Before we get started with this week’s Indie Insight– yesterday was a crazy day of highs and lows for sure. I accepted a new job offer in the morning and in the afternoon my boyfriend got into a bad wreck that he luckily walked away from. Looking at his car, it’s surprising that he didn’t have even a scratch on him- it definitely did it’s job protecting him. He’s sore but good. You guys were super supportive on my facebook and instagram and it really touched me. Y’all da best. <3
This week we are chatting with Erin of Parallax Polish. Erin creates polish to promote research and ideas in science, which I think is really cool. Let’s get started!
How did you get into nail polish in the first place?
I never was a “girly” girl. I really didn’t get into fashion/shoes/make up until I had a real job (and thus, money). I was the kid who was climbing trees and blowing up model rockets. I started getting into nail polish a couple years ago, especially when I discovered I liked makeup and Sephora. I dabbled in the big brands first, Butter London being one of my favorites, before I discovered how creative the indie brands online could be. That’s the best part about buying from all different designers – the creativity, hard work, and design that goes into each polish.
When and why did you decide to start your own brand?
Last summer/early spring? I had been inspired by the brands I saw, so I joined an indie maker board. I thought “how hard can this be?” – what a ridiculous thing to think I know. I have always been a creative person, and I do lots of other art projects as well. The idea really solidified for me when I figured out I could combine two of my passions into one. I am an educator (professor) and research scientist, so the education component and naming based on science ideas makes it fun and unique for me. It gives me a creative outlet as a break from all the grading.
Tell me how and why you chose your brand name.
Parallax Polish – parallax has several different meanings. First, it’s used to measure the distance among the stars, and second, it’s a term for how we see in depth. Motion parallax is best explained by thinking about riding in a car: things that are close to you appear to whiz by (like light poles), but the objects in the distance (like mountains) seem to move very slowly.
I teach these concepts in one of my classes. Plus it’s just a cool word, and I liked the alliteration. I attached a gif.
What is your favorite collection you’ve released so far?
Tough question! Probably the DOOM Lab collection. Each polish is designed based on a real person that worked/works in our research lab. To put together colors that matched their personalities and interests was a lot of fun, and it’s really the first collection I made that includes what I would call “real” holographic polishes. They aren’t the blingiest holos I’ve made, but they give just enough sparkle to be fun but subtle enough for people who don’t want anything too crazy.
What is your favorite individual polish you’ve released so far?
I love purples – so I would have to say Marilee from the DOOM Lab collection. I think the fun part is that it’s not actually made from purple ingredients, so that makes it even more fun.
What’s your favorite polish ‘season’?
Also a tough question, since I tend to be inspired by science ideas, rather than seasonal colors. However, I am huge neons fan, so summer colors – brights are my favorite.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your polishes?
Science! Often I’ll get inspired by one particular thing, then I will use that as a starting point for research. For example, I really wanted to do something about women in science and Marie Curie because I had just visited her grave in Paris. Then I started researching other famous women to help round out the collection. Each color was designed based on what they were famous for doing.
Do you tend to keep your collections seasonal, or do you make what you want, when you want to make it?
I’m terrible at seasonal colors. I tend to make whatever matches the science ideas that I’m trying to promote. I did have the thought earlier this year that maybe a collection of blues for oceans should wait until fall – since I know many people buy based on seasonal colors. I’m getting better at it!
Are there any types of polish that you don’t make yourself but buy a lot of from others?
I am really attracted to super duper bright colors – so probably neons. I have the supplies finally to make some, but it’s a pain, so I tend to buy them instead. I also buy a lot of holographics, even though I make them. When I buy, I try to go for things that are unique – so I’ve managed to not buy about 100 shades of neon pink even though I really loved them (sigh).
How many bottles do you own in your personal collection?
I’m not sure I want to know the answer! Couple hundred? Not that many in the scheme of collections, as I tend to give them away since I know I’ll never use them all the way. Let’s go with 200-300 – I do try to rotate using them though! That’s how I figure out which ones to gift, best give them to someone who will use them.
Other than your own brand, which brand do you have the most of in your collection?
Probably Enchanted Polish, Glam Polish, and Picture Polish. Once I got into the “polish world” more (so to speak), I started trying to buy from a bunch of different brands. I like to support other designers.
Do you do polish work full-time or do you also have a day job?
I have a full-time job – Associate Professor of Psychology at Missouri State University. Please don’t ask me about Freud. My specialty is statistics and computational linguistics (fancy term for the statistics of language). We study words and numbers in our lab. So, often my polish work is seasonal – you probably won’t see many new sets released around the time school semesters start and end because they are so insanely busy.
What has been your biggest struggle in polish making?
The balance between my paying job, the fun polish job, and other hobbies. I want to be successful at it (right now it’s bordering on expensive hobby ha!), but cannot neglect my real job or husband. I also struggle with promoting – I want more people to be interested in my brand, but don’t want to lose the unique edge of my science push. I worry people are turned off by the idea because “they don’t know anything about science”. It’s cool – come learn stuff! Or just look at the pretty colors! The actual polish making part though, I’m just a messy person, so I struggle to not get polish, pigments, etc. all over the house. I sparkled the dog once…our floor was shiny for a couple weeks.
