Factory Nail Salon Series
Brief Overview (TLDR):
The designs and concepts in the ‘Factory Nail Salon’ series are inspired by and directly related to my original 'Lil Tuff Chunk' (2022) object. This object and the others in this series are the beginning of my ongoing exploration into the aesthetic and cultural roots of my blue-collar familial upbringing. My father worked as a mechanic at the Ford River Rouge Factory Complex in Detroit Michigan for over 30 years, while my Mother worked as a manicurist in our small basement DIY nail salon. These object concepts are exploring the aesthetic and metaphorical links between those two worlds. In one sense, the worlds could not be farther apart from each other. While in another, they share not only unintentional utilitarian beauty via industrial and pragmatically minded creations, but also socioeconomic similarities surrounding the reality of middle-class financial income obligations.
When I designed and built 'Lil Tuff Chunk', my first piece in a new path of making physical art as opposed to strictly sound-art, I Was working primarily as an Art Director for different types of video and movie shoots in Los Angeles. I was driving up my street after a day of shooting and discovered this pile of interesting looking objects and colors on the side of the road being thrown away. Different types of
plexiglass, acrylic, resin objects, and materials that I really haven't been too familiar with yet. One of the more notable pieces was a
very thick semi-translucent slab of.. something. I wasn't even really sure what it was at the time. It was really heavy, and the translucence of the material along with the pigmentation was incredibly perceptually interesting to me. I took that piece and I knew that I wanted to make *something* with it.
As I completed this first piece I realized that sitting in front of me was a small glimpse into the roadmap of my personal socioculturally-driven tastes and inspirations. When I originally designed it I really didn't take the concept much farther than aesthetic, or so I thought. I had this image in my head, and I wanted it to be a thing in the real world. However upon finishing, I knew that there was something more in there
that I hadn't explored yet on a personal level. I started to trace the finished piece back through the zeitgeist of my own life. The following is a recreation of my experience while starting to study the object itself:
Observing it, there is:
-color, bright, primary
-that weird phenomenologically interesting state of translucence in the resin top
-glowing, golden, murky color through the top when lit from underneath
-exposed steel hardware and other construction/fabrication materials
-shapes, curves, hard angles, mix of textures
-capability of rolling via large industrial casters
To me, simply put, it's a mix of aestheticism and utilitarian details. The color, shape, and to some degree the overall design I feel is a matter
of aesthetic personal taste. I liked the *look* of the semi-translucent resin top, but there also could be something more there in a phenomenological sense. Being able to see through it, the *glow* of it when there's a light source present, the cloudiness or fogginess of the substance permanently cured within it that stops some light from passing through and allowing it to be classified as
only *semi*-translucent. Then there are these other things happening, that don't seem to be wholly related to aestheticism, or possibly even at all? These exposed steel elements, and these locking casters. What are these doing? I do in fact like them aesthetically, BUT, I don't *really* feel that's why they are there. Thinking about and exploring this topic I'm realizing that I've always liked utilitarianly-minded design in an aesthetically-focused way, but the aestheticism part is only the partial end result of the interest, whereas the initial interest itself
lies somewhere else entirely.
So what is it about utilitarian design that I find appealing in a non-aesthetic way? I'm probably far too biased to answer this question
myself in a way that isn't influenced by the very same variables that I'm contemplating. Despite this, if I attempt to, I come to these vague phrases like, "getting it done", or "making it happen". Attitudes that aren't bogged down with things subjective things like color, pretty shapes, pleasing or interesting textures. It's JUST about getting the thing done so you can go home and relax (hopefully). These patterns of thought and oftentimes even belief systems for life all come across as being very blue-collar and very working-class to me.
