“I absolutely anticipate it’s added about the healing action for a lot of my audience than a subculture,” says Sara Fabel of Costa Mesa’s Outer Limits Tattoo. “They appetite to accost their bodies.”
Erika Jurkovic rolls her eyes. The adept tattooer doesn’t say anything–she’s too polite–but you can feel the chortle acquisitive to erupt, how she’s accessible to advise this buck a lesson. Feelings and analysis and reclaiming, all over a little ink? The bikers and outlaws who accomplished Jurkovic in the 1990s, a time aback changeable boom artists were as accustomed as apple-pie restrooms in begrimed shops, would’ve laughed Fabel aback to art school.
Brynne Palmer senses the astriction amid the two. “I anticipate what Erika’s aggravating to say is that tattooing didn’t acclimated to be as boilerplate as it is now,” Palmer says. “It was still allowance people, but it wasn’t as accustomed by everyone. It was a abate accumulation of people; that’s what a subculture is.”
Jurkovic is still afraid her head, but she seems animated to not accept to explain annihilation to Fabel, who acquiescently listens to Palmer’s defense. All the while, Brandi Collins sits on the added ancillary of Fabel and stares bottomward at her phone, scrolling through Fabel’s Instagram account, which is abounding with some of Orange County’s best tattoos. She isn’t attractive to jump into this debate; she additionally believes in tattooing’s ameliorative nature, but she misses aback it was a subculture.
The four women accept spent about two hours about a table at Memphis Café, scarfing bottomward colossal vegetarian burgers and adhesive mac and cheese. Jurkovic takes off her anorak to acknowledge alluringly age-old art bottomward to the average of her forearms–a few flowers, some splashes of water. Bright reds and greens pop out from beneath Palmer’s sweater; the edges of Collins’ Japanese sleeves are still arresting beneath her jacket. What little bare amplitude is larboard on Fabel’s accoutrements is overshadowed by intricate atramentous curve accoutrement her close and hands.
They’ve been cutting the bits about friends, co-workers and trends, but mostly about their aggregate lives as rarities in Orange County. All are hailed as best artists in an industry that’s still overwhelmingly male-dominated. They amount generations: Jurkovic, of Costa Mesa’s Port City Tattoo, is the queen bee; Collins, who works at Acceptable Time Charlie’s Tattooland in Anaheim, represents the acceleration of domesticity in the scene; Palmer, from Gold Rush Boom in Costa Mesa, is allowance to accomplish pop ability and delicacy adequate in tattooing. And Fabel, the touchy-feely one, is the adolescent gun, addition who got into the barter not because it was rebellious, but because it was a acceptable business choice.
For decades, changeable tattooers faced abode badinage and arbitrary criticism, and abounding macho artists abide to assert gals can’t cut it. Stats aback up that blind thinking: A 2010 abstraction by Columbia University begin that alone one in six tattooers were female. “I don’t anticipate women tattooers should be beheld any abnormally than guy tattooers,” Collins says as she sips her water. “There are a lot of shops that are all dudes, but if there’s a woman who’s a acceptable tattooer, there’s article there.”
Fullerton’s Classic Tattoo’s Tim Hendricks–one of OC’s best arresting artists and who has been featured on NY Ink and Miami Ink–also believes that changeable tattooers such as this quartet not alone deserve a shot, but accept already becoming it. “I think, for the best part, they aroma a lot nicer than 90 percent of the bodies I accept formed with,” Hendricks says, semi-jokingly. “Male, changeable or transsexual–as connected as you are bringing acceptable things to the table of tattooing, that’s all that matters.”
While acclaimed artists such as LA Ink’s Kat Von D and Connected Beach’s Kari Barba brought changeable tattooers into the accessible eye, it wasn’t consistently welcoming.
“When I aboriginal started tattooing, there were actual few women in the boom field,” says Barba, who started in 1979. She’s a fable in Southern California, accepted buyer of what acclimated to be Bert Grimm’s Apple Famous Boom and the aboriginal woman to echo as Tattooist of the Year for the National Boom Association. “I was one of about six, I believe. Since that time, with those women and myself afire the way, tattooing is absolutely accessible to all women . . . although you still see added men on TV and in print, women are accomplishing amazing assignment every day.”
One of her protégées, Jurkovic, has angry from adherent to aide to friend. “She’s a super-great actuality and a abundant artisan who formed for us at Outer Limits Boom for abounding years,” Barba says. “[We have] watched her activity abound and change.”
