To celebrate the opening of our newest exhibit Tattooed and Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History, we will be highlighting the work of the some local female tattoo artists who helped curate the exhibit.
To get things started, we talked with Shana Javier-Carrasco, a tattoo artist who has been working in San Jose for over a decade. Shana didn’t see herself as a tattoo artist when she was younger, but always had a passion for artwork. She attended the Art Institute in San Francisco and studied Multimedia Arts and Animation. After graduating she worked as graphic designer, but found the work she was doing to be creatively constrictive. She eventually started working in a tattoo shop as ‘shop girl,’ but, after sharing her artwork with the shop owner, was able to become apprentice. She apprenticed for about a year and a half, became an additional artist in the shop, and worked there for about five years. She now works independently in San Jose and works as a guest artist in multiple shops in California. Here are some of the highlights from our talk with Shana:
What was is it like the first time you tattooed someone?
Shana: It was nerve wracking. I didn’t know what to expect, would someone would jump out of the seat or if I’d be peeling their skin off. Other tattoo artists were around when I did my first one and they said, ‘just do it, you’re never going to learn until you put that needle in the skin’, and that’s exactly what happened – I made my mistakes and I learned from it.
What’s a tattoo that you’ve done that you are most proud of?
Shana: I would say it was this floral black and gray piece that I did maybe two or three years into my career. The client came from San Francisco to get it from me, so already that was a big compliment that someone out of town came to see me specifically. I put that tattoo in my portfolio and on Facebook and it got me so much more clientele and still continues to get me more clients. And when I’ve had other tattoo artists critique my portfolio that’s the one that seems to stand out the most, so I am very proud of that piece.
Our exhibit looks at the history of women and tattoos in California. Do you see tattooing today as connected with that history?
Shana: I do, I got my own tattoos as a kind of rite of passage and that seems like a part of tattooing’s past that is continuing today. All my tattoos also have some sort of meaning, and my clients also get tattoos that have some kind of personal meaning to them, so I think whether its Native American women getting tattooed or old tattooed ladies, the idea that tattoos have personal meanings to people continues.
In your time working as a tattoo artist, have you seen any shifts of changes in the industry?
Shana: Absolutely, 10 years ago was about the time all the tattoo shows started coming out and it seemed like everyone was starting to get tattooed. I feel like I got into it right at the right time. Since I got started I feel like people are a lot more accepting of tattoos, but I still get those people that will stop you in the middle of the street and tell you ‘why would you do that’ or make rude comments.
Why do you think people get tattooed?
Shana: Because they want to make a statement – it may be they want to tell something about themselves without actually having to verbalize it, or maybe they want to start a conversation by showing a piece. It really varies from person to person, but I definitely think they want to remember something, kind of making a bookmark with that tattoo or a reminder of things that have happened to them.
Follow Shana on Instagram @melonstamp to see some of her work, and stay tuned for more interviews with local women tattoo artists. Check out their work in our newest exhibit Tattooed & Tenacious: Inked Women in California’s History opening Sunday, March 20, at 12:00pm in the Leonard & David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House in History Park.
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