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Interview with tattoo artist, Emily North, Brooklyn, New York
What were some of the reasons you decided or wanted to become a tattoo artist?
With a love for tattoos, art, and working with people, it felt like a great overlap. And I like the challenge; as a male-dominated field, it was really hard to get into. It took several years asking others about becoming a tattoo artist. Many have tried to discourage me stating, “Just because you went to art school, not everybody can tattoo.” I do credit part of my ability from having an art school background. While drawing is an innate ability, one can learn to draw. The next part is learning what can and can't be tattooed.
And, there are lots of ways to learn. Some people will get their own machines to try tattooing out. Being cautious by nature, and into procedure, I strived to learn in a professional manner the ins and out of this art.
What are some things you've learned with Tattooing?
One of the things I have come to realize is that some things cannot be tattooed. Things coincide with how the machines work, the kind of lines they make, and how tattoos age and heal. Different people’s skin is completely different, and you can’t tell until you start tattooing them.
Simplifying is best, because over time tattoos bleed out over the skin, especially as you age. In fact, elaborate etching –like tattoos can become a black blob as you get older. Always leave some room!
What are some of the reasons you feel clients come to you?
Clients come to me because of my counseling training and background. It’s a different way of working with people, especially with those who don’t normally feel comfortable in tattoo shops, and there are many. There are no rules for some reason.
Style is the main clients also work with me.
How has it been with working with Myrtle Ink, Brooklyn, New York?
Myrtle Ink is super clean, and that one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy working there. Cleanliness is definitely important. There is so much that goes on in shops that if it isn’t up to par, it’s so easy to get an infection, or have cross-contamination. Wiping things down, whether they are dusty or dirty cuts down any chances of contamination.
Are there any must have items or brands that you use for your workstation?
Lighting – for me it’s really important. Good lighting can be hard to get once you’re leaning over the work, and it’s hard to get proper lighting. I’ve tried lights that clip to glasses although those are hard to find.
Are there any particular aftercare guidelines you like to share with clients?
Everything that touches the tattoo has to be sterile. When wet, use paper towels and blot dry. When you dry the area with bath towels, you can easily get infection that way. You have to keep it covered, and don’t let people touch it, even when you want to go out and show people.
While I stress the importance of aftercare with clients, most don’t remember. A lot of them can be out of it after getting the tattoo, and will come to me afterwards, and share that they are getting bumps. I usually find it’s because they’re using an ointment I didn’t recommend like cocoa butter. Normally, I recommend A&D Ointment or Neosporin, mostly because it’s at the shop, but I find they are not the best because it has petroleum in it. I’ve tried Hustle Butter, and loved it. While I’m sensitive to scents, I had no issue with Hustle Butter.
While a lot of people may recommend Aquaphor, because it’s a concentrated petroleum, I’ve seen people get Pustules, small bumps on the skin that fill with fluid or pus, around their tattoos. It’s best to stay away from Aquaphor. I can recommend Hustle Butter.
For additional aftercare guidelines, click here.
Who inspires you?
When I first got into tattooing, I always wanted to do watercolor kind of work, like Thea Duskin, and Amanda Wachob, who is really blowing up. I haven’t gotten as far into it as I’d like to, since I hadn’t had a mentor practicing that style. So few people are doing that kind of work in New York. It’s hard to work with color since a lot of people may be allergic to color ink. I ended up doing more wood-cut styled tattoos. There are also so many people in London doing gorgeous stuff.
What has been one of your more favorite ones to work on, and why?
No Favorite. I do have good experiences. A Good experience tattooing has to do with a lot of factors; their energy, how open they are, versus if they are stressed and trying to control how to do the work. Having a sense of trust makes the whole thing come out better. It’s like drawing on paper that’s moving away, it does not work as well. That’s what also challenging about tattooing. There are so many factors that are out of your control.
I appreciate clients that have an idea, and trust me to draw it how I want it to be drawn. It can be challenging when they have a pre-made design that is somebody else’s tattoo. I usually won’t do those, or those not in my style. It’s great when they look at my portfolio, come to me, and trust me to design something based on their idea.
Emily North has been an artist/designer for 20+ years and tattooing since 2009. She is licensed to tattoo in NYC, and completed blood borne pathogen training. She uses all VEGAN inks, new sterile disposable needles and tubes and prides herself in being clean and neat so no cross-contamination takes place. She is an activist and used to be a case manager and counselor. She loves tattooing because she is providing a life-long art and gets to interact with awesome people. Emily North is dedicated to providing a safe, supportive environment for her clients. She is currently working at Myrtle Ink Brooklyn, New York and traveling. To view Emily North's portfolio, click here. For Tattoo Scheduling & Information with Emily North, click here.
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