Erika Hudson stands behind the Verizon Wireless customer service counter, manipulating the virtual keys on a smart phone with her fingers.
Not all of us have her dexterity, but it's not just the deft way she handles the phone that is impressive. It's her fingernails that get your attention.
Each of Hudson's nails - and these are her natural nails - are intricately painted with miniature detail reminiscent of hand-painted Ukrainian Easter eggs.
A member of the Arboretum store's Retail Leadership Development Program, Hudson works helping folks with their cell phone problems. The purpose of the program is to develop future Verizon Wireless leaders, and Hudson will graduate in January 2012.
But the soul of an artist lies beneath the business attire, peeking through at the end of her fingertips in the form of unique designs, bold colors and a hint of sparkle.
Hudson, 30, who lives in southwest Charlotte, is an Air Force brat who spent 12 years in Germany and graduated from Ramstein American High School just outside of Kaiserslautern, Germany. After graduating from the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, she worked several different jobs but eventually spent a year teaching English in South Korea.
Hudson's travels bring a multicultural influence to her art. She's already seen four of the seven continents.
"I like to use Korean letters, lotus flowers, turtles and other natural designs on my nails," she said.
Depending on the design, it takes her anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours to complete the work.
"I get more compliments when each one is painted differently."
The nail art is a skill she has been honing for the past year, and it arose out of necessity.
"I got tired of trying to communicate my designs to the nail girls," said Hudson. "And paying all the up-charges was expensive."
Once she got going on her own, Hudson realized the work and results were inspiring for her.
"The creative aspect is so liberating, so fun," said Hudson. She explains that the perfect length for each nail is about a half-inch. This allows her to put one or two designs on each nail.
In addition to her nail art, Hudson spends hours writing poetry, drawing, shooting photos, playing the flute and, of course, painting. She has had her poems included in online collections and has had more than 120 poems accepted to websites like poetry.com.