WRITTEN BY: ZACH CHAMP
Cover Photo By @TreeStandPhotography
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY FIGURE 8 INK STUDIOS
Ask any millennial and they probably have a tattoo. Tattoos have become super popular and are now wide-spread throughout our culture.
We recently sat down with local tattoo artist and business owner, Tricia Atkinson, to learn more about tattoos and the story on how they became a tattoo artist.
Tricia explains some of the hurdles and challenges of becoming a tattoo artist while sharing with us information about her business, Figure 8 Ink Studios located in Fredericksburg Virginia.
Read the article below, only on our DMV Area Business Blog!
HOODIE GOODIES: Hi thanks for taking the time to meet with us today!
To start with would you mind introducing yourself and telling us what you do?
Tricia: "Hey everyone! My name is Tricia Atkinson and I am the owner and operator of Figure 8 Ink Studios."
Tricia: "Professionally, I work as a tattoo artist, as well as an art educator that has taught both in and out of public schools. I’m a local business owner and a long-time resident of Fredericksburg Virginia!"
Tricia: "I have my bachelor's degree in art and a master's degree in education technology. As an artist, I have an established portfolio and background creating and teaching art in various mediums from pottery to painting!"
HOODIE GOODIES: How did you begin your art and education career?
Tricia: "I had always wanted to work as an art teacher ever since I was a kid in middle school. When I attended high school, I had even helped out as an assistant for my art teacher."
Tricia: "After high school, I went to college at the University of Mary Washington where I pursued my degree as an Art Major with an Education minor. Throughout college, and while I was a teacher, I worked part-time as a bank teller at Union Bank in order to make additional money and pay my bills. I would work at the bank for a total of 10 years."
Tricia: "When I graduated UMW I was able to get hired and start a position at Massaponax as an art teacher. Generally speaking, it can be very hard to get a position teaching art in public schools because the positions are limited and often when they are filled it can take years for them to open up again. I was extremely fortunate to be able to have the opportunity to apply for this position right out of college."
Tricia: "I didn’t realize it at the time, but I would eventually end up teaching at Massaponax for a total of 8 years!"
Tricia: "It was challenging at first being the authority figure at the age of 23 for a group of 16-18 year-olds, but I made it my priority to have a fun and engaging curriculum. I constantly tried to motivate and encourage my students to become involved in extracurricular opportunities like the Art Club, National Art Honor Society, International Art Field Trips, and other similar activities that I helped sponsor during my time as a teacher."
HOODIE GOODIES: Many of our readers may recognize you as a former art teacher from Massaponax High School.
What was the transition like from art teacher to a tattoo artist and small business owner?
Were people supportive? Was there any backlash?
Tricia: "When I opened the tattoo shop and quit teaching, pretty much all of my coworkers from the school system were extremely supportive. If you are a part of the teaching and educator community, you pretty much go all out and support anyone that’s doing things that are new, bold, and positive. Teachers are generally progressive individuals."
Tricia: "I am still very much connected with Massaponax! I will always have that Panther Pride! I see former students and their families all the time in and outside the studio!"
HOODIE GOODIES: What made you decide to become a tattoo artist?
What steps did you have to complete to become a tattoo artist in Virginia?
Tricia: "So it all began when I went to get a tattoo at Ugly Bishops, which is a local shop here in town. While I was getting my tattoo from the owner, Bishop Walker, I found myself asking him questions about tattooing, the industry, and the cultural history behind tattooing. Talking to Bishop, I became intrigued and inspired by tattooing."
Tricia: "After that session, I started researching tattooing on my own, and quickly made it a hobby and side interest of mine. I had always loved tattoos, and as an artist and art educator, I had routinely loved studying different customs and cultures from around the world. Tattooing is like any other form of high art in that there is a large history and tradition behind it. In addition, tattooing was also going through novel changes with cutting edge techniques and tools."
Tricia: "I felt as if there was a Renaissance of tattooing going on around the world."
Tricia: "I immediately felt a connection and was hooked! I wanted to contribute to this movement. I didn’t realize there were so many different styles of tattooing until I started reading and watching videos of artists from all over the world demonstrating and explaining their work. I realized that this could be a whole new artistic medium for me to explore and master."
Tricia: "Each state has different laws on becoming a licensed tattoo artist. The way Virginia law works in order to become a licensed tattoo artist you must be sponsored by a Master Tattoo Artist for a period ranging anywhere from 1 to 5 years depending on the guidelines provided by your sponsoring artist. Typically this involves learning and mastering a variety of skills related to the art of tattooing, all of which your sponsor instructs you in."
