Welcome to Indie Insight, the weekly series where I interview an awesome indie nail polish maker! This week we are chatting with Alison of Aliquid Lacquer. I originally met Alison on the SomethingAwful forums long ago when I first started getting into indie polish and blogging. I was so excited when she first started her brand and I’ve loved watching it grow over the past year- she creates really unique combinations and has a knack for making gorgeous yet subtle colors that can be worn anywhere. Let’s get started!
How did you get into nail polish in the first place?
I loved nail polish in middle school and had a pretty decent collection for a kid. Then I lost interest for a decade! In 2012, after I finished working for several months nonstop on my qualifying papers for grad school, I was taking a break and realized I basically had no hobbies outside of video games. I found a thread about nail art on my favorite forum and my collector’s instinct kicked in!
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
I opened my shop in November 2013. I had already started a nail blog earlier in the year, and being a blogger definitely makes you think more about polish colors and finishes in terms of what works, what you really love, and so forth. And it makes you think about what you would really like to see made. I also had the advantage of getting to know Andrea of Indigo Bananas online, and she is definitely one of the most professional and knowledgeable people I know in the indie world!
Last but not least, I was struggling with low self-esteem at the time, thanks to grad school, and selling polish and seeing happy customers makes me feel great about myself!
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
ALIQUID started as my blog name. It’s a Latin word that means “something” or “anything”. I picked it because a) I love Latin, b) it sounds like my name and c) it covered the original topics of my blog, sort of a mishmash of things I’m interested in. (It’s almost all nails now, of course.) I didn’t realize until later that people would assume it’s pronounced A-Liquid!
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
Oh gosh, that’s hard! I do love them all. But I think my Silmarillion collection was the first one where I really started getting creative and feeling like a “real” indie polish maker.
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
There’s no way I can pick one! A few of my recent favorites are Egeria and Matronalia.
What’s your favorite polish ‘season’?
Probably fall or winter, because I’m more attracted to darker or muted colors. (I’m really pale, so pastels and neons don’t look great on me!)
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
I’m a pretty concrete thinker, so it helps me to start with something in the real world (like a book, place, event, etc.) and get to the color from there. Book-based collections are especially fun, because everyone has their own ideas and visual interpretations of a book, and I love seeing how fans of the book react to the polishes! I’m also really getting a kick out of my ongoing Ancient Rome collection, since it’s bringing back memories of college (I majored in Classics).
A lot of new brands tend to stick with holos or whatever is trending at the time until they gain a fanbase, but you started out right away with really unique combinations. Was that a conscious decision to avoid trends?
I don’t think it was conscious; I’ve always just made stuff that strikes me as interesting. Also, the whole process of figuring out how a particular polish “works” kind of makes you see it in a new light. You can look at a hundred glitter crellies, but actually sitting down and making one is totally different. Even if it’s not a new idea, it’s new to me, you know? So “trendiness” didn’t become that important for me.
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
Sort of, sometimes! I think I’ve slowly been heading toward being more seasonal lately. One thing I haven’t done much is make super bright, happy colors, and I’m planning on trying that for my summer collection.
Are there any types of polish that you don’t make yourself but buy a lot of from others?
I think just mattes and textured polishes, which I love. I do want to make a matte collection someday.
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
I’m at around 600 after two and a half years of collecting. If I had more money, that number would be a LOT higher! (My wishlist is around 1000…)
Other than your own brand, which brand do you have the most of in your collection?
Definitely Zoya, by far—I have about 80 bottles. My top indie is Indigo Bananas.
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
I’m in between grad schools at the moment. I left a PhD program in Linguistics last year, and in the fall I’ll be starting a Master’s program in Information Science. I’m hoping to get a ton of polishes prototyped in advance this summer so I don’t get swamped by school!
To make a little extra cash right now, I caption videos for the hearing-impaired. I find it really fun for some reason!
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
Definitely procrastination. I’ve always been a perfectionist, so starting a project causes me a lot of anxiety. Even though I enjoy making polish, the prototyping process can be a mental struggle sometimes.
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
The feeling of looking at a finished polish and thinking, “Wow, that looks great! I can’t believe I made that!” (It’s even better when customers feel that way too!) I also love making spreadsheets and keeping tracking of my accounting, inventorying glitter and so on (I’m a nerd).
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?
My office doesn’t have a closet, so my organization system is basically “things stacked on top of other things”. It’s pretty cramped in here!
[Attached photos: old spice rack repurposed into a label dispenser, next to rainbow tower of glitter; alphabetized jars of glitter and pigments that are currently in use in a polish—running out of room!]
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
I usually start with a theme (a book, for example) and come up with names for polishes based on specific aspects of the theme that I want to cover. Then I think about each name and what color and finish it makes me think of. I also make sure each collection has a variety of colors and finishes so that everyone can find something they like. I ALSO try to make the colors different from what I’ve done previously–I have a Pantone app to give me ideas.
How many prototypes do you typically have for every polish that actually makes it into a collection?
The average is probably around three. Sometimes I get it right on the first try (Motor City is an example of that) and occasionally I might have to go through six or seven tries. That doesn’t happen too often anymore.
The maker/blogger relationship is one that is pretty important in the indie world. How do you decide which bloggers to work with?
Great photos are my top priority (although I do keep track of follower numbers too). The ability to write intelligently, showing interest in my product and brand instead of just “gimme free stuff!”, and responsibility in keeping to deadlines are also really important. I’ve started especially appreciating bloggers who work hard to promote my polish on multiple social media venues.
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 don’t think I have taken off yet, at least compared to many other brands I know! I’ve found Instagram to be the easiest way to get lots of eyes on my polishes, and I’ve also done several giveaways. Etsy is actually great for attracting new customers too, because they advertise you both internally and on Google Shopping.
What’s your favorite polish not made by you?
Oh man…hmm, here are a few: Maya Cosmetics Tranquillis, KBShimmer Mauve On Over, EdM Cosmic Forces, A England Sleeping Palace, Smitten Polish Figgy Pudding. Also anything teal.
With so many indies on the market now, what do you think sets your brand apart?
My general rule is that every polish should have at least two interesting things in it; e.g. if I’m making a holo, why not add some shimmer or glitter in there too? (Or both!) I want to make people stare at their nails to figure out what’s going on!
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
I already mentioned that I like video games, mostly fantasy RPGs. My favorite game ever is Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (upcoming collection??). I also like old-school computer games like Age of Empires and Pharaoh. I love to read, of course, although I mostly go for nonfiction these days.
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
Anyone who’s seen my logo knows I have a dog! We have a five-year-old pit bull mix named Trudy. We adopted her in 2011, and she’s definitely kept me going through some tough times. She looks scary to some people, but is in fact a huge wuss and cuddle monster. Her favorite place to sleep is under the covers in our bed! She also goes NUTS over her kibble, despite eating it three times a day, every day.
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
This maybe isn’t surprising, since I was in linguistics for a long time, but one of my occasional hobbies for about 15 years is conlanging (inventing languages). I’ve never gotten very far, though, because I always start over!
What’s your favorite kind of food?
Anything Mexican! And anything with lots of cheese—I make a really good mac and cheese!
Thanks again for chatting with us, Alison! 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!