Welcome to Indie Insight, the weekly series where I interview an awesome indie nail polish maker! This week we are chatting with Julie of Blue-eyed Girl Lacquer. In addition to being a nail blogger herself, Julie has been creating gorgeous polish for quite awhile now. Let’s get started!
How did you get into nail polish in the first place?
Back when I was little, think toddler age, my grandmother would always paint my nails. My mom knew that if I was going to be over there for any amount of time, I’d be coming home with crazy nails. It sort of became our tradition to do our nails every time I went over. As I got older and moved away, we’d still paint our nails crazy colors for holidays together. When I went to law school, though, I sort of stopped even thinking about my nails because I was too busy with other stuff. About a year or two after I graduated, I was able to get back into it and started collecting my own polishes. Long story short – I got into it as a way to bond with my grandmother when I was very little, and I’ve stuck with it pretty much ever since.
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
When I first started seeing indie polishes back in 2011/2012, I knew that I really wanted to start frankening on my own. I never had the intention of starting my own brand when I first got into frankening, but as I got more adept at making stuff, more people wanted me to make them polishes. It sort of spiraled out from there. I started collecting my franken supplies in about January or February of 2012, spent about a year and some change doing my own testing, research, and designs and opened up shop in May of 2013.
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
This one is a bit harder… Back when I was having some issues with depression in 2011, I decided to start a blog just for myself to write out things that I wanted to do to get myself back on the right track to a healthy mental state. That’s how Wishes of a Blue-Eyed Girl blog was born. I was actually intending to use it as a bucket list type of blog that I would then use to chronicle my actual bucket list deeds. That never really materialized, so when I started getting into polish again and wanting to show off my horrible nubs and dreadfully dry skin, I thought why not make it into a nail blog?! When it was time for my brand to debut, I’d been blogging for around a year and had a decent following, so it was only natural that my polish name would be an offshoot of the blog to keep my branding consistent. Oh, and yes, I have blue eyes and have been called blue-eyed girl for a long time.
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
How can you choose between your babies?! Kidding, hah! I would say that it would have to be the Siren Series. It’s not a traditional collection per se, but I do have fun coming up with a monthly polish that allows me to make small batches using pricier and rarer ingredients. It’s been a blast watching Miss Siren grow the past 9 months, and it’s only going to get better from here!
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
Finally an easy(easier?) one! The polish I love the most has to be a one-off called Stuck in the Seaweed. It’s a deep murky green with a strong green to blue shift, which is the same style of pigment as the Clarins shift, just in blue/green. It started out as a member of my 2014 Halloween Collection, the What Wouldn’t I Do Collection based off of Practical Magic, but I realized shortly before the release date that my supplier had finally run out of the shifting pigment. It’s been long discontinued by the manufacturer, so I had to go with a different game plan. However, I didn’t want to let a whole batch of polish go by the wayside, so I changed the name, poured it into some minis, and have used it for fundraising as well as surprise gifts in packages. It’s not something I plan to ever sell outside of an auction for fundraising purposes, and my stock has already gotten pretty low.
What’s your favorite polish ‘season’?
I think fall would be my favorite. You still have a few brights out there, but it’s the time of year where everyone is starting to delve into the vampy side of polish. I wear my nails cropped low, and I just love the look of dark polish on them.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
It honestly depends… Sometimes, it starts as a custom that someone asks me to create that then morphs into a collection (i.e. the Once More With Feeling Collection). Other times, I see a movie or TV show and fall in love with the characters, the cinematography, and the story, and I feel a pull to create something that would honor that TV show or movie (i.e. the It Got Away From Me Yeah… collection and the upcoming Leave the Sun Behind Me neon collection). Other times, I have a general thread of an idea of colors that I think would work well together and try to come up with a collection based around complimentary color schemes. For those collections, I typically choose lyrics from my favorite songs to work as titles (i.e. the My Indecisive Valentine, Far From the Sun, and Spark in the Dark Collections). I guess the short answer is, I draw my inspiration from anything and everything! I try not to let anything hinder my creativity, so sometimes what I see as a color scheme or character inspiration may not be what the world sees. But that’s the beauty of imagination! Everyone sees things differently!