Tricia: "Before you get the opportunity to tattoo another person, you have to spend several months up to a year practicing tattooing on materials like pigskin. Pigskin is used as a training material because it helps replicate the actual experience and sensation of tattooing on human skin. Once your sponsor approves, you will move on to the next phase of training. During this phase, you will have to tattoo over 100 people while under observation and complete a large multiple-choice test at the DPOR headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. Once you complete both of these requirements, as well as a ton of paperwork, you will officially be a licensed tattoo artist in the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Tricia: "In Virginia, industries such as tattooing, cosmetology, barbers, and surprisingly some utilities, are all overseen and regulated by the Department of Professional Occupational Regulations (DPOR)."
Tricia: "Most tattoo artists dislike the DPOR and generally think they would be better suited to being managed by a regulatory agency with a medical background due to the nature of the job. Tattooing requires us as artists to work with needles and with other people’s bodily fluids. There is a risk of disease and injury for both the person getting tattooed and the person providing the tattoo. Having a medical agency providing oversight makes more sense and would ensure the safety of artists and patrons, as well as help contribute to the continued growth of tattooing as an art and business in Virginia."
Tricia: "I eventually began the process of trying to actively get an apprenticeship. I had a unique background in art, and if I was able to arrange an opportunity to sit down and have a discussion with potential sponsors I knew I could prove that I would be a good fit for the apprenticeship. I knew I would have to let any sponsor know I was serious and dedicated enough to pursue the license."
Tricia: "Originally, I had wanted to start my apprenticeship at Ugly Bishop’s since he had been my initial inspiration, but at the time he already had an apprentice. While I waited for an apprenticeship opportunity to become available, I decided to spend 9 months preparing a tattoo style drawing portfolio, including tattooing on pig ears at home, as well as painting a 4-foot oil paint portrait of Bishop so that I could present everything to him when I asked again."
Tricia: "Bishop was impressed by my portfolio and easily saw that I had the potential talent to be a tattoo artist. He respected my background in art and education and even had no problem with me continuing to teach full-time at the school while working in the shop during the evenings and weekends. Since I had spent months cultivating a portfolio to present to him, with examples in multiple mediums, he knew I was serious about learning the art of tattooing."
Tricia: "I will always be thankful for the chance Bishop provided me with getting my start in the tattoo industry. Being a sponsor is no easy responsibility, and it can be especially demanding, often requiring a sponsoring artist to deal with complicated paperwork and forms… Not to mention that you have to take the necessary time to mentor your apprentice."
Tricia: "The apprenticeship aspect of tattooing and the process it takes to become sponsored and mentored to me represents a key characteristic of the culture of the tattooing industry. Tattoo apprenticeships allow us as tattoo artists to give back to the industry and to help perpetuate the trade. It’s one of the last industry’s where the experienced tradesmen control who is worthy to enter the trade and perform the work. There’s something special to me in regard to that."
HOODIE GOODIES: What prompted you to open your studio?
Tricia: "It all started with me getting frustrated with the public school system. In my opinion, the public education system is breaking down. Personally, I believe it has to do with a combination of issues, such as standardized testing, curriculum over-management, unnatural scheduling, and lack in the availability of resources needed to teach. It’s a mess."
Tricia: "I realized I wanted to get away from the public school system and pursue new career paths. I was by now looking at a variety of different jobs, even positions with the department of education, the Science Foundation, and with certain military contractors. I was trying to do something new and think of new ways to switch up my working schedules and lifestyles."
Tricia: "During the three years I was with Ugly Bishops, I was also still teaching at Massaponax High School. I would work pretty much every day, teaching during the school week from 7 am to 3 pm and then afterward heading directly to Ugly Bishops to work from 4 pm to 8 pm or later. It was a lot to juggle."
Tricia: "I realized I couldn’t keep doing both forever, I was exhausting myself. I wanted to tattoo, but I also still wanted to teach. I was trying to find a way I could still do both. It then clicked for me that I should just open my own studio. The idea was I would be able to combine both my careers into one and be able to define my own working schedule. I felt like this would improve my happiness and quality of life."
Tricia: "I knew I already had a large clientele from knowing a bunch of people as an art teacher. Many of my clients were former students and their families, as well as many other members of the community."
Tricia: "So I began to plan and organize. Then finally in August 2015 I finally opened Figure 8 Ink Studios for the first time!"
Tricia: "I was the sole artist in my studio for the first two years. I was still teaching part-time, while also teaching private art classes each week at my studio. But as the Studio grew I eventually quit my job teaching at Massaponax High School."
Tricia: "Opening my own studio has been a dream come true, and I am tremendously grateful! I can’t imagine myself doing anything else."
HOODIE GOODIES: What is Figure 8 Ink Studios?
