From intricately laced bows to fiery metallic blades; there’s no medium left unexplored by Tomoya Nakagawa. Reimagining the very parameters of nail art, Nakagawa finds inspiration in the elemental; with complex molecular structures and tentacle-like projections often populating his designs. We talk to the artist about his biological fascination, creative process and frankly, all things nail.
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I read that prior to moving to New York you were working as a fisherman – was there a particular catalyst in this career change?
My boyfriend at the time was a manicurist in New York, and when I went to New York, it was the pandemic and I couldn't leave the house, so I started learning how to do nails from him. I am currently based in Tokyo, but I sometimes work as a fisherman on the island of Kii Oshima in Wakayama prefecture.
In relation to the physical creation process, the complexities of your work are suggestive of highly laborious processes, is this the case and how did you acquire this skill set?
The 3D design is done with Compuer-Aided Design, printed with a 3D printer, painted with an airbrush, and assembled into a finished product. I studied the skills on YouTube and other sites.
Some of your designs feature elaborate molecular projections and biological associations, would you say nature is a core muse in your creation process?
Yes, I love nature. In addition to fishing, I also like diving, mountain climbing, and skiing. The information and experiences I have gained from various aspects of nature may be naturally reflected in my work.
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Your Instagram is a growing patchwork of majestic and imposing designs, the Keisei Kawahara for GQ Japan nails… wow! What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on figure design and I'm collaborating with a certain brand and a certain cosmetic brand. I'm busy!
You’ve recently released a Nyan Collection with the digital fashion platform, Genies – congratulations! As we experience this proliferation of fashion into the digital realm, do you feel it allows you to push the parameters of your creativity further?
Thank you very much. Yes, I like to try new things, so I would like to keep challenging myself.
There is discourse surrounding how your craft becoming your career can remove an aspect of enjoyment from it? What has been your experience of this?
The process of creating my own work and that of working with clients are different, but they are all exciting experiences for me. I enjoy working on any kind of work.
You’ve worked with some major names in the industry: Rina Sawayama, Björk, and Saweetie to name just a few. Who would be your dream client?
I don't have any in particular, but I would like to work on any kind of interesting shoot.
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Given the way that your designs challenge conventional ideas of what nail art looks like, is shock a common response to your work? Would you say this is a response you hope to achieve?
To be honest, I don't care too much because I don't create my work with the expectation of a reaction, but I am happy to see both good and bad feedback.
Aside from your nail art you’ve fashioned some incredible accessories. As someone so innately creative, is this a creative avenue you’d like to explore further?
Yes, I plan to actively explore figure and character design. But I love nail art.
What does the future look like for Tomoya Nakagawa?
Go with the flow.
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