Among devotees of nail art—manicures that, at their most intricate, can take hours to complete—Ashley Crowe is a phenom. In the four years since this Jefferson Park native stumbled across a Brit’s Tumblr blog about the burgeoning art form, she has taught herself how to paint custom designs on tiny curved canvases and has amassed a rabid following that includes corporate marketing departments (Shamrock Shake nails? Yep) and at least one major pop celebrity. By late June, Crowe had 20,000 followers on Instagram (@Astrowifey), 6,000 fans of her blog (at, and nearly 300 regular clients. 

Soon after graduating from Taft High School, Crowe dabbled, practicing simple designs in her free time while working as a patient advocate for a health care company. On weekends, she would go on self-promotional expeditions to shopping malls and local events to drum up business. “My first clients were just people who would ask me where I got my nails done,” she says.  

Crowe applies a mix of gel polish and acrylic paint with fine-haired brushes to create detailed patterns that fill the entire nail, from cuticle to tip. The designs go far beyond eye-popping graphics: Her most challenging jobs have included spot-on miniature Basquiat paintings and scenes from Will Ferrell’s holiday blockbuster Elf. The most outlandish request Crowe has fulfilled? A rendering of a sonogram. “That was pretty out there,” she laughs. 

“I want to create a platform where I can spread the news and culture about nail art,” Crowe says of her blog and her biannual zine, Tipsy. “And I really want to take a nail art tour of the world. I’ve got to get to Japan.” —Elly Fishman