Photos by Ronald Wayne
“I think because I’m self-taught, a big thing in my career has been paying attention to little details,” Flores says. “So when I was on the show, I paid attention to what everyone was doing, and [for the first time] Someone pointed out the mistakes I was making. Instead of feeling embarrassed about the way my work was being ripped down, I listened. It was by listening that I learned and grew. Seeing great artists be challenged was also motivating because it wasn’t just me, it was an experience I was sharing with everyone else.”
“Ink Master” not only made an impression on Flores, but she also made an impression on the growing franchise, becoming the very first artist to be invited back into the competition. Her two seasons on “Ink Master” made her a fan favorite, both in the eyes of the judges and with America. “I’d already built a name for myself in Miami; before the show, I was booked a year in advance,” Flores says. “But then when I went on the show, I gained worldwide recognition and now I have people flying out from California, Hawaii, and all over the world just to get tattooed. Even though I didn’t win either of my seasons, I felt like I won and the support I’ve gained for my art is my prize.”
After the show, Flores’s career only continued to grow and she used the support to expand her brand in all directions. First, she opened Till the End Tattoos. Then, she enlisted the assistance of some of the best-known artists in the industry. The next step was to discover her true identity as an artist, both inside and out of the tattoo studio. “I started painting three years ago,” Flores says. “I’m happy where I’m at as a tattooer and I hope to be known as much for my painting as I am for tattooing.”
Flores, like many other artists, uses painting as a means to escape the constraints of tattooing. Because tattooing involves thinking, breathing and movement, it requires precision and thought. “When I paint, I want to feel free,” Flores says. “I tattoo what clients want all day, but my painting process has no rules. I don’t draw lines. I instead paint colors onto the canvas, then shape it. I just go by the feeling, sometimes I’ll work on a painting for four or five sessions until I’m happy with the colors.”
Although Flores has plenty on her plate as a full-time tattooer, a mother, a painter, and a cast member on VH1’s “Cartel Crew,” she still makes the time to mentor the next generation. While she had to hustle on her own to make it in tattooing, she’s all about setting up the next class of tattooers for success. “When I first started with apprentices, I was teaching them the basics of tattooing—holding a machine, throwing a line, and putting in some shading,” Flores says. “Now I can spot what they’re doing wrong in the first four or five seconds. My ability to help my artists goes beyond how to make a living from tattooing. I teach them how to strive to be an award-winning tattooer.”
Flores put in a lot of effort to prove that she is not only a member of the elite, but also that she has the potential to be one of them. That type of tenacity can’t be taught and it’s been the driving force in all facets of her life—as an artist, a businesswoman, and a mother. There’s no stopping Tatu Baby and it’s only a matter of time before she surprises us with her next big venture.
Photos by Ronald Wayne