Ayden Love, 32

Tattoo artist, Tiny Fire Studio, Hillsborough

How did you get into tattooing?

It was kind of an accident. I had a partner give me a tattoo machine for Christmas and started out just tattooing friends informally, and they just wouldn’t let me stop. It was a complete surprise. Traditionally, people go through apprenticeships to learn how to tattoo. So the idea of somebody who doesn’t know anything about tattooing getting a tattoo machine is very risqué.

When did you decide it was something you wanted to do longer-term?

It was always a dream of mine when I was younger. But because of the way the industry is, it’s really hard for women and queer folks and gender-nonconforming folks and people of color—all of that stuff plays into whether you get an apprenticeship. So as a queer woman, I just didn’t ever think that I would find a way in. But I felt so supported by the people who were asking me to do it, even when I wasn’t doing it professionally. 

When you talk about it being hard as a queer woman to get into the industry, what do you mean?

Tattooing in the States, it’s really dominated by cis white dudes, and not always the kindest ones. I hear a lot of stories from clients about being sexually assaulted during appointments or at least having really inappropriate comments made or being touched or asked to expose parts of their body unnecessarily. It can just be incredibly unwelcoming, even if you’re not straight-up being told you’re not allowed in. It’s definitely a boys’ club.

Contact digital content manager Sara Pequeño at spequeno@indyweek.com. 

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