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Ms. Deborah's Fountain of Youth Tattoo & Piercing



Ms. Deborah: The Life & Legend

The many years I have worked in the tattoo industry are just a part of my life long journey as a professional artist. On this journey I have had the privilege of meeting so many other artists with fascinating life stories of their own. I enjoy the company people from all corners of the universe. It is sort of a pyramid of little stories that intertwine my life with other people's lives as I travel. It is not just about the tattoo. It is about making a commitment to an art form and perseverance. I feel we old timers  have definitely paved an easier road for the new generation of tattoo artists . I do feel however that a lot of the mystique of the art form has vanished, due to so much information available and the trendiness of this once sacred endeavor.

This journey has gone by too fast. It doesn't seem like 31 years ago that I was first mentioned in National Tattoo Association Magazine. At the time my first article was published there were just a few magazines dedicated to the art medium. Information was not readily available. Technology has made access to other artists, techniques and styles a lot easier for the working tattoo artists today. Although there's a lot of information available, the mastery of this art is still learned through apprenticeship under or working with another artist. The artist must continue to work, practice, evaluate, and grow. Like I said, when I started 27 years ago, information was not that easy to obtain. Magazines did not line the shelves on the subject and you really did not see or hear about it unless you were in some sort of conversation somehow or circle that was interested in the subject. So that in itself, kept the somewhat mystique flavor of tattooing alive. Nowadays, information is abundant and so are the people interested in getting tattooed. I don't know and can't imagine where it will go in the years to come, but I do know that having just one tattoo is not doing the trick for a lot of young tattoo collectors.

I was introduced to tattooing by Eric Inksmith, whom I served my apprenticeship. This was not too hard being that I married Eric and the decision to tattoo wasn't that difficult to make, as I was a secretary for a cash register company at the time. The choice was given to me to stay with the company or tattoo. Well, need I say more? Eric was considered one of the best artists around at the time, and I do believe still. For solid, eye catching work from across the room, Eric 's name had made it 's way around the tattoo circle, and back then the circle wasn't that big. You could literally keep up with folks! I also met Paul Rogers during this time and was exposed to such artists as Greg Irons, Suzanne Fauser, Peter Paulous, Henry Goldfield, Philadelphia Eddie, Lyle Tuttle, Paul Ortloff, Ed Hardy, Mike Malone, Candi Everette, Jackie Gresham, The Leu Family Irons and a lot of other recognized international artists. Another honor knowing Paul was to read letters and look at photos from people all over the world in the tattoo business. I consider myself pretty lucky and blessed as to have been friends with such a unique man. I realize we are all unique in our own ways, but this man was such an inspiration to me as far as how he dealt with people. All of you in the tattoo business know that this is an art form all in itself. To me, it is an important step to assure my clients experience something more than just receiving a mark on the flesh. I also try and leave some sort of mark deeper than that. Tattoo artists are a dime a dozen these days and unless you have something that they cannot get down the road, that 's where they will go... down the road.

Then came my first convention, as they were very few and far between then. The Queen Mary Convention. What a special place to hold a tattoo convention. It didn't take me long to realize I was in the presence of the crème de la crème of tattooists. I think it was the first time and the last time I had ever been in the same place with so many talented people at the same time, and I knew I also wanted to be associated somehow with these folks.

So, I really paid attention to what it was that they were doing and I noticed a considerable difference in my work after attending the Queen Mary convention. Exposure, it is all about exposure. This takes me back to the part where I see now, levels and dimensions. The young tattoo artists are so exposed to everything these days, and they apply it to tattooing. Just about every image they see, sooner or later some new school kid will be sporting it, showing us the sign of the times.

I came from the days of studying Michelangelo, Rembrandt, da Vinci, etc. and identified with classical art. So I started trying to integrate a classical style, into the work, as well as preserving and respecting old school tattoo teachings and somehow add the new flare to keep it fresh. Back when I first started, it was mainly a man 's profession. I had a lot of male influence in my work. I have been told I tattoo like a man from Hanky Panky and I take that as a very high compliment. I love seeing a bold, solid piece with a soft side to it. I like to have both, and sometimes, you can't tell if a man or a woman did it. The closest woman I found that tattooed like that was Candy Everette, she worked along beside Mike Malone for years and she really knew how to get a tattoo in. I admired her work for years and then on the Queen Mary, I met Susanne Fauser. I had been waiting for a tattoo from Greg Irons for 3 days and he was so busy, (he was like the Filip Leu nowadays), everybody wanted his work. So I decided to get tattooed from Susanne. She said I looked like a cat and I should get a tiger. So I did. I loved her style. She had an extensive art background and it showed.

Then I noticed it was this thing, where you could actually take a living flesh and transform it into fine art. I started seeing large images I hadn't ever seen on a human. Since I was raised in the deep south, we were not exposed to such as this. All of a sudden these images were coming to life in front of me. People from all over the world had shown up for this big event and it was then I knew I would be a tattoo artist. Not just a stencil jockey. The tattoo came out real nice and considering I never let her finish it (it hurt too bad then) it was always one of my favorite tattoos because it marked the time I realized that tattooing could be so much more than just applying a stencil to the skin and slapping it on. So I went back to Brunswick with my head spinning and ideas flowing and man, what a difference I noticed in my work. It took off light years. Exposure, it was all about exposure and seeing a new way of doing this, new images, things I didn't 't and couldn't 't think of in a million years, and it was then I knew just about anything could be duplicated onto skin. If the work of today doesn't 't reflect that, I don 't know what does.

