Exploring the Creative and Lucrative World of Tattoo Careers

Alisha Dulaney
Students hear Imani and Tina Tatum and Nat Power laugh and smile as they discuss their careers as tattoo artists.

On Friday afternoon, the Kendra Scott Center was buzzing with excitement as students waited patiently for local tattoo artists’ knowledge to reveal themselves on paper.

The Fine Arts Career Services organized Building a Career As a Tattoo Artist. It featured Tina Poe and Imani Tatum, as well as Nat Powers, a UT alum. Isabel Tweraser from career services hosted the panel and asked students several questions. The artists shared their knowledge, tips, and advice during the event.

Owning Nana’s Prayers, one of the only Black-owned tattoo studios in Austin, Tatum announced in An Instagram post, on February 7 Tatum stated that her business was closing in Austin because of racism and the exclusion of Black residents. Tatum shared her experiences as a tattoo artist by speaking at the panel. She said that her ability to join the white-dominated, male-dominated industry was dependent on her finding a community of Black artists.


“It’s really important to remember the old saying, ‘It’s not about what you know. It’s about who you know,” Tatum said. “(Before) meeting (my mentor) Clay, I tried to get into the industry, (and) I was met with a lot of noes. Unless I met a Black man who was willing to teach me, I wouldn’t be in the industry. It’s important to find someone you identify with.”

Moon Tattoo Studio’s owner, Poe, stated that she wants to encourage artists and help them to make a career out of their creativity. Poe also spoke about her experiences as a woman of color entering the industry in a white male-dominated industry.

“When I was younger, I loved seeing tattoos, but I never thought … I could go into (the industry) because I never saw any women or people of color in tattoo shops when I was in my younger teens,” Poe said.

Though he’s not currently looking to become a tattoo artist, Neal Flynn, an art education graduate student, said he attended the event to hear the advice of professionals in case he decides to pursue the career later on.

“When I was in undergrad, there was no mention of using your talent or your skills to go on and tattoo,” Flynn said. “But it ended up being the reality for some of the people in my program.”

While she’s not interested in a tattoo career, Ima Esiere, an arts and entertainment technologies senior, said she accompanied an interested friend who wants to enter the industry but feels unsure of how to get started.

“When (a career) doesn’t have a degree for it or isn’t talked about much, there are so many jobs you don’t know exist,” Esiere said. “People know that tattoo artists exist, but it’s still a reminder (that) you don’t have to do what you went to school for. Things can translate.”

Poe stated that she participates in portfolio reviews and speaking events. She hopes to empower students by talking to them about their creativity and passions and helping them find potential careers.

“I want to encourage people who want to be artists and want to be creative to know that there are things they can do with that creativity as career paths,” Poe said. “I thought (speaking) would be a great way to do that.”

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