Morgan A. Dixon, creator of M.A.D. Nails has been on our 'must interview' list for a while now. The three of us **a rare & special occurrence** were able to catch up with the globetrotting, nail art magician a few weeks ago in Jacksonville at her pop-up shop at local bar Rain Dogs. We had been swooning over MAD Nails on Instagram for some time, until we were finally introduced to her through mutual friends.
She has kinda become a lil' local celebrity with the gals around Riverside, simply by following her passion and turning it into a successful business. That and the fact that she can basically fulfill any manicure fantasy a girl could dream up, by flawlessly executing any cool, creative design that spikes her imagination. And aside from being a total nail art Picasso when it comes to creating so much beauty on such a small canvas, she is also one of the most endearingly charming persons I've ever met, full of buzzing energy and rarely seen without a smile. There's nothing not to love about this modest and mega-talented babe.
It’s impossible to explain the true magic of Morgan's work without sending you to get yr nails did ASAP! Check out her styleseat, and follow Morgan's hypercolour work on insta! OH and if you’re a local to Jacksonville, you can find her propped up at Hawthorn Salon on in 5 points. Word on the street is that Morgan will be heading to Tallahassee very soon, so stay tuned with her pop up schedule to get yr M.A.D. Nail fix.
One last thing! We are super pump'd that soon Morgan will join forces with us to create a BLOOM X M.A.D. NAILS inspired nail set, that will be available for purchase from our site in the near future! Check out the interview with M.A.D. below!
Tell us a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up, what did you study, and when did you realize that nail art was your niche?
Morgan: Weeeeeell… Thanks for my dad being in the military, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel and see a lot of the world at a young age. My parents were born & raised New Yorkers (Bronx x Queens). They’ve known each other since the age of 10 and after graduating high school at 18, they tied the knot & in hopes of seeing the world my dad joined the navy. I’ve been on the east and west coast of the states. For a large portion of my life I lived overseas in Gaeta Italy (a seaside town on the west coast of the boot between Naples and Rome). While my dad was out to sea, my mom made sure to take advantage of Europe. We traveled all across the continent visiting art museums, historical sites, and submerging us in everyday culture. I have always been interested in art and drawing. These experiences are my reasons as to why I study art history and international relations. It all flows together somehow.
Your nail art and attention to detail is a little bit unreal – tell us about the design process when a client comes in with a design in mind.
M: The design process starts with a lot of questioning from my end. I’ve learned that assuming “what someone wants” is a waste of both of our time. I also ask in the beginning of sitting down with a client, “Do you have something in mind” or “Do you want me to freestyle”? I like giving my clients exactly what they want but as an artist it’s a bigger reward to have the control over creating your own product. I love inspiration and conceptual work, but I also love just having fun and the suspense of people not knowing what you’re going to be walking around with on their hands for the next 2 weeks but loving it and having a hard time not looking at their hands.
Any difficulties when you were first getting started? With both your craft and in the business world?
M: My “niceness” made things more difficult for me. I was doing a lot of work and not getting a lot in return for it. I pride myself in being a self-taught learner and educating myself on my profession and the business world but in the business it’s all about being gutsy and knowing your worth. Starting out, I also faced the obstacle of feeling insecure about what I was doing if I did not receive the feedback I was hoping for. Again over time learning, interacting with a ray of personalities and professionals and also taking chances has made me the person you see today.
Do you have any favorite artists or creative people you are most inspired by at the moment? Local or worldwide?
M: I get inspiration from a lot of different places. I think I get more into times and culture than individual people. I feel like I’m registering so much information about people that it’s hard for me to narrow down who I favorite. Right now I feel like I’m very much into contradicting elements if that sounds right ? I love bright colors and pop art like thick lines. As if I was in the 80’s & 90’s. Yet I am also into minimal elegant deco of historic Victorian and roaring 20’s artworks. I always find a way to mix everything I’m into at once. Why complicate things?