What kind of activities, services, and events do you guys offer?
Tricia: "Figure 8 Ink Studios is both an art studio and a tattoo shop."
Tricia: "As a studio, I teach art classes that are a combination of guided demonstrations and lectures, with opportunities for independent free exploration in virtually any medium you could imagine!"
Tricia: "We offer two types of art classes an introductory class and an advanced class, mainly geared towards kids and adults respectively. The classes are held weekly and are open to all members of the public. In addition, Figure 8 Ink Studios hosts private art and painting parties, special events, and workshops with guest instructors."
Tricia: "My goal with Figure 8 Ink Studios is to provide a hub for art education and learning for the community to enjoy. I hope I can inspire people by exposing them to all these traditional and non-traditional styles of art."
Tricia: "You can stay up-to-date with what’s going on in the studio by following us on Instagram, Facebook, and by subscribing to our email list."
Tricia: "Every Friday the 13th we have a flash bash, which is a special promotion we do. These are flash tattoo events held at the studio, where we come up with a unique theme of the day and create a small collection of pre-made designs to put on-sale. While people wait to get their tattoo we have games available to play, and movies to watch in the background. It’s a cool, chill, and relaxed environment!"
Tricia: "When we do a flash tattoo event at the studio, we will sometimes collaborate and donate a portion of the proceeds to a local non-profit or charity organization. In the past, this has included Relay for Life and the Fredericksburg Roller Derby."
Tricia: "One of my goals for 2020 is to set-up a charity tattoo event working in collaboration with the local animal shelter. I love animals and it would be awesome to find a way to work with the SPCA on a collaborative project or event."
Tricia: "Finally, on every holiday there are promotions, including Christmas, Halloween, Easter, the 4th of July. Any time of the year is a good time to get a tattoo!"
Tricia: "We are open to working on fundraising events with local community partners! Come visit the studio and tell us what you want to do!"
HOODIE GOODIES: What were some challenges to becoming a new tattoo artist and eventually a new business owner?
What advice would you give to other people walking in your footsteps?
Tricia: "One of my biggest fears when opening the studio was that I wasn’t sure if other people would work there. I knew that I could run the shop by myself, but that it would be very challenging and stressful. My goal was to assemble a team so I could easily manage everything. Another challenge was making sure I would be able to maintain a steady flow of clients… I had to determine if I was going to have enough appointments to keep me regularly booked or if I would become the kind of shop that relies on walk-in clients. It was a little stressful and risky, but it thankfully all worked out in the end!"
Tricia: "I worked really hard to achieve my goals. I believe that anyone working towards an aspiration of theirs needs to have a strong work ethic. You have to hustle every day. Another reason I think I was successful is that I’ve always had a very loving and supporting family that has always encouraged me to follow my dreams. You need to surround yourself with positive people."
Tricia: "I’d tell everyone out there reading this to keep pursuing your goals and try to encourage others to do the same. Everyone should reach out to those they look up to as role models in the community. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, and always try and look for new opportunities to learn and grow!"
HOODIE GOODIES: What are you currently excited about?
What does the future hold in store?
Tricia: "We are excited to announce that we are under contract for a new building! If everything goes well, we will be closing on the new property this month! "
Tricia: "I’ve been working on this move since the beginning of the summer when I started thinking in regard to relocating to a larger studio space. I started by looking for potential new locations and finally found a perfect spot that we are now in the process of purchasing!"
Tricia: "It’s been amazing watching the business and studio grow."
Tricia: "One of the things I am most proud of is working with one of my former students from Massaponax. Tobias is a licensed tattoo artist that works alongside me in the studio, and I have been able to watch him grow and develop over the years as an artist. I knew even back then that Tobias was a very talented individual with a great, positive attitude and personality. To see everything he has been able to achieve and to know that I helped play a role in that development is amazing!"
Tricia: "Working with Tobias is always a pleasure, and he has been very reliable and helpful in the studio over the years. I've been able to collaborate on a variety of cool events with Tobias including working a booth at the Washington D.C Tattoo Expo, curating different art shows, and even being featured artists at a local sidewalk chalk art festival in downtown Fredericksburg!"
Tricia: "Our most exciting art adventure was probably traveling to New Zealand and Australia. While we were in New Zealand we had the opportunity to travel to a small village called Whakarewarewa where we had the honor to meet the local Maori residents and receive tattoos in the traditional style."
Tricia: "We can't wait for 2020 and have so much planned! We hope to see the whole community be involved!"
HOODIE GOODIES: Well, thank-you Tricia for taking the time to answer our questions and tell us your story!
We wish you the best of luck and much success with Figure 8 Ink Studios as you prepare for the new year!
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