Creator Interview: Nakayama Chieko

Creator Interview: Nakayama Chieko

Nakayama Chieko draws cute and detailed anime and manga characters on the smallest of places: nails. She is also the nail artist of the world-renown fashion model and singer, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. We interviewed this artist who merges the two different cultures of fashion and anime by drawing cute “ita-nails.”

Creator Introduction
Name: Nakayama Chieko
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TOM: How did you start doing nail art?
Chieko: I went to a nail art technical school. Originally, I wanted to go to a clothes and accessories school, so I did a test-enrollment… This might often happen when you are young, but my aspiration was too strong, and reality was different from what I had imagined. After that , I lost my way and didn’t know what to do, but since I liked doing nail art that matched my clothes at that time, I decided to try the experience course of a nail art school based on the recommendations of people around me. When I started, I didn’t know a lot about nail art, yet I felt intrigued by it, so I decided to enroll.

TOM: And how did you start painting ita-nails?
Chieko: I liked anime and manga to begin with, especially Slam Dunk, which was serialized in Jump. Lately, I like the web magazine Gangan Online; I read it regularly. There was a time when it suddenly came to me that I wanted to make anime character nails. When I actually tried it, I got a good response from those around me, and after that, I gradually came to receive orders for ita-nails from friends and acquaintances.

TOM: How do you make ita-nails?
Chieko: There are two ways of doing nail art: one is to paint it directly on the nail, and the other is painting on artificial nails. The method is simple, you paint layers of colored gel on top of each other, just like an oil painting. Since you can harden the gel under UV light, it is basically a repetition of painting and drying. There are also artists who use acrylic colors, and there are various types of brushes, too, so you just pick the things that suit you most.

TOM: You have quit the nail salon you worked at, and are working as a freelancer now. Is there any particular piece of work you enjoyed making after going this route?
Chieko: I enjoy it, basically. Regardless of the suggested amount of money, I try not to take works that differ from my orientation and I also try to enjoy it myself.

TOM: It is very important to enjoy your job.
Chieko: I think it’s especially important for people who create things. Your feelings can influence your work. For example, when you’re in a dark mood, you might end up using darker colors… However, if you’re in a good mood, the things you make will be fun, too.

TOM: Do you have any fixations when making ita-nails?
Chieko: When I paint anime characters on nails, I want to make them cute so that they can pass as regular nail art. For that reason, I strive to find the balance between the 10 pictures I paint on the nails. There is also an ita-nail style in which a character’s face is painted on each nail, but I prefer to mix in nails with patterns that match the character, and even when I paint the character, I like to do it in a cutely deformed way. I feel that this way, they look more cute as nails and that maybe the borders, prints, and character logos will make cute fashion additions and be easy to match with everyday clothing.

TOM: What is the secret to learning nail art?
Chieko: Practice, above all!!! Try over and over again and don’t give up by thinking that you can’t do it. Practice will determine how good you become. For instance, I’m not good with computers and I think a lot of effort is required in order to be apt at using them, but people who are good with them probably think that everyone is good with computers. It’s not about being skillful or not or being good at something or not, it’s all about how much you’ve practiced. This goes for everything. You practice a lot and gradually get better at it. I think the most important part is how much you practice.

TOM: Is there anything you would like to challenge in the future?
Chieko: I want to try making cute Japanese candies, for example, bear or pig-shaped manjuu or something that looks like goldfishes swimming in sweet bean jelly. I like creating things other than nail art too, so I’d like to do lots of design jobs.

TOM: Lastly, a message for the fans, please.
Chieko: Since nail art is still a niche industry, there are a lot of people who generally don’t do it or people who are not allowed to because of their work, but I’d be happy if those who are even the slightest bit interested would give it a try! And definitely try ita-nails. ♪

Check out our picture collection of the talented Nakayama Chieko’s work, and don’t forget to SUKI her! Keep it here for even more interviews with some of the most prominent creators in the otaku world!

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This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.
Photos by hisanori suzuki

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