The tattoo world is notorious for being a heavily male dominated field, but TLC and the artists at Ink Ink are hoping to change that. Premiering Tuesday, Jan. 24, “Tattoo Girls” gives you a look into the female owned and operated shop in Springfield, MO. Ink Ink was opened in 2013 by Kelsey Rogers, after realizing the shop she was working in wasn’t reflective of her goals. Being a tattoo artist is how Rogers worked her way through pre-med school, eventually deciding tattooing is where her passion really lived. Ink Ink wasn’t intended to be an all female shop. Many artists came and went, but it’s the women that stayed.
The TLC reality show will explore the friendships and working relationships between all of the artists as they navigate everyday life. Juggling families and clients, the ladies of Ink Ink approach their business and craft with kindness and a feminine touch.
Inspirer spoke to Ink Ink’s owner/tattoo artist, Kelsey Rogers, about being a female in tattoo culture, owning her own shop, and working on TLC’s “Tattoo Girls“
Were you always a creative growing up?
Oh yeah, I started doing art early on. My dad actually got me started in art the most. I just continued with it and loved doing anything creative. Following that outlet, led me to tattooing.
What shifted your focus from continuing school for pre-med to tattooing?
I was actually tattooing all through school, it paid my way through college. I was seven years into school and eight years into tattooing. When I opened Ink Ink I realized how running my own business was. I thought to myself, “I don’t know why I’m looking any further.” That’s when I decided to focus all my energy on Ink Ink.
Was it hard for your family to support that move?
I’m so lucky, my mother — every time I’d tell her, “I’m going to be a tattoo artist,” she’d say “Great.” Then it was, “I’m going to be a doctor,” and my mother was like, “Okay, great.” I even took a whole semester off from school and she was fine with it. My poor mother has had to listen to me change my mind so many times.
You started tattooing at 17, was it difficult being so young and a woman learning to tattoo?
It was a lot of hazing, a lot of teasing. I was working in an all male studio and they liked playing tricks on me, being silly. I was so young and I didn’t grow up around it really. This had been the only shop I’d ever been in, so I didn’t even know there was a difference. I didn’t really take it too personal, as a female versus a young person in the industry. I thought it was funny and had fun with it. It’s really all I knew, wasn’t until I started treating my apprentices differently did I realize maybe I was treated a little different.
What was the reason behind opening Ink Ink?
I was working at another studio for about five years, and changes were happening within the shop. I was going to college to be premed and I just didn’t want to be associated with what was going on. So, I decided to open my own studio. That way I can have a place of my own and dance to the beat of my own drum. I figured as long as I opened up enough hours a week between classes to still be able to pay the bills — it really went from one month working in the other studio to the next having Ink Ink.
Was it a conscious decision to create an all female studio?
No, I thought it would be me and Brittany, my piercer, that’s it. Here and there, I had both guys and girls work for me. Then all of a sudden, we had four women working here and no guy wants to hang out with that everyday.
It must feel empowering being around strong and creative women, though.
We have kind of turned into role models for women. They come in and see how much fun we have and how we’ve changed our lives. We all support our families with tattooing. Until now, tattooing was never really considered a career choice. For about a year and a half our shop was ignored by other shops, because we are all young women. I told the girls, as long as we can pay our bills and are happy, it doesn’t matter what they think. We grew fast, though.
How did the show “Tattoo Girls” come about?
It’s always a different approach when being contacted about a potential show. There are so many unknowns. The scariest part of this whole journey was that first phone call: “Hey we want to speak to you about a potential tv show.” There were very few details, very few facts, so your mind just runs wild. I have learned that everyone is really good at helping you along the way. I figured this wasn’t just a great opportunity for me, but all the girls at Ink Ink. I said to them, “If all this work going into ‘Tattoo Girls’ is going to pay your bills and we build a stable career, it’s worth it.” All we care about is taking care of our families.
How do you think “Tattoo Girls” is different than other tattoo shows?
Honestly, I’ve never really watched any tattoo shows. All I know, from my perspective, we are just being us. We really want this show to connect with other women — women that feel stuck. They can look at us and see we are making it happen. I hope it’s a glimpse into something every woman can relate to. I think with other shows, they focus on the client and their tattoo. “Tattoo Girls” will show you our real life issues. We aren’t superstar tattoo artists and we have baby daddy drama; we have rent problems. That’s what I hope comes across to the viewers — a sense of yes I can get through this just like them.
What are your hopes for the future of Ink Ink and “Tattoo Girls”?
My biggest hope for both would be that we all are secure. That my girls can feel like they don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck. I hope by spreading the word of who we are and our shop it inspires others. For Ink Ink itself, I would love to open more locations. I think what we have to offer is so great; everyone gets tattoos now. It’s grandmas, sisters, families, professionals, all getting tattooed. Ink Ink, I hope, is a place everyone would feel comfortable coming to. As for “Tattoo Girls,” I hope everyone enjoys it and loves us. I hope they laugh and are inspired.