Pinky's: An Inside Look At One Of The World's Coolest Nail Art Salons

People come from all over Toronto--and the world--to get crazy, customized manicures from the talented artists at this one-year-old business. I spoke with two of them.
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Publish date:
September 26, 2013
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manicures, nail art, clinique, salons, Canada, Toronto, China Glaze, nerds, cuticle oils, manicurists

These days, we like lots of fun things on our nails. Some days it’s banana leaves, other days a simple but hefty coating of sparkle; but once in a while we want something so intricate and unusual, we’re not quite sure we can execute it with both our good painting hand and our bad painting hand.

For these special circumstances, Torontonians (and out-of-towners) turn to Pinky’s Nails.

Pinky’s is Toronto’s first nail-art specific salon. You won’t find a clear pink polish or french tip here.

They had their first birthday party in June ("A Big Gay Birthday Ball" to coincide with Pride), and they continue to churn out the coolest nail art this city (world?) has ever seen on the daily.

Pinky’s owner, Lizzie Renaud, is also the owner of Speakeasy Tattoo, a Toronto favourite, and her background clearly contributes to the creative “whatever you want” vibe at Pinky’s. They’ve painted the nails of a number of Ru Paul’s Drag Race castmembers, Tori Spelling, Grimes, and local MTV and Much Music celebs, quickly grabbing attention with their seemingly endless awesomeness and skill.

They can pretty much do anything you request, all to the sounds of Mary J. Blige, Neko Case, and Beyonce, amongst many other phenomenal tunes.

I spoke with two nail techs when I visited the studio, one who was working on a nail set that included a razor, dog bones, and blood, during our interview.

Jess Oliver-Proulx: a new hire, specializes in nerd nail art.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been doing nails for three years, but I’ve only been at Pinky’s about three months. Before Pinky’s, I worked at a couple nail salons around the city and did a home-based business as well.

How do you like it?

It’s amazing. The atmosphere is really laid-back, and you get a lot of creativity here. A lot of the time people are so overwhelmed with the stuff that we do that they’ll sort of say, “Do whatever you want” and I say OK!

Do you have a specialty?

I do a lot of nerd art. I’m into very literal stuff. This girl came in and she’s like, “I want The Shining on my nails”, and I said OK, let’s do it. She wanted the carpet pattern, the two girls, red rum, and the room key… oh, and little blood spatters. If someone were to come in and say, “I want firefly nails,” I would probably die.

Do you have a favourite set of nails that you’ve done lately?

Not so much a set, but there’s a colour scheme I’m enjoying right now. Pretty much black and white and gold. My favorite technique to do, though--the most interesting--is an ombre nail. A lot of people really like to watch, and it’s fun to do. We use a makeup sponge and just sponge it on there.

Why do you think nail art has picked up so much momentum recently?

It’s something that people can do for themselves that makes you feel really good about yourself, but it doesn’t cost them a lot of money; and it’s also a way for people to express themselves. Maybe you can’t afford a brand new outfit, but you can afford a really cool manicure that pumps up something that’s already in your closet.

Do you have a product you can’t live without?

For polishes, we use all different brands, though we’re a really big fan of China Glaze in the salon--they have a lot of great pigments. Something that I couldn’t live without: cuticle oil. Whether you have polish or not, cuticle oil will make you look like you just came from the salon. You can use almond oil, olive oil, baby oil, any sort of oil you have kicking around works.

Do you have any nail art tips?

If you’re doing nail polish or art on yourself, always polish your dominant hand first, because when you go to the other side it goes so much faster. There’s nothing worse than polishing the weak hand and then getting to your other hand and being like “I… don’t know how to do this.”

Justin Cappelletti: one of Pinky’s first techs, master of all things graphic and bright (and the one painting tiny blood drops and money signs on someone’s nails while speaking to me)

How did you get the job here at Pinky’s?

I was friends with Lizzie. I got a tattoo at Speakeasy, her shop, met her, and it sort of just worked out.

Do you have a favourite set that you’ve done?

I just sent out a set that was sort of raver-Pokemon, super-graphic. I don’t know how to even describe it, really. They were super-super-long.

What’s the best part of this job?

I think it’s the variety. We don’t do typical kinds of stuff; we don’t do french manicures. Everyone always comes in wanting something different.

Favorite products that you can’t live without?

I really like Clinique and OPI. I’m really into any sort of neon bright colours or gunmetals. I also really like any metallics, those are sort of my jam; and holographics, too.

Any nail art advice for the world?

If you’re into nail art, it just takes a lot of practice. When I first started here, I only knew how to do one thing: ombre, that was about it.

How is Pinky’s different than any other salon?

I think it’s because we’re more of a collective of artists than anything else. People will come here and want five different designs in one set. There are endless possibilities in terms of what’s possible here. There are a lot of people who are looking to push the envelope.

Have you been to Pinky's? Have a favorite nail-art salon in your town?