Beyond Club Culture part IV – Meet Eilysh Thams

Upon entering Thams Does Claws’ salon, an array of nail polish shades adorn the walls. They are accompanied by rhinestones, studs, and glitter, further accentuating what an individual can parade on one’s nails is limited only by one’s imagination. We chat with founder, Thams about their design process, nail care and the importance of creating a safe space for Berlin’s QTI+BIPoC community to express their individuality and practice self-care.

The Beyond Club Culture photography series is an ongoing project by sustainable fashion brand, Not Too Sweet. By exploring the diverse plethora of talent that lurks extrinsic to Berlin’s infamous club presence, we meet Berliners in daytime mode and chat about how they’ve honed in on their art form and the role Berlin has played during their metamorphosis.

Hi Thams, could you tell us about your business?
I am a QPoC artist from Thailand and have a private studio in Mitte, Berlin called Thams Does Claws. At the studio, I offer nail art and a space for other queer artists to provide services such as lash, brows and tattoos. Once lockdown is over, I also want to continue offering workshops.

My partner and I have both experienced being misgendered when going to get our nails done in other salons. So the most important thing to me, is that I am able to create a safe space for queer and QTI+BIPoC to feel comfortable while they are getting pampered. I want this space to be a space made for QTI+BIPoC by QTI+BIPoC!

How did you get into the nails industry?
I’ve always loved face painting, doing nails and had the occasional make-up job. I have many memories of painting my mom’s nails back in Thailand. I thought getting my nails done in Berlin would be expensive, so I enrolled in a basic gel manicure course before moving. And from there, I learnt how to do nail art and extensions by myself. I loved doing nails for my friends and family but I never thought this would transform into my career. Everytime a set was done, I felt so proud of myself. I would even check my client’s Instagram stories to see how their nails were doing. It’s definitely a secret thing that I do and would never confess to my clients. Their claws are like my babies.

You promote Thams Does Claws as a QTI+BIPoC safe space in Berlin. Could you please tell us more about that?
At Thams Does Claws, a safe space is a place where we feel like we belong; no questions asked or needed. It is not only about the place but also the people who are there. I identify as PoC trans non-binary myself so I treat others how I would like to be treated. I want my clients’ to feel comfortable as though they were hanging out at a friend’s house.

Why do you believe self-care and self-love are so important for everyone, especially for the QTI+BIPoC community?
Self-care and self-love are VERY important for your body and soul. Once you treat yourself right, I believe it will help you overcome stress too. Whenever I work too hard and feel extremely drained, I will give myself a mini self-care pamper to check-in with myself. Even if the situation around me hasn’t changed, I feel a little more grounded and calm.

Having grown up in Thailand, what is it about the creative scene in Berlin that makes you want to stay in this city?
There are many reasons why I am drawn to Berlin as a creative. Firstly, there are more grants available for artists to support their career and help them build a foundation. There is also more freedom of speech and expression in Germany. In Thailand, many artists who want to speak up about their political views, human rights and religion are silenced. This is my main concern, and what keeps me up at night crying. Youth in Thailand have to fight so hard for freedom. I strongly encourage everyone to read more about what’s happening in Thailand.

You mention that you only work with bio/vegan nail products. Why is this important to you?
I acknowledge that the nail industry and supply chain can be harmful to our planet. By using bio/ vegan nail polish, I know where the ingredients are from, that they do not include any animal-derived ingredients, and are animal-cruelty free. As a business owner, I want to do my part in helping the world become as sustainable as possible while making sure all my products are 100% safe for my clients and I.

What can people do for nail care in-between appointments?
1.DO NOT USE YOUR NAILS AS A TOOL. That’s the main thing.
2.Use gloves when you need to engage in hard work with your hands or clean. If you are in the hands of a good nail technician, gel nails won’t damage your natural nails.
3.When gel nails start peeling, please do not pull them off yourself. Go to a professional nail technician to have them removed or make an appointment 3-4 weeks after you have done your nails for a new set. It is like your hair that needs good care and maintenance every month.
You can also check out my Instagram for more tips on how to take care of your nails.

For anyone who is interested in entering the nails industry, can you describe what a day in your life looks like?
I start the mornings off by completing office admin tasks such as replying to emails, Instagram messages, and social media marketing. Then from 1pm, I have appointments with my clients until 8pm. REPEAT. Thams Does Claws is still in it’s startup phase, so I find myself managing all aspects of the business. Everyday is filled with new challenges but is also the most rewarding feeling.

Interviewed by Lisa N’Paisan @lisa.kuro


Artist: Eilysh Thams @thams.does.claws
Photographer: Jennifer Derksen @fotosvanjen
Photographer’s assistant: Syarif Wulffraat @slimshaudi
Stylist: Sara Tazor @saratazor
Production: Lisa N’Paisan @lisa.kuro
Clothing: Not Too Sweet. @nottoosweetvintage

Jewelry: Lash Me Tender on Etsy, Johanna Gauder @johannagauder