Today we get to chat to one of my very favourite indie makers, Amy from Literary Lacquers. Not only do I love her polishes, I love that they are all inspired by books (one of my other passions in life).
Amy's brand has been running now for little over a year. You can check our her Etsy shop HERE and her Facebook page here. You'll find LOTS of swatches of her polishes on this blog too.
For those of you who may be wondering, yes, Amy is the polish maker who seems to know whether I am going to like the polishes she sends me or not. She mixes up the large and small bottles, and very rarely gets it wrong (large on purple, small on green lol). I also find what she has to say about making holos fascinating. It reminds me very much of the Joni Mitchell quote about it being the words you take OUT of a song, that make it better.
What’s your earliest polish memory
My earliest polish memory was the pink nail polish that came with my Tinkerbell “cosmetics” set when I was 4 or 5. I remember being disappointed that the “lipstick” that came in the set looked red but was entirely sheer on the lip, but the nail polish was real and pink. It was satisfying, but my first really exciting polish memory was a few years later. We were visiting my Aunt and cousins. I was the youngest in the group by about 8 years. I spent the day hanging out in my cousin’s room, she seemed impossibly sophisticated to me, at 15, with her room full of Rolling Stones posters and a big collection of rock and roll albums (Ah, the late 70s…). She was, I’m sure, bored. Stuck hanging out with a 7 year old. She pulled out a shoebox full of Wet and Wild nail polish and told me to pick one and she’d paint my nails. I picked a glittery navy blue polish, I had no idea that nail polish even came in blue and sparkly. The next time I was near a Woolworth’s store, I talked my mother into letting me buy some Wet and Wild nail polish. I remember the same blue one with tiny glitter and a silver glitter topcoat.
What was the polish that started it all for you
Deborah Lippmann Across the Universe. Once I was old enough to wear makeup, I pretty much forgot all about nail polish except for a brief flirtation with acrylic nails in my 20s. It wasn’t until several years ago that my interest was reawakened by swatches of DL Across the Universe on Temptalia.com. Funny, that, another navy blue glittery polish. I didn’t realize that until just now.
When did it go from enjoyment to full on polishaholic-ness / obsession
I think when I branched out from reading cosmetics blogs to polish blogs. I soon discovered Scrangie and our favorite, Ms. Crumpet, among others. Also, I realized that I already owned what seemed like All the Makeup, so I had to branch out to polish to have something else to collect!
How many polishes do you own
I have no idea. I think if I counted that I would be appalled. I have 2 wall racks, a full Helmer and a half-full Helmer and the worst thing is that I almost never wear any of it anymore. I’m always testing something of my own or wearing it to show it off!
If there was a fire and you could save only one polish, what would it be
I have no idea. I sold most of the HTF polish that I collected when I was raising money to start Literary Lacquers, so I can’t think of anything in my stash that I couldn’t replace. I would probably grab the DL Across the Universe because it’s the one that started it for me.
the one that does it for me - If It Pleases You
Which is your favourite brand and why
There are so many great brands now! In terms of a major commercial brand, I would pick Zoya. I love their bottle shape, their brush, the way they release collections, their commitment to the environment, and that they finally came out with an Amy this summer.
Which brand do you own the most of
It’s probably a toss-up between Zoya and OPI
As a polish wearer, what’s the best tip you’ve picked up along the way
Custom Nail Solutions! They’re these amazing false nails that are custom made for your nail beds. The company sends you an impression kit and you take impressions of your nail beds with this putty stuff and you send it to them and they make you a perfect set of acetone proof, practically indestructible nails that you can use over and over again. I have the fashion length squovals in solid pink and I will eventually get another set in the oval shape and maybe a softened stiletto set too. Jada, the woman who actually shapes the nails, is terrific and will work with you to get exactly the shape and length that you want so you’re not limited to the choices on the website. I love always having perfect fingernails and never having to worry about a break.