We absolutely love your setup at Rain Dogs. Your style is a perfect mash-up of *crazy sexy cool*. What is your dream studio space like? Feel free to delve into details here ;)
M: My dream nail studio would either be a hole in the wall downtown ooooooor a salon with tables and chairs for people to relax and enjoy their coffee or wine on while they’re waiting for their appointment. As you walk in, I want the first thing for you to hear is music ranging from Bessie Smith, Amy Winehouse, Aaliyah, Selena, The Beatles, and many others. There are going to be fresh flowers on the front desk and next to each work station. It will smell of beautiful fragrances from flowers to incense. There will be an organized wall filled with shelves with antique hand figurines as well as beautiful frames filled with my favorite hand selected art and nail art menus to look upon. I want one of those holders you spin around when shopping for sunglasses, but for nail polish instead. As you walk in, I’d like there to be a total of 4 nail desks (with a form of gold trim) in the space for a community feeling. I love sharing great experiences with people and it’s nice for everyone to meet new people. In the back there would also be beautiful cloths hanging from the sealing over comfy cushioned chairs with tons of pillows to sink into with pedicure bowls at your feet that are fit for a queen. The floor would be a marble with some type of glitter in it. I could go on and on about detail, so I hope this was enough for the gist of things J A bungalow fit for anyone.
After gushing over yr insta pics, it's clear how incredibly versatile your work and skills are. What is the most bizarre nail art request you’ve been asked to create? And on the contrary, do you have any favorite patterns or motifs you just never get tired of?
M: Hands down, I received a request from local independent art curator Staci Bushea. In her process of applying for graduate school she asked me to paint work from 2 female artist by the names of Lygia Clark and Rebecca Horn. Without thinking to ask did she have any specific pieces in mind, I assumed she wanted 2-d paint work seeing that I paint most of my nail work. 10 minutes into her consultation before we began working on her set, I was informed that she wanted performance art pieces bought to life. My heart started pounding and all I could think was, “What the fuck”. In my mind I was going crazy trying to figure out how on earth I could paint works in motion but on the outside, I played it cool. After 2 hours of painting and finally being honest about this challenge, Staci asked me if it were up to me how would I reinterpret these two artists. I responded with saying I would make them 3-d versus 2-d using material that showcased the concept through material used instead of painting. Another challenge was that the these were installation pieces and there is not a single source to find any of the performances so I had to rely on Staci verbally telling me everything. I than started brainstorming the material I would use such as feather, cloth, toothpicks and other materials you would hardly ever find on a pair of hands. After 2 weeks we executed this 3-d set, and at that point I felt so many emotions because I finally saw true art on nails. Something I wish I had the opportunity to do more of.
Some of my favorite work includes thick line work. I like a lot of poppy art on nails so that people know exactly what it is they are looking at. I also love the contrasting colors of black and other bright colors. I love looking down at my hands and seeing a different piece of art of every nail, but I also love a full set of the same consecutive pieces or series.
So you have a pet bunny? We’re interested…
M: Yeeees J The most beautiful Lola bunny in the galaxy. She’s very unique. The process of getting her was unique, the time with her is unique and every little detail about her is unique. She is all black with a cute little white nose that’s always moving up and down. She loves to be held and can actually be cradled like a baby for about an hour if she falls asleep. She loves attention and she is also very sassy. I take her to parks and out on errands that I feel safe taking her along for. Also she’s a he. (Random fact: you don’t know the sex of rabbits until they grow a few months). & there was a song made about her before she came into existence.
If you could design nails for anyone, who would it be and why?
M: Ughh… That’s tough. If I could choose anyone in any day in time, I would have to say Cleopatra. Obvious.
What would you say to someone who is hesitant about trying nail art (i.e. some of us hardworkin’ garden gals whose idea of a manicure is a peat moss soak)?
M: Just try it, it won’t hurt you. It just might change your life J
You’ve got a lot going on right now! From pop up shops to your new salon digs, and participating as a creator for One Spark. It seems like you’re a very busy lady! What has been a major highlight for you this year and lastly, what’s in store for the future of Madnails?!
M: A major highlight would have to be the offers I am receiving from different people in different places. Last year I was offered a job in New York doing nails at a new salon opened by an art curator and also locally I have received a lot of opportunities to work in a lot of random spaces including a bar (Rain Dogs in 5 points) every Sunday. I have an event with Urban Outfitters next month and also a lot of other fun projects lined up which makes me excited for what’s to come.