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  • Writer's pictureBeth Waterman

Its A Man's World | Lainy - Tattoo Artist | Indiana Portrait Photographer

Being a woman in this day and age is tough, tougher than most think. We are expected to look amazing at all times, be a friend, a spouse, a parent, and still manage to run our own businesses and hold down full time jobs. Being a woman who works in a male dominated field? Even harder!

One of the hardest challenges I have had to overcome personally is being in a world that is dominated by men. No, I don't mean photography believe it or not, I actually mean the automotive world. I have been involved in the custom truck scene since the 90's and its never been easy to gain respect.

So my goal for 2020 was to highlight as many women who are kicking butt in a male driven world right along with me. I sure hope you enjoy this series as much as I have enjoyed creating it!

For my first blog, I wanted to highlight a woman who I have known for awhile and followed avidly. Lainy is a local Indianapolis Tattoo Artist, mother, and spouse. She has such amazing skills, I literally cannot even express to you how much I love her work. I hope you take the time to learn a little more about her and her line of work!

So Lainy, how did you get started in this field?

"I originally started my apprenticeship in Greenwood, Indiana under my buddy Jersey when I was 18 (going on 19) years old, but I had to relocate to Bloomington, Indiana. I finished up my apprenticeship under Chris Borchik (my Jedi master) and officially started tattooing at New Breed when I was 23."

What Challenges do you face in this field as a woman?

"I’m lucky enough to work in a shop with 2 other talented, female tattoo artists and a female cosmetic tattooer. It’s kind of unusual to have 4 women in 1 shop (and have them all get along). The number of ladies are equal to the number of guys so, I can honestly say, I currently don’t feel any challenges.

I have, in the past, been told that women don’t belong in this field, though. Which is absolutely ridiculous! Our clientele is predominantly women and I’ve found that most women prefer female artists to men. They feel more comfortable with another woman and know that a woman won’t sexually harass them, judge their body, be understanding of “mom bod”, and have the “feminine touch” that they’re looking for in their piece.

I think any woman faces the problem of potentially not being taken seriously when she has an Issue in her work place and being labeled “overly emotional” or “hormonal” or “on her period”. These are all ways that insecure men easily attempt to dismiss our talent, value, and input we bring to our trade. I’ve had male artist accuse me of using my “feminine wiles” to get clientele, rather than my talent, as well. Once again, a sad sign of insecurity and someone who is threatened by your ability.

I learned long ago when I started in this trade to “check your vagina at the door” as in, you have to develop a thick skin and not react emotionally to everything around you, stand up for yourself with a sharp tongue and quick sense of humor, and above all else... know your shit. If you can’t tattoo and prove that you’re more than a novelty pretty girl in a shop, you’ll never be respected.

I was lucky enough to grow up with all brothers and a mean ass WW2 vet as my adopted dad so I learned from an early age how to embrace my femininity while simultaneously being able to “be one of the boys”."

How long have you been a tattoo artist?

"I’ve been in tattoo shops apprenticing and working since I was 18 years old but didn’t start officially tattooing clients until I was 23, so 12 years."

Where do you find your inspiration & motivation?

"I’m constantly inspired by the amazing artists in my trade and especially those I’m lucky enough to work with. I love seeing other artists’ work and what they’re capable of doing with just skin and ink. It pushes me to keep growing as an artist and trying new techniques/supplies. As far as my actual artwork, I get a lot of my inspiration while hiking and spending time in nature, from my daughter and her boundless imagination, and late night insomnia."

As a little girl, did you see yourself in this field?

"I never pictured myself being a tattoo artist growing up. I always loved tattoos and piercings and thought they looked beautiful but never considered it as a career. Tattoo tv was nonexistent when I was growing up. Tattoo shops were still very taboo, especially to kids. I actually wanted to be an art teacher or psychiatrist but had no money to attend school. I grew up an extremely poor, trailer park kid, adopted by my grandparents who had no idea how to go about helping me attain financial aid etc. I figured college was just out of the question, a total pipe dream. I never considered tattooing until a friend of mine, when I was 18 and working at Target, mentioned it to me, due to my love of getting tattoos and my artistic ability. Without my friend Tina Cook and her suggestion, it may have never crossed my mind."

Who do you look up to in the tattoo industry, and why?

"I know a lot of artists would probably drop big names of people on tattoo tv or those featured in magazines but I look up to the ladies I work with. I feel empowered by the moms I see within my own shop, making beautiful pieces of art every day. I love watching their growth as an artist and having it inspire me to push myself."

If you could pass on any words of wisdom to other women who are interested in the tattoo industry, what would you say?

"Respect yourself and your talent! There are a lot of sleazy, scumbag, tattooers out there who will offer you an apprenticeship but the stipulation will be sex. Once you’ve disrespected yourself, you’ll never be taken seriously as an artist and that reputation will follow you. Talk to other females in this business if you’re serious. We are a close knit community and we ALL know each others’ reputations. We can help keep you away from the creeps and point you in the direction you want.

However, this business isn’t all tattoo tv. There’s no time clock, there’s no insurance, no sick days, no paid time off, no HR dept, no safety net if you get your hand broken or hurt your shoulder...this business can be a little cut throat and it’s always feast or famine. I don’t quite understand how it gets so glorified because, honestly, there’s a lot of negatives to being self employed. You have to truly love this trade to make it. Not because you love Kat Von D on tv and “omg wouldn’t it be so cool if I did that?!” Because those shows are nowhere near the reality of what life in a shop is like. There’s a LOT of downtime starting out. Just sitting and waiting on walk ins, slow season where you are scraping by to pay rent and can’t afford Christmas gifts for your family, artists arguing over who is up and who gets what tattoo, sometimes you get clients that are a nightmare and you don’t get to tattoo your own art very often. Some days you may come in and make no money and then the same the day after that. You have to be smart with your money when you do make it because it has to last for when times get slow, or you get sick, or you need to buy supplies (which are insanely expensive).

I would strongly urge any female wanting to pursue tattooing to find an artist they trust, maybe an artist who tattoos them, and “job shadow” them for maybe a week. See what it’s actually like all day and talk to the artist about all the good, bad, and ugly of the tattoo industry. It may surprise you. If it’s still something you’re truly passionate about, then start busting your ass on some Finished pieces of artwork to really wow a shop. We are all (most of us, at least) artists first and foremost. We know good art when we see it. We know potential when we see it. We also know tracing, copied pieces, and unoriginality when we see it. So whatever your preferred medium is, whatever your style, whatever your technique...start knocking out a portfolio, almost like you would present to an art school for a scholarship."

Thank you, thank you, thank you a million times for sharing your story with me Lainy, and for being brave in front of the camera. You are an absolutely incredible woman and I cannot wait to see where life takes you!

Please follow and support Lainy at Endurance Tattoo

Hair & Makeup provided by: Simply Blue

Gown & Backdrop selected by: Beth Waterman Photography

Indiana Portrait Photographer: Beth Waterman Photography

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