By Margo Greenman
It was the day of my best friend’s wedding when I first discovered Pepper Pot Polish, a Tacoma brand of bright, bold and edgy nail polishes.
Shortly before my friend walked down the aisle, she handed each of us bridesmaids a small package. As we opened our gifts, each package revealed a sweet smelling candle and an assortment of bold and sparkly nail polishes. I pulled out one of the polishes and examined it curiously. “My friend Mackenzie made the nail polishes herself,” the bride boasted.“Someone made these?” I thought to myself, impressed.
During all the commotion of the wedding, I didn’t have time to give the polish the proper appreciation it deserved. It wasn’t until a few weeks later, while digging through my overflowing drawer of nail lacquers, that I was reminded of the handmade polish. I pulled out a fiery red lacquer that read “Pepper Pot Polish” across the label and proceeded to brush on layers of the bold polish onto my nails. Immediately I was impressed by the polish’s vibrance and ease of application. While waiting for my nails to dry, I decided to spend a few minutes on Pepper Pot Polish’s Etsy page. After a few clicks on her site and a satisfied at-home manicure, I knew I had to find out more from the polish maven herself.
When I met with Mackenzie Putscher to chat about her nail polish company, she arrived looking exactly as you would expect the proprietress of an edgy, D-I-Y cosmetic company to look. Her hair was short and stylish, her outfit a colorful pairing of varying patterns, and her nails, well, they looked fabulous. She took a seat, sipped from from her elegant looking latte, and began to tell me her story.
A fairly new craft on the D-I-Y front, Mackenzie says she only just discovered handmade polishes earlier last summer after a few Etsy searches led her to a nail polish seller who specialized in 5-free polishes, or polishes made without the harmful chemicals Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, and Camphor.
At the time of Mackenzie’s 5-free nail polish discovery, she had taken time off from her longtime job slinging beers at the popular Parkway Tavern to focus on her candle making business, Singe. Mackenzie always knew she wanted to own a business that allowed her to make things and express herself creatively, but she wasn’t sure she wanted her focus to be candles. Having always expressed an interest in creating handmade cosmetics, when Mackenzie discovered 5-free nail polishes she was immediately inspired. After some research, Mackenzie learned that she could make 5-free nail polishes at home and ordered a kit.
“I found a couple different companies online that offered kits. The bases that I use are all pre-made, so I don’t do anything from a chemistry level, but everything I buy is certified 5-free from the company.” And, while Mackenzie may not be mixing chemicals to create her bases, there is a lot of mixing and experimentation that goes on in her at-home “lab.”
To develop a formula that went on easy and created a lasting finish, Mackenzie had to endure quite a bit of trial and error. “It was mostly a matter of finding the right consistency,” she says, explaining that she didn’t want a polish that was thin and streaky or thick and clumpy. It had to be just right.
Once she had her formula down, it was time for the fun part. Mackenzie says she enjoys wearing things that are loud and obnoxious, which is why she decided to emulate her own style preference in the polishes she creates. And, while Mackenzie says it only takes a few hours to create a polish, the time she invests into developing the colors she creates is much more intensive. “I take a lot of pictures of things I like and cut photos out of magazines, and then create a kind of storyline of the colors that I want to start putting together,” she says.
And Mackenzie’s nail colors aren’t like anything you’ve seen before. Take a quick scroll through her Etsy page or Instagram and you’ll find everything from a silvery leopard print called “Change Yr Spots” to a colorful confetti top coat named “Clown Car Catastrophe.” Mackenzie encourages her customers, nail art lovers and manicure maniacs alike to follow her on social media, as she often shares ideas for creative ways to wear her colors, from artful designs to layered looks using top coats, and more.
Excited about her business, Mackenzie hopes to add lip glosses, eyeshadows and other handmade cosmetics to her line in the coming months. All of which will be equally as sassy and bold as the “pepper pots” who inspire and wear her creations.
Pepper Pot Polish nail lacquers are available for purchase online at Mackenzie’s Etsy shop, at events like Urban Shopping & Cocktails (held the third Saturday of each month in Tacoma), and at Tacoma’s popular Embellish Multispace Salon.
Mackenzie encourages people to visit her site often and like her on Facebook for updates about new nail colors and products. Have a question, comment or custom order? Mackenzie is always eager to chat with her customers and can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos courtesy of Pepper Pot Polish.