Do you also have a day job
Yes, I’m the office manager at a law firm. It’s not the most exciting job, but I love my coworkers and the paychecks and benefits are really great. I also do freelance editing and transcription AND I’m working toward an accounting degree in my spare (cough cough) time.
What prompted you to start making polishes
Soap. Funny, that, but it’s true. Back in the mid-90s, when the Internet was in its toddler phase, I learned to make homemade soap with a bunch of lovely ladies on an AOL message board. Many of those women started businesses that grew into huge soap companies or cosmetic ingredient supply companies. I didn’t have the confidence to start a business at the time, but I remember the excitement and the feeling of this growing market for a handcrafted good appearing at the time. I enjoyed making soap, both melt-and-pour and cold process, but each batch makes quite a bit of soap and it’s the kind of thing that you can only give to friends as gifts so many times before they think that you’re trying to subtly tell them something… Soapmaking faded as a hobby for me, but I learned a lot of lessons about working with colorants and micas. I started my first business a few years later, working with mosaics and stained glass. I learned a lot about how to use light evocatively and about translucency, transparency and opacity. When the indie nail polish movement started, I was immediately reminded of that feeling from my early soap days and set out to learn what I could about polish making applying everything I’ve learned about color, light and pigment along the way. I found that many of my experiences translated really well to polish.
How difficult is it to get started – what’s involved
There’s not a ton of information out there about it. I researched where I could and bought my first bottle of base and some micas, pigments and glitters and started to play. A lot of it was trial and error at first; I kept detailed records of every experiment I tried until I learned what worked for me. Finding suppliers, testing glitters, pigments and dyes are all important. In my first experiment in making a cosmetic dye mix for nail polish, I stained my nail beds so badly that I couldn’t even tell that I had taken the polish off! I think there’s more information now and more people willing to share information.
Crumpet loves a teal! Bionic Mmmm-Detector
How long did it take from the idea to the first saleable polish
About 1 year. It might have been quicker, but I ran into the Great Polish Base Dearth of 2012 and couldn’t get enough base to start selling polishes by the time I was ready.
How did you decide your brand name
I love polishes with clever names that have meaning. I wanted a strong theme that wouldn’t limit my creativity. I’ve been an avid reader since before I can remember. My mother says I started to read when I was 2 and I could read chapter books before I entered kindergarten. I love how I can completely disappear into the world of a good book and be swept away to a different place and time. When it came time to choose a focus for my brand, it seemed that books would be perfect for me, allowing me to combine two of my passions. I ended up choosing the words Literary Lacquers because of the way it sounds. It’s like a little poem.
What was your vision for your brand
I’m just in love with words. I wanted to use polish as a medium to evoke the feelings and colors that I got from reading the passages that I use as inspiration. I intensely dislike the restock madness, so I determined that I would make my polish on an as-needed basis to keep my shop fully stocked as much of the time as possible. I want to celebrate literature and beauty and encourage people to read a good book.
How do you decide where to sell eg Etsy v an e-tailer
Etsy is just so easy to use. It’s foolproof. You don’t have to know anything about the internet to be able to use it and I didn’t have to spend any mental energy on it. The fees add up, but it’s worth it to me. Etsy also has a certain amount of built in clientele and people browsing the site looking for cool handmade stuff to buy. A few times, polishes of mine have made it into the Trending Items listings on the Etsy main page and the sales on those days have been amazing.
What was the first polish you made and did it ever make it to sale
I made some frankens from existing polishes while I was still shopping for ingredients to make a more handmade product. My two favorites were a red jelly with gold glitter, which eventually made it to sale as Zipless and a charcoal holo with silver holo glitter that’s now become Laters, Baby.
What’s the proportion of prototypes to saleables – how many make it through the process
Each polish usually has two or three rough drafts before I have a finished product that satisfies me. Some ideas just don’t work or get culled because I have more ideas than I can use, but I learn something from each one. Some polishes get shelved and then reworked into a different collection.