What is your favorite thing about making or selling polish?
A lot of it is the creative outlet, being able to design things that I find compelling. The other part is the people! I enjoy chatting with bloggers, designers, and buyers on social media. I recently did a fund raiser for a police officer that was shot, and I really felt like the support that one polish received made a statement about the things we can do for each other.
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?
I’m actually working on redoing that right now. I use bags to keep everything packaged up right now, and those bags are sorted by type in a scrapbook organizer set of shelves. I would really love to sort by type and color, so I am looking at buying some stackable bins that fit on racks to be able to keep the collections and supplies sorted nicely.
Tell me about your creating process- from first idea through to finished product.
Often it starts with one idea – so let’s say I was thinking about how interesting it is that krypton does not glow green, like you thought it would from pop culture references. Then I would start to research similar ideas, such as the other noble gases (the far right side of an elements table). They all glow slightly different colors, and that was the basis for the Noble Gases collection. To find the right glitters and pigments, I usually shop around until I see a match to what is in my head. Often I’ll create a fashion board type thing too, that way I can conceptualize the color combinations together. The polish testing can be hit and miss. Sometimes the pigments do not go together the way you would expect or the glitter doesn’t look good with the color you imagined, etc. I usually play with that part the longest to get the right feel for all the colors. Then, they sit for testing for a bit to see if they will go bad, change colors, or other issues. If they are ok, they go to bloggers/swatchers to get pictures made. While that’s happening, I work on creating the facts posts that I do on Instagram. I try to share things that I find interesting but also relatable to a general audience.
How many prototypes do you typically have for every polish that actually makes it into a collection?
Two – three. A lot of my one of a kinds are things that I tried and liked the color but it wasn’t just the right color. Other times I get bored and just make cool colors that don’t fit into any ideas I had for collections. I’ve only gotten it “right” the first time a couple times. I often give away prototypes to friends too, so they can tell me if they hate it or not.
The maker/blogger relationship is one that is pretty important in the indie world. How do you decide which bloggers to work with?
These people are the best! I look at swatch pictures obviously, and go with ones that I’m attracted to. In the realm of marketing, it helps if you have a decent fan base as well. I tend to stick to the same people for the big collections because I know what to expect and have built those relationships. I do like to try out new people with the subscription colors, since they are only a couple polishes – especially for people who’ve been following my brand for a while as sort of a reward. I do think it is really important to always nurture those relationships, as they are so important. I try to think about how much time I’ve put into creating and know that the bloggers/swatchers are also creating (in a sense), and it takes some serious time. Thus, I try not to be in a hurry for anything and certainly always discuss the give and take that comes with working with other people. I’m obviously not perfect, but I try to learn from every interaction.
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’m not sure I’m totally there yet! I think it’s nice to be mentioned by other designers, have your polishes bought by people more than once, etc. I think name recognition is the biggest thing, so I’m slowly working my way there. I never had an Instagram before this adventure, but after researching marketing some, I’ve realized how important that component is. I try to make sure to post things regularly and do give aways to get my name out there.
What’s your favorite polish not made by you?
Tough and mean question (kidding) – since it depends on my mood. If you had asked me when I first discovered indie polish, I would have said Dime Piece by Enchanted Polish. Now, I’d probably waffle between an electric pink by Liquid Sky Lacquers and Dueling Unicorns by Different Dimensions.
With so many indies on the market now, what do you think sets your brand apart?
Science! I think I just take a different perspective on collection design (we probably all say this though!). I also try to be very accessible as a person – I think interacting with people is one of the best parts, and I certainly hope anyone who has any problems would contact me so I can fix it. While growing as a brand can often bring along some problems of being just one person that can’t please everyone, I hope I can always keep that balance.
Let’s talk a little about the person behind the brand- what hobbies do you have outside of nail polish?
Grading bad student papers (kidding). I dabble in a bunch of things, but mostly I spend my time playing video games, reading, hiking, and going to concerts with my husband. We both love to travel, so we are often planning our next adventure.
Do you have any pets? Tell me about them!
Bruce Wayne is an orange tabby cat who thinks that eating my socks is fun and enjoys being a cranky old man (he’s 13 this year). Dick Grayson is a black and white tabby ninja – we often find in places that a cat shouldn’t be able to get into. Matt Murdock is a ridiculous albino collie that is deaf and blind. He’s the easiest animal in the house to deal with though; all he does is sleep and shed. I had a good theme going with their names until we got Abby (my husband named her after Abby on NCIS) – a beagle mix that has well-practiced puppy dog eyes.
Is there anything about you that would surprise people to know?
I think that it’s pretty obviously I’m terribly nerdy, so that shouldn’t be a surprise. I think it surprises people who know me as professor-person that I would be so into nail polish. Maybe a surprise is that I consider myself sort of more into guy-labeled things like sports, video games, and math but I think that’s a cultural thing that we should get rid of…why can’t we like both?
What’s your favorite kind of food?
All hail the Southern food! I’m from the South replanted in the Midwest, and the food is LAME here. It should be made with like 15 different spices and be h-o-t. I love gumbo, crawfish, pasta, Tex-Mex, and anything with Sriracha in it.
Thanks again for chatting with us, Erin! 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!