Being tasked with creating an example of "the perfect nail" was stressful, knowing that my work would be used as that example and published where it will be scrutinized as such by my peers; I have visions of nail techs all over the world reading the article and looking at that nail thinking, "Who the hell did that nail and where do they get off thinking they know how to do a 'perfect' nail?!"
On one hand, the "perfect nail" has very much been defined for me-- and the entire industry-- by sculptured nail competitions that set forth specific criteria to be met in order to achieve an ideal that has been preconceived for us. That concept is very finite and clearly spelled out. I think much of the industry's own idea of the "perfect nail" is based on the competition paradigm.
On the other hand... I started thinking how "perfect" applies in real life. It's so subjective. Some people love sharply squared nails, some people loathe them. Take, for instance, the growing popularity of the flared nail. More and more, I find myself coming to terms with this trend and learning to appreciate it for its own beauty. So, as demand for the look grows, I've decided that if that's what's going to be the trend, then at least I can do them as well as possible. So I'm working on making my flares stand out as at least still having technical skill behind them; with straight lines and clean edges. I can definitely look through photos and see the difference between well-done stilettos and nails that are simply filed to a point, and now I find myself also looking at photos of nails and telling the difference between nails that flare because they suck and nails that flare because someone took the time and effort to create an artistically flared nail.
Ultimately, our clients are the ones who determine "perfection." And I am fortunate to have an eclectic clientele that allows me to practice many different styles, and that drives me to keep an open mind regarding these ideals so that I am able to see the same perfection in a sleek stiletto or a extravagantly flared duckfoot: square, squoval, oval, almond; pink and white, rockstar, 3D, natural nails and even distressed manicures-- "perfect" is in the eye of the beholder, and it is achieved each time your client leaves the salon in love with her nails, and returns to have you do them again.