Women’s Work


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Women’s Work: Tattoo
Episode Overview


Tattooing has been a part of many cultures across the world since the neolithic era. This practice was not held only for men.  In ancient Egypt, only women were allowed to be tattooed. The excavators who first found tattooed mummies dismissed these remains as being those of concubines who would use tattooed symbols to ward off against “unruly men, sexually transmitted diseases, and complications in childbirth.” Today, it is believed that these women held high standing in society and their tattoos were serve as a permanent amulet to aid in childbirth. Other cultures, of course, had their own tattooing customs. In Europe, the Picts (whose name literally means painted people) of present day Scotland have been shown in many artistic interpretations of their women warriors’ body art. Inuit women native to North America had distinctive chin tattoos that were exclusively painted by other women. These tattoos mark accomplishments in the women’s lives including coming of age, getting married and having children.

In 2012, women were reported to be more likely than men to have at least one tattoo for the first time in the history of The Harris Poll. As the number of Americans with tattoos rises and tattooed women outnumber tattooed men why are their so few female tattoo artists? According to a 2010 study by Columbia University, just one in six tattoo artists is female. Many women today are disrupting the boy’s game of tattooing by creating female friendly spaces to get inked.

In this episode of Women’s Work we explore the colorful world of tattooing. Authors, historians, and professors introduce us to the historical and cultural backgrounds of women and tattoos. Female tattoo artists from apprentices to veterans describe why tattooing is their passion and what obstacles they faced while pursuing their dreams. We meet the tattooists involved in nonprofits empowering others through the art of tattoo and inspiring the next generation of female tattoo artists.

Potential Interview Participants 

(Please note I’m not planning on interviewing everyone listed. The list is expansive to mitigate the effect of people who decline to take part in an interview for any reason, interviews that are filmed, but do not fit with the final edit of the episode, and other unforeseeable conflicts.)

Authors, Historians, Professors

Amelia Klem Osterud - Author of The Tattooed Lady: A History
Margot Mifflin - Author, journalist, and professor;  Author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo and The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman; New York
Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman - Tattoo historian, author and professor; Author of The World Atlas of Tattoo; Chicago 
Beverly Yuen Thompson, Ph.D. - Author of Covered in Ink: Tattoos, Women and the Politics of the Body; Spokane
Anni Irish - Tattoo historian, New York
Mindy Fenske - Author and Professor; Author of Tattoos in American Visual Culture; Columbia, SC  

Tattoo Artists

Madame Vyvyn Lazonga - One of the first modern female tattoo artists, she’s been tattooing since 1972; Seattle
Nikki Time - Owner of Minneapolis Tattoo Shop, the Twin Cities premier female owned and operated tattoo parlor
Heather Ruin - Owner of Man’s Ruin Tattoo & Piercing Studio, an all female staffed shop in Asheville NC, Voted best in Western North Carolina for the past 16 years in row. 
Cori James, Lauren Visconti and Amy Leavell Bransford of Sparrowhawk in Atlanta
Ryan Ashley Malarkey - first female winner of Paramount Network’s Inkmaster; Kingston Pennsylvania
Erin Chance and Teresa Sharpe - owners Unkindness Tattoos; Richmond, VA
Staff of Nice Tattoo Parlor, NYC
Staff of Welcome Home Studio, NYC
Artists of Ladies of Ink, Various locations 


Survivors Ink - "Survivor's Ink exists to empower human trafficking survivors by breaking the psychological chains of enslavement through beautifying, removing, or covering their physical scars, markings, and brandings, which are constant reminders of a violent past." Columbus, OH
P.INK provides tattoo inspiration and artist info to mastectomy patients. Various locations
Pink Ink Fund - "Will raise money and solicit donations in order to offer financial assistance, education, and outreach to those in the community needing post mastectomy reconstructive, restorative, and recovery tattooing." Richmond, VA
Ladies of Ink Tour - Group started with the "vision of bringing professional black female tattoo artists together to tour cities in the United States." Various locations