So, in short, we seemingly have two things happening, an aesthetic thing, and a utilitarian thing, (and possibly a secret third phenomenological thing but I don't really feel like focusing on that right now). Now when I think of blue-collar, I immediately think of my family. I grew up in the Midwest, Southeast Michigan, 15 minutes from Downtown Detroit. My dad worked at Ford Motor Company for 30 years in their Rouge Complex Assembly Plant, a massive factory that employed 100,000 people at the height of its capacities in the 30s and 40s. I have a vague memory of his job prior to this one, as a Frito-Lay delivery driver, but for the vast majority of my waking existence until he retired, I knew him to work at Ford. There ain't much more blue-collar out there in this world than workin' at a car factory in Detroit. I grew up not only with ample tools around all the time, but also this aforementioned "making it happen" attitude that was always present in the home. In my experience, this was a good thing. Factory life is hard, though thankfully the experience my Dad had doing this job translated to a sense of being able to do almost anything that needed to be done in order to maintain a middle-class existence
-- not only in the literal sense of being able to *fix* almost anything that breaks, but also in the emotional and spiritual sense to continually persevere and maintain resilience through a middle-class life, which, though privileged, is not always an easy life in different ways.
So, that's the utilitarian thing. So what about the aesthetic thing? The colors, the translucence, the shapes. Once I had the realization of why I use things like exposed steel hardware and other raw fabrication materials, it wasn't too difficult to understand why I liked the aesthetic design facets of this piece too. Again, for as long as I can remember, my mother has been a manicurist. In my childhood home, she had a small room in the basement that she decorated to be a mini-nail-salon. Now in their second home, of which I mainly did not grow
up in, there is another similarly sized mini-nail-salon. I was about to say that it's the salon that she will eventually retire doing customers in,
but to be honest, I can kind of see her always having a few customers until late in her life. Most of her customers have been friends for decades now, and its really true that she is part professional nail technician, and part amateur therapist. It takes about an hour to do the work on each person, and they'll usually talk for almost that entire hour. She had about 70 customers at one point at the height of it, probably when I was ages 5-20 or so. Nail Salons have pretty recognizable aesthetics. In the nail paint itself, there is a huge range of colors. From darker shades of red and purple to fluorescent and neon colors. Usually some type of artwork on the wall, a small television,
bottles of alcohol and other cleaning agents with their own designs and colors on their labels. It feels cohesive in style somehow but not so much by intentional design as opposed to all of these product manufacturers designing things in a somewhat similar way *because* they are all in or tangential to the nail business. So when they all come together, they look like they were designed to be there in aesthetic cohesion with each other. I think that my affinity towards very bright and popping colors in my life is from being around these types of colors growing up, and seeing my mom work with them. I also think that some other parts of my aesthetic tendencies could be influenced by salon design and culture in general. Not only did my mom have her little salon, but my sister has been doing hair for decades now as well.
I would always get my hair cut at my sister's work growing up and through college. Lots of color, chic-ness, even some translucence inherent in the nail and hair products themselves.
There is however, as there always seems to be, a dark side to all of this blue-collar work as well. There is always a cost to the middle and lower classes for being forced into participation in capitalism. In reality, many costs. Notably in both of these examples, there are health costs. Working with and around salon chemicals and factory chemicals for decades has its toll, like most working-class jobs do. We trade our bodies in exchange for producing surplus value. That surplus value gets extracted by corporations in order to maintain lifestyles of power and riches grotesquely above what is needed for happiness or health, (See: Marx). In return, we *get* to pay our bills and hopefully maintain some form of happiness or dignity in the end. This, very simply put, is how the system works, and how it was designed to work. I'm reminded of these things in the moments of my life where I feel too busy trying to make money to pay bills that I forego some of the less-essential safety precautions in my studio and shop in exchange for some small increments of extra time throughout the day. A couple cuts of wood here and there without a mask, coughing up the sawdust particulate powder that is so fine you can't even see it lingering in the air for hours. These are things I'm personally working on, of course, but the sentiments of trading in our bodies for work efficiency and ultimately for capitalism are threads that run very, very deep into our existence as humans, and especially as working-class humans.