By Ashley Altus
You might have dabbled in glittery nail art in your preteen years, but you probably never tried minimizing an Andy Warhol painting on your tiny 10 canvases.
“I love the scale of how small it is,” said Chicago nail artist Ashley Crowe, known by her artist alias Astrowifey. “I like that challenge. I couldn’t imagine working on a larger canvas.”
From an ad campaign for McDonalds to manicures offered at the Museum of Contemporary Art, she’s taken the manicure beyond the spa. Even Lady Gaga and Kesha have gotten their nails done by Astrowifey a handful of times.
With careful craftsmanship and fine bristled brushes, Astrowifey has been making miniature masterpieces out of manicures for almost 10 years, inspired by high fashion and art. Astrowifey works as a freelance artist who fashionistas can find at her private studio in Jefferson Park.
According to market research done by Nails Magazine, 12 percent of nail salons that added services in 2014 included nail art such as Astrowifey’s work.
“I definitely consider what I do more of an art experience and less of a spa experience,” Astrowifey said.
The whole process takes about an hour and a half to complete, and in rare cases up to four hours. Because she uses gel polishes, this temporary art work lasts on nails for about two to three weeks.
“You can customize nails to be an art experience and literally [wear] art on your nails and that’s what the nail art community wants people to see this as,” Astrowifey said.
Starting at a base cost of $65, a full manicure can cost as much as $130 depending on the details of the design.
“I price my nails as I would think of a painting,” Astrowifey said.
Lindsey Joslyn-Rohner has been bringing her nails to Astrowifey consistently for about five months. She said she usually gives her free reign for the design.
“I like seeing what she comes up with,” Joslyn-Rohner said. “It’s a fun surprise.”
After a recent trip to Paris, Joslyn-Rohner brought in a photograph of a door handle painted with gold leaf from the Napoleon III Apartments at The Louvre. Astrowifey said she enjoys it when her clients bring her something that inspires them –and her – to create one-of-a-kind nail art.
“Most people would say that Ashley is on another level than most nail artists who are out there,” Joslyn-Rohner said.
There are more than 18 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag nail art. Nearly 60,000 accounts follow Astrowifey there. She said she has been able to build her client base from word of mouth as well as social media.
Astrowifey said she would eventually like to expand to accommodate more clients but still keep her studio private.
“I do want to market myself to those people who do really understand what I do as an art and understand the time it takes,” Astrowifey said.