-do a nail a few times until it’s right. I guess that counts as working hard!
this is Sarah's most "stolen" nail art - watermark removed and passed off as someone else's work
How do you stay motivated / inspired
I go through phases. Sometimes I have so many ideas that I can barely keep up, and I make sure to draw them all out in my sketchbook. Other times I have a hard time staying inspired or motivating myself. I just try to mix things up when that happens. Getting out of your element can sometimes work to jumpstart your brain.
How do you plan your blogging schedule (if you do)
I don’t really plan my blogging schedule. I do what I can when I can (and when I am in the mood to do it!). The only thing that I have to plan out is when to record video tutorials, because I have to do those on weekends.
What frustrates you about being a blogger
Hmm. The hardest part about being a blogger is being a one-woman show, I guess. On any given day I’m an artist, a media manager, an IT troubleshooter, a businesswoman, a photographer, a graphic designer. There’s a lot that you have to be willing to do to make it work! I do love blogging though, despite the commitment it requires.
What do you wish you were better at? (can be an art style or something else like photography)
I wish I was better at fine detail work in nail art. I’ve definitely been able to improve at it over the years but I have a ways to go!
Whose nails do you wish you had
I love my own nails but I have to say I’ve always been jealous of Mr. Candiipants’ roundies! http://mrcandiipants.tumblr.com/
Whose blog do you wish you had
I don’t wish I had anyone else’s blog. I love my little space. :)
Which blogger inspires you
I’ve had a serious obsession with Base Coat Top Coat lately. She has just been putting out loads and loads of work and it has all been KILLER. http://basecoat-topcoat.tumblr.com/
Which polish brand do you wish you owned – indie
I don’t think I have the mental fortitude to own an indie brand. I would love to work for Cirque though. I have a serious lust for the Cirque branding and the polishes are beautiful, too.
If you were the CEO of one of the major brands, what changes would you make
MORE PASTELS AND NEONS! SPRING AND SUMMER ALL YEAR LONG!
What are you proudest of that you’ve achieved as a blogger
I have two proudest moments! The first was when one of my photos was shown on The Today Show. I recorded it and when I watched it back I literally did a little dance around the room! The second was the interview I did recently for Nail It! magazine. I actually started reading the issue before I realized that it was the one I had interviewed for, and when I turned to that page I was just speechless.
How do you find the balance between doing the art you want to do and the reviews you have to do?
This is an area that I really need to work on! I don’t really know how to properly balance it... I tend to go too far in one direction and then overcompensate too far the other way. I always try to get reviews turned around as quickly as I can, but I also make sure that the brands I’m working with understand my timeline.
I noticed when I was scrolling through your blog using the Page Down button, that with your swatches, the hand pose is identical, to the millimetre! How on earth do you do that!!One time I had someone ask me if I use Photoshop to switch out the actual nails but use the same "finger picture" each time. I swear I don't! I just have my swatching system down I guess. I do crop everything once I get it on my computer but I also do my best to get the photos as close as I can from the start. I want people focusing on the polish, so I want to make that the only variable in each photo!
Is it hard to say no to reviewers?
Absolutely it’s hard. I love working with indie brands in particular, but I just don’t have the time to accommodate all of the requests I receive. I want to support them all but freehand nail art is truly my first love, and I have to be sure I make time for that, too.
Why do you think YOU have become so popular. I love you and I think you’re the best, but I’m curious as to whether you have any opinions on why you’ve become SOOOO big
I think when people “read” nail blogs they are mostly looking at pictures! My background in photography has really helped me fine-tune my photography and I think that has a lot to do with it! I also try to be original with my nail art and come up with things that haven’t been done before.
Did you ever in a million years think you’d be most people’s idea of the World’s Best Blogger?
World’s Best Blogger might be taking it a little far, haha. But really, I’ve been so fortunate. I never expected the response I’ve received and I’m so appreciative of all the people that have supported my blog and stuck with me over the years.
You seem very social media savvy – what do you think is going to become your most important blogging platform
Facebook and Instagram have become increasingly important, but I don’t think anything will replace my full blog at chalkboardnails.com. Having the ability to talk about my process, struggles, & triumphs, having the space to elaborate, being able to include multiple shots of a manicure... I think that’s important to readers.
How do you maintain such a HIGH standard of quality – do you have time for ANY life outside nails (in the nicest possible way xx )
Not really, haha. Thankfully I live with my boyfriend so I can squeeze in a polite “hello” to him on my way to sleep every night. KIDDING!