Posted on February 20 2020
I am a tattoo artist living in Victoria on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I own a shop called Black Cat Tattoo. I am 30 years old. I have four lovely cats and I accept that I am starting early as a cat lady. I love to ride motorcycles and am apart of a girls only motorcycle club. I love to paint with oils, and did this for many years before tattooing.
How did you get into it tattooing & what did you do before it?
I got into tattooing sort of by accident, even though I have always been interested in receiving tattoos and perhaps one day becoming a tattoo artist. A friend and myself gave ourselves janky stick and poke tattoos when we were 20. This sparked an interest in tattooing and I began to pursue it more seriously. I researched as much as I could on my own and then asked tattoo artists questions while getting tattooed. This is not really a way I would recomend getting into tattooing as it might not work out as well for everyone. I took to tattooing quite naturally and have honed in on my skills for the last decade. What did I do before? I was a student mostly, and I worked a lot of odd jobs, usually slangin' coffees. I also did a ton of freelance illustrative gigs and paintings on the side. I had art shows pretty regularly. Not as much any more, too busy with tattooing to really hunker down and paint.
What was it like the first time you put needle and ink to skin?
Scary, and exciting. I am speaking of tattooing myself. It hurt less than I thought it would and I was intoxicated by the control I had over the process. I had only been tattooed by others at that point. The first time I tattooed someone else I was terrified beyond belief! But I acted cool and confident so I wouldn't freak the person out. If I messed up on myself its one thing but to permanently alter someone else's body and then screw that up was so much responsibility. Even now, years and years later I still have a moment of butterflies, especially if it's a big project. That fear did push me to become good at what I do and to care about how what I do affects my clients.
Do you have any memorable/ funny stories you can tell?
I have more stories than you can shake a stick at! One of my favourites is about a client who came to my private studio in my house to have a consultation about the tattoo he wanted. He was an older man, and definitely had some mental health issues. He placed a plastic bag on my coffee table and proceeded to explain to me how this other woman was tattooing him and here were the needles they used. This apparently had been going on for a few months and these rigs they had created to tattoo were so janky and covered in ink and blood and I basically lost my mind! I gave him a stern talking to about how you should not reuse needles and that blood born pathogens were a serious threat. He didn't really seem to understand and then asked if he could show me where he wanted the tattoo. This seemed pretty normal so I said yes and then he took off his shirt...and then his pants and he was not wearing any underwear. Suddenly I have this fully naked (and hairless) older man prancing around my living room. I did my best to remain calm and not look at him. The tattoos he had all over his body looked like he had been attacked by a grizzly bear with ink in its claws. Some of them were most certainly infected and I just couldn't believe he hadn't gotten sepsis or worse. After about ten long and agonizing minutes he asked me if he could put his clothes back on to which I replied he definitely should and that I hadn't asked him to remain unclothed for so long. He left my apartment and I locked the door and sort of just let all that had happened sink in. I declined to tattoo him later and have not heard from him since. I see him around town, His scarred and janky tattoos sticking out of his sleeves. i just shake my head and walk on. This is just one of MANY weird situations regarding tattooing that I have found myself in.
Do you prefer hand-poking to machine tattooing?
Hand poking has helped me break into the tattoo world and I am extremely grateful for what that community has offered me and what I have learned. However, I find machine tattooing to open up some limitations I found with hand poking. I find I am able t do more fine detailing with machine work and obviously the whole process is much faster. I think certain designs should be hand poked and some should be machine. I think at this point, depending on the artist and the design, hand poking and machine tattooing are almost equal.
What would you recommend to someone who wanted to start tattooing?
Research everything, specifically how to give a safe and clean tattooing. I think one should also have a STRONG background in drawing as well. If your drawing abilities are subpar then you shouldn't be tattooing. It isn't about tracing, its about creating art work within the skin. I have seen some bad artists become hand pokers and their tattoos are worse than the drawings. If you can, go talk to an established tattoo artist and see if they will give you an apprenticeship. You will learn so much more and faster. With that said, I know it is really hard for people to obtain an apprenticeship, but keep trying.
Do you have any tips or tricks when it comes to handpoke tattooing?
Don't cut corners, EVER. Seriously, do the best all the time and practice safe and clean tattooing. Practice on yourself or pig skin or oranges first until you feel confident you can tattoo another human. Don't press as hard as you can or straight on, these are two huge misconceptions with hand poking and tattooing in general. Simplicity is key. Do not try to cram as much visual information as you can into a design, especially if you are a beginner. Hand poking demands simplicity, especially because of the way in which the ink is applied to the skin. Some hand pokers do crazy complex stuff but that doesn't mean everyone can. Also, bigger the better. This weird fad of the tiniest tattoos ever is bizarre to me. They are all gonna look like garbage in two years. People think tattoos stay the same forever. Not true, they change as we change. They age as we age and this means they expand in the skin. Small tattoos just end up looking like blurs. I hate to sound condescending, but I get emails from beginner tattooers all the time and I have seen some horror show stuff.
Do you have a favourite tattoo on yourself? Can you tell us a bit about it?
Ummm, I have a few. I have a giant hare on my back that Nomi Chi did a few years ago that I never see but love beyond belief! I love all my chest pieces, specifically my switch blade and rose combo. I also have the name of my dog, Djengo, who passed away recently on my arm and that one is pretty special. I have soooo many tattoos at this point it can be hard to think of just one favourite. Honestly, I forget about some all the time and then I see them and go "Oh hey! I forgot about you!" Its actually ridiculous.