What defines whether a polish makes it through the process – why do some of them “not work”
I think my process is a little different than most. First, I choose the book or books and read and take notes of the passages that seem to be evocative of colors to me. Then I dream up the polishes in my head and name them. Only then do I start working with the actual polish. Sometimes I nail exactly what I was looking for the first time. If It Pleases You was one of those polishes. It was just as I wanted it from the first test bottle. Sometimes it takes a few tries before I get the end result on the fingernail that I had in my head. Usually when something doesn’t work it’s because the base is too opaque and it’s overpowering the glitters or shimmers. My biggest polish pet peeve is effects that show up in the bottle but are lost on the nail. I err towards sheerness in my polish because light needs to be able to get through the base color in order to really see shimmer, color shifts, duochromes and holographic effects. Often in my first draft polish, I’ll throw in everything in the right color family that looks interesting to me and then take things out in future drafts, kind of like that old Coco Chanel tip to look in the mirror before you go out and take off one piece of jewelry. Another reason that something might not work is creating an inadvertent dupe. A good example of that is the polish that ended up as Bionic Mmmm-Detector; the first draft of that polish had silver holographic, pink and blue microglitter. It ended up as a dead-ringer for Butter London Black Knight even though the glitters were different. Somehow on the fingernail, it just looked the same. I took out the holo glitter and the pink and just focused on one part of the color wheel (blue to green) and it became its own polish.
Which polish is your favourite child
What Fools These Mortals Be from the Midsummer Night’s Dream collection. It’s my favorite polish name ever and it’s just so sparkly and interesting. I almost always wear it as a pedicure over a black base.
How do you decide on polish names
The names come from the books; the polishes are almost always named before I even start mixing. I want my names to be exciting and interesting, to have a little poetry to them to pique the imagination, to be evocative of its book or passage and to always be positive or uplifting.
How do you decide on themes for your collections
I use literature that I love. Sometimes one book will inspire a whole collection; sometimes I have a theme and then find books that go with it. The Green Gables collection is inspired by the book Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The latest collection is Literary Liquors and represents literary cocktails from 6 – 8 different books or authors.
How did you “get your name out there”
Bloggers have been an amazing help, giveaways also increase visibility. But there’s no substitute for making a consistent, high-quality product and providing excellent customer service to build a loyal clientele. I have as much fun as I can when I’m making polish and truly love what I do. I feel that people can feel the positivity, joy and love in the finished product. I send out every bottle with blessings, generosity and goodwill and that has come back to me many times over.
Can you pinpoint moments where your brand has grown, and what triggered them
The first big burst of growth happened when I had a big sale and concurrent giveaway for Cyber Monday last year. I had released my first holo in that collection and it really got a lot of attention. The next moment was when Ms. Debbie Crumpet <waves> named that holo, Greatest Treasures, her polish of the month for January. Suddenly EVERYONE wanted it and I had a new appreciation for and focus on holos.
What’s your most popular polish and why do you think that is
It’s probably split pretty evenly between my four holos, Greatest Treasures, If It Pleases You, Laters, Baby and More Like Fire Than Light. I think it’s because they’re great polishes! I understand the nature of the holo pigment and how it works on the nail. The holo pigment won’t really do much of anything if the light can’t get through to it and bounce off it. The secret ingredient in any polish is light. The questions to ask are how does the light enter the polish and how does it leave.
Do you get tingles when you see other people post swatches of your polish?
Absolutely!! It’s very exciting!
How did you decide which bloggers to work with – how important is it to pick the “right” blogger, or has it been about getting the most exposure / using many bloggers to spread the word
I operate strictly on instinct and my gut feeling when it comes to working with bloggers. If it feels good to me to send them polish, I will.
How do you feel when you see people do nail art with your polish – does it give it a new life or ruin the aesthetics?
I love it! I think that nail art takes the polish to the next level and I love knowing that one of my babies has inspired someone creatively.
