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By Karen Musson

Nail tech by day, exotic snake dancer by night, Carl, owner of The Nail Zoo in Sydney's red light district, is an incredibly talented and successful nail artist with a burning desire to improve the work standards in the nail industry. Famous for making a statement at every trade show he attends, Carl kicked off his career when he won the "Most Creative" category in the APFA's inaugural Fingernail competition in 1988.

Winning all five categories the following year, Carl has gone on to win over 28 awards in different categories. The awards now decorate the walls of his salon.

Starting out on his neighbors' nails in his own living room, each salon Carl has created gets bigger and better .I want clients to feel like they're having their nails done in their lounge room, " said Carl. Black leather couches, spacious and comfy swivel chairs and zebra print throw rugs certainly help create a 'loungeroom feel'.

The feature wall of the salon carries the zebra print theme with every other wall painted a different color - red, purple, green, orange, yellow and blue it's like, well, a zoo really.

And you definitely can't miss the huge yellow feathery picture frame; the zebra figurines, posters and product holders; and the rather obvious traffic light flashing on the wall. Photographs of his work over the years adorn the walls as does a photo from a recent show with his pet snake. The clinical nail salon look is clearly not Carl's scene.

With a busy clientele Carl sticks to working 4 1/2 days a week to prevent burn out. "it seems the more successful you are the more time you end up working to meet the demand, but you need to take a break for your­self," he said.

"Clients may need their nails done in time for Christmas but I think sometimes they forget that we need a holiday too."
As well as working in, and managing, The Nail Zoo, Carl teaches across Australia for the East Coast Nail Company running training workshops for the more advanced nail tech.
You can get almost any nail service at The Nail Zoo except a pedicure. Using equipment and products from East Coast, Carl works with acrylics, gels and occasionally fibreglass. in fact, Carl was the first teacher of the Backscratchers system in Australia.
He prefers working with acrylics and fibreglass because, in his opinion, they are so much easier to sculpt with.

Having the opportunity of talking to Carl while he worked with a client was proof in the pudding. His acrylics are completely natural looking and the client left satisfied as usual."It totally depends on the person's nails as to what they need and how the product is applied - I don't believe in the 'this is the only way' mentality," said Carl.
"The reason I am so successful is because I try out new things, I play with different sized brushes and applications," he said. "Doing nails is an art form, so the term ,'nail tech' doesn't really fit for me. 'Nail artist' would be more accurate.
I have always had lots of ideas on how to do different techniques and exploring different nails for different people. Trying out new approaches often seems to be frowned upon but if there's a better way to do something why not do it?"
"I learned a while ago not to listen to what's 'politically correct', or to play by the 'rules'," said Carl. "I believe in thorough training but nail techs should then be encouraged to explore their creativity and skills."


ProNail (PN): What do you like most about nails?
Carl (C). Transforming ugly, huge nails into something presentable. 1 love doing sculptures to create beautiful, classic looking nails.
PN: How long hove you been doing nails?
C: About 14 years now, and this is my fourth salon I've owned
PN: How did you get your first break?
C. 1 did my first set of nails on a neighbor and when she visited the loco/ hair salon where 1 used to live in Newcastle, the hair dresser was so impressed she asked her where she got her nails done. 1 started working for them three days later
PN: What is the most creative thing you've ever done with nails?
C. That would hove to be either my Spanish fan or the spider, which required animated, moveable fingernails.
PN: What makes The Nail Zoo so special?
C. You'll always get the best job done my work speaks for itself
PN: What would you most like to impact in the nail industry?
C. Definitely training standards. We need to raise our standards. Everyone always has on excuse like, 'acrylics ore better than gels' or 'it's the product's fault that her nails didn't work out', rather than looking at yourself and asking do I hove the talent? Imagine you were on the other side of the desk and ask yourself 'would 1 be happy paying for that work?' Finally, if you're not passionate about it, don't do it.
PN: Is that why you're starting up your own training academy?
C. If you're not a qualified nail technician it's to the detriment of the nail industry Also, too many schools focus on technical training and forget about the practical work. I can give you a recipe for making chocolate cake but my cake will turn out differently to someone who doesn't have a passion and natural flair for cooking.
PN: What is the aim of your training academy in one sentence?
C. To provide training for beginners with a natural, artistic talent for nails to lift the quality, standards and profile of the nail industry.

PN: Do you consider yourself to be a nail tech or a nail artist?
C. I'm both. 1 am artistically technical if that makes sense we need to invent a new word or rather job title that differentiates between the beauty therapist who wants to boost business by doing a short nail course and professionals dedicated to sculpting nails.
PN: How do you promote your salon?
C. I don't. It's mostly word-of-mouth and because my work is so creative, I've raised a profile for myself and the quality of my work.

Get nailed on the net:

That's right, if you want to get up close and personal with Carl,
for a bit of fun check out his website at http://www.nailzoo.com
where he talks nails, profiles some of his nail art and meet his pets
(including his friendly pet snakes) and a bunch of his friends.

The Nail Zoo
40 Bayswater Road,
Kings Cross, NSW

Ph: 02 9356 2688