August 06, 2008 Arts » Cover story

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Charlotte ink 

Behind the pain with a trio of the Queen City's finest tattoo artists

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Tattooing is still mostly a boy's club. But once again, Crockett stands out from the norm. His studio has a predominately female staff, and he says that a lot of things are changing in the tattoo industry.

"I'm happy to say that [in this industry] I've seen a lot of racism go down the toilet. We're now seeing black tattoo artists, which is really awesome. The other thing that I'm seeing is the acceptance of the industry [by] American popular culture. There's a lot better artwork. You can get anything you want tattooed, and when I started it was very simple," he says.

Despite the fact that Crockett stirs controversy, there are some images he won't tattoo.

"In 1997, someone came in and wanted a communist star and sickle. Communism, for the most part, bans tattooing. So I wouldn't do that," he says. "I don't do anything that I feel is negative toward the industry itself. That's the only thing that I've refused."

"I've always hung out with the guys."

Amanda Voorhees-Hagy is a rare find in the world of Charlotte ink. She's a female artist in a mostly male dominated industry. For the last three and half years, she's been putting ink on people over at Crown with Crockett.

It was her ex-boyfriend, also a tattoo artist, who brought her around the shop. Crockett saw that she had an ability to draw and offered her an apprenticeship. Along with her artistic ability, another thing that impressed Crockett about Hagy was the fact that she's a clean freak. In an vocation where blood borne diseases have always been a problem, taking extra steps to protect the client and the artist don't go unnoticed. Right before Hagy starts a tattoo, she wraps everything that she's going to use -- the tattoo gun, bottles filled with liquid and the chair where her clients sit -- in plastic. And she then removes those gloves and puts on another pair to get started doing her art.

Hagy didn't begin her working life as a tattoo artist. She went to college for graphic design, but it didn't stick.

"I have a hard time sitting at a computer," she says. "I've got to move around."

She found she was more of a hands-on artist. So, tattooing seemed to fit, even if she was in the minority when it came to working in a shop.

"I don't mind," she says, "I've always hung out with the guys."

But at the first shop she worked in, it was too much of a guy thing going on there.

The owner of that shop had the place covered in pictures of half-naked women. And his computer's screen saver was a barely covered lady. "The computer was meant for the shop to look up images," she says. "That's like really gross. I felt like I was working in a garage. You know, when you work in an auto garage you see those pictures up -- and that's what I felt like. We know you are a man. We know you have needs and wants."

It's not surprising that she ran into a similar problem again. But Hagy wasn't going to be subjected to more racy pictures around the shop. When Crockett said that he was going to hang promotional posters that showed women in various stages of undress up and down the halls, Hagy threatened to walk.

"That is disrespectful to any female who comes in here to get a tattoo because all they're going to think is male chauvinist pig," she says. "If you want those posters, you can put them in the male bathroom and do whatever. But they make a woman feel very uncomfortable."

Often times, though, Hagy says it isn't her co-workers who have an issue with her sex, but some of the clients who come through the door.

"Sometimes someone will come in and they're like, 'Oh, you're doing [the tattoo].' If they are really that concerned about it, then they can look at my portfolio," she says.

Hagy says another misconception that clients have about female tattoo artists is that the process will hurt less than if a man does it.

Not true, she says.

"It doesn't matter who does it, it's still going to hurt," says Hagy. "Me and my husband worked together for about a year. One day this girl came in and she wanted to get tattooed, but I was busy and couldn't get to her. So, I said, 'Chris [her husband] can do your tattoo.'"

The client was apprehensive and told Hagy that she was afraid Chris would hurt her while he did the tattoo.

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