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.
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
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.
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!