We turn to art in search of meaning and significance, something to complete the puzzle of our daily lives and existence. The art of tattoos is no different.
When it comes to tattoos, the world really is your oyster. A tattoo can bound you to a lot of meanings, have no meanings at all, or even evolve to other meanings in time.
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Meet Brenda Rodney, a 22-year-old tattoo artist based in Kota Kinabalu. She started her journey as a tattoo artist in 2015 and has been inking clients ever since. She breaks it down for us that art is still art, and at the end of the day no matter what gender you are, respect is earned, trust is given, and loyalty returned.
Tell us a bit about yourself and when did you discover your talent as a tattoo artist.
Hi! I’m Brenda. I do hand poke tattoos and I’m a self-taught artist. I’ve always been curious and in love with art and tattoos ever since I can remember. I started to learn more about tattoos from my closest friends, and I ended up buying needles and ink to hand poke myself at first. I guess that’s when I really found my passion for tattooing. I hope to learn more from amazing artists out there and for the best in the future.
Sometimes finding the right tattoo artist can be difficult with options like hand poke, machines, etc. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it depends on your own personal interest. For me, I love trying new things, different, or traditional way of tattooing such as hand poke or hand tap. Some people just want to get a tattoo and don’t really care what type of method the artist uses. Machine works for all types of tattooing. Big, small, simple or detailed. For hand poke, the struggle is real when it comes to big pieces and details. I’m not sure about other methods of tattooing, but it’s best to always do your research about the artist and what kind of work they do.
Tattoo parlors have historically been male-dominated spaces. What’s it like being a female artist in this industry?
I just do my best in what I’m passionate about and luckily, my workmates respect me for who I am and what I can do. Things have been positive. People around me are mostly open minded and accepting of female artists who really have the potential to tattoo.
What would you say helped you the most throughout your journey as a tattoo artist?
My passion and unconditional love for art. And of course, the people who trust me, appreciate my work, and my closest friends who have been sharing their knowledge with me.
Tattoos are beautiful, they are marks of individuality. Do you think it’s important for them to mean something?
Tattoos don’t have to necessarily mean something. Sometimes it’s just an appreciation for art itself. It can be meaningful or no meaning at all, it all depends on personal desire.
You have some pretty amazing tattoos, can you share with our readers the story behind your favorite tattoo?
Thank you! I love the random matching tattoos I have with my friends. They always remind me of them. My rib piece is one of my favorites too–it reminds me of how much I love music.
What inspires your work?
I can say my work leans towards the dark side. I’ve always been fascinated with the beauty and destruction of things and emotions.
Do you think that tattoos have gained popularity from social media ie Instagram / Twitter / Pinterest?
For me, tattoos have always been popular amongst tattoo collectors/lovers. It’s even a culture for some of us. But social media has been helpful in all kinds of ways too.
Although tattoos have become more acceptable, the stigma of heavily visible tattoos on women still lingers, especially with annoying comments like “You’re so pretty, why would you do that to yourself?” What are your thoughts body shaming?
Everyone has their own perception of beauty, and honestly, it’s tiring to explain to people, why. All I keep saying is, “It’s my body and I can do whatever I want with it. I respect your opinion but if you have nothing nice to say, it’s better to say nothing at all. I don’t judge you or your appearance or question why you don’t have any tattoos. So don’t bother asking me why I have tons on my body.”
I just don’t give a single frick about comments like that anymore.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for those getting their first tattoo?
Just like I said before, it’s best to do your research about what kind of work the artist does, and always make up your mind about what you want before meeting the artist. And the most important thing–the person has to know the sensitivity of their skin to avoid difficulty during the healing process and to prevent any type of infections. Namaste.
. . .
While tattooing is still a male-dominated world, more female artists than ever before are jumping on the gun, and it’s so cool to see yet another Sabahan female artist proving that it doesn’t have to be. Female or male, a tattoo artist is an artist.
~Interview by Fay Ulrica