Where do you see your brand a year from now
I see it growing and expanding!
Whose nails do you wish you had
I love Sheila’s nails from Pointless Café, but I went out and bought the nails that I wanted with my Custom Nail Solutions!
Whose blog do you wish you had
Temptalia? Ha ha ha. No, no one’s really. I don’t have it in me to be a blogger… It’s HARD work!!! All those swatches and photos and lighting and watermarks…. Phew…
Which blogger inspires you
I swear I’m not butt-kissing, but my favorite nail blog is The Crumpet. Debbie, you have such a nice balance of reviews, nail art and a lot of community building. You treat other bloggers as friends instead of competition and that shines through in the space that you’ve created online.
Which polish brand do you wish you owned – indie
I don’t wish I own any but my own! I’m doing things exactly the way that I want them and I wouldn’t change a thing.
If you were the CEO of one of the major brands, what changes would you make
I would place a higher value on innovation, uniqueness and quality of ingredients.
What are you proudest of that you’ve achieved as a blogger / polish maker / e-tailer
I’m proud of my reputation and my values.
Is there room for so many polish makers
Yes. I think there’s always room for innovative people willing to work hard. The industry has seen its share of copycats and dilettantes, but what industry hasn’t?
Where do you create – describe your workspace
My workspace is in my garage. I have a bookshelf full of glitters and pigments and rows and rows of numbered tester bottles of glitters in base. There’s a certain amount of disorder and frantic creation energy that lingers. I open the garage door while I work and always wear my respirator. The neighbors have all stopped by to make sure I’m not making meth in there… ha ha ha!
How do you stay original – how many polishes do you test and then find someone else is doing something similar
Honestly, I don’t have very much time any more to pay attention to what other people are doing. I trust my creative process to lead me in the right direction. If I do create an inadvertent dupe, I go back to the drawing board and try to identify what makes it similar and play that down and what makes it different and bring that out.
If you could only be remembered for one polish you’ve made, which would it be
Probably If It Pleases You. It’s just so deep and mysterious and passionate.
If you could steal any other indie maker’s polish and claim it as your own, what would it be?
KB Shimmer’s Oh Splat! Such a cool polish….
Same question, but for a non-indie brand
Deborah Lippmann Happy Birthday, it kind of started the whole multicolored chunky glitterbomb wonderfulness.
You’ve chosen to go a very specific route with your brand – books – why did you choose this, and how does it help / hinder / make a different
I chose literature because it’s another one of my passions and I wanted a strong theme for my polishes. I think it helps immeasurably. It gives me something on which to focus my creative energies, it’s celebrating an artform and it has the potential to make my customers want to read books and expand their worldviews. Nothing makes me happier than when a customer tells me that they’ve bought and read a book that inspired one of my polishes. I think my creative process is different from most because the evocative passage in the writing always inspires the polish instead of making a polish and then deciding what its name should be. The words and my interpretation of them give birth to the polish.
Tell us about how you always know if I’ll want a mini or a full bottle lol
Psychic intuitive gifts. Dead serious.
Before Literary Lacquers took over my life I did readings for people and vibrational healing work. I just don’t have much energy for it anymore, but I still do readings for people who come to me for fun. I’m a Reiki master, an Integrated Energy Therapy master instructor, a certified Angel Healing Practitioner, a certified massage therapist, and a Crystal Resonance Therapist (though I never did turn in my final written work to finish that last certification, a technicality.) I never believed in any of these phenomenons until I started having experiences that I couldn’t explain any other way. I’ve literally experienced miracles, met angels, and had wild unexplainable initiatory experiences. Every single thing in my entire life except my first name changed during this process.
Please assure me you’ll always make at least 1 holo-oh in every collection
As long as people keep buying them, I will keep making them! I love holos and I feel like I’ve cracked the code of making good ones. Now it’s just a matter of innovation and coming up with ways to take the holo polish to the next level.
Thank you Amy! Can you tell we love each VERY much haha. xx