Long the mark of outlaws, prisoners, and lovebirds with poor impulse control, tattoos are more mainstream in the U.S. today than perhaps they’ve ever been.
But the talented women and men who are inking the nation are, for the most part, still somewhat of a mystery to your average Joe or Jill.
Fortunately, New York tattoo artist Jess Mascetti – who just came up with one of four new tattoo-inspired designs that will grace the iconic Bulleit bourbon bottle as part of the brand’s Frontier Works collection – was willing to shed a little light on her profession for the first installment of the new “10 Questions With” series from RealClearLife.
A 10-year-pro (coincidentally enough), Mascetti tattoos out of the East Village’s East Side Ink and has inked a number of celebs – though she doesn’t like to brag on it. “I’m just here to tattoo,” she said.
Mascetti sat down to answer 10 questions about her profession, her inspirations, and everything in between.
Here’s what she had to say along with a small sampling of the sort of work Mascetti, who has also worked as a professional illustrator and storyboard artist, does in her shop.
1. RealClearLife: How did you get your start in tattooing?
Jess Mascetti: I have always been an artist. I was going to the School of Visual Arts and I was looking for a tattoo artist for a large piece on my back. I came across the work of Josh Lord and knew I wanted to work with him on the piece. The whole process took about two years, from consultation to completing the tattoo. During that time, I fell in love with tattooing. By the end of the tattoo, I had convinced Josh to take me on as an apprentice.
2. RCL: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned along the way?
JM: I’m still learning, I learn something new with each tattoo.
3. RCL: Where do you go or turn to for inspiration in creating new designs?
JM: Each piece is so vastly different depending on the recipient. If I’m stumped I have a collection of 400-500 reference books from all cultures and art styles. My books are stacked all the way to the ceiling in my apartment in New York.
4. RCL: How does being a tattoo artist in the East Village compare to other areas?
JM: I feel very lucky to be a tattoo artist here. The neighborhood is incredibly diverse with people from all different walks of life. It’s always new and interesting being in this wonderful neighborhood.
5. RCL: What’s something interesting about your job people wouldn’t realize?
JM: The genuine human connection that you share, it’s a very intimate process. Someone is trusting you to create something on their skin so they can have it forever and be happy with it forever. I care for every person I collaborate with.
6. RCL: Do you have any tips or advice for someone who has never been tattooed?
JM: Spend some time knowing what style you want. Do your research and find the artist that’s right for you. It’s so important to have a consultation first to find someone who gets your vibe. Everyone deserves the best tattoo they can possibly get from an artist that they really jive with.
7. RCL: Is there anything you won’t tattoo onto someone?
JM: Anything outside of my skill set – everyone deserves the best possible tattoo. I would always recommend the best artist for the job.
8. RCL: What do you think is the most painful place to get tattooed?
JM: The top of the foot. It’s brutal. If you can get tattooed there you get tattooed anywhere.
9. RCL: What’s the most popular type of tattoo that you do?
JM: I get a lot of requests for black and grey realism. I’m most known for this style. My style varies depending on the piece and the person.
10. RCL: Anything else you’d like to add or think people should know?
JM: The work I do is for others. I love representing someone’s story.