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
Can I answer both? I tend to do seasonal themes but not necessarily seasonal color schemes. For example, my Crooked Hearts Collection (Valentine’s 2015) was made up of vampy blacks, blues, and greens instead of the prototypical pinks, purples, and reds. I do like to keep up with a holiday theme, though, so sometimes my collections seem dichotomous – as in the Valentine’s Day Collection – vampy and downer for a season that’s usually about dainty and happy.
You blog about polish in addition to making polish. Do you feel this has given you a unique perspective when it comes to polish making?
Yes, definitely. For example, I know that bloggers can never be given enough information, so, for that reason, I tend to send out very detailed info sheets to my blogger teams. I find that this reduces confusion as well as unnecessary work for the blogger. I also know that sometimes someone has an issue with one of my polishes, and it’s not the end of the world. We talk about it, I work on fixing it before the release, and we’re good to go! My bloggers do so much work for me, so I try to be as grateful and helpful as possible.
Are there any types of polish that you don’t make yourself but buy a lot of from others?
Right now, I’m currently in untried overload, so I’m not really buying a lot at this point. However, I don’t generally make glitters but have been a huge Lynnderella collector. I also don’t really make plain crèmes, so I buy a lot of those from Cult and Elevation Polish.
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
This isn’t up-to-date, but over 1000. I’m working, slowly but surely, on reducing that number by a significant margin, though, as I don’t really wear polishes other than my own as much as I used to.
Other than your own brand, which brand do you have the most of in your collection?
Hands down Lynnderella. I sort of went crazy on them for a while… I think Elevation follows closely behind with Enchanted bringing up the third most polishes for a single brand.
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
As much as I would love to do this full time, I do have student loans to pay off… That being said, I have a day job, but am hoping one day to grow BEGL enough to quit and do it full time. It’s been a great two years, and I’m confident that I can make it happen!
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
Time, time, and more time. Sadly, my day job is pretty intense, so sometimes I’m just out of juice when I get home and it’s polish making time. (Or what’s been happening more often lately – I get home from work just to work some more…) It starts to be a chore instead of my creative outlet, so then I have to take a step back and just take a break for a week or so. Then the cycle continues. I do have some weeks where I’m not in the office, and those are the weeks that I tend to overload as much polish making as possible so that I don’t have to worry about being up late nights working.
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
Hmm, there are two things for me: 1) Sneaking in a surprise RAOK from either myself or another customer and seeing the recipient’s reaction. 2) Knowing that people actually like what I make. This all comes from my head, so it’s not like my day job that’s confined by laws and regulations. Knowing that someone truly enjoys my creations gives me the feels in a good way.
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?
Organized? What’s this word organized?? Kidding kidding! Although, my office has been a wreck this year, and as a Virgo, it is DRIVING. ME. INSANE. But again, time management just doesn’t seem to be a concept I grasp anymore. Oops. But really, I try to work in my office with the door closed to minimize the glitter mess throughout the house. Sometimes, though, it’s not possible or I want to see my husband while I make stuff, so I drag it all out into the living room. I have glitters in little bead containers. Since I don’t make much with glitter, I don’t keep a ton on hand. My shimmers and other pigments are in 4oz Really Useful Boxes. Colors for mixing are kept either in their baggies for powder pigments (for now) or in squeeze bottles for ease of use. Finally, finished colors are made inside larger squeeze bottles and poured as soon as they’re made. In my office, I’ve got several shelves, drawers, and cabinets that I use for storage, but I’m planning on getting another shelving unit for shipping supplies, which are usually kept in my attic.
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
I’m a very organized person (on paper, that is), so I tend to think up ideas for collections and/or one off polishes well before they’re made. That being said, I keep a spreadsheet in my google docs that holds all of my ideas for collections or colors that pop into my head at any given time. The ideas aren’t set in stone, but I do rely pretty heavily on it when it comes time to work on prototypes. Then, about 1-3 months before a collection comes out (depending on the materials and whether I need to see their reactions to one another since most things have been tested for over a year), I’ll sit down and work on prototypes. If I’m really gung ho, I’ll make several collection prototypes at once just to see what colors I like. Sometimes I make a few that I put to the side to give myself some space before deciding which I like best. After the polishes are tested, then they’re ready to be made in full batches. I grab all of the ingredients I need for every polish I’m working on, and put them away after each use. This keeps me on track and makes sure I don’t use something twice and ruin an entire batch (learned this the hard way with baking, actually!). Once a polish is made, I’ll call in the help (aka my best polish friends) who help me pour, cap, and label for restocks/releases. And that’s pretty much it!
