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Soph Parkinson’s playful nail sculptures are miniature works of art


TextDominic Cadogan

The London-based creative has captured Instagram with her unique approach to nail artistry

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A bottle of Fairy liquid, a crane, a Newton’s Cradle – on their own these items might seem ordinary enough, but in Soph Parkinson’s world, they’re given an exciting new lease as life as miniature nail sculptures. Yes, you read that correctly, the self-taught nail artist has turned a crane into an operational nail look. 

After being introduced to nail art by a friend she met at Central Saint Martins, it wasn’t until lockdown that the London-based creative started properly experimenting. Starting out with some of her pop culture faves – from Lilo & Stitch and Futurama to Basquiat and Matisse – reimagined as press ons, her work suddenly took a new direction. 

“I realised the capability of what nail products can do, it’s actually quite amazing how a UV light can freeze a liquid substance like gel,” Parkinson explains. “This led me to experimenting with what I had and it opened a door in my brain of what I could, there are endless possibilities!” 

Since then, Parkinson’s designs have included nails that look like crystal chandeliers and a miniature street setting (complete with a person waiting by a parking sign). “I love how excited it makes me feel, having an idea and then feeling the adrenaline kick in,” she explains on the joy nail art brings. “This is all I want to do with my life, create things, it doesn’t matter what it is. I also love how it excites people on social media – that brings me the most joy.” 

As the artist continues to experiment while we’re in lockdown, she’s excited for what the future holds for the medium in the beauty industry. “Nail art is definitely becoming more prominent and accepted in the beauty world,” she says. “A cool idea is to think that in the future nail art will be essential in the way we function and can help us to do everyday things – who knows!” 

Here, we speak to Soph about her eccentric designs and why her biggest inspiration is her grandma. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?

Soph Parkinson: I grew up between Tottenham, Finsbury Park, and Camden Town as my grandma cared for me most days when I was little and she lived in Camden. I’m very familiar with the city I live in as my grandma used to walk me, my sister, and brother into central London to explore and see art exhibitions. 

What is it you do and how did you get into it?

Soph Parkinson: I guess I could call myself a nail artist, but I do all sorts of creative things and have been since I was very small. I went to Central Saint Martins last year, doing a foundation course, and studied sculpture. I met all kinds of people, one of my friends at the time introduced me to nail art, and I became obsessed! I just loved the idea of tiny paintings and 3D objects on nails. I didn’t really do much with nail art until lockdown. That’s when I tried painting things on my nails, and recreating famous art pieces and cartoon characters. Throughout this year I’ve just been exploring more and more fun, out there and expressive ideas! 

What are you trying to communicate through your work and why?

Soph Parkinson: I’m definitely trying to communicate movement and stillness all at the same time. I’ve always been really captivated by the way the world is constantly moving, and how overwhelming that can feel. Also with lockdown happening, people are seeing my nails through a screen, so a video of a nail moving is like a separate art piece to the final photo of the nail, one is motionless and one is mobile. The nails that I’ve created that involve movement are always my favourite.

Ever since I was tiny I’ve loved creating miniature objects and sets for my toys. I was always very inspired as a child as my mum was a toy designer at the time so she would creatively push me by giving me strange materials I could work with! As I haven’t actually been doing nails for very long, only recently have I realised I can do exactly that, but on my nails. It’s like a completely different world to work with! 

Who or what inspires you? 

Soph Parkinson: The surrounding world inspires me. The built environment has a big impact on the way I feel and create – being in a very large busy city has always made me feel inspired. The vastness of everything, it excites me that something so big can be translated into a miniature world, literally on my finger tips! 

My other huge inspiration is my grandma, she would always encourage and support me in anything I wanted to do creatively. She used to take me around London to different art exhibitions. And me being let’s say eight at the time, running out of the Hayward gallery filling up with excitement, wanting to rush home so I could try out a technique I saw in an exhibition. 

Can you talk us through some of your favourite looks/images? What response did they get?

Soph Parkinson: Well my fairy liquid nail was what really got me to explore more innovative ideas. I think people liked this nail so much, because it was something that most people have in their kitchens in the UK, so it's quite funny to see it on a nail. My dad says its kitsch! This then made me think of creating more miniature objects and things on nails, like my crane nail. London is FULL of cranes as it’s an ever-evolving city, one day a huge building is towering the sky and the next day it's replaced by cranes building a new one. People relate to and respond most with my 3D sculptural work, as it's the most exciting, and has elements of real life in it.

What’s been your career highlight so far and what do you hope to accomplish ultimately?

Soph Parkinson: So far, in the short amount of time I’ve been creating nail art, my highlight has been virtually meeting new people and networking! The nail community is very welcoming and supportive. I hope to accomplish creating more unique ideas and having the world to see them!

What are you working on at the moment? 

Soph Parkinson: I've been working on a special project for myself lately but it's taken me about three months to actually figure out how to achieve it. I’m currently planning and defining new 3D ideas!

What does beauty mean to you?

Soph Parkinson: Being your true self and the acceptance of being OK with who you are. 

Describe your beauty aesthetic in three words.

Soph Parkinson: Eccentric, Inventive, Surreal (I say surreal as you don’t see a real life object miniaturised and put on a nail everyday!)

How do you assert your identity and experiences through your beauty?

Soph Parkinson: I’d say by incorporating moments that have touched me in a different way, whether that was a conversation or something I experienced that I can’t get out of my head. 

What’s your favourite smell and why?

Soph Parkinson: I have so many favourite smells, if I had to choose one I’d say fresh air in the spring as it just teleports me to different times, places, and experiences.

When do you feel most beautiful?

Soph Parkinson: When I’m not anxious, I’m fully relaxed, happy and able to take a deep breath.

How do you want to change the world?

Soph Parkinson: I don’t think one person can change the world, but a collective can start to make things happen. If I could change the world I would abolish all hatred towards another human for the way they look, they’re sexuality and identity. It makes everything in me ache, knowing that there are so many horrible people spreading negative ideas across the globe. It just doesn’t make sense. 

If you had to choose one surgical enhancement, what would it be and why?

Soph Parkinson: A year ago, I would have told you several things, but I’ve really learnt to love everything about myself during this strange time. I know it sounds dumb to say you only live once but it’s so true, so why hate yourself when this is the only body you’re going to get. I think everyone is beautiful, it’s the trends at the time telling you, you don’t fit in what is beautiful at the moment. Which I absolutely hate. Why can’t the world deem every body type and skin colour to be beautiful? 

It is the sixth day and you are creating humans. They can look however you want them to. What do they look like and why?

Soph Parkinson: Everyone would look completely different and unique to each other in every way!

Would you rather live forever as an old person or live your life in reverse? 

Soph Parkinson: 100 per cent live my life in reverse, that’s all I long for to be honest, to be a baby again and not have to worry about anything!

What is the future of beauty?

Soph Parkinson: The future of beauty will be on the same track as it is right now, revisiting trends in a cyclical way. Things come and go constantly, I just wish the future of beauty means everyone knows they’re beautiful and feels beautiful no matter what. And there’s no judgement for how people would like to express themselves, you can just do what the fuck you want.

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