After years of not so secretly admiring her work and supporting her projects, I finally worked up the nerve to contact Chicago artist AstroWifey for this feature. She’s as gifted as she is down-to-earth. Here we discuss everything from that New York Times story to FKA Twigs and what it really means to be an educated person. Plus, she shares what we all should be looking for to avoid infections during a nail appointment.
How did Ashley Crowe become AstroWifey?
I was searching for an empowering name. Online, I found “astronaut’s wife” which is a woman who’s out of touch with reality yet strangely attractive. I love that. It reminds me that there are qualities we may not appreciate in ourselves but others see as beautiful. “Wifey” to me is an independent, nurturing woman. Women are strong. We’re the foundation of a family. I took that and created AstroWifey.
How did you get your start as a nail artist?
I started painting in high school through After School Matters [a CPS after school program]. At that time, I was inspired by street nail artists. All of my friends had block letters, dots, and beads on their nails. I loved airbrushed designs, Japanese nail art – they were doing a lot of adornment and 3D elements back at that time. Without an agenda, I began using acrylic paint on my own nails; just playing around.
From where do you pull inspiration now?
I recently started using Pinterest. I’ll take a photo of something like subway tile and save it to pull from later. I have many ideas but I really want each nail session to be a collaboration between me and the client. When someone walks in and says “do whatever you want” it can be overwhelming.
Oops. That’s exactly what I just said. Okay, here are some of your designs I’ve loved in the past.
No. Please throw it out there. It helps me create something that I know you’ll love. It’s an art experience when you come here. We should work off of each other’s energy.
Who are you listening to?
Someone introduced me to Kali Uchis. She’s fun. I like Tink from Chicago. She’s super talented. I’ve been wanting to do her nails for a while now.
How did you settle on this career path?
Initially, I painted nails to pay my way through college. I’ve always aspired to be a hardworking, educated woman but for me college was not the right path. I was trying to fit into it because I felt I was supposed to fit into it. Finally, I stepped back and reconsidered what I was doing.
Not attending college, continuing one’s own education is still very important, I believe. We should always be aware of what’s going on in the world. Nail artistry is a trade and you need to continue learning in order to do your best within the trade. As an artist, I’m always going to classes, attending beauty shows, and reading information on new products and industry standards. Speaking of which, there was a New York Times article recently…
…Regarding the mistreatment of employees in nail salons. (That article, “The Price of Nice Nails”, can be found here.)
Exactly, and questioning the sanitation and health standards in nail salons. Regulations and standards are very loose right now and even those aren’t monitored properly. Articles like that one are necessary. I’ve always questioned how nail techs can survive off of an $8 manicure. Part of that goes to the owner, then taxes, and then some customers don’t tip. It’s completely irresponsible for us not to say something.
Worldwide, I see cleanliness as the biggest issue.
What should we be looking for when entering a nail salon?
Before getting a pedicure, to avoid staph infections and other problems that can be very dangerous to your immune system and overall health, look for disposable liners. If they’re not using disposable liners, they must sanitize their pedicure bowl for at least 15 minutes with Barbicide. You need to see them spray it down and allow the bowl to sit for 15 minutes. They can’t just “clean” the bowl and put another customer’s feet in it right away. Jets need to be removed and cleaned separately. Files should be disposable. Foot files should never have razors, which is actually illegal.
If the prices are really cheap, chances are you’re not in the cleanest salon.
On another note, there aren’t very many well-known nail artists in Chicago.
Not a ton of us. Spifster is a nail artist here in Chicago and one of my friends. I love the girls at Naughty Nailz. They do a lot of old school block lettering and styles that I grew up loving and appreciating. I have a lot of respect for them.
Tell us about Tipsy Magazine.
Tipsy Magazine is a publication I began a couple of years ago. We did a story on Naughty Nailz in the last issue because we love their style. They’re the OG’s of nail art. Regarding the magazine, it is now published annually.
Where can we find Tipsy Magazine?
Tipsyzine.com. We ship all around the world.
If you could paint anyone’s nails, whose would you choose?
I love that FKA Twigs is totally in control of how she’s viewed as an artist. You can tell she has a ton of input in her style, her music, and her videos. I really respect that and find that individualistic aesthetic lacking from the modern music industry. I’d love to paint her nails.
I appreciate working with every day people like me too. I have a special job where I get the opportunity to meet and spend quality time with people. There are some who cry with me and others who laugh with me. If I wasn’t doing this, I would have never met them.
Featured photo by Stephanie Anderson, Groupon