Nail Artist Aja Walton on Painting Dynamic Designs
Aja Walton is a New Yorker with southern roots who often travels to the creative unknown of her cosmic imagination. By day she is a data analyst, shamelessly crunching numbers in the media industry and by night finds peace and euphoria exploring her passions for nail art, graphics, and design. As a creative, she does not limit herself to working with just one medium. Aja has explored creating in many different forms including sewing, illustration, animation, graphics, interior, and web design. When she's not creating you can find her dancing along to YouTube choreography, reading self-help books, eating anything made from potatoes, bringing crime podcasts, or showering her black cat Sebastian with much affection. I spoke with Aja as she explained her innate love for all things that fascinate, dazzle and glow.
How did you get your start in the beauty industry?
My love for all things nail related started at a young age. It was my grandmother who first introduced me to the world of nail art as she stunted in those classic, long, squared acrylics with dreamy airbrushed designs. Her nails were always freshly varnished with ever-changing designs. This was always fascinating as I was constantly grabbing her hands just to gain a closer look at the details. My g-ma is not shy of color nor glitter and fittingly owned an admirable nail polish collection. I remember being so pressed to play in this collection over those summer trips to her house. This fabulous woman quickly detected my growing obsession and casually gifted me her collection stating that she “no longer used them”. It was that transfer that immediately sparked my continued practice. By the time I reached high school, I had so many polishes that I’d change my nail color to match my outfit every day. I took my self-taught talents to friends and family per their requests. Once you paint one set of nails to satisfaction and it’s like a walking ad for your talents I didn’t even process how quickly my own small business was forming until it was too late to quit.
Describe your first experience getting a manicure.
The love of pretty nails just runs deep for the women in my family so it's no abnormality that my mom loves a fresh set too. She would always treat my sisters and me to these mini spa days for a number of reasons. I fondly remember that chemical smell of the salon credited to acrylic powders, but most of all, I remember the wait. It seemed like we spent hours at the salon. I filled my time with reading every women’s magazine from the spread. When it was finally my turn, I watched closely as the nail tech painted every stroke and even closer while she used a toothpick to apply dots in the shape of a flower. I would act completely helpless when the job was complete because I didn't want to risk a smudge. The time spent was all worth it knowing that I was leaving with pretty fingers and toes and if I was lucky, a pair of styrofoam slippers.
How do you perfect your craft?
It’s still so weird and aging for me to say out loud that I’ve been painting nails for over 18 years. The cliche expression practice makes perfect is annoyingly true. There aren't any shortcuts to becoming great at something. Once I actually took myself seriously as a nail artist, I committed every day to practice. I started to see my art evolve at a rate that my brain couldn't even keep up with. I still wake up some mornings shocked at what I had painted the night before. Early on, my mom and sisters knew I was good for a classic French manicure. Around 2012, I began experimenting with complex designs after social media introduced me to some incredible Japanese nail artists. I found that playing with polishes to create designs became my personal therapy. I have a stressful proclivity for perfection, especially with my art. It drives my clients and me completely crazy at times. I still have so so much to learn, perfect and explore and I’m thirsty for that knowledge plus varied experiences in the field.
Where do you pull inspiration from?
EVERYWHERE! I can literally be inspired by a crack in the sidewalk. Our earth is such a beautiful masterpiece and so many aspects fascinate and encourage my creativity. Living in New York has truly expanded my scope of awareness and knowledge of extremely cool art in all forms. I’m infatuated with both haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion and the brains that create wearable patterns and silhouettes. I have a secret love affair with 3D illustrators and graphic designers. Contemporary and street art painters are by far my favorite artists to pull inspiration from. It’s always such a fun and creative journey to recreate a range of art concepts onto tiny canvases. I also have to take a moment to gush about my friends and clients. They bring me the most insane nail inspiration. Over half of the designs featured on my Instagram came from my client’s own suggestions. They truly are apart of my inspiration and I’m so blessed to know such fabulous creatives who have similar passions and appreciation for art.
How do you feel when you've completed a new design and see your clients reaction?
Incredible, on top of the world, loved, appreciated, butterflies in the stomach and proud! Even watching my clients fall in love with their base coat tickles me. And then observing how their mood elevates along the journey gives me so much purpose and joy. I love the moments when I can see from my peripheral how girls will admire their hands. The way they place them in different positions while they stare and gush with excitement. That’s a small win for me. They aren’t even shy about admitting so either. I appreciate a “yassssss” midway. It’s like having a personal cheerleader help you get the job done. I could have never predicted that my hobby could bring me so much happiness and success.
You can follow this Girl Boss and her work via Instagram @ajackdannie