The Queen Series is a weekly feature happening on Wednesdays (or Thursday when we forget - oops!). Each week one of us from The Digit-al Dozen will introduce you to our blog, tell you about how we got started, and talk a little about how we ended up being the Queen of something. We all have unique talents when it comes to nail art, and our Queen titles reflect that. Check out past posts in this series.

Name: Ashley, Queen of Water Marbling
Twitter: @smashsparkles
Instagram: @smashleysparkles

Hi Digit-al Dozen fans!! As you read in the title, I'm Ashley, of Smashley Sparkles. I have been blogging and officially obsessing over nail polish for about 2 and 1/2 years now. In the past I had always been interested in nail polish, and anything beauty related really, which is part of the reason I chose my profession. During the day I work as a hair stylist, and I also do some freelance work as a makeup artist for MAC here in Stockholm, Sweden. Though I am originally from the US (New Jersey to be exact), the Mr. and I, along with our two cats, moved here in 2012 so he could begin studying for his PhD in Physics. That's right, my husband is a rocket scientist! (Now you know why I had so much fun with the DD Geek Week prompt, which happened to be my favorite ever!)

Mr. Sparkles on the balcony of our apartment with a view of Stockholm.

Anyway, back to my history. My blog came about after my husband and I got engaged. It may sound a little silly, but seeing my grandmother's beautiful engagement ring on my hand and then seeing my naked, uneven, hair color stained nails made me shudder. And so my interest in nail art was born!

I started finding out more about the nail art community via the Makeup Alley nail boards. I was already a member there due to my makeup obsession, so I just started reading and reading. I think the first nail art I ever attempted was a simple gradient, which actually turned out quite decent for a first attempt. Then, after discovering Let Them Have Polish and Chloe's Nails, I stuck my toe into the stamping waters. I really loved what Cris from LTHP did with stamping, and that she had short nails like me. Chloe's Nails also inspired me to give scotch tape manis a go. After I started experimenting with nail art, some of my colleagues at the salon I worked at encouraged me to share my art online. That was the point when Smashley Sparkles was founded.

When I thought about what to name my blog, I knew I wanted it to be easy to remember, as most people do. I thought about something short and sweet, that was descriptive of my personality. Smashley is a nickname I've had for a long time, and Sparkles is because of my love of all things glittery.

Speaking of glittery, my favorite types of polishes are definitely glitters... the more holo glitter the better. At the moment I'm obsessed with holographic micro glitters, I just can't get enough of them.

So what goes into blogging? Well, lately I have been on a bit of a blogging break, so to be perfectly honest I haven't spent much time at all. We all tend to go through these phases I think, and I'm hoping to get my mojo back soon! When I was blogging more I probably spent about 20-30 hours a week doing nail art, editing photos, and writing posts. As far as social media outlets go, you can find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but lately I've been most active on Instagram. I love Instagram since I can share a little of my personal life along with my nail stuff, and I can also cut out the writing part of a post, which is my least favorite part of blogging. I love doing nail art, and I even enjoy taking and editing photos, but the writing just seems like such a chore sometimes!

 My teensy stash when I first started blogging.

Since I started blogging my polish collection has grown quite a bit, of course. When I started out I had a small cardboard box that I kept my polish in... I think I had about 20, which seemed like a lot. Little did I know that one day I would have around 500 in my collection. When I was living in the US I had some of those clear acrylic wall mounted polish racks which I used for storage. Since it was too expensive to have most of our stuff shipped over here, I changed up my storage here in Sweden. Now I use a Helmer from IKEA, and a bookshelf with some small basket organizers to hold my nail art stuff. I'm super lucky that our new apartment has an extra bedroom, so I've set up my new work space in there.

My desk, light tent, and Helmer, which I have decorated with scrap booking paper.

My bookshelf storage area.

My collection of Lynnderella polishes, which I keep displayed in the living room so I can admire them!

At the beginning of my nail obsession I had no idea where my nail art niche would be. I played around with stamping and other techniques. I tried out things I saw on my favorite blogs. Then, one day, I discovered water marbling.

I wasn't good at water marbling the first time I tried it, so don't give up if it doesn't work for you! It took me a few tries before I found polishes that spread well in the water, and I also had to do some of my own trouble shooting for other issues. Once I figured out some important things, it became much easier for me.

So, tips and tricks... I'll start off by walking you through my set up for marbling. I do my marbling in a plastic jar that was from a hair mask I finished. I've found that the circumference of this is good, it's large enough that I can dip two fingers at a time if I want, but not so large that I feel like I'm wasting tons of polish. I also like that it has a lid, because what I do to ensure that my water is indeed room temperature is leave it filled up all the time. I just put the lid on it and keep it on my shelf. Then its ready to go whenever I want to reach for it.

 My marbling tools

I like to use a small orange wood stick with a pointed end for making my designs. I think I bought a package of these at Target ages ago, but I just reuse the same one over and over now. I use a regular orange wood stick to clean up the extra polish from the water after dunking my fingers. I use Scotch tape to protect my fingers when marbling. Most of the time I use OPI Funny Bunny, a white jelly polish, as a base color for my marbles, but this sometimes changes depending on the colors I'm using.

When I'm choosing polishes for a marble, I tend to focus on the colors I want, rather than getting hung up on using a specific polish. This way I won't be disappointed if that polish doesn't marble well. I usually do a test run in order to choose the polishes. It's important that they not only spread nicely in the water, but that they play nicely together. Ideally your polishes will spread well and make fairly consistent rings in the water. If one spreads a lot and another gets squished into a tiny ring, you may not have the best results.

After I've made my pattern and dipped my fingers, I clean the rest of the polish out of the water and try to remove my fingers at the same angle I put them in. I usually give my hand a bit of a shake when it's out of the water, to get some of the drops off that might cause bubbles on the nail. Clean up isn't the easiest with water marbling, since you get polish all in your cuticles, so it's important to have a good clean up brush. I love my ELF Concealer Brush for this.

A few more tips:
  • If you live somewhere with any type of chemically treated water, use a bottle of distilled water for marbling. I've found that distilled water worked much better than filtered or bottle drinking water for me. I used to keep a gallon jug of it hanging around just for marbling purposes. This also helped with the room temperature thing since I would keep it in my laundry room. Now that I'm in Sweden, the tap water is so clean that I don't need to worry about filtered or bottled water, but most people probably will.
  • If there is any sort of breeze in the room your polishes will probably dry on the surface of the water faster than you can work. It's best to turn off any fans in the room, and try not to sit somewhere drafty.
  • Don't try to use the rings all the way on the outside of your bull's-eye for your design. I tend to start maybe 3 rings in, because the outer rings are always too dry to work with.
  • Anchor your bull's-eye by taking your orange wood stick or toothpick and attaching the outside ring to the container you're using. Just touch the polish to the container and it will stick. This will help keep your bull's-eye from spinning or moving around while you're trying to make your design.
  • Use a very light hand when you're making your design. Lighter than you think is necessary.
  • If you see bubbles in the bull's-eye before you've dipped your finger, pop them by dipping your toothpick point first straight down on top of them and then pulling it straight back up.
I hope these tips and tricks help some of you, and please feel free to ask any other questions I may not have answered in the comments. I'll check back to answer them!

Also, I love to see people trying water marbling and if you are inspired by me please please tag me or shoot me a message so I can check it out!! :)