Tattooist Spotlight is a blog series featuring the talents of tattoo artists all over the US and world. For the next three weeks my first guest, Jessica Weichers from Tattoo City Skin Art in Lockport, Illinois will answer questions asked by yours truly and you–the readers.
But FIRST, let’s learn a little about Jessica’s background.
Born and taught in St. Louis, MO and tattooing since March 2005, Jessica Weichers is the manager and also one of the full-time tattooists at Tattoo City in Lockport, Illinois since June 2008. She’s been working in tattoo shops since 1999 with odd jobs here and there, so she’s no stranger to the tattooing world.
Back in 2007, I discovered Jessica after an extensive search for Chicago artists with a feminine touch. As of 2014, I have a full back piece, hip and wrist piece, and a partial sleeve all done by this one special person. Jessica is an artist of boundless talent and you can view her amazing collection here.
What sets her apart is not only her talent, but her personality. Jessica is a strong—dare I say, badass—woman in a male-dominated industry. She’s a beautiful soul, with amazing insights, a caring touch, and full of laughs. Ours is a relationship born out of hours of sitting in a chair, talking over the buzz of her tattoo gun. So it is with great honor that I introduce my dear friend and artist.
1) Every great tattooist is an artist first. What do you do when you have a creative block and need inspiration?
Oh! Creative block and inspiration… this is annoyingly obvious to an artist who is constantly putting out work for the public and on time schedules. I get a lot of my inspiration from my clients and then I can run with it. But being around nature helps me a lot. I am an introvert and love it, so time to myself allows me to practice my art and grow. There’s something that a cool breeze, with stars, and no police sirens or no electrical hum that clears a mind of all the clutter that can cause artist’s block.
2) Have you always wanted to be a tattooist?
Ever since I visited my first shop at 15-years-old, I wanted to tattoo. Where I grew up, I was told in the shop that women don’t tattoo, but I could be a counter bitch or a piercer. So screw it! To get my foot in the door, I started my piercing apprenticeship at 18. Then I climbed the ladder as a piercer or a shop “bitch” as they call it. I managed a shop, set up everything for other tattooists, and stayed late all while going to college for fine arts. This was what I was going to do!
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Artists are the ones who think outside of the box, we are the dreams and the dreamers, the ones that make women swoon with their music, that can make someone cry with just the colors in a painting.
3) The industry has been dominated by men. Even though you are successful and talented, you’ve probably gotten pushback from people because of your gender alone. Do you still face pushback? How do you deal with it? What advice can you offer women who want to pursue tattooing as a career?
I have had a very hard time at certain points in my career, especially in the beginning. Other times I get treated like everyone else. Artists who are comfortable with what they do don’t mind what sex you are, only that you’re doing good work. I’ve been told “women don’t tattoo, so get an art degree and you’ll be taken more seriously” (so that’s what I did). It’s not an easy job for a soft-skinned woman. This career has hardened me. That badass tattooist image is what most clients are looking for. But since there are more women coming into the business, there are more clients who respect who I am. Instead of trying to fit the “old school tattooist” façade I can be myself. What I would recommend for women trying to get into this field is prepare yourself for clients to make you cry and if you’re good at what you do watch other artists get jealous as you rise above it all! More men and women want to get tattooed by women, so we secretly have the upper hand.
4) Some people get ink because it is the trendy thing to do. But there are a lot of people out there who get ink for spiritual, personal and/or meaningful reasons. Considering how intimate the tattooing process is, how did it make you feel to design the work and etch it into their skin?
I have done a lot of personal tattoos on clients who have cried from happiness after they see the finished product. We joke around the shop about being therapists because a lot of pieces are cathartic for clients. I tend to have much more of a connection with regulars. I know if a regular gets married or finalizes a dream and wants to commemorate it or has an illness and survives it. Stories like that are always more touching and I can’t help but feel for them. Pet pieces are some of my favorites because of how I feel about my dogs. I’m a huge dog lover so when I get pieces like that, I have a lot of fun talking with the person about their pet and what makes them special to that person.
5) My main character in the DEATHMARK Series tattoos unwitting people for grim reapers. She doesn’t want to continue with this job after she has to mark her best human friend for a reaper. DEATHMARK is an allegory, saying “Stand up for what you believe in even if it means starting a revolution to be heard.” Tell me about something that means a lot to you with regard to your industry? What needs to be heard from tattoo artists?
“Stand up for what you believe in even if it means a revolution” is interesting to me because I have felt that way my whole life. Artists are the ones who think outside of the box, we are the dreams and the dreamers, the ones that make women swoon with their music, that can make someone cry with just the colors in a painting. A lot of us are introverts at heart, nerds, dorks, and regular people like everyone else. Clients need to understand that we work with a living, breathing canvas. Not a single one is the same as the other. Just because one person gets something it doesn’t mean your skin or body will work with that piece. Be patient with your tattooist. Besides working with a living, breathing, healing canvas we also work with people and all of their special needs. Don’t piss off your tattooist because they won’t want to work with you. Art comes form the heart. So keep your artist happy.
Hey Readers! Want to know Jessica’s favorite part of her job? Want to find her in 2014? What she thinks of armband tattoos? Stayed tuned a week from today when I will post five more questions and Jessica’s answers.
And don’t forget to ask Jessica your questions about tattoos and the industry in the comments of this post! I will post your questions and Jessica’s answers here in two weeks. (Remember to keep questions polite and relevant)
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