Debbie Belleville: Works of art at your fingertips
November 28, 2010
"I have been doing nails for 10 years. I have been teaching nails for two years, and I hope that (Colorado Northwestern Community College) will give me the chance to teach it again. We teach everything from anatomy to nail disease and disorders to application and more of the creative stuff like nail art and acrylic painting.
"It's a lot harder than most people think that it might be. The last class that I taught that graduated in September, every one of those girls told me that they'd never have to learn anatomy and electricity and chemistry to be able to do nails. They thought it was just a form of art and they wouldn't be learning all of those elements. I think they thought it would be as easy as learning how to apply the product and not having to understand everything about the anatomy of the hand and
"I do nails exclusively. I don't do any hair. Just about anything you can think of, I can put it on a nail. I do a lot of Asian flowers. One I did last week was palm trees. A lot of the ideas that I put on my nail palettes come from my clients. They come in with a sticky note and say, 'Can you do this?' And I say, 'Well, I don't know, let's try it.' You've got to be open-minded.
"For the holidays, I've had lots of requests for snowflakes. This morning, I did Christmas lights and Christmas presents. Those are the most popular sets this year. A lot of my girls do things like holly, candy canes are real popular, Christmas trees, some of the classic Christmas things. It's amazing how many people will look at one of my designs and say, 'Oh, well, I like that one, but I don't like purple.' They get stuck on the color and they don't realize that I can do them in any color they want.
"There is a lot of demand for nail work here. I just took the last person off my waiting list. I stay booked. I get in at 10 (a.m.) and I'm usually not done until some time between 8 and 8:30 (p.m.) I do that four or five days a week. I don't know if I'm in demand or if (the nails) are in demand, but there are a lot of women, even with the economy doing what it's doing, they still do that. For them, it makes them feel better. I've had a lot of customers say, 'This is what I look forward to, this is my therapy to help me get around for two weeks until I come back and see you.'
"I was one of the first nail techs to graduate from CNCC. I took the class because my nail tech had a reaction to the product and wasn't going to do nails anymore. So I thought I'd take the class so I could buy the product because I can do my own. I took the class and I never intended to do anybody else's nails. I was just going to do my own. I left class with nine clients, and it's quickly blown up. I now have 42 clients that I service every two weeks. I graduated in 2002 and got my license in 2003.
"I'm native to Craig. I was born here and I graduated from high school in 1984. I graduated from the college in 1997 and got my bachelor's degree in accounting in 2000 and then went on to do nails in 2003. I lived in Europe for a couple years and Denver for a couple years, but I always end up back here.
"I love being where there are down-to-earth people, where expectations aren't so great that you find yourself depressed over not being able to meet them. I think that's probably the best thing about Craig is that you meet a new friend and you're pretty much friends for life. In big cities, you don't get that opportunity you get here.
"I have clients who tell me they like having their nails done, but that's not why they come here. They come because I care about their families, I care about their friends, I have a senior citizen who comes in and she says, 'You never ever forget to ask me about my grandchildren.' And that's because that's what's important to you and so it has to be important to me.
"If you truly don't care about your customers, they pick up on that and eventually they're not your customers anymore. In order to run a good business, you have to create bridges. I come to work every day not thinking in the back of my mind, 'How much money am I going to make today?' but, 'How many people am I going to help get through the day?' Everybody comes with their own burdens and their own concerns, and you just listen and make suggestions, and I think that's what keeps my customers
—Interview and photo by Andy Bockelman