On July 6th I had the pleasure of travelling to Woodhaven, Queens to meet and interview the women who are Beaver Tattoo. I had such a great time, and it was truly exciting to be in such a creative and strongly feminine environment. I think they were a bit taken aback by my lack of visable tattoos, but in the end of course I showed off the work I have, while making my first appointment for more more more!
We did the interview, and sadly the recording did not work, but I recall much of what was said and done, and will relay it to you here as best I can. I’m thrilled to tell you that I’ll be heading back in September for work with Natalia on my back or arm, and will correct and update anything I basically screw up herein!
Let me start by telling you about the women themselves. They’re Natalia, Dorothy, Sharky and Jessica and each one is frankly ridiculously talented. I have supplied a link on each of the artist’s photos to the gallery at www.beavertattoo.com
so that you can see for yourself.
I asked if they had ever tattooed themselves, and each of the artists has. Natalia told me that where she had apprenticed she was told she could tattoo no one else until she had tattooed herself. She had also mentioned that she had already done some practice work on herself when her amateur lines were spotted by the owner of a shop. He was so impressed that she was offered the apprenticeship on the spot. Thank God people recognize talent! I’ve been in the music business for so long that I thought that vision was washed out everywhere. Anyway….
We also discussed non professionals (scratchers) who have tattoo machines, and how they’re readily available to anyone who has the cash and access to Craigs List or even certain major retailers. It’s an enormous problem for the tattoo industry, and for the public as well. It’s frightening to think about some idiot who doesn’t care if you’re of age, who most likely doesn’t properly clean and sterilize their equipment and doesn’t know how to prevent cross contamination. Plus they usually operate out of their kitchen or basement, and that’s just nasty! On a side note, my first two tattoos were done in the very early 90s and they were done in the artists’ apartment. It was illegal, but she was 100% professional and I never had any issues with either tattoo.
We broached the topic of least favorite types of tattoos to do on people, and the answers from across the board were trendy tattoos, white ink and tribal. While on the topic, I asked also if there was a body part that they’d refuse to tattoo, as I know some artists are not keen on doing faces, hands and sometimes necks (plus many more intimate areas) but the answer was no, and I personally think that’s cool. If you stumbled in drunk, yeah, you’d get a no. But if you’re an adult, and you’re not looking for something that’s hateful, racist or generally evil, you’ll get it at Beaver.
Many years ago I went to beauty school. I thought it would be a great career for me, but what I discovered was that I was not comfortable being in such close proximity with another person, and touching them for an extended period of time, especially as a career. So I asked about the tattooing intimacy factor, and how that felt, constantly touching skin, being so close to that other person and talking about things that are potentially incredibly personal. And just like anything else, if the person is cool, then it’s helpful to the work. Obviously it’s not as comfortable when the person is, well, ya know. They are so focused on their work and on their art that it all works well together. Plus there’s a real chemistry between the artists themselves that it probably breaks up any temporary discomfort, but that’s just me projecting!
With regard to style, each artist has her own specialty/style.
Sharky’s would be American Traditional, Lettering (her lettering is absolutely beautiful!!!!) and cover ups. I believe that she’s comfortable doing anything however because she’s a tremendous artist.
Dorothy works with bright, vibrant, beautiful color and creates images that I can’t believe are on skin. She uses vegan inks, and she told me that she gets amazing color results with those.
Natalia is a queen of black and gray. I’ve never seen such expression and detail as I have with her work. What does she prefer not to do? Color!
Jessica is an illustrator. She can do anything you like, and she has such crisp clean lines and brilliant sense of humor and honesty in her work!
I asked about the relevance and importance of Tattoo Conventions and Expos. The response was unanimously positive, and that these gatherings are vital to keeping the art and the artists fresh and seeing the work as being more and more without boundary. It’s an exciting proposition, and I can’t wait to dive into the one that will be very close to me in the near future.
We also spoke about the effect of “reality” tattoo television. Crock of shit should sum it up. “Let me draw this up for you. Have a seat for five minutes” – on a huge, intricate piece. And then, the customer naturally leaves in what looks like an hour later with a complete tattoo all wrapped up.
Often when I’m reading interviews with male tattoo artists, they’re asked about their feelings on female tattooers. So I turned the tables. On working with male artists, I discovered that it’s no different than working with men anywhere else. Drama Queens! LOL. Some are great artists, great to work with, and then there are those who’ll step outside for a cigarette to vent about another guy in the shop. Natalia said it’s part of why she’s created an all female studio.
Sharky and Jessica spoke to me about the freedom of working in an environment that is free of competition, and that each artist supports the others. However Sharky said there is no comfort zone in tattooing, because you never know what will come through the door and make you stretch your skills and talent. Sounds like the most perfect work environment, right??
There’s something that I’ve often wondered. I would see people with truly spectacular work, but when I’d speak to them or I’d see them in action, the first thing that would go through my head would be, what an asshole! I’d feel bad for the artist who had to work on this douche for what was clearly hours at a time on numerous occasions. I got the chance to ask about that, and it was clear that everyone has had the unique opportunity to tattoo something beautiful on someone awful. Knowing that your art is walking around on a person you wouldn’t want to spend another minute with must be tough.
I apologize for the lack of quotes – my fault entirely! I hope to get the chance to update this and clarify anything I’ve missed in September (or before if I should hear from any of the artists who gave me their time). To sum it all up, I’d be proud to be tattooed by any and all of these artists – they are truly inspiring. My appointment in September will be the first of many, I’m sure!!