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 astrowifeynails.com), 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