Welcome to Indie Insight, the weekly series where I interview an awesome indie nail polish maker! This week we are chatting with Amy of Literary Lacquers. Amy has been around for quite awhile and has built a solid customer base because of her gorgeous polishes (the holos are to die for!), wonderful customer service and dedication to keeping things in stock and not requiring anyone to go through restock madness. I was also lucky enough to get to work with her last year to create a color in her Community collection. Let’s get started!
How did you get into nail polish in the first place?
I have been a makeup fiend for most of my life, I didn’t get into nail polish until a few years ago when I saw Deborah Lippmann Across the Universe on a makeup blog. That jelly glitter polish started a revolution in my mind and I quickly became obsessed.
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
I had gone quickly from buying polish to frankening polish and just wanted to take it to the next level. I’ve always been good at making things and had had a business in the past making stained glass and mosaics, but it was hard to charge enough to actually make money for those projects considering the time and supply cost involved. I had it in the back of my mind that I would find that perfect thing to make that wouldn’t take hours and hours for each item and the supply cost would be low enough to actually make a profit. I knew when the first indie brands started to crop up that I had found the right product. I started working on my prototypes in the winter of 2012 and then ran up against the “Great Polish Base Dearth” and had to wait for months and months to get a reliable supply of base. I launched my brand in September of 2012 and things started to take off!
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
I knew that I wanted a strong theme for my brand. I like when a nail polish has a meaning other than just its pretty color. My very favorite thing to do is read, I am such a huge book geek, so I decided to theme my polishes around books and poems. I chose Literary Lacquers as the name because it sounds like a little poem on its own, it’s actually iambic trimeter…
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
I love them all, but I am always most infatuated with the newest collection, so right now it’s Magic & Mysteries. I ended up delving deep into all types of fantasy literature and just had so much fun putting it together.
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
Again, I love them all for different reasons. My favorite of my best-selling polishes is Mysterious Irrevocable Sacred, a blue-purple linear holographic polish inspired by Wild by Cheryl Strayed. My favorite underrated polish is one of my very few glitter toppers, What Fools These Mortals Be from my very first collection in fall of 2012, It’s a topper of various sizes and color of glitter, pink and lavender holo microglitter, medium magenta hexes, shiny irregular black squares and lime green hexes and large turquoise holo hexes. It sounds a little crazy but it’s really a pretty unexpected glitter topper. I love it as a pedicure over black!
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
I draw my inspiration from the books mostly, but I often go searching for a book or a poem to match an idea that I have. I have an interesting way of perceiving the world called synesthesia. In my case, words or phrases have color, so I often use that perspective of choosing colors to match the text or vice versa.
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
I don’t for my collections. I am more focused on making the polish feel and look like the part of the text that I want to evoke and don’t pay too much attention to seasonality. In box polishes, it’s different. I’m in two indie boxes, The Holo Grail box by Dazzled and the Addicted to Holos box. The Holo Grail box always has a theme and we submit inspiration photos for our polishes for Dazzled to promote as box teasers, since the polishes are mysteries.
Are there any types of polish that you don’t make yourself but buy a lot of from others?
Not really. Most of the polish I buy are from other maker friends or from promising newcomers that I want to encourage.
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
I have NO idea. Too many to count and most of them are shoved in shoeboxes piled up in the back of my closet. Sad but true. I never really have time to wear other people’s polish because I’m always testing my stuff on my own fingers.
Other than your own brand, which brand do you have the most of in your collection?
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
I have a full-time day job as an office manager for a small law firm and I’m also going to school (essentially full time as well) and studying accounting.
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
Just having enough time to get everything done.
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
The sense of community! My customers are the most amazing group of people. I love getting to know them and honestly, it’s just the most amazing feeling in the world when people want to buy something that you made with your own hands. I also really love collaborating with others, whether that’s my annual holiday Community Collection designed by bloggers and fans, or my monthly book club Design-A-Polish contest that’s part of my Facebook fan group, it’s just always fun to help other people bring their ideas into 3D reality.
We all know glitter can be really messy and stick to everything- how do you keep all of your glitter, pigments and mixing tools organized?
Hahahaha. You’re supposed to keep that stuff organized?
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
Well, it depends. Once I have the idea, I tend to make it in my head a few times before I actually sit down with the ingredients. Then I make a prototype and if it turns out looking close to what I had hoped, I wear it for a few days so I can observe it in a few different lights and see what I’d like to change. Then I revise and repeat until I’m satisfied. Then I wear it for 5 days on non-basecoated nails to test for staining and wear. Then the formula gets scaled up into batch size. I keep intensive lab notes on every phase of development.
