Tag Archives: nails

Show Of Hands

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you love trips to the museum and trips to the manicurist, Imagine Uhlenbrock is your one-stop shop for a day of art, style, and self-care all rolled into one stunning experience.

Uhlenbrock is the “nail genie” and artist behind Just Imagine Nails. Keratin is her canvas and her work is constantly showing on the hands of happy clients throughout Omaha.

“I started doing my own nails when I was about 4, because I was an only child and it was something I could do for myself,” Uhlenbrock says.

Her interest in nail art grew through middle school and high school, culminating in her first steady nail job at a downtown Omaha salon. It was meant to be her college job, but Uhlenbrock loved the craft so much she launched her own business doing natural, ethical nails at age 19.

For those skeptical that a manicurist can be a “real” artist, one look at Uhlenbrock’s vibrant Instagram portfolio provides ample evidence of her artistry and talent. Intricate, hand-painted designs, patterns, and messages mingle with hand-placed bling. Colors and textures pop, and unique, creative themes inspire the urge to scroll right on down the rabbit hole because no two sets are alike and your eyeballs will want to collect them all.

 

 “It’s just like commissioning any other piece of art,” Uhlenbrock says. “I always have ideas, so I have clients who just come in and let me do whatever I want every two weeks, or sometimes they come in with a theme or idea in mind. Most of the time it’s a collaborative process and we customize it based on the vision and what they’re feeling like that week.”

This process has resulted in galaxy nails, Vegas- and beach-themed vacation nails, desert sunset nails, snowflake and Christmas nails, Fourth of July “red, white, and bling” nails, Ouija board nails, Netflix and chill nails, ice cream and French fry nails, nails that are geometric, plaid, rainbow, floral, color-blocked, gradient, holographic or chrome, and nails that mimic abstract paintings, among others.

“I take inspiration from everywhere. The print of your dress, the pattern of that chair, the texture of this pillow, someone’s artwork,” Uhlenbrock says.

Then there are the pop culture nails. She’s done sets that honor artists including Eartha Kitt, Prince, Beyoncé, and Frida Kahlo, that appreciate cultural icons ranging from Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson to Grumpy Cat, that recognize the Broadway Hamilton phenomenon, that reference literature from Harry Potter to local author Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, and that celebrate TV shows from The Golden Girls to The Powerpuff Girls. Her popular annual Halloween special has taken inspiration from The Addams Family, Stranger Things, The X-Files, and Hocus Pocus sets, as well as one of her personal all-time favorites: Michael Jackson “Thriller” nails.

“You can see from my themes that I like weird,” Uhlenbrock says. “I’ll put anything on a nail as long as it’s not problematic.”

Uhlenbrock’s political work is also incredibly compelling. She’s done anti-pipeline nails, Black Lives Matter nails, and nails that read “Go Vote,” among others.

“One of the roles of an artist is to get people to think or to spread certain messages. Nail art is no different than any other art form in that way,” Uhlenbrock says. “That’s how art and social justice can intersect by creating visuals, sounds, or whatever the medium to raise awareness, to educate, or to relieve pain and pressure for the oppressed. So, a lot of what I do is people’s regular self-care.”

In December 2016, Uhlenbrock opened her Hand of Gold Beauty Room space in the Fair Deal Village Marketplace, near 24th and Lake streets. She currently shares the space with two subcontractors, Qween Samone and Ria Gold, who help support the service menu of natural nails, makeup, and braiding. Uhlenbrock enjoys working in the thriving area among neighboring small business owners and she’s committed to using her space to support her peers.

“We support small businesses here,” Uhlenbrock says. “Economic disenfranchisement has been a huge tool of oppression against people of color. So, it’s really important to me as I grow and have my own economic development to reach out and empower others through that as well.”

Uhlenbrock stocks body care products from Lincoln-based Miss Kitty and Her Cats, pieces from Omaha’s Amaral Jewelry, and gets all of her regular polishes from Ginger + Liz, a black woman-owned, vegan-friendly, toxin-free nail lacquer company. She also sells jewelry from her other business, The Bigger the Hoops.

Besides providing an important platform for a network of artists and makers, the petite Hand of Gold Beauty Room just feels like a place you want to be. A plush, amber-colored couch beckons from the pedicure platform that Uhlenbrock and her mother hand-built. The walls are decked with striking work by Lincoln artist Brittany Burton, featuring black-and-white depictions of “thick” women with sparse flashes of green and yellow. Soul music fills the air and large windows let ample natural light stream in.

“Everyone should probably go to a therapist, but not everyone does—some people get their nails done instead,” Uhlenbrock says. “They can come here, have a good conversation, and leave feeling like a million bucks with something good to look at for a couple weeks. It’s a lot easier to feel like you have your shit together when your nails are on point.”

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Tat’z Nail’z

December 26, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Shannon Leather props a perfectly manicured fingernail inside a slim, silver-polished machine. Her nail gleams white under the purple tint of an ultraviolet light, and after a few seconds, the machine emits a quick flash of light.

Done.

Leather pulls out her hand and examines her nails. The white polish has been replaced by a pattern of fall-colored stripes and floating feathers: an intricate, miniature work of art that took all of about 10 seconds to complete.

“I don’t have two hours to sit here,” says Leather, a mother of two and president of Omaha-based Tat’z Nail’z. “So if there’s a day where I just don’t have time for anything I know (my nails) will always look nice.”

Leather’s company manufactures and distributes Tat’z Nail’z, a high-tech nail printer that prints photo-quality images directly onto nails. Invented in China, Tat’z allows users to scroll through 3,000 images (in 10 different colors) on a touch screen display, or upload their own images on a USB or using the machine’s HD camera. The image is printed in perfect detail onto the nail in a few seconds. It’s the simplest, and least painful, form of body art you’re likely to find.

“It’s like having a tattoo but I can change it every two weeks,’” says Buddy Sims, director of creative design at Tat’z Nail’z and a nail technician at Bella Dea Day Spa, one of three Omaha sites where Tat’z is installed. “It’s really just another form of expression,” he says. “[It] allows the client the opportunity to show who they are.”

For Shannon Leather, that means pretty and feminine with a bit of bling: Her fall-colored prints cover two nails; the rest are painted, by Sims, in gold glitter. “For me, this is like an accessory,” she says. “It’s not something permanent but it makes a statement.”

Pam Rowland, the owner of Bella Dea, says when she first began working in the industry 20 years ago, the most complicated form of body art at the salon was the tanning spray gun. Now nail techs like Sims—who was voted one of the top three nail artists by Nails Magazine—can transform simple polish into elaborate, 3D sculptures. It was abstract art, Rowland says, direct from the runway. “As fashion kind of got all-out, they wanted something to match.” Now Tat’z combines technology with those trends, Rowland says, and makes it more personal. Inspired by a bride who printed her father’s image on her nails for her wedding day, Rowland printed her late mother’s image on her nails for her son’s wedding this year. “That’s amazing,” she says, “and very special.”

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Judi Wendt

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lady Gaga’s elaborately decorated fingernails get their own close-up barely 20 seconds into her 2011 “Yoü and I” music video. Her adorned hands are a focal point in wider shots throughout the six-plus-minute video featuring the artist as multiple characters, including a mermaid, cyborg, nymph and bride; in one cutaway, she even spits out a nail. All 10 Lady fingers were the handiwork of nail technician Judi Wendt of Rêvé Salon & Spa in Rockbrook Village, who says this video shoot was simultaneously the most challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating project in her 20-year career.

“They [called and] said, ‘You’re going to do a shoot with Lady Gaga’ and I about wrecked my car!” Wendt said.

Because the song was inspired by the singer’s relationship with Nebraskan Lüc Carl, the video was filmed near Springfield in July of 2011. Lady Gaga called in Marian Newman, described by Wendt as “the Rachel Zoe of the nail world” who then sought a local specialist to assist her, on one condition: she must have experience in a new nail technique called Minx. Wendt not only was one of the rare nail technicians in the area with Minx expertise at the time, she had actually been in the first training class ever offered by the Minx creators. Already a fan of Lady Gaga, Wendt didn’t hesitate to accept the project, even though it meant rescheduling 43 appointments.

“It was very hush-hush…I told my clients ‘It’s really cool, and you’re going to be very excited when I can tell you what it is,’” she recalls.

“They [called and] said, ‘You’re going to do a shoot with Lady Gaga’ and I about wrecked my car!”

The action on location was fast and furious with Wendt logging 42 hours in just three days, and the nail designs were developed right on set.

“I had nails in my pockets at all times, and I wore a tool belt that had been designed by Marian for things like this. You run in and out, and you’re on the floor, searching in the hay; it’s crazy,” Wendt says. “She brought cases and cases of rivets and nails and all these metal pieces, and thousands of polishes, tips and Gelites, and all this stuff.”

Although she admits to having a few “My God, that’s Lady Gaga!” moments, Wendt says working with the superstar was overwhelmingly positive.

“She was ultra-gracious and super-professional. Intense, but not in a bitchy way, just very drawn into what she was doing,” she says.

19 November 2012- Judi Wendt is photographed at her home for Omaha Magazine.

The Marian Newman connection led Wendt to a New York Fashion Week gig this fall, styling nails for six shows by various designers. Although she may return to future Fashion Weeks and has discussed European opportunities with Newman, Wendt says her husband and two sons, ages 10 and 14, and the family’s involvement with their activities will keep her anchored to Nebraska for now.

Surprisingly, Wendt’s career stemmed from a part-time job she stumbled into during her college years.

“This all developed along the way. I don’t think I ever realized that I had an artistic niche…I never wanted to do hair or nails. I have a business degree from UNO,” she says, adding that both her education and a bit of luck helped her become successful in the increasingly competitive nail industry. Wendt says she enjoys her loyal clientele, including several families now in the second and even third generations, and the creative outlet that doing nails, “an extension of fashion,” provides.

“One of the reasons I love this business,” she says, “is that it’s never the same.”