How many prototypes do you typically have for every polish that actually makes it into a collection?
It depends. On average, I think probably 2-3 prototypes per final selection. Like I mentioned above, I usually have a very good idea of what I want to create. Most times, I can get it in one shot, but there are times where I’ll make a million versions because I just can’t get the final look I really want.
The maker/blogger relationship is one that is pretty important in the indie world. How do you decide which bloggers to work with?
I really try to spread the love around. I was a small blogger once, and I was so excited when I got my first review request. I try to give that same attention to at least one or two small blogs per collection. Otherwise, I have about 5 bloggers I try to use for every collection to make sure that I have some consistency across the swatches. If people are interested in swatching for me, I send them to a form that they can fill out, and every month I look through the form at all of the blogs to make sure they’re still active. For the active blogs, I look to see what their photos look like, as that’s the most important thing to me – showing the polish as close to accurately as possible. I choose bloggers based off of a few important criteria: photos must be clear without unwanted blur; skin around the nail should be free from polish and moisturized; lighting should be bright or with a note as to why they chose a certain lighting setup; and lastly, I look to see if photos have been heavily edited. I want people to see my polishes as they are, and I don’t particularly care if they give a blogger lobster hands. If that’s the case, the polish may give someone with a similar complexion lobster hands, and they would never know because the whole photo was changed to suit the blog’s aesthetic and not my needs. That being said, I don’t really care if you have a million followers or just 15. If your photos are nice and you say more than just – HERE’S A POLISH YAY! – you’ll likely end up on my “to send to” list at some point. Like I said, I tend to switch around, so just because I may not use someone again for a collection, that doesn’t mean that I never want to work with them again. I just want to make sure that my polishes are getting out to the most people and diverse audiences as possible! (Sorry for the novel…)
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?
Let’s do this backwards – originally, to get my name out there, I asked a lot of the bigger bloggers to swatch for me. Some said yes and others said no, so it was an only alright way to go about it. I promoted my social media by doing giveaways, which also seemed to work for a while, but it wasn’t the best method, either. I’ve found that doing collaborations with other big indies to help get my name out to new customers has actually been the best way to garner attention. I’d say that my brand really started to take off after I participated in the Surprise Santa’s Sack grab bag that was put on by Wonder Beauty. Each collaboration I do has also helped me reach new customers, and I really love creating something fun and beautiful with my peers.
What’s your favorite polish not made by you?
I think Zoya Blu. It’s not particularly unique, but I love its application and the shade is just lovely.
With so many indies on the market now, what do you think sets your brand apart?
Before, I’d say my holos because they weren’t run of the mill holos. They all had special bits and pieces to them to make them unique in a sea of holo-y goodness. Now, however, I think that I’m gaining ground by making polishes that have a starkly contrasting or unusual shimmer or glitter component.
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
I’m really into beer and love craft beer tastings. I read way more than I should, and sometimes it’s hard to pull my nose out of my book to work. I’m also into Lush right now, so it’s been taking all of the money that I used to spend on polish.
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
I certainly do! I have two cats, Jynx and Fenway. Both are insane. Jynx looks like a cow, and is probably the most loving cat I’ve ever met. And that’s not just proud mamma talk there. It’s truth. Fenway is a chocolate tabby – he looks black in the shade, but you can still see his stripes in the sunshine. He’s also got these adorable little tufts of fur on the ends of his ears. His claim to fame is kitty parkouring while growling like a gremlin. They’re pretty much best friends, unless one goes to the vet… Then Fenway thinks that we’re all imposters and growls at us for a few days…
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
Probably not, lol. I’m pretty much an open book. I hang with my family, I play video games, I’m really into beer, I love my friends, and I like to hermit at home with my husband and cats. Pretty typical stuff that you see all over my social media. Hah!
What’s your favorite kind of food?
Comfort food for sure. I’m from the south, so anything fried, covered in butter, or packed with sugar is my little slice of heaven.
Thanks again for chatting with us, Julie! 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!