This article first appeared in Rickshaw.


























By Jennifer Reeder

I haven't had my nails done since a high school friend's botched attempt the day of my Junior Prom. But yesterday I found myself getting the royal treatment by Vivian of Vivian Nail Workshop-and it was surprisingly fun.

Vivian's small nail salon is just down the street from "Europe Street," at #228 Yau Ai Street. In fact, her shop was located on Europe Street for over three years before moving to her current location a few months ago. She lives above her salon with her ridiculously cute Golden Retriever puppy "Pee Pee" ("It means 'very noisy,'" she explained as she tried to wrest my interview notes out of his mouth.). As a result, when asked about her hours of operation, she answered, "24 hours on duty!" with a laugh. She does, however suggest scheduling an appointment time at (09) 277-72067.

Her phone rings frequently; her years of experience have earned her a lot of regular customers. Growing up in Hong Kong (where she studied Mandarin in school), Vivian started giving friends manicures by age 16. But she didn't think her talent would become her career. "I walked around it in a circle first. You know what I mean?" Eventually she "studied nails" for one and a half years in her native country, then worked in a salon there for two years. After a six-month detour to Calgary for an unnamed male, she moved to Tainan, where she's been practicing nail art ever since.

It may seem like gross exaggeration to refer to painted fingernails as "art," but you haven't seen my pinky. Unlike the preformed plastic tips used in "the European style" to artificially lengthen nails, Vivian's "Japanese style" utilizes malleable tin molds to imitate the unique contours of individual fingernails. By carefully dabbing moistened acrylic powder from the base of the fingernail over the special mold-and filing, buffing, and dusting it-a shapely fingernail "grows" without the use of glue.

But acrylic extensions are just the beginning. The design is where Vivian's artistic flair comes in. Like a hairstylist showcasing the latest trends, Vivian has stacks of magazines with potential designs ranging from hearts and shamrocks to leopard spots and tropical fish. She also has a display proffering some of her own creations; when I asked if they were copies from a magazine, she shook her head solemnly and pointed to her temple. That's when I decided to let her decide the fate of my pinky.

First, Vivian coated my nail with an opaque glitter polish to complement my opal ring, and painted the underside of my artificial tip aqua blue. She then performed a sort of nail polish pointillism, daubing alternating tiny dots of powder blue and maroon paint across the border where glitter meets aqua. With the intensity of a person writing the name Vivian on a grain of rice, she traced a delicate line through the dots with a toothpick. After spraying nail polish dryer, she grinned and pronounced, "Done."

To have Vivian perform her magic on you, bring your wallet: basic acrylics cost NT$200 per fingernail, and custom designs start at $300 each. Manicures are $450 and last about one hour, while pedicures are $950 and one and a half hours. She also sells products to restore damaged nails-she is quick to point out that all of her supplies are imported from the United States. So if you're considering indulging yourself, reserve time with Vivian. And do it soon-that three-month-old puppy won't be three-months-old forever.