How many prototypes do you typically have for every polish that actually makes it into a collection?
It depends on the polish. Sometimes I get lucky and nail it the very first time. Other times it takes as many as 4 prototypes. Typically, if it’s for a collection, if I don’t get it right on the 4th try, I scrap the idea. The only times it’s been more than that is with my collaboration polishes where I’m trying to create someone else’s ideas.
The maker/blogger relationship is one that is pretty important in the indie world. How do you decide which bloggers to work with?
I pick bloggers and instagrammers whose work I admire or sometimes to a new blogger that I think has promise and want to encourage. I pay attention to skintone and try to work with people with different undertones and skin colors. Because I value the written word, I especially like bloggers that write well.
What was the moment that your brand really started to take off and be noticed? When you first started, what did you do to get your name out there?
I got started early enough that there wasn’t a huge amount of competition. I had a nice amount of orders from my first collection and my Halloween mini collection. Things really took off after I released my first holo, Greatest Treasures, as part of my Gift of the Magi holiday collection. Debbie Crumpet named that polish a “Polish of the Month” and suddenly everything exploded. The sales of that one holo brought in enough money that I could produce three holos in my next collection and then I started to become well known for my holographic polishes!
What’s your favorite polish not made by you?
I really love Disneyland or Bust by Sweet Heart Polish, it’s just such a fun topper with a terrific formula and I am obsessed with the Disney parks!
With so many indies on the market now, what do you think sets your brand apart?
I am what sets my brand apart! I bring a lot of varied life experiences to the table and that shows in my brand. I am operating from a business model of abundance. I work my behind off to keep my shop fully stocked at all times and fill all orders in a week (99% of the time, at least). I dislike restock madness and super limited editions because I feel that these things encourage irresponsible spending and weird competition energy and drama around a brand. I want people to buy my polish because they really want it, not because they fear missing out if they don’t push the button on the purchase right then! I want my customers to have fun while they shop and to buy only the polish that they love and want to enjoy. I want my customers to feel secure in knowing that if they decide that they want a polish in a week that it will still be there for them to buy. I truly care and I know that it shows in my brand. Also, the book theme is really fun and gives me endless opportunities for creativity!
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
As I said above, I am a Disney Parks fanatic. I’m going to Disneyland for my birthday this year and I’m so excited! I also, obviously, love to read. I love gadgets and technology and am counting down the days until I can preorder my Apple watch. I love rocks and crystals and collect them. I have a whole host of hobbies and interests that I no longer have time for, sewing, stitching, mosaic and stained glass, jewelry making, acting and singing… The only thing that I still find time to do is coloring books, the complicated adult kind, Johanna Basford has some really beautiful ones, though you can find great stuff on the internet to print out and color too. I have hundreds of colored pencils and gel pens of every finish imaginable and coloring soothes my racing mind and calms me down.
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
We have four cats. Gopala is the oldest. He’s a tux cat and has the softest belly fur ever. He’s very shy and seems to be able to telepathically communicate with the rabbits that live in my front yard and eat my tulips.
Then there’s Mikey, he’s a big black cat. He’s kind of territorial and likes to have control of the highest hangout spot in the room. He has the loudest purr I’ve ever heard and loves to cuddle, but only on his terms.
The smallest cat is Scooter. He’s a grey-brown tabby and is also very fluffy. He’s even smaller than the kitten but is very food obsessed, his nickname is Pigalito.
The kitten (8 months old now) is Ernie. Ernie has a really interesting story, friends of ours found him in a parking lot at 1 day old, abandoned, the only surviving member of his litter. He barely made it. We adopted him at about 3 weeks old and bottle fed him, getting up every 3-4 hours through the night to feed the lil guy. He was 7 ounces when we got him and now he’s 9 lbs! He is also polydactyl (so he has extra toes) and is blind in one eye so he’s adorably klutzy.
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
People always seem surprised to find out that I’m a lesbian, probably because in many ways I’m a very stereotypically girly-girl. We come in all shapes, sizes and types, though!
What’s your favorite kind of food?
I love junky food. Pizza and ice cream and mac and cheese and cereal. I love nice restaurants but if left to my own devices I eat like a toddler.
Thanks again for chatting with us, Amy! Talk to me in the comments and let me know what you think of this brand- have you tried them out before? What other brands would you like to see interviewed in the future? Let me know!
If you liked this interview, make sure to check out the other ones in the indie insight tag!