Tattoos have long been an art embracing, and embraced by, outsiders. But for LGBTQIA+ people, tattooing has not always been as open and inclusive business as it has become, especially in places like Nashville. In the last couple of decades, as newer generations have taken up the art of tattooing, more women and LGBTQIA+ people have joined the ranks of the best tattooers in the business. And the fact is, nowadays, out members of our community would be welcomed by many artists in most shops in metro Nashville.
But tattoos, like weddings, often hold great meaning for those getting them, so a bad experience at a shop risks a deeply personal disappointment. For that reason, it is best to do a little extra research into tattooers, beyond browsing social media for the perfect artist with just the right style. When contacting your artist, it is not inappropriate to ask whether they are an ally. Or, better still, if their style suits your tattoo, seek out and support LGBTQIA+ artists.
Writhe Grey (she/they) @writhingdirty
Being a queer tattooer is a blessing and a sacred responsibility. It’s reinforced the importance of community in my life. It’s helped me shape and mold friendships and relationships. It’s taught me vulnerability, trust, and compassion (as tattooing is such a precious energetic exchange). And It’s also taught me a lot about communication, consent/boundaries, and how to hold space for each other.
My favorite style to tattoo is linework and dotwork. It’s been the style that I’ve preferred to work in throughout my whole life. Mastering fine lines and intricate detail are things that are of the utmost importance to me in my career.
I would love to work more with gay and erotic themes! Maybe in baroque style, melding together romance and smut. Bodies are so rad! Let’s decorate them with dirty drawings.
Madeline Wolf (she/her) @maddietats
I started as a tattoo collector with no plans to become a tattooer, but my mentors, X. David Williams and Aaron Richards talked me into it, thankfully. I've been tattooing in Nashville for 20 years now. As a tattooer, I've been influenced the most by everyone I've worked with over the years, including those I had a hand in teaching.
I enjoy working in simple, traditional, and illustrative styles. Floral designs and horror stuff are my favorites, (vampires in particular). I'm always impressed by successful use of abstract forms in tattoo and hope to get into some of that in the future.
Maddie identifies as queer, transgender, and uses she/her pronouns.
Auroura (they/them) @Auroura
I think some clients have a very hard time deciphering my gender, so I open up with my pronouns and ask what theirs are so I can give everyone the respect they deserve. Ultimately do my best to carry myself in a way that most people generally feel comfortable around me, because I take the perspective that everyone deserves acceptance and positivity. I always make sure my clients know that wherever I am is a safe place or I wouldn’t be there. It’s ultimately brought a lot of attention to making sure everyone is comfortable making changes to their bodies and get the support they need. I’m also so grateful that I get to work on such a variety of amazing humans and learn about different kinds of people in the LGBTQIA community that feel comfortable telling me their stories. I’m pretty open minded and I really love hearing about everyone’s journey and progress in finding who they really are.
My favorite styles are neotraditional in color or black and grey, neorealism, large scale, sacred geometry, dotwork, engraving. I get asked for all of these styles a lot, but most of all I really love tattooing bugs.
I love anatomy and the human form in art and feel like all the different kinds of beautiful people deserve artwork that represents them and their body type or their identity or their relationships. Also I’mma just say one more time that I love to tattoo bugs or anything spooky. But most of all I’d really love to tattoo anything that makes you especially happy to live in your body.
Devon Greig (she/her) @theswiftstorm
I had just come out as pansexual when I started tattooing in Memphis. Apprenticing at a shop with misogynistic owners was tough, and I had to prove that I really wanted this career. Unfortunately like in many scenarios today, they simply didn't understand, and holding my tongue and playing nice was the safest option. But things got a little easier as I moved around to a couple other shops, then I met Tai Orten. When she offered me the job at Alchemy I couldn't possibly refuse. I can be proud to work for a queer-friendly shop and feel comfortable myself while also providing a safe space for my clients.
I've moved into doing a lot more watercolor pieces, when it's fun to keep the design loose and lively. I love doing pieces that are expressive, maybe with a slightly magical feeling.
I'm really interested in the overlap between body positivity and being queer. As someone who self-harmed in the past, I know all too well how familiar that can be to other queer folk. I'm a big believer in tattoo therapy. So if you have scars you need covered with something beautiful, I would love to help you on that journey of growth.
If you are, or know of, LGBTQIA+ tattooers or graphic artists designing tattoos, please refer them to [email protected]!