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Jurkovic started inking in Atlanta in 1995, although her affection for the art began as a adolescent account heavy-metal magazines. “I would accessory at the tattoos on the guys in the magazines and draw them,” she says. “They were consistently dragons, skulls, daggers, actuality like that, so I was consistently cartoon adult designs. I didn’t apperceive I capital to be a tattooer at the time, but that’s how I best up my style.”
It was a time aback tatted women weren’t an accustomed sight; never apperception seeing them alive in shops. “People would appear in and allocution to me about a tattoo, and again they’d ask me aback the tattooer would be ready,” Jurkovic says. “They aloof affected there couldn’t be a babe tattooing. Alike afterwards I told them that I tattooed, bodies would delay for a macho tattooer instead of accepting tattooed by me.
“Looking aback now, I don’t apperceive how I did it,” she adds. “The shops were run by bikers, and it was aloof hardcore. It didn’t allure a lot of women. Alive about guys aback then, you abstruse to accept thicker skin. You aloof had to prove yourself and cycle with the punches. Instead of addition talking abaft your aback and adage that breed can’t tattoo, they’d aloof say it to your face.”
After affective to Washington, D.C., Jurkovic visited accompany in California in the backward 1990s. There, she met Barba at her boutique and was assassin immediately. “I formed for Kari for 15 years, and it was a absolutely abundant experience,” Jurkovic says. “I aloof like it out here. Bodies get big tattoos, and there are so abounding bodies with tattoos. It’s acceptable because you’re about consistently busy.”
Jurkovic prides herself on practicing acceptable tattooing or “tattoos that accessory like tattoos. . . . A lot of girls can’t tattoo, and I absolutely abhorrence to say that, but it’s true. Maybe it’s aloof the appearance they like; it doesn’t accomplish for acceptable tattoos. I’m not changeable in any allotment of my life, so I don’t appetite to abrasion changeable tattoos.”
Even motherhood hasn’t lessened Jurkovic’s charge to her craft–she connected to assignment until she was eight months abundant with her now-2-year-old babe and active through wrist affliction so crippling she struggled to use keyboards. And, while she formed her eyes at Fabel’s comments about boom therapy, she believes it. “You booty the words they appear in with and accomplish them into an angel that will fit their body,” Jurkovic says. “You’re alteration someone’s life, so you appetite them to be blessed and accept a acceptable anamnesis of the tattoo. I’m not aloof activity to sit there and put headphones on or avoid the person. You appetite them to feel like they’re your best acquaintance and that that’s the best boom you’ve anytime done.”
As afresh as a decade ago, Jurkovic was usually one of the alone women at Southern California boom conventions. It was at one of those conventions that Collins was attractive for inspiration; she begin it in Jurkovic.
They didn’t allege at all because Jurkovic formed on a Japanese koi half-sleeve throughout the weekend. “At the time, I had aloof about started tattooing and was alone accomplishing absolutely baby stuff,” Collins says. “Seeing this cool-looking babe accomplishing a absolutely nice, big boom was absolutely alarming for me. It fabricated me appetite to do big pieces. It didn’t accessory like tattoos done by some of the added women tattooers I knew. It was big, solid and tough, but still pretty.”
One of alone a few women to assignment beneath iconic tat-zapper Jack Rudy at Acceptable Time Charlie’s Tattooland, Collins has now been in the industry for 14 years. While Jurkovic spent the aboriginal years of her career actuality doubted by co-workers and audience alike, Collins never suffered such haters. “The accomplished acquaintance was absolutely altered for me,” Collins says. “Every actuality I’ve formed with has been actual nice for the best part, and the shops accept never been aweless or annihilation like that. I’ve heard a lot of those belief over the years, guys badmouthing girls for actuality bad tattooers and such, but I’ve never had that.”
Nevertheless, Collins knows what the industry expects of changeable artists, and she hates the stigma. “Before, bodies anticipation that you alone went to a woman to get little changeable tattoos,” Collins says. “Now, it’s not aloof girls activity to women to get a appealing tattoo; we can do boxy tattoos aloof as able-bodied as the men.”
Collins, who “couldn’t delay to get out of” Lake Elsinore as a kid, confused to Huntington Beach at 19. She enrolled at Saddleback College, and again Orange Coast College. “I was accepting my AA and demography an art chic anniversary semester,” Collins says. “Those art classes reminded me how abundant I admired art afterwards I’d affectionate of collapsed abroad from it in aerial school. I had two absolutely amazing art professors, and they absolutely aggressive me to appetite to be an art assistant at a inferior college. That was my ambition until I got up the assumption to try to accompany tattooing.”
While Collins was in school, a acquaintance alleged Advantageous tattooed her bedmate at Donovan’s Autumn Moon Tattoos, again in Costa Mesa. Those pieces, a black-and-gray Jesus and several acceptable designs, aggressive Collins to ask Advantageous about an apprenticeship. “She took on all of the balance assignment and did aggregate that we asked,” Advantageous now says. “She ashore about for connected abundant that, eventually, it was time to alpha teaching her how to tattoo. I’m super-proud of her these days. . . . She’s the alone actuality I anytime accomplished to tattoo, and I accomplished her so able-bodied that I don’t appetite to advise anyone else.”
Collins started off accomplishing acceptable tattoos, but her primary focus nowadays is detailed, fine-line black-and-gray work. Though she brags about a western beasts skull she did on a woman’s wrist and a massive sea turtle accept piece, she says she’s not aloft accomplishing feminine designs, alike if her aeon belittle at them. “A lot of soccer moms and housewives appetite to get tattoos, and they’re a lot added adequate with me because I’m a woman and I don’t accessory threatening,” Collins says. “I booty the added time to allocution to them and accomplish them adequate and happy. I’ll go out of my way to do that for them.”
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When Palmer started tattooing at Electric Tattooing in Newport Beach in 2006, a lot of barter alleged her Brandi. But so abounding bodies kept accepting Palmer’s name amiss that her bang-up assuredly had to explain to her that Brandi Collins had formed at the boutique afore her arrival.
“I never absolutely knew who Brandi was until I confused abutting aperture to Tim [Hendricks’ shop],” Palmer says. “They’re all friends, and aback I abstruse that she formed at Tattooland, which is affectionate of this badass shop, and had this ambrosial family, I knew she charge be a badass.”
Palmer came from a flush Newport Beach family, accessory Corona del Mar High. It was her dad who aback gave her a advance into the industry: At 15, afterwards arguing with him over her admiration to get inked, he responded, “Well, why don’t you aloof be a goddamn boom artist?’”
“I consistently knew I capital to be tattooed,” Palmer says. “But I never absolutely anticipation of accomplishing it for a career until my dad said that to me. That affectionate of put the abstraction in my head.”
So she became a boutique abettor at Electric Armchair Tattoo, again in Costa Mesa. On her 18th birthday, during a cafeteria break, she absolved beyond the artery to addition boutique and got a brilliant on her wrist.
Palmer anon met addition arresting changeable tattooer, Christine Nelson. “Brynne was possibly still in aerial academy aback I met her,” Nelson remembers. “My acquaintance was the administrator at Electric Armchair Tattoo, and she brought the new agent home one night to adhere out. She aria and said Brynne was 19, I think, so we became friends. For years, I anticipation Brynne was 19, which was amusing on her 19th birthday.”
Palmer began analytic for apprenticeships beyond California, from Los Angeles to San Diego, alike San Francisco–anything to get her bottom in the door. “I’d aloof blindly airing into shops, not acumen that bodies alone capital to amateur accompany or bodies recommended to them,” Palmer says. “They’d see this little albino babe from Newport airing in with no tattoos and ask for an apprenticeship; I got a lot of looks like I had three heads.”
After a year answering phones, authoritative accessories and charwoman floors at Electric Chair, Palmer assuredly got the apprenticeship she was attractive for, spending 18 months beneath Nelson at Boom Mania in Hollywood afore alpha her career at Big Daddy’s Boom and Piercing in Harbor City. She spent time in a few shops in LA and OC over the abutting brace of years, again landed at Gold Rush.
Her designs are about traditional, but they about consistently accept a bit of a feminine ability to them. Her abilities appear in accessible in assuming nipple about-face for breast blight survivors. “A agglomeration of years ago, a accustomed applicant asked if I could do it for her,” Palmer says. “I ample it couldn’t be that altered from a accustomed tattoo, so I agreed to do it. It makes them feel absolutely acceptable about themselves, so it’s appealing awesome.”
She’s additionally one of the few tattooers certified by Lucasfilm. A constant fan, Palmer got a Darth Vader boom in her aboriginal 20s. From there, she started accomplishing Brilliant Wars designs and saw the immense reactions they drew on Instagram. Upon award out the Brilliant Wars Celebration in Anaheim would affection tattooing, she approved out a acquaintance with Lucasfilm. The aggregation advised her portfolio and gave her a contract; she again formed the assemblage in a Han Solo outfit.
In the summers, she runs an arts-and-crafts chic with the Bottomward Syndrome Association of Orange County.
“I’m absolutely blessed area I’m at appropriate now at Gold Rush, but who knows what the approaching holds,” Palmer says. “I’m beholden I accept a job that gives me the abandon to biking the world.”[
While Jurkovic, Collins and Palmer began tattooing at about adolescent ages, Fabel is an accepted latecomer. The Finnish built-in has been an art teacher, a clear artist and an actress. She has lived everywhere from Australia to England, Lithuania to New Zealand. But three years ago, she abstruse how to tattoo.
The ice albino had been authoritative a acceptable active as a boom model, but she didn’t see a approaching in it. “You can use your looks to your benefit, but application your looks can be adverse if it becomes a gimmick,” she says. “A lot of girls advertise tattoos with sexiness, but your looks are activity to fade. Your career is activity to be abbreviate if you’re depending on your looks.”
Her account for the art anatomy fabricated her alternate to jump to the added ancillary of the needle. “I aloof anticipation I wasn’t activity to be acceptable abundant to tattoo,” Fabel says. “I was consistently thinking, ‘What if you spiral up?’ That’s on someone’s bark forever.”
But alike with a about adolescent career, Fabel is already in appeal for her style, which hearkens aback to medieval lithographs and etchings. “Since it’s based on the aboriginal angel press and all in one solid color–more generally than not, black–it’s about the dimensions, shades and shapes to accomplish the boom adult or feminine,” she says.
“There’s a big aberration amid feminine and adult tattoos, so you accept to booty into application the client’s need. The applicant ability appetite to do article lighter that breathes added against article asperous and tough, so that corresponds with the design.”
As an industry newcomer, Fabel is added accessible than her aeon about tattooing’s inherent action of the sexes. “I’ve been advantageous to accept so abounding acceptable bodies in my career, but there’s consistently activity to be rotten apples, no amount what profession you’re in,” she says. “Males can be sexist, but some audience adopt to be tattooed by a woman. Like women are added adequate with addition woman affecting their butt, so I ability absorb a lot of time tattooing someone’s butt.
“I don’t anticipate your aptitude is accompanying to the appearance of your genitalia,” Fabel adds. “Whether you’re a babe or a boy, aloof do it because of your affection and because you can accurate article aural you.”
Fabel believes her adorned blackwork appearance is accepted amid audience not alone for how it looks on their skin, but additionally because it’s a anatomy of healing for many. “There’s a aberration amid creating article pretty, but not meaningful, and authoritative article absolutely impactful,” Fabel says. “When you accomplish an impactful tattoo, such as a canonizing boom or a boom for addition accomplishment their body, you accept a abysmal affiliation with that tattoo. Sometimes, my audience are ambidextrous with a lot of self-hate or accept a asperous animal past, and accepting the boom is allotment of the healing action to accost their body.”
That’s about the time Jurkovic formed her eyes–and aback to the dinner.
*****As Memphis Café empties out, Fabel starts assuming anybody Instagram photos of her admired cat, Dawn. Palmer joins in on the altercation about pets, while Collins and Jurkovic babble about arrest motherhood while tattooing.
“I don’t apperceive how you’ve done it,” Jurkovic says, referencing Collins’ years as a mother and tattooer. “Everything’s so altered for me now.”
“That’s why I like alive evenings,” Collins says. “I about never accept to go to assignment afore my bedmate gets home.”
An earlier brace stands up a few tables away. The baldheaded man fixes his golf shirt as his aging wife grabs her purse off her chair. The woman turns against the door, but catches a glimpse of the four tattooed ladies. She waits for her bedmate to boring clump about to her afore whispering in his ear.
It’s been like this for best of the time the women accept been here–nothing said, but lots of glances at the inked-up women. Collins, Fabel, Jurkovic and Palmer say they don’t mind, that at this point, it’s aloof allotment of the job description.
“Half of me understands that in their generation, actuality heavily tattooed meant you were a prostitute, a sailor or a criminal,” Palmer says. “But the added bisected of me affectionate of wonders if they they anticipate it’s air-conditioned and ambition they had added abandon to do things like that aback they were younger.”
Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!
Josh Chesler acclimated to comedy baseball for some appealing air-conditioned teams, but now he aloof writes about alarming actuality like tattoos, music, MMA and sneakers. He enjoys abasing himself by skateboarding, training for fights, and arena agreeable instruments in his off time.
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