Saturday, June 23

Breanne Trammell's "Nails In The Key of Life"

Breanne Trammell is a multi-media artist currently living in Wassaic, NY. I've been a fan of her work for awhile after falling in love with her hilarious, but sort of heartbreaking, "Things People Have Said To Me" giant bookmarks. Recently Trammell unveiled her project "Nails In The Key of Life," which includes a 2013 road trip across America giving people manicures in a canned-ham trailer. Clients can choose from colors like "cheeto orange" and "Yves Klein Blue" (both colors found frequently in her work) and designs like "donut sprinkles" and "number 2 pencils." Suddenly, all those Instagram pictures Trammell had been taking at "nail school" made sense! Here, I talk to Breanne about the project and her time at nail school. Click "read more" below for the interview!

Don't forget to pledge to Nails In The Key of Life at Kickstarter!

So what inspired you to start "Nails In The Key Of Life"? When did you first get the idea?

Well, I was visiting a friend in Seattle back in October and we went to get our nails done at a discount salon. I was trying to have a conversation with the person giving me the manicure and it just didn't really go anywhere beyond the "hello" or "how are you." So, I struck up a conversation about the different still-life photographs in the salon that I had been interested in and wondering where they came from, because the photography is always super weird, like funny arrangements of nails and fingers and nail polish bottles. So I asked the woman where they came from and she said the "nail art supply shop," and I thought that was so funny. Then I thought that would be a really neat project, to create my own nail art still-life and then I thought, what if I did nails? I thought that would be a really interesting way to meet people, and [manicures] are such an intimate experience and it feels really strange when you can't really talk to the person. So I thought, I can do that!

Tell me about starting nail school.

I was on the fence about it for a really long time, or at least for a few months. Just because I didn't know if I could afford it and I already have plenty of student loans from grad school. But I thought this was such a neat idea and a really unique opportunity to meet people and perform this service and connect to them in a different way beyond what a normal manicure would be.

The program that I went to was specifically for nails. So I looked into different cosmetology schools and the ones that I found were like, aesthetics, skincare, and hair, and nails. So the one that I found in Fishkill, which is near Wassaic, offered just nails, which was amazing. I wanted to go to school so that I could be properly trained. I knew I could do the project without being trained but I just wanted to be as informed as possible. I learned more than just manicures, we learned everything.

Yeah, you were doing a lot of tests.

Yeah even super antiquated techniques like silk wraps and fiber wraps, but we had to learn those just because they'll be on the state board exams.
How was working with clients? Were they like walk-ins or people to practice on…?

The last six weeks of nail school was our clinic and that was basically walk-ins but also people made appointments. We did everything from manicures and pedicures to acrylics and gel fills. We did a lot of nails for prom, that was fun. It was really good practice because I'll be meeting people that I don't know on the road trip. there was this one lady who would come in regularly and she had some CRAZY nails. She was a total character. She was a high school music teacher and an opera singer so she would come in wearing crazy outfits and sing and she had this weave in her hair that my teacher would fix for her. Her nails were so gnarly at one point. In my "Nails Across America/Felicity" video, the photo where I'm wearing a mask, that's me drilling her nails! (laughs) She was our first client in the clinic and I remember thinking, "Wow if I can handle this I can handle anything."

Were people ever like, "WTF? Nails?" when you told them about your project?

People that I was talking to about the project were very supportive, especially my artist friends. I don't remember anyone who was kind of naysaying it in any way. For the most part it's been 100% support, which is really nice.

Well you're really good at nails, too.

That is one thing that really helped me in the clinic. I've always had shaky hands, like I'm not that steady with a paint brush, but I think I am worlds better now. I feel much more confident and that all has to do with this whole program. One thing about all the different designs that I've come up with, some of them are extracted from previous works that I've made. Like all the cheeto work and I made these candy cigarettes last year and one of them was a donut sprinkle cigarette. I have to say, I have seen a lot of the same designs that I've thought of on nail blogs, so I don't know how original they actually are. But the project is more about the experience than the nail art.

A lot of your art recently have been very community or participatory based (for example, the cake walk) and "Nails In The Key of Life" definitely falls in that category. What is it about art projects that involve volunteer participation that attract you?

Well I think it's about creating an opportunity for a shared experience. When you go to a gallery or when you're an artist making work in a studio you're often by yourself, and you're removed from your audience. Inviting people to share this experience can be a really special thing. It is kind of a new way of working for me. With the cake walk and the kite making workshop, I just really liked bringing people into the learning experience. I'm trying to figure out a way to do the manicures in the trailer with bartering or on a sliding scale, that way I can reach a broad audience, not just folks who know what manicures are or who have had manicures. I really like the idea of reaching an unorthodox audience. Like, mechanics. (laughs) I want to trade an oil change for a manicure.

Tell me a little about the zine you created, "THANKS FOR THE TIP: A Guide To Professional Pedicures"
My friend Jeff Barnette Winsby, who is a photographer and an artist, came with me to nail school. He photographed the whole process of me performing a pedicure on him in the clinic so I'm taking those photos and designing an instructional zine. So everything from filing to buffing, exfoliating scrub, basically everything you need to know to perform a professional pedicure on yourself or a friend. I actually haven't designed it yet, but that's going to happen relatively soon.

Have you found a canned-ham trailer yet? What are your plans for fixing it up?

I haven't and it's something I'm wondering if I need to clarify a little bit, because there's a trailer in the Kickstarter video. It was a trailer I was thinking about buying but it was too structurally damaged. So I'm still looking for a trailer and I found one in Montgomery, New York but I'm not in town right now so I haven't been able to go look at it. I'd like to find a 10 ft canned-ham trailer. I don't really intend to do a lot of renovations to the inside. I want to keep it as true to the original as possible because I really love that era of aesthetics for trailers, that sort of 50's and 60's beauty-salon type aesthetic. Hopefully I'll find something affordable.

So you print, letterpress, crochet, and now you do nails. Are there any other artistic skills you have yet to tackle? 

Yes! I would love to learn how to weave. I would love how to do macrame and basket-weaving would be cool too. Like, fiber arts. I don't really know much about that beyond knitting and crochet and screen-printing on fabric. So all of those skills are on my barter wish-list! Like, give me an hour lesson on making plant holders out of rope and I will give you a manicure. I'd like to take another ceramics class, it's been a while.

Have you ever painted your corgi's nails?

No but you are actually not the first person to ask. My corgi, he's a boy dog and his name is Tiny Tim Riggins. I'm sure I could paint his nails but I've never thought of it. Maybe it's because he isn't a girl dog. I will definitely think about it.


Nail Tech in Ohio said...

The nail designs in the pic are tooooooooo cute. I'm so glad she decided to take the plunge and go to nail school to do it professionally. It would be such a shame to let this kind of nail art go to waste. Kudos! (And she should add cake decorating to the list of artistic skills to add to her repertoire - wouldn't she be just amazing?)

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Thanks for the review. It will be very useful for those who don’t want to manually configure things.

nina charlie st-rose said...

such an interesting article! those nail designs are so wicked!

EvieT23 said...

Love the designs, wish i could think of such creative ideas! Please check out

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AVY said...

Cute :)


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