Looking Forward, Looking Back…

Originally posted January 3, 2019:

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on here, but I am planning to revisit my writing in 2019, so hopefully you will see a lot more popping up on here more regularly.

2018 was a year of huge changes- I left a successful career as a retail manager, made very little photographic art, and spent the year in a deep dive, learning to tattoo. That one kind of came out of left field for people, I think, so I’m going to break down some of my history and why I spent he last year almost exclusively focusing on one medium.

First, we are going to go back a little over 20 years, when I was studying at Hampshire College, which had a create your own degree type of program, and after my first semester trying to figure out what I wanted to focus on, I took an anthropology class and my mind was blown- I was totally hooked! I spent the next four years studying and writing about body modification from an anthropological perspective; Writing paper after paper, spending thousands of hours in libraries pouring through old, dry anthropological texts and papers looking for that one line or one paragraph that might discuss an experience with body modification of any kind. I completed four chapters of an encyclopedia on body modification, wrote dozens of papers and was involved in many online forums, sharing knowledge and resources, helping and being supported by a burgeoning community as the internet became a more useful and popular tool.

I became a body piercer during this time, the late 90s, when piercing was new to the general public, and there were not many of us performing this service. My mentor for my piercing apprenticeship was my husband Jaesun (we were not together at the time I began my apprenticeship), and I was exploring branding and other forms of ritual scarification with him during this time as well. During this period, body modification in general was a very important subject to me— Understanding how the cultures which came before us used modification as a social and spiritual tool, as well as how such things impact us contemporarily. I was fascinated (and truthfully, still am) with how one presents themselves physically impacts so much of how that person sees themselves, how their community sees them, and how those two ideas interact, as well as how these experiences have spiritual and emotional impacts on the bearer. Understanding how changing one’s body effects a person in society and empowers the individual could have been called an obsession!

So, what happened, you might ask… well, life, I suppose. Realistically, piercing as a profession ended up not paying the bills as well as we’d hoped, and while Jae was getting the ball rolling on his tattoo career, I got into the retail universe and focused on running solid businesses for big corporations. I was good at what I did and mentored many successful managers, as well as going through multi-unit management training to become a district manager. Along the way I found an art medium in Photography, which I was passionate about, and ran Jae’s tattoo business on the side, which balanced the needs on my right brain and my left brain and kept me fairly content.

Keeping in mind that Jae has been asking me for at least 15 years to learn to tattoo, I was thinking it was not my place in the universe and kept putting him off because photography was really the only art form I felt I had the time to dedicate myself to. That is, until late 2017, when I started drawing and painting again regularly after over a decade. I also had the realization that I was officially in my 40s(so old, I thought at one point) and that I really needed to buckle down and focus only on the things that make me happy, that challenge me in a positive way, in an environment that supports and facilitates growth. I gave in and Jae and I decided it was finally time for my apprenticeship to begin.

I won’t bore you with the details, but it was not an easy year. I worked 40+ hours a week at my retail job, driving all over New England to support my teams, usually in the car 3+ hours a day, coming home to draw, work on creating muscle memory to create smoother lines, reading as much as I could about technique, machines, and the mechanics of tattooing. On my days off I was at the studio, watching Jae work, doing apprentice tasks, tattooing friends and family, and generally cramming my head full of every bit of information I could glean. Days off were few and far between, but it was worth every minute of it! My hard work paid off and I was able to transition to working full time as a tattoo artist this past August, just in time for the insanity of Halloween in Salem. October solidified that I had made the right choice, even after long days of hard work, I felt inspired and driven to be and do more.

As I embark on the second year of my apprenticeship, I am focusing on acquiring the skills and techniques that i don’t have as much experience with and I am trying to find my way stylistically, which I know will be a long road. My anthropologist nature is returning with a vengeance, including my desire to write about body modification and to study the minutiae of the art form from culture to culture to better understand how we can use this powerful tool. I have always believed that changing the physical body changes the mind and spirit, intentionally or not, and it is so very important to me to embody this awareness as I help clients bring their visions to life and I am incredibly honored to do such important work.

I am deeply grateful to all who have supported me on this journey, whether they were part of it 20 years ago, or more recently, whether it was related to writing or art or business management… I would not be here without you and I hope my work will make you all proud.

Stay tuned for anthropological writing, new fine art photography, painting and illustration, tattoos and travel adventures this year- this is just the beginning!