I'm a sucker for shiny things. Hell, it's half the reason I'm so into beauty in the first place. But I'm just as likely to fawn over what Lydia from Beetlejuice would call "the strange and unusual." You know: bugs, sharp objects, blood. If you're like me in that regard, let me direct your attention to Instagram user Ella Frank Simkins (or @ella_ess_), who combines both worlds with art that's both entrancing and haunting — on her hands.
Even the most elaborate nail art can't compete with Simkins's full-hand creations, which are complete with oozing slime, squirming tentacles, and claws sharp enough for Satan himself. By far, though, her most popular looks are the ones in which the hands are fully covered in gems, giving a whole new meaning to the concept of hand jewellery — for example, her all-red creation from last fall that went viral for its likeness to dripping blood.
According to Simkins, just one of those hypnotizing posts can take up to eight hours of persistent and strategic glueing. But she doesn't mind — in fact, it's what helps her relax. "I tend to deliberately take my time, and I often make adjustments as I go," Simkins says of her gem-based art. "It seems like a lot, but it's a form of meditation for me. Sometimes I spend an entire day on a piece and won't use it."undefined
A self-taught special-effects makeup artist, Simkins has developed a specific routine for applying and taking off her bejewelled pieces. The process, of course, begins with a hefty amount of moisturization. "[The glue] takes a toll on delicate skin," she says. Before applying anything else to her hands, Simkins selects either a set of long, stiletto-shaped fake nails or claws she custom-made out of polymorphic plastic and sticks gems directly to them with a layer of clear nail polish. Then she gets to work placing gems one by one on her hand with Pros-Aide, a medical-grade adhesive often used for applying latex prosthetics.
The gems themselves, by the way, are not the kind you'll find in the average arts and crafts store. "I prefer Swarovski crystals because they have brilliant sparkle and are scratch-resistant, which makes reuse easier," Simkins explains.
It isn't just the high quality of the gems that makes them reusable — Simkins's careful process for "removing the fantasy" also ensures they don't get damaged beyond repair. "Removal is not painful, but it is painstaking," she says. "The gems can be gently pulled off and reused; I use an oil-based cleanser to remove residue and slather on retinol-based hand cream like it's going out of fashion."
Extremely cool-looking payoff aside, you might be wondering what inspires someone to make art out of such a seemingly random body part. As Simkins puts it, hands have a lot more power than we give them credit for. "They're so expressive and dynamic," she explains. "There's empowerment to be found in fiercely clawed hands. The wearer is sending a message about their personal power by incorporating them into a look."
On top of their symbolism, Simkins says they just make fun and flexible photo subjects. So next time you're looking at your personal makeup kit, consider doing your usual routine on your hands instead of your face — the result might be more eye-catching than you expect.
This article originally appeared on Allure | Author: Nicola Dall’asen