I do consider myself very fortunate, by lack of fate that Paul Rogers lived only a short distance from me. He hung out in our tattoo shop for years, thus the name Inksmith and Rogers. I worked and played closely with Paul and he taught me countless lessons regarding this business. As he received letters and photos from all over the world, he would bring them to us and share them and then there was always a story to tell. Through Paul, I learned who was doing what and where, who was honorable in the business and who was considered not so reputable. Who paid their bills and who didn't? Paul had a whimsical side to him always, he didn't judge a person at all, and he just pointed out their ways and left the rest to you.

I also was blessed to work side by side with him as he intimately fixed and built machines for all the top artists and ones I never heard of before. I saw a lot their machines before they did. Going over to Paul 's was like going over to a guru 's house. You knew you had entered a blessed and sacred space. For he truly loved this business and the people in it and the ones he had met along the way. He was the Gamble Rogers of the tattoo world. The best storyteller I ever met. He was a real people person  as he would say with a smile. Especially the ladies. They could get him to do anything. We had a lot of laughs about that. He also informed me that if I was to be in this business, I had to get used to traveling around and not thinking I could stay settled. He had to travel around a lot because of the carnival circuit he worked on. So I figure he thought all artists had to travel around. I don't think I really have to travel, but since Paul said I did, I think subconsciously I do. I do learn a lot wherever I go and I think this is why I need to travel and work around many different people. I have met a lot of great people and have great had some really interesting experiences. I have traveled all over the world and brought t back as many experiences as I could. I know without these experiences, I would not be half the person I am today.

National Tattoo Association was the first organization I was involved in and that was almost twenty years ago. They featured me in one of their issues. It was then that I felt like I had been accepted into the business and I guess I was. I am now the sole owner of Ms. Deborah 's Fountain of Youth Tattoo Studio, Inc. located in St. Augustine Florida. I have been here for almost 15 years. I was able to design this studio exactly how I wanted it. The studio reflects the evolution of the tattoo and myself. It is a very comfortable environment for my Artists and my clients.

I had the privilege of visiting with the Leu Family in 1988 in Switzerland and I was so taken with the fact that the whole house was part of the studio and the intimacy of the family and the whole experience was magic. Somehow I think I have subconsciously created this studio to reflect that feeling I had felt so comfortable in the Leu 's house/studio. So nestled in this very old town sits, what you would have to describe my shop as a mix of a lot of times and lives. I have tried to create visuals throughout my studio and garden. For me, it is what I know to be right to live in art. Of all the true artists who actually make a living as artists, I had noticed they all had one thing in common. They lived as one. I loved the fact they were unmistakably recognized as such. So, again I must have wanted this too, as I really do stand out in the crowd and not just because I am heavily tattooed. I have and am living my life as an artist and that is what I am.

I want to thank all my clients. Some have become great friends over the years. I thank all the people with whom I have worked. To name a few, Jackie Gresham/New Orleans (my first), Fast Freddie [Columbus, GA], Tattoo Lou Sciberras [North Carolina and Miami, FL], Southern Fried Tattoo [Daytona Beach, FL], Philadelphia Eddie [Philadelphia, PA], Hanky Panky [Amsterdam], Tattoo Owen [England], The Leu Family Irons [Switzerland], Electric Lady Land [New Orleans, LA], Fun City Tattoo [NYC], Adorned [NYC], Explosive Tattoo [Salisbury, MD], 20th Tattoo [Wildwood, NJ], Art and Soul [New Zealand], Reykjavik Ink [Iceland] and many more. I have a few years left in me for tattooing full time, but I see my future going in some very different directions. I am studying sculpture (mostly stone now), playing the guitar and traveling. Such as a recent trip to Mexico to learn about Mayan cultures. I am studying the Toltec traditions from my teacher and mentor Dr. Sheri Rosenthal. I'm also studying for a Priestesshood, working with other Priestesses from Sedona, Arizona, and California mixing Toltec and Hopi Indian and other culural ceremonies. I try to put a spiritual touch to my tattoos and my studio, which is a lovely place to get tatooed and meet some great people that love what they do . So come on and visit me on our website. Check it regularly. It is updated to show the newest creations coming from my studio. Many thanks to the National Tattoo Assoc. I would also like to take a moment to recognize the artists who meant a lot to me that have passed. Paul Rogers, Suzanne Fauser, Greg Irons, Sailor Moses, Lou Sciberras and many more. I consider all of us to be the pioneers in our field. My wish to the young people tattooing today is that I hope that they take the time to educate themselves regarding the roots of the art of tattooing. I feel it is necessary to know where it started if anyone intends to be a master of the art. And if one doesn't want to be a master, get out. A lot of us have paid some pretty heavy dues to get us this far and I feel like they should be honored and respected. Get to know your roots!

